In June of 2020, I wrote a note to the tech industry to announce a project with my co-founder and brother-from-another-mother, Dion McKenzie.
We built The Race Equ(al)ity Index™️, first index focused on measuring companies' racial equity performance and factors that most impact BIPOC-intersecting employees.
Throughout 2020, we saw announcement after announcement stating what companies and leadership teams are planning to do. Since then, we’ve seen even bigger companies announce their grandest anti-racism and DEI pledges yet, with sizable budgets dedicated to their execution. Yet, their impacts remain largely unknown, with many insiders reporting the commitments were almost completely empty and seeping in white savior assimilation programming.
Personally, the last year I've needed space and time to unpack my own anti-blackness, racist beliefs, and the resulting behaviors. I even more constantly asked myself “how can I dismantle my whiteness conditioning in this response?”
Along the journey, I’ve worked to create the same for others to work through the side effects of the internalized racism and the white supremacist system in which they are rewarded.
Being at home as an extrovert, it goes without saying I was reaching OUT to people I admire all over Linkedin, POCIT, Blavity, Black Tech Fest, dev/color and attending any relevant virtual conference I could get my hands on. In the process I formed an even bigger circle of trusted colleagues.
With every whiteness trap fallen into, or misgendering biff, or ignorant comment I made to my fellow underrepresented colleagues, I was called to practice this grace and courage. My loving colleagues have been vulnerable in their calling me IN to my mistakes, which has inspired me that much more to continue this work.
This community of activists working from all different spaces and roles within tech is what inspired me throughout 2020 to continue the amazing work we’ve started with the Race Equ(al)ity Index™️.
Now in 2021, we’ve seen even clearer opposing movements. We have new iterations of conservative rage, resistance, and persistence that threatens the very fundamentals of the US political beliefs. We also have seen grand gestures from tech giants; more job postings for Chief Diversity Officer’s (CDO’s); a crazy uptick in inquiries for unconscious bias training; and my two favorite, the increase in those book sales and awards, y’all.
These high level, high budget announcements are, well, just fantastic.
Yet there remains a palpable inability, unwillingness, or capacity for the actual work needed to drive the change these announcements imply.
For example, we are still getting pushback from companies when we say that unconscious bias training are not enough. We are still getting pushback from company leaders when we advise that their executive team commit to intensive anti-racism training for 6 months. And even a mention of the importance of pay gap audit..
Nevertheless, Dion and I have:
- had amazing conversations with leaders throughout tech who are indeed doing the real work.
- We built and executed our first iteration of the Race Equ(al)ity Index™️,
- have begun partnerships for inclusive product design projects with companies who are serious about making an impact, and
- are constantly sharing the insights from the Race Equ(al)ity Index™️ with news and media outlets across the global tech scene.
Throughout it all, we’ve remained consistently operative around two things:
1. The Race Equ(al)ity Index™️ is for the tech industry, by the tech industry
We have engaged with our community, sought insights from inclusion and equity experts. We've debated with our own peers around what this index should encompass. We have forged ahead with our iteration of what many have tried with varying results in the past. We created this index with the time, effort, resources, and even dissent of many contributors who believe enough in our collective vision. We all want equal representation, and equitable access to opportunity for BIPOC identifiers in the corporate tech landscape.
2. The data from the Index continues to reiterate one simple fact. Regardless of what you’re collecting data on (data nerds, back me up here), the results are not the answers, they are only the tool.
In other words, the Race Equ(al)ity Index™️ can’t solve all racism with one insight or data point. It tells us the same thing we always assumed; there is still a lack of both accountability in leadership, and investment in important diversity initiatives.
However, the conversations that are we are equipping with the insights from the Race Equ(al)ity Index™️ are drastically more specific, less defensive, and immediately actionable.
With REI data, the conversations are much less about sentiment, or "do we really thing that data is representative of everyone's opinion?". We're able to work immediately on strategies within specific issue areas or business units.
With our insights from the Race Equ(al)ity Index™️:
We are sharing innovative practices across companies without a sense of competition, because the data is aggregate and private.
We are seeing how some companies are doing things completely different that we can't even index on.
We see the leaders who are really leaning into the newest Business Roundtable statement of purpose, and we can measure the impact it is having.
We are becoming more confident in what we’ve always believed.
The Race Equ(al)ity Index™️ is our way of approaching all aspects of the business with individual scoring so that participating companies are able to indeed take a holistic and measurable approach to solving for equity in the workplace.
KC Jorgensen, CPO of Textio put it best in our last conversation when I asked her if enforcing diversity on boards of directors would have the biggest, fastest impact.
“The approach to righting this 400 year old system of revenue prioritization must be omnichannel. Position and title alone certainly do not equal power. Take Ursula Burns’ tenure as CEO and chairman. Are their voices really being heard? Does it align with the company's objectives? This work has to happen at all levels of the organization.”
Dion and I could not be more motivated and energized for our second Race Equ(al)ity Index™️, commencing Spring 2021, for which we are currently inviting companies to take part.
If you think your company should submit to the Race Equ(al)ity Index™️, contact us through this form to learn more about joining this movement.
To learn more about the Race Equ(al)ity Index™️, visit raceequalityindex.com.