How to Successfully Create a New Racial ED&I Task Force

Jul 23, 2020

By Edie Stringfellow, Director of D&I, MassBio

As companies consider creating ED&I Task Forces to examine areas relating to racial equity, culture and processes, and make recommendations to executive leadership, there are some critical issues to take into account. The purpose of such a Task Force can be varied. It could be to implement and operationalize programs and policies to advance racial and ethnic equity, diversity, and inclusion. It could also be designed to oversee allyship and anti-racism training, sponsorship of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, or a review of recruiting, retaining, and developing best practices. Regardless, if your company is thinking about creating an ED&I Task Force, companies, managers, and teammates must be intentional and learn, reflect, and work to become active allies within our industry over time. The Task Force cannot be created because you are ‘woke’ in the moment and because that is what everyone else is doing.

We need to open our minds to what measures can productively be taken to educate and prevent insensitivity and discrimination within our organization. How do we best address, report, and eradicate bias/discrimination in recruitment, retention, and development? Here is some food for thought:

When Developing a New Racial ED&I Task Force

Be aware of the following as a company, manager, and colleague.

    • Create a safe space for non-black people of color (NBPOC), white people, foreigners, etc. to share how they feel about their level of awareness/actions/inactions related to racial inequity.
    • Encourage company-wide forums, town halls and Q&A sessions to educate each other. If needed, bring in experts to help facilitate conversations and develop plans.
    • To maintain momentum in the beginning, watch/read something (anything) together, and then set time aside to discuss prior to the next company-wide meeting. Here is a short list of suggestions:
      • Watch – Short Videos
        • 100 Years of History by Michael Todd
        • Systemic Racism Explained by
      • Watch – Documentaries
        • I Am Not Your Negro Documentary by Raoul Peck (currently on Netflix)
        • 13th Documentary by Ava DuVernay (currently on Netflix)
      • Read – Articles & Journals
        • I’m a Black Female Scientist. On My First Day of Work, a Colleague Threatened to Call the Cops on Me by Raven Baxter, Ph.D.
        • Racist Like Me – A Call to Self-Reflection and Action…by Deborah Cohan, M.D., M.P.H.
        • American Health Dilemma: Race, Medicine & Healthcare in the U.S. 1900-2000 by Byrd et. al.
        • Racial Bias in Flexner Report Permeates Medical Education Today by Elizabeth Hlavinka
      • Read – Books
        • How to Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
        • White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
        • You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
        • Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
    • Black, Brown and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) did not create systemic racism, so do not expect them to resolve the problems alone.
    • Do not inundate your black colleagues with requests to help you understand racial inequities. Please remember that in our industry BIPOC are woefully outnumbered and are being asked by many for input right now. Be considerate of their time and their mental and emotional journey.
    • Do not ask your colleagues to take the time to do research or make recommendations for books or films. We are not Blackapedia or Black Google Search. I have been asked this question numerous times over the past few months.

If You Are Invited to Participate on a New Racial ED&I Task Force

This is a unique opportunity to connect with executives as well as drive change. But it can also lead to burnout as well as feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated. Make sure to ask these questions prior to accepting the new responsibility (and managers, please be prepared to answer):\

  • What can you take off my plate to make this possible?
  • What resources can you provide so this doesn’t impede more current responsibilities?
  • How does this support or advance the company’s larger goals?
  • Who is on the committee and who is leading it?
  • Is it advisory or will it have the power to implement?
  • What’s in place to ensure the task force’s recommendations are adopted?
  • Is there a budget available to the task force? For example, if outside consultation is needed?
  • Is there another more effective way I can add to or influence this conversation?

If we don’t reckon with the causes that got us here, the work of a Task Force and the intentional, innovative solutions that they present might increase the disparities and not eradicate them. All of us are needed to repair once and for all the transgressions of the past and the injustice present to make a better future.

To learn more, register for our 3rd Annual ED+I Conference where industry leaders will further address the critical role of executive leadership in promoting and cultivating equity, diversity, inclusion, and culture in their companies.  

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