by Daijha Thompson

August 20, 2020

This is part one of a three-part series on diversity, inclusion and social justice in the workplace. Click here to read more.

A note from our president, Lisa Rose:

At Dix & Eaton, we are dedicated to creating and maintaining a collaborative environment, where employees, partners and clients of all backgrounds feel welcomed, supported, appreciated and respected.  We know that a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion will make us a better, more sustainable organization, and we recognize we have much work to do to meaningfully advance these efforts. 

In recent weeks, we’ve had some extremely lively and passionate conversations that have spurred new and surprising learnings about our firm, our colleagues and, frankly, ourselves. With that in mind, we wanted to participate in the broader dialogue by sharing three points of view from colleagues – each with a unique perspective. This first post comes from our most recent intern, Daijha Thompson, who has three ideas to help address social justice issues in the workplace. 

Since the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, there has been a rise in racial justice protests across the country. As a result, companies both big and small, issued solidarity statements and signed pledges to stand with minority groups to end racism and inequity. I see “Black Lives Matter” and “We Stand with You” plastered in local business windows and displayed on lawn signs, but I always wonder what those organizations are doing to turn their words into action.

During this difficult time, organizations are asking themselves, “What can I do to help?”

Many are struggling to find ways to implement concrete, material solutions to make good on their promises and pledges of fighting and condemning systemic racism. While this task may be daunting and difficult to begin, it is important that companies start to take those first steps toward addressing social justice issues and creating social change.

Here are three impactful ways that organizations can start having those difficult conversations surrounding racism and inequity and to better support social justice issues in the workplace:

1. Talk with your employees and, more importantly, listen
The most important first step in tackling these issues is to create a safe and inclusive space for employees to express how they feel. The simple act of asking someone if they are okay, or what changes they would like to see in the workplace, could be the defining moment that opens the eyes of the leaders within the organization to things that need improvement. As my colleague Amy McGahan wrote in her blog, listening is crucial to navigating crisis situations and developing empathetic leadership. By listening to their employees, leaders in an organization can get a sense of the concrete actions they can take to address inequality in the workplace.

2. Demonstrate an active commitment to your employees
Moving forward, it is your responsibility to set goals, take action and make substantial efforts to make the incremental changes needed within your organization to achieve long-term progress. Make the goals realistic and feasible. Your employees will expect more from you after you make a commitment to address the social – as well as professional – issues your employees bring to your attention. Remember, your employees want to see action.

3. Continue the conversation even after the trend ends
There are ebbs and flows to the social justice movement, but that should not stop your persistence toward addressing racism and inequity. Now more than ever, people are monitoring what organizations are doing. It is important to remember what started the movement and continue to work toward achieving equality and equity for all. These issues are not just trends; they are people’s livelihoods. Organizations can help keep the momentum going and act as thought leaders and change agents during the lows of the tide.

One of the biggest struggles during this time is figuring out where to get started.

These social justice issues were not born overnight, so the solutions toward progress will not be achieved in an hour, day or even a year. It is only through the small steps that we all collectively take to accomplish the societal progress that many are protesting and advocating for today.

Daijha has recently returned to Syracuse University to finish her senior year studying public relations and political philosophy. Read on to part two in our series, where Dix & Eaton employee Ben Rodriguez shares his thoughts on how to go from starting the conversation, to making long-term change in the workplace.