3 ways leaders can make Black lives matter in the workplace

By Meredith Somers | MIT Ideas Made to Matter | October 8, 2020

This summer, during a historic period of activism to affirm that Black lives matter, organizations of all sizes examined their diversity and inclusion strategies, with most pledging to improve — or in some cases establish — policies on anti-Black racism. But with centuries of structural and social prejudices as a foundation, that’s easier said than done.

“Racism is what we see in the workplace, where only a certain number of Black people make it to the top and there are systems at work to prevent them from doing that,” said Tina Opie, a 2019-2021 MIT MLK visiting scholar, and associate professor who teaches organizational behavior at Babson College. She is also the founder of Opie Consulting Group, which helps organizations with their diversity, inclusion, and equitable workplace strategies. Clients have included Hulu, American Express, and the NFL.

“Many white people think they’re going to have to give up something, and they don’t want to do that,” Opie said. “That’s why they treat diversity like an add-on, not as an essential element of their organization, because if they really believed in it … we could change the culture of an organization in six months if we put money, effort, and time behind it.”

In her 2017 paper “Do Black lives really matter in the workplace? Restorative justice as a means to reclaim humanity,” co-written with Laura Morgan Roberts of the University of Virginia, Opie recommends three first steps organizations should take to change that culture and help make Black lives matter in the workplace.

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