The idea of change has been rolling around in my brain recently. Here’s why.
A little more than a year ago, on Tuesday June 2, 2020, over 950 brands and companies joined millions of people on #BlackoutTuesday in posting black squares to their social accounts.
The black square indicated a stand with the Black Lives Matter and (seemingly) a commitment to work towards reducing systemic inequality and inequity faced by the Black community.
Following #BlackoutTuesday, many companies issued statements to that effect. Announcements included initiatives to be undertaken. Pledges of change proclaimed.
There seemed to be a broad, collective acknowledgement that we as individuals (especially white individuals) needed to make changes. And, as primarily white individuals leading companies, companies too had the power and responsibility to make changes in order to address inequities in our society.
Which brings us to today. And change.
If change were easy, we would be inundated with updates from those 950+ companies who posted black squares to their accounts touting the progress they made over the past year. We’d be hearing story after story about:
- Racial pay equity achieved
- Board diversity targets met
- Executive leadership teams being more diverse
- Hiring equally across racial demographics
- Black, and more broadly BIPOC, people feeling welcomed and included in their companies
Sadly, we aren’t seeing this. I look forward to the day when this is true.
Yet, the news isn’t all bad.
Fortunately, there are a few companies that are bright stars, leading the way.
These brave companies made statements in 2020 about what they could do to effect change, and then they started doing the work. One year later, they transparently provided updates on what they accomplished and what they would continue to work on.
Here are a couple observations that I made about these admirable companies that can help all of us as we look at how we as individuals can change, as well as helping our companies change.
- The statements made included specific ways to measure progress
- Issuing public statements of progress shows authenticity as well as an accountability
Both of these make common sense for individuals, and here they are just being applied at a systems level for companies. If you as an individual want to make a change, it is highly advisable to set a specific target. This gives your brain a goal to latch onto, something to remember each time you do that new behavior that supports your target.
The same is true for companies. Athleta did this by setting a specific metric that they would work toward. They said:
We commit to double the representation of Black and Latinx employees at all levels in our HQs by 2025.
This is a specific, measurable goal. If you think about it though, that one goal has a LOT behind it. First, they need to gather data to show where they are today at all levels. Then, they need review and potentially overall both their recruiting and hiring processes to make progress against that goal. Finally, if they do that well, their hiring will start to be reflected in their numbers. But, they simultaneously need to make sure those newly hired employees feel welcomed and included inside their company and STAY working at Athleta. That is deep culture work inside the company.
Then, part two also makes total sense for companies pursuing change. We all know change gets eminently easier if you have an accountability partner. The public, particularly customers, are serving as that accountability partner for Athleta.
Well done Athleta, and others who are doing the hard, daily work driving towards true change in our society. We need it, and will follow in your footsteps. Thank you.