10 actions for companies to meaningfully advance racial equity

Industrywide, U.S. companies have been quick to condemn racism and pledge to do more to combat racism. Now the question is whether companies — including health systems — will make the changes needed for meaningful progress toward racial equity.  

Mark Kramer, senior lecturer with Harvard Business School in Boston, highlights 10 actions and commitments companies must make to advance racial justice. They pertain to personnel policies, pay, benefits and representation. “Some changes cost virtually nothing; others may create short-term costs,” he writes in Harvard Business Review

Although these 10 actions won’t eliminate structural racism, Mr. Kramer notes that they are fully within organizational leaders' and decision-makers’ control and will make a profound difference for employees and the community. 

1. Establish anti-racism personnel policies and provide racial equity training for all employees — from the C-level and board to hourly workers.

2. Conduct a wage equity audit and make the adjustments needed to achieve fair and equitable pay for people of color and especially to women of color, whose pay is twice discounted.

3. Ensure representation of hourly employees, women and people of color in all employment policy decisions and consider employee representation at the board level. 

4. Make Election Day a paid holiday and help employees register to vote by registering them at work.

5. Commit at least half of your lobbying expenditures to drafting and supporting bills that would improve conditions for communities of color. 

6. Pay a living wage and eliminate last-minute variable shift scheduling to ensure employees have two weeks' notice for their schedules. 

7. Give employees paid parental and sick leave.

8. Commit to full healthcare coverage for all employees and support national healthcare.

9. Establish an employee emergency relief fund or low-cost loan program, given that nearly 40 percent of Americans — disproportionately people of color — lack the savings to cover even a $400 emergency expense.

10. Democratize your employment applications, such as eliminating requirements for college degrees for positions that do not require higher education. 

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