By Erin Ewart
One year ago I shared a post outlining our 2021 anti-racism commitments, and I’m writing today with an update on how we’re doing and what we’ll be focused on in the year ahead.
Why I’m sharing this update
One of our organizational values is Trust & Transparency, and I believe this is especially important when we are talking about this work.
I want to share where we’ve made progress along with the places we’ve struggled or not met our goals. This work is an ongoing journey and commitment and we have a lot to learn from each other, which can only happen when we share transparently.
For clients who may be considering working with us, I want you to know that we are committed to creating inclusive, anti-racist programs, and that this is still a work in progress. Please see below for updates on our 2021 commitments and what we’re planning for 2022.
An Update on our 2021 Commitments
Below are the commitments we made one year ago, and a progress report on how we’re doing on each. I’ve given us a green / yellow / red rating to indicate if we’ve achieved the goal (green), are working toward it (yellow), or haven’t yet made progress (red).
These commitments were directly informed by the anti-racist small business pledge that we signed in 2020. I’ll also note that these commitments include both business goals and personal goals that I felt were important for me to focus on as the leader of the organization.
1. Ensure at least 30% of our spending goes to Black-owned businesses. After analyzing our spending for 2020, this figure was just over 20%. In 2021 we are aiming to make this at least 30% by seeking out and prioritizing working with Black-owned businesses and vendors.
Yellow: After analyzing our spending for 2021, we have not yet achieved the 30% target; we are at just over 14%, so we have quite a way to go. However, looking at 2020’s data again I’ve realized that I made some errors in my calculations and that we were at just under 12% of spending for that year. So while we are not meeting the 30% target yet, we did improve a bit in 2021 over the prior year.
Why has it been challenging to meet this goal? Many of our ongoing expenses are for business systems, and it has been harder to find Black-owned alternatives to some of the systems we have in place. I have been actively discussing this with other business owners who are trying to meet this goal and navigating the same challenge.
While we have work to do, having this benchmark has been a very helpful tool to ensure we stop and seek out Black-owned businesses before proceeding with new purchasing decisions. This year we’ll continue to prioritize shifting our spending, with the goal of reaching 20% in 2022.
2. Update our programs and content with an anti-racist lens. We will be reviewing our content to ensure that diverse perspectives are represented, that we are infusing anti-racism into our curriculum, materials, and teaching, and that we are prioritizing inclusivity in our programs. This is an ongoing and long-term process which we will continue beyond this year.
Yellow: We have made some progress on bringing an anti-racist lens to our content, primarily in our group programming. We are more proactively discussing topics like racism and bias in the hiring process, the importance of diversifying our own networks, and how to assess an employer’s DEI initiatives as a job seeker.
We have also made changes as we seek to create a more inclusive environment in our programs, including asking clients for their preferred pronouns and if there are any accommodations we can provide for them, and using live captions on all of our virtual events.
We know that creating an environment where everyone can feel welcome and included will be an ongoing journey, and to this end we have also added a question to our end of program survey to ask clients for feedback on how well we are living our values and how we can improve on this specifically.
This year we will continue to make shifts to our content and programs to center anti-racism and create a more inclusive environment.
3. Continue to expand access to our programs. In recognition of the systemic barriers that our BIPOC clients have faced, we will continue to prioritize offering scholarships to our group programs in 2021, and we will explore other ways that we can expand access to our programs for traditionally marginalized groups.
Yellow. We provided 11 partial scholarships to BIPOC participants in our group programs in 2021. While we understand that scholarships will not solve the kinds of huge systemic issues we are fighting, we do believe that expanding access to our work is important and aligned with our mission. We plan to continue offering several scholarships to each of our group programs moving forward.
The areas where we need to make additional progress on this goal include intentionally tapping into more diverse networks to recruit for our programs and exploring other ways to expand access to our programs for marginalized groups. These will be topics we continue to focus on in the year ahead.
4. Commit to continued anti-racism education and learning. This is an ongoing process, and we will continue to add to it. I am committing to participating in at least two programs focused on anti-racism this year and to prioritize reading, listening to, and watching content that will broaden my understanding of the history of racism in our country and the lived experiences of marginalized groups.
Yellow. I participated in one anti-racism education program last year, not two as I had intended; my main barrier was timing, as many of the programs I’ve found take place in the evenings in my time zone and it’s tough for me to attend meetings then with two little ones at home. I don’t want to use this as an excuse though, and I’m continuing to explore options and planning to join another program this year.
In addition to formal programs, I’ve also realized how important it is to embed content that exposes me to different perspectives into what I already do.
One way I’ve done this is by following more BIPOC and DEI leaders on LinkedIn, where I already spend a lot of time. This has been a great way to ensure that I’m consistently exposed to diverse viewpoints and content on a regular basis.
This year I want to continue to push myself to diversify the content I consume for fun (books, tv shows, movies, etc.) and commit to joining another anti-racism education program.
5. Create a statement about our commitment to anti-racism that will be displayed on our website and in other public-facing documents (i.e. job descriptions, program policies). This will help clarify where we stand and ensure that our future clients, partners, and vendors understand and share our commitment.
Green. We have created a statement that is displayed at the top of the Values page on our website, and we included this language in our job descriptions when we hired new team members last year.
We have also begun consistently sharing and talking about our values, one of which is Equity & Access, in all of our public presentations and events.
Our next step will be to identify other places to publicly share this statement, to ensure that our potential clients and partners understand and support our commitments.
Learnings from this year
I think the guiding principles I shared in last year’s post definitely still apply, and I would add a few additional thoughts based on our experience this year:
- Developing greater awareness is progress: Often I am frustrated by how long it can take to see tangible change, but I know that my awareness and understanding of racism has shifted significantly over the last several years and that is important too. Perspectives I wouldn’t have considered a few years ago are now more ingrained, and I use a much different lens as I make decisions both personally and professionally.
- Accountability is critical: As with everything in life, if we want to make progress we need accountability. Knowing I wanted to write this post forced me to take a close and honest look at our progress. The other accountability tool that’s been incredibly helpful for me is a bi-weekly meeting I have with two other small business owners who also signed the pledge. We’ve been meeting since summer 2020, and having this consistent time on the calendar has been crucial to ensure I keep returning to this work, even (and especially) when other things are competing for my attention. I want to thank my accountability partners for their support and feedback along the way; it has been so valuable!
I hope these updates are helpful as you consider the possibility of working with us, as well as your own anti-racism commitments. As always, we welcome feedback, questions, and suggestions you have for us as we continue on this journey.