Dealing with discrimination at work can be difficult. But speaking out about it can be even more challenging. It's up to companies and employers to make sure they're creating a safe space for their BIPOC talent.
That's why Ekow Sanni-Thomas, DE&I strategist, content creator, and founder of Inside Voices, is working to amplify Black voices and hold companies accountable for diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizations.
According to Bain, a management consulting company, less than 25% of Black employees feel included at work. Similarly, Gallup reports that one in four Black workers are discriminated against on the job, and race-based discrimination is the most common kind Black employees face.
Though companies have amped their diversity tactics in the last two years, there's still work to be done. Sanni-Thomas spoke to Make It about the five factors he believes every successful DEI policy should have and how he's making workplace diversity more transparent.
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Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals
For companies whose diversity and inclusion efforts aren't resonating with employees of color, Sanni-Thomas advises making S.M.A.R.T. objectives and being intentional in meeting them:
Specific: WHO is involved? WHAT is being accomplished? WHEN should this be done? WHERE does this take place?
Measurable: How will you keep track of progress?
Attainable: Is this a goal that can be reasonably accomplished?
Relevant: Why am I working towards this goal?
Timely: When will the plan go into action? When should I expect results?
"There are companies that have done incredibly innovative and transformative things, but don't apply that same rigor to DE&I," Sanni-Thomas says. "There needs to be a top-down approach with the attitude and the importance conveyed by the leadership of the organization to everyone within it. Everyone should be accountable for it."
Encouraging others to speak up
Issues like these are what urged Sanni-Thomas to launch his platform, Inside Voices. The website allows BIPOC employees to give anonymous reviews on their companies, with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Using a scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree, individuals are able to rate their companies in areas like advocacy, fairness, and representation.
Sanni-Thomas, originally from the UK but currently living in Brooklyn, is no stranger to workplace discrimination. He shares that after being discriminated against on the job, he reported the incident, but the company failed to protect him – a story that several previous, Black employees identified with. He then realized he no longer wanted to suffer in silence.
"I was just the last in a long line of black people that had joined the company and left under disappointing circumstances for the sake of being polite," he tells CNBC Make It. "And I didn't want to add to that list. I didn't want to leave without having a way to warn people about the environment that seemed rosy, but was not a safe space."
In addition to his web platform, Sanni-Thomas also uses TikTok to raise awareness for diversity issues at work. Using skits and trending sounds, he posts "survival tips for professionals of color" and has a following of almost 30,000 supporters.
Sanni-Thomas hopes that Inside Voices will help "demystify" diversity at work and create a safe space for people of color to voice their opinions.
"My mission is to make diversity more transparent, to help people that aren't believing our experiences understand what we're going through, and then to also amplify the voices and represent us professionals of color who are going through these experiences and don't see anybody speaking to the nuances of what it's like to be us in the workplace."
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