DEAR FELLOW BUSINESS OWNERS:
LET'S TALK ABOUT RACE AND OUR ROLE IN THE CHANGE
I’m writing this because, as a business owner originally from Minnesota, my heart is heavy right now. I’m writing because I long for change in a broken world. Also, I’m writing because we entrepreneurs, startup founders, and business leaders have an opportunity—no, a responsibility—to be a part of the change.
If your heart is heavy too, and you long for the racial divide to be bridged….please read on. Because in just a minute you’re going to read about some practical ways you can be part of the solution.
But first, let’s talk about this:
As a business owner, I’ve been watching what’s happened this week and I’ve been grappling with what to do to make a difference. You’ve probably felt it too. One of the greatest tragedies that happens after a moment like this, is when people in positions of leadership say, “I don’t know what to do”…and then we let that stop us from doing anything.
But here’s the truth: As business owners, we have the power to make a change.
One of the areas that we have control over is our hiring practices.
Think about this: One of the biggest areas of oppression people of color face is in the Pay Gap. Black Americans on average make significantly less than white people. That’s pretty much common knowledge at this point.
Imagine what would happen if the Pay Gap were eliminated, and more money were injected into neighborhoods of color. What kind of chain reaction might that create? Would it have a meaningful impact on access to education, on property values, on crime rates, on incarceration rates, on poverty rates? Of course it would.
But the question is, how?
Well…BUSINESSES have to be the ones to solve that problem.
The fact is this: We have to be the ones to do what we can to end what we can. And we can help end the inequality in hiring. We can lead the change to start closing the Pay Gap. And that could cause a massive ripple effect leading to more sweeping change.
Right now, we as a community are not doing enough to heal the divide in America. And that starts with me. So below, I’m suggesting a few simple ways we as a business community can start to be a catalyst that creates big change in this country.
And yes, these seemingly small things do have the power to create BIG change. Don’t believe me? Look up the butterfly effect.
Here are four great places to start:
1. Systematize Your Pay Raises and Incentives
The cause of the Pay Gap isn’t just the hiring—it’s the failure to give proper raises equally across the board. So here’s a question: Do you have a process for pay raises in your organization? Or are raises up to the “judgment of your managers?”
Without a process, you leave yourself vulnerable to having a manager fail to reward a deserving employee properly. So create a pay raise process based on performance, experience, or whatever else is important to you. And follow it every time.
2. Raise Your Minimum Wage
And while you’re in the process of revamping pay raises, when was the last time you looked at your company’s minimum wage? If you want buy-in, loyalty, and to be above criticism—make sure ALL your employees are paid a living wage.
Beyond that, you can hold your organization accountable by making salaries transparent. When it’s all out there, your managers are forced to answer for it. And when they’re forced to answer for it, it’s going to be fair.
3. Implicit Bias Training
You might not see it—but the bigger your organization is, the more likely you are to have people with implicit biases.
They come out in hiring, in promotion decisions, and in conversations about raises. The people who hold these biases normally genuinely mean well—but they don’t realize the bias is negatively affecting a person of color in an unfair way.
If we care about our employees, we need to help them by bringing these subconscious things into the conscious mind. Here’s a list of trainings to look into.
The sad truth is that because of systemic racism, many people of color will be at a disadvantage before you even see their resume. So how can we do our part to help turn this story around?
Here’s an easy way: Partner with organizations that are already mentoring low-income families in order to lift them out of poverty. Like Lift Communities, for instance. If they know they have an in-road at your company, they’ll funnel you qualified applicants they are already personally mentoring.
Outside of that, ask yourself: What can I do to mentor minorities myself? Look for ways to create mentorship programs within your own organization to close your internal pay gap.
Let’s make sure we are part of the solution, not part of the problem.
We as business owners have the ability to make a change—one that will lead to a much bigger change. One that will help lead to the healing of a nation.
Let’s do it for the sake of millions of people who have been marginalized and held in poverty because people in power weren’t willing to change their ways.
Even small changes from small businesses can make a big difference.