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One Year into Our Racial Reckoning: Reflecting on What We’ve Learned

March 15, 2021
By Adiya Mobley, Leela Stake and Christina Peach

Since mid-2020, FleishmanHillard has counseled more than 80 clients through our True MOSAIC global diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) practice. This includes ourselves, as we do the urgent work to continue making good on our ambition to become the most inclusive agency in the world. Now is a critical time to share learnings and redouble our collective efforts. That’s why we offer the following takeaways as we work to drive progress within the FleishmanHillard network, as well as a link to view One Year into the Racial Reckoning: The Latest on What Corporate Leaders Should Know. We hope to spark renewed action, attention and reflection. And please share your learnings and feedback with us, too.

Actions speak louder than words. There is heightened scrutiny toward companies and organizations, and a significant risk of being called out for being performative when statements about commitments are not backed by a track record and concrete action. The status quo is a disappointment to so many consumers and employees who want to know and see what is being done differently to combat discrimination. For our part, we recognized a need to close our own gap between our ambition and reality, leading to the launch of a comprehensive DE&I plan with bolder 2021-22 targets. More transparency. More accountability. More action as we put this plan into practice.

We need to take an inclusive approach to DE&I. Like most of our clients, we are a global organization. There is no doubt that 2020’s calls for racial justice reverberated outside the United States. In the UK, for example, there were peaceful protests. The UK’s imperial past was called into question with expectations of brands and organizations to go beyond solidarity for Black and Brown communities and take action. Similarly, the myths about Canada setting the standard for embracing multiculturalism were challenged, forcing Canadians to own up to the country’s history of police violence that disproportionately harms and kills Black people and Indigenous people. While in the Philippines, the fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community continues at a challenged pace and is stalled over debates within the government’s senate. The legacy of exclusion in South Africa remains prevalent, 27 years after apartheid was abolished.  And while legislation exists to drive broad-based Black economic empowerment, meaningful progress remains a challenge.

Yet advancing DE&I globally will not succeed with a one-size-fits-all-places approach, which is antithetical to being inclusive. We must ensure the work of propelling DE&I forward is multifaceted and a lasting endeavor in all parts of the world. This includes advancing accessibility, LGBTQ+ rights and gender equity – as well as bridging race, ethnic and class divides and more.

Recognize there’s lots of work to do, and it won’t always be easy. Sea change takes time, and the road can be bumpy and long. People appreciate transparency about what is not working because it demonstrates a continued commitment to accountability and improvement. Also, especially given the emotional toll this work can take, we find it important to take time to acknowledge progress toward clear success metrics, even when it may not come as fast as we would like.

Everyone has a role to play in advancing DE&I. Our True MOSAIC team is 100 counselors strong and reflects a team with diverse lived experiences and professional expertise. This results in a daily dynamic meeting of the minds to inform each other and ensure we are giving the best counsel possible. Yet we are on a quest to move DE&I to the center of the business. This means ensuring that this work is not treated as a side-hustle or expected to be carried only by diverse employees. Allyship and cross-community solidarity are essential to this work, especially when driving organization-wide adoption.

You can view Racial Reckoning and Beyond: The Latest of What Corporate Leaders Should Know. here.