Commit to be an Anti-racist Organization and "Remain in the Space"
By: Caitlin Ackerman
Discovering your privilege for the first time, can be an uncomfortable and challenging discovery. It requires being open and honest, and a deep self-reflection. There are a multitude of privileges humans endure - male privilege, heterosexual privilege, able body privilege, white privilege, and many more. Oftentimes those with a lack of privilege recognition will acknowledge that specific groups are disadvantaged; however, they lack the correlation between their advantage and the disempowerment of disadvantaged groups. Privileges are often denied and protected. Historically (and very much so today), our schooling does not provide the training needed to see oneself as an oppressor. Peggy McIntosh, author of “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, shares we are not taught to see ourselves as an unfairly advantaged person or participant in a damaged culture.
We (white people) are taught to see ourselves as individuals whose moral state depends on individual moral will. “Whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow “them” to be more like “us.” This is true for a variety of privileges, however as white Americans we are conditioned from birth to ourselves as the standard. Once you acknowledge this conditioning, you can begin to consciously bring the unconscious to light and rewire the brain to unlearn and relearn what has been embedded in American history for 400 years.
As a corporate wellness company is it our mission to make health and wellness accessible where people are spending a great majority of their time.
We seek to support business leaders who are providing resources for their employee groups to lead healthy and happy lives. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Aubery, and countless other, FitPros was propelled into a new era – one of uncharted territory. The work of anti-racism and building inclusive cultures of belonging – starts internally and with honesty.
On June 3, 2020, FitPros Founder and CEO, Lindsay Johnson sent her letter out (like many others across Corporate America). The difference between this letter and others was its vulnerability and transparency. Lindsay shared that she was “awakened to understand the term ‘white privilege’” and that prior to the riots she was completely naïve to the inequality of race in the world. She admitted significant ignorance on the topic. For many, those with lived experiences and those without, may struggle to understand how someone could remain blind for so long, while people are dying at the hands of those who “protect and serve.” I understand that frustration as I am frustrated too, and I welcome the newly awakened to the frustrating journey ahead. In an effort to lead with empathy and help move the needle of inequality in America, we have to support and encourage that everyone starts somewhere, and we welcome them to the road of allyship.
In just a short period of time FitPros has consciously made the effort to transform its platform into one of opportunity, resource, and support. This work starts internally, as our core team continues to have thought provoking, challenging conversation fully encompassing of personal, professional, and business development. FitPros is committed to remaining in this space, recognizing the intersection of discrimination, injustice, and inequity that people of color face daily, and vowing to take action in the fight to dismantle racism. Lindsay promised that FitPros “will be one of the channels I will use to educate myself, our employees, and our business partners to better understand all our roles in making the difference.” That work started two weeks ago and breathes through our corporate values and action.
Opportunity - You can tune in!
FitPros is hosting a live panel discussion on June 30, 2020 at 10am PST on “The Road to Allyship.” We have assembled a panel of DEIB leaders with not only corporate experience but lived experiences, who will share how we can develop and strengthen our cultures to be one that promotes listening, speaking up, and taking responsibility. This conversation will empower us all to have difficult conversations, participate in self-reflection, and see uncomfortability in discussing privileges and racial inequity as opportunity for growth.
Our blog posts always seek to be educational with unbiased content to support conversation and action surrounding wellbeing topics. Racism and exclusion are directly correlated to the wellbeing of your employees and the overall wellness of your company.
What business leaders should be doing in the here and now!
1. Recognize and Reflect
First, acknowledge that racism exists. Acknowledge that it exists internally at your company. Acknowledge you can do and be better. Second, reflect not only on how this makes you feel but where you can see it playing out in your life. Furthermore, reflection requires education. There are a multitude of creditable resources and places you can look to educate yourself on the realities that have persisted in American for centuries. We have found Victoria Alexander’s Anti-Resource Guide to be phenomenal resource compiled with tools to help broaden one’s understanding of anti-racism and how to get involved in combating racism; as well as exploring practical ways to understand, explain, and “solve seemingly intractable problems of racial inequity, white supremacy, police violence, and injustice.”
2. Check in and Listen
Check in on your black employees, and really listen to what they are saying. Companies need to create space spaces for employees to be heard by leadership as well as one another about the collective issues that define the time that we are in. Furthermore, check in with your non-black employees who are looking for signals from leadership about how to respond. Give employees opportunities to be allies to stand together and fight racism and social justice. Neil Foote, president of the National Black Public Relations Society and founder of Foot Communications advises corporate leaders to do a listening tour by bringing a small group of employees of color together virtually – consistently - hearing from every division. He says “It doesn’t have to be in the name of diversity and inclusion. It could be corporate culture and addressing tension and anxiety in your workforce, because there are a lot of sources of tension right now”
3. Be Action Oriented
You’ve put your statement, wrote your check to an anti-racism organization. . . Now what? It is up to corporations to help employees with their physical and mental wellbeing and in the bigger fight against racism. Your company has the power to advocate for policy at the local, state, and federal level that will better protect people of color (your employees & their families!). Additionally, employees are looking for specific actions from you and that they can take. Bring experts to educate teams on the history of racism, its psychological impacts, privilege and representation and power, and how to build inclusive workplace cultures. Share resources with your team, encourage them to explore their implicit bias and then have an intentional conversation at your next team meeting. And most importantly, organizations need to look inward to see if they are doing all they can to promote diversity and inclusion within their own companies.
4. Review and improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy
This should be a regular action companies are taking, beyond annual diversity reporting statistics and growth of minority groups. Conduct a full review of your current strategy and present discrepancies to C-Suite Executives and the Board of Directors. Host focus groups for your black employees and give them a voice in the changes that need to take place in improving company strategy. Companies should be actively collecting data that tracks everything from training to promotion cycles, evaluating bias interrupters in hiring procedures, adjusting pay inequities, reviewing how they manage meetings for inclusion and how they are cultivating team culture. Your benefits and EAP programs, as well as all vendors you bring on site should have culturally competent therapists and program facilitators with experience in working to support racial trauma and facilitating conversation for multi-racial groups.
5. Remain in this Space
“Commit yourself to be an anti-racist organization and build a network of individuals who lead that effort within every department and division.” Angela Neal Barnett, PhD professor of Psychological Sciences at Kent State University writes in her article about Supporting Black Employees Mental Health for Harvard Business Review. Remain in the space not just because there is racism visible in the media or because we are in a pandemic that disproportionately affects black people. Remain in this space of reflection, listening, action, and improvement for not only the next month, but the next year, decade, and century. Don’t stop until racism has been abolished and corporate America is more than an equal and equitable place.
“Listen to what your Black employees are saying and advocate for the suggested changes. Do not limit listening to town halls or organization-wide meetings. Listen at lunch, listen at work, listen after work, and acknowledge and convert the ideas and recommendations you hear into action.”- Angela Neal-Barnett
The work of being an anti-racist organization starts with internal reflection and then turning to your team and together creating strategy to be better.
This past Tuesday, FitPros held a Town Hall for all of our FitPros. Amongst reiterating our stance as a company, our goal was to facilitate open discussion for our roster and equip them with the necessary tools and support needed to best service clients. The group shared what “leading with love” means to them, committed to remaining in this space and having conversations about humanity, compassion and empathy. Our roster heard from Jasmine Manalo, our experience manager, on how we are here to support our community (including each of them); Lindsay Johnson, about how we move forward to take action as an organization, and Tatum Souza, Wellbeing Manager, about common client needs.
The following day, FitPros hosted our monthly Thought Leadership group where business leaders come together to collaborate on challenges and solutions. This month we discussed Sustaining Productivity During Periods of Uncertainty and Transition. The topic was chosen prior to the death of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, however, was remained pertinent because of the effects of these killings, on top of everything else. Though a persistent pandemic that deeply effects groups of people differently, the endurance of racism across our nation, and consistent uncertainty about what the future of work holds, the topic of sustaining productivity is essential. In breakout rooms, some reported that their productivity is currently high while others are stretched thin. As resilient beings seeking to hold onto steady income, it is no surprise that the perception of productivity is 'positive' as business may be doing well. However, when we start to peel back the layers of hard work, long hours, and personal life hardships - we can see burnout on the horizon. And another side of the coin, many business leaders feel they are trying to support their employees so much, specifically their employees of color, striving to readjust their business strategy to one where DEIB is at the foundation, that business productivity is declining.
With so many moving parts in navigating the current realities, FitPros had one of our wellness experts, Sarah Tapia, speak to the group about strategies for managing productivity, specifically focused on creating safe spaces for reflection and redefining standard of success. Sarah explained that for the past four months, there has been an increase in our energy output. "Everything requires more energy than it used too. Even things that were once mindless, now require psychological emotional and physical attention, and it's draining." Sarah went on to explain that productivity cannot happen from a place of shame and criticism and that people need to feel safe during these times of turmoil. Recognizing that people do not have the same capacity right now than they once did, she suggested business leaders redefine what their standards of success look like. She offered the following three main strategies:
1. Communication: Check in with your employees, clearly communicate expectations, and listen in response. Ask "How are you in this moment," identify what you need from others and ask what they need from you. Don't just assume that how you like to be supported is what other people need. The golden rule is not applicable. Rather than treating people the way you want to be treated, we suggest treat people how THEY want to be treated.
2. Psychologically Safe Spaces: Learn to deactivate the brain through deep belly breathes. When we feel tense or stress, the brain thinks it is in imminent danger. Try creating space for cleansing energy through rituals such as lighting a candle at your workspace and associating it with your next task. When your body and brain feel safe, you are better equipped to support others and help them feel safe in doing so. If you are looking for mindfulness tools, Sarah hosts a free meditation weekly. More info HERE.
3. Reworking the To-Do List: Everyone's work to-do list is miles deep, as is their personal one. Encourage employees to choose two or three items from the list to accomplish. Once those items are accomplished, mark the day as a win. Short goals will help people stay focused and feel rewarded for their accomplishments. It also provides the space for them to direct their energy inward and check some personal boxes as well.
Business leaders need to understand that to show up for employees now, directly correlates to how employees show up for the company later. Humanity is struggling and your employees are no different. Specifically your black employees are struggling right now and it is up to you to listen and support what they need. It is up to leaders to be active in the work being done to ensure that racism does not persist and that inclusion intersects with diversity initiatives. Moreover, that mental health challenges are navigated and that non-black employees have resources so that they too can be a part of the solution.
FitPros is actively working to offer opportunities for our network, resources for further education, and support for collaboration with others to enhance their actions. Our Diversity and Inclusion offerings page is always being updated with new solutions; and stay up to date with resources and complimentary services on our blog.
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