We brought together a task force of a dozen members of the Business Leaders for Michigan Board, each of whom employs thousands of residents across the state. We openly shared our practices and policies relative to diverse and equitable hiring and promotion and implicit bias training. We talked about what we, as leaders, are doing to set an example in our own companies. We signed the CEO Action Pledge. We had frank conversations and didn’t mince words.
Then, we got to work with Business Leaders for Michigan. We know that in order to solve a problem, you must first ensure your audience truly understands its scope. It is impossible for White people to walk in the shoes of Black Americans, but we have access to experts like Tim Ryan of PwC and Darlene King from the Michigan Diversity Council, who spent considerable time helping us create a shared understanding among our board members.
Most recently, we surveyed our 90+ board members to benchmark where our member companies are in terms of leveraging workplace practices to eradicate racial inequity. Our focus is not on creating a set of “best practices,” but rather emphasizing practices that actually work. We will also incorporate new data measures into our annual benchmarking report that will lay bare the education and income gaps between Black and White Americans.
Where will we go from here? There are many suggested practices and solutions, but have they worked? We have a major problem, and we must identify the concrete steps we can take to create better outcomes. We aren’t entirely sure what comes next. We don’t know exactly what, or how big, our solutions will be. What we do know is we’ve set aside politeness and political correctness in order to get to real solutions that eliminate the systemic racism and injustice that have plagued our communities for far too long.
Being part of Business Leaders for Michigan isn’t just a status. The organization brings together people who have immense opportunity to facilitate real change. Instead of letting this time of anger and frustration be a wasted opportunity, we’re at work addressing the complicated issues surrounding economic inequality and institutionalized racism in order to facilitate lasting change.
Both our companies are working hard to ensure we deliver on our promise of diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces, yet we both know we can do more. Our companies can, and will, continue to create meaningful change, and we will continue to work with fellow members of the Business Leaders for Michigan board to make progress together. We hope that our work will inspire and generate similar actions for employers across the state. It will take the work of everyone to right the wrongs of our history and create a Michigan that is more equitable for all.
Originally appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business