What sort of pitfalls do global organizations face when they attempt to tackle complex social justice issues? Without understanding a country’s local environment, adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing social justice issues is seldom a recipe for success.
In the recent Race and Ethnicity: Global Perspectives webinar (presented in conjunction with our newest Featured Insight piece), Aperian Global’s I&D Strategist Mercedes Martin and Managing Partner Ernie Gundling addressed race and ethnicity in a cross-border context and presented workable solutions for global organizations, with real-life examples from various countries.
Here are some of the key insights from the webinar:
Mercedes identifies four “crisis events” key to understanding the current situation. Those four are:
Martin describes these four events’ confluence as sparking an “excavation” in the world – spotlighting systems and structures that present inequalities on a global scale. It’s a reckoning, one that was a long time coming – and one that presents a myriad of possibilities and issues to deal with.
As Martin explains, it’s also a very emotionally heavy – and uncertain – topic.
“The uncertainty does not allow for calm and rational discussion,” she says. “It puts us in our own scrambled state, where it’s hard to think of the future or think through something different that moves us forward.”
Two of the myths to get debunked when it comes to approaching global race and ethnicity issues? That there’s a “one size fits all” approach that can fix things, and that the faster a company goes to fix the issue, the better it will go.
In reality? “The complexities, the layers, the narratives, and the experiences show that this is absolutely not true,” Martin says. Trying to hammer out that generic approach to these issues – and moving at far too rapid of a pace – is not a formula for success.
Equity encompasses tailoring your processes and practices to the specific needs of employee demographics; it’s a term that every forward-thinking organization needs to have in mind when examining their overall approach to these issues.
“Lately, we’ve included social justice – including white supremacy and anti-racism – in this conversation,” says Martin. “So there’s a continuum. I’m not saying the majority of organizations are there, but the convergence is starting to happen – and at a fast pace.”
Gundling mentions the United Kingdom as an example of one of these situations. Immigration is a crucial issue and a source of tensions in the U.K. at present – a hundred years after the peak of the British Empire.
In the wake of World War II, labor shortages led to policies that encouraged immigration from former British colonies. Immigrants arrived in large numbers from countries such as India, Pakistan, and later Bangladesh; others came from African nations, including South Africa and Nigeria. The entry of the U.K. into the European Communities (later the European Union) in 1973 also meant that job seekers could enter freely from other parts of Europe. Many Eastern Europeans, most notably from Poland, began to arrive as well, along with political refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere. Foreign-born residents now comprise approximately 14% of the U.K.’s population, the highest number in the country’s history. The largest minority immigrant groups are Asian (8%) and blacks (3%) from Africa or the Caribbean.
“There are tensions between immigrants seeking equal opportunity and access to jobs and advancements in the workplace, and people that are part of the majority culture saying they’re taking away jobs,” Gundling says. “That group says they want to ‘preserve their traditions’ and that immigrants are changing all that – so they’re not comfortable with the situation. On top of that, there are other factors like an aging society and a rural-urban divide, particularly between London and the rest of the country.”
As with the U.K., each country has its own particular mix of diversity factors — in some cases, race and ethnicity are the most critical factors involved in social and workplace discrimination. In other locations around the world, different aspects of diversity such as immigrant status, religion, gender, language, or regional background may be paramount, with race and ethnicity still being part of the picture. Organizational policies aimed at fostering greater equity and social justice should be based on a consistent set of values and guidelines; at the same time, these policies must also be adapted to social issues and employee priorities in each location.
Greene, Richard Allen. “Britain’s Big Race Divide,” CNN.Com, June 2020, https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/06/europe/britain- racism-cnn-poll-gbr-intl/
Baptiste, Ashley-John “Racism in the UK: ‘I Feel Like an Alien’,” BBC, June 2020; https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-53002818/racism-in-the-uk-i-feel-like- an-alien
Faulconbridge, Guy. “UKIP in Chaos Over Racist Messages,” Reuters, January 2018; https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-politics-ukip/ukip-in-chaos- over-racist-messages-idUKKBN1FB0SN?feedType=RSS
Smith-Spark, Laura, Nima Elbagir and Barbara Arvanitidis, “‘’The Greatest Trick Racism Ever Pulled Was Convincing England it Doesn’t Exist- How Britain Failed to Deal With Systemic Racism,” CNN.com, June 2020; https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/22/europe/black-britain-systemic-racism-cnn-poll-gbr-intl/ index.html
“Roche,” Best Companies, July 2020, https://www.b.co.uk/company-profile/?roche-104350 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/business-reporter/ workplace-diversity/
Hicks, Rachel, interview with Adria Harris, UK human resources director, Roche, “Making the mix work: is your business diverse and inclusive?” The Telegraph, January 2020; https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/business-reporter/workplace-diversity/
“‘We are here because you were there’: Immigrants’ Responses to the Rise of Anti-Immigrant Discourses in Britain, University of Leicester, October 2014, https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/sociology/research/conferences-and-workshops/2018201cwe-are-here-because-you-were-there201d- immigrants2019-responses-to-the-rise-of-anti-immigrant-discourses-in-britain