3 ways employers can decenter whiteness in the workplace and promote inclusivity

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Jean Lee, president and CEO of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA).

Jean Lee is president and CEO of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, an organization focused on improving DEI in the workplace.
Decentering white-centric expectations at work is key to improving equity for people of color, Lee says. 
Employers should focus on overcoming hiring bias and rethinking talent retention and promotion criteria.   

When Brittanie Rice first showed up to interview at the offices of a major aerospace company, she traded her trademark twists for a slicked-back bun. It was safer that way.  

Although she wore her hair naturally in her daily life, she knew corporate America operated on a different set of standards — and that she risked judgement if she didn’t fit them. As she put it, “I can’t really be looked down upon because of how I wear something that is as natural as the hair on top of my head.”  

This is just one of the ways employees of color often contort themselves to fit the white-centric assumptions and expectations about professionalism that govern our workplaces. These standards dictate everything from the way they speak, to the way they dress, to the work they are given. And the end result is always the same: an environment that makes it harder for people of color to do their best work.  

As the President and CEO of the MCCA, I often hear from lawyers of Black, Asian, and Hispanic/Latinx descent who are tired of navigating a corporate America that wasn’t designed with them in mind. One lawyer, who regularly fielded questions about her appearance as the only Black woman on her team, recently told me: “I have to work 20 to 30% harder thinking about microaggressions, while others can spend their full energy focused on their work.”  

What’s the cost of a corporate culture that excludes large segments of the workforce?  

The answer: Too much. That’s why we see investors demanding racial audits of companies they invest in, and policymakers in states like California and Washington mandating greater board diversity. That’s why the SEC may require diversity disclosures as part of companies’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) obligations to improve accountability.  

But one group hasn’t fully embraced this shift: corporate leaders. Since George Floyd’s murder, I’ve seen waning interest on diversity issues — or worse, a quiet dismissal of employees of color and their experiences. Diversity leaders are


Source:: Business Insider

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