As more conversation shifts in the workplace from what now to what next, many companies are considering creating a more intentional Diversity, Inclusion, and Space (also often known as an Employee Resource Group) And while it is my strong belief that diversity, equity, and inclusion work, specifically equity work cannot be done in its own space and must be done throughout an organization, this is a belief we’ll come back to another day.
If you are currently leading or thinking of your first step is a dedicated space, here are a few things to consider before you solidify what the space will be:
1. Ask what kind of space is needed.
If you just really aren’t sure what space is needed, start by asking.
2. Preview what’s going to happen in the space.
It can be traumatic to walk into a space, not knowing how the space will operate, is designed, or if you, as a Black person, will be required to speak.
Consider previewing what the plan is for the space, if any, and if there will be specific norms set in order to protect Black colleagues or friends and to ensure the burden is not on them.
3. Let Black people opt out of the created space without explanation or penalty.
The intent may be good for creating the space but not every Black person is the same and will want to share, be in the space, or want the space.
Remember to ask if the space is wanted in the first place and some say yes and others say no, do not force the others to show up and do not ask them why they did not show up.
4. Not everyone has to be in the space.
A friendly reminder that not every space needs to have everyone in the organization or your team in it.
Ask and consider supporting on-going spaces where white people are not in the room so that the burden is taken off of Black people and POC to directly engage or share their personal trauma.
The same goes for your friends too, if you are creating personal zoom calls, etc.
5. Remember to not take up the space you just created for someone else.
If you are holding space for Black or POC Colleagues and friends, be mindful if you are white and noticing that your voice, your story, your tears are taking up the space. And if you see others doing this, call them on it immediately in order to keep the space for the reason it was created.
6. Creating Space does not always have to be in the form of a meeting.
When creating space for Black friends and colleagues, remember that it does not always have to be meeting. This could be actively supporting them taking PTO, ensuring they are not bombarded with more meetings and work, or limiting the amount of texts and messages you are sending.
7. Have a plan to continue creating and honoring space.
Commit to making space all of the time, not just when things are escalated. Design a plan now for making sure spaces to exist going forward and ensure people of color are a part of designing this plan,