Trimease K. Carter, LMSW
Guest Blogger and Former Youth Relations & Organizational Equity Manager at Wholespire
Getting Started with Race Equity in the Workplace
In my last blog, Steps to Advance Race Equity in the Workplace, I shared the Wholespire strategy for integrating race equity into its operations. I also provided a timeline of how Wholespire got started and remained committed to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and race equity into all aspects of its work. In this post, I’ll explain one of their key steps toward advancing race equity in the workplace: completing an assessment.
What is an assessment and why is it important?
Wholespire trains youth advocates through The Healthy Young People Empowerment (HYPE) Project® to identify, plan, and implement healthy eating and active living projects. The HYPE Project curriculum features a session that teaches youth the importance of assessing their focus area before starting a project so that they can have a clear understanding of the problem, whom it impacts, and how it shows up in everyday ways. This is the same approach Wholespire used when planning its Race Equity and Inclusion (REI) strategies. They used several assessments to gather baseline data and provide guidance on goal development. Eventually, they will be used to help evaluate the work.
As a woman and a person of color, I personally find assessments to be a useful resource because they can help get everyone to a similar understanding of what problems exist. Now, if you are only looking for obvious examples of inequities in the workplace, such as hate speech and racial slurs, it may be hard to recognize where race inequity or racism exists in your organization. This could lead organizations to falsely believe that they should not have a plan to continuously assess and address equity within their organization.
In my last blog, I provided examples of the inequities that people of color may experience in the workplace related to raises, promotions, and other income; equal pay; and a sense of belonging that are more subtle. Assessing can help us identify these more subtle examples.
Creating an Assessment
Wholespire really wanted to use the REI Workplace Guides to help guide their REI efforts because it was created by local partners, being used by other organizations in South Carolina, and Wholespire staff participated in its development. Staff didn’t have much luck finding an existing assessment that would measure the indicators found in the REI Workplace Guides, so they created their own based on the guide’s 36 indicators. They also adopted and modified various other assessments that will be explained later in the blog.
Small non-profits may struggle with the time commitment required of a single full-time staff to create and modify assessments. Therefore, Wholespire sought assistance from a former HYPE team at Lexington School District One’s Center for Public Health and Advanced Medical Studies at White Knoll High School to help develop its REI Organizational Assessment.
They chose to collaborate with high school students and HYPE alumni because one of long-term goals of The HYPE Project is to expose HYPE alumni to careers in public health and other aspects of community health improvement. They turned to the White Knoll High School HYPE alumni based on their successful HYPE project, the Fast Break breakfast program, and the advanced learning program. Staff were confident that the students would grasp the concept of assessment and accept our challenge. After all, they learned about the importance of assessments during their HYPE training.
The infographic below highlights the six assessments Wholespire used to establish goals and action steps for integrating race equity into the workplace.
Examples of Assessment Results
The Wholespire REI Organizational Assessment showed where they are doing well and revealed areas that needed to be addressed. For example, on the staff inclusion survey employees indicated some of the areas the organization is doing well in are:
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important to our staff.
- Staff feel respected and valued by leadership and teammates, despite their differences.
- Staff can voice contrary opinions without fear of negative consequences.
- Wholespire shows that diversity, equity, and inclusion is important through its actions.
- My job performance is evaluated fairly.
The staff inclusion assessment also indicated areas of needed improvement, which became the starting point for goal development and action planning. Examples include:
- I do not feel encouraged to participate in diversity, equity, and inclusion professional development.
- I feel like my colleagues do not understand who I really am.
- Wholespire is not committed to improving the diversity of its employees.
- Wholespire policies or procedures do not encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Overall, what they learned from the various assessments is that they need to continue in the areas in which they’re doing well, but to also start focusing on establishing and communicating organizational policies related to REI, encouraging professional development for leadership and staff, and improving staff interpersonal relationships to move closer toward a truly equitable organization. They also realized that internal communication is imperative to staff understanding policies and procedures. There were policies and procedures in place that staff did not realize existed. Wholespire has been focusing on improving the way we communicate with all staff.
As Wholespire continues to implement its strategies and move closer to reaching its goals, the plan is to reassess its efforts, evaluate the reassessment results, and revise any assessment tools or strategies to help them achieve their goals.
In our next post, Part 5: Wholespire DEI Goals, we’ll connect the assessment results to our DEI and race equity goals. You’ll also learn about some of the action steps we are taking to help us reach those goals.
If you want to learn more about the Wholespire race equity in the workplace journey, visit our DEI webpage. It has complete information about our framework, as well as resources to explore. You can also find race equity resources on Options for Action.
Race Equity in the Workplace Series
Read Part 1: DEI Insights
Read Part 2: Getting Started with Race Equity in the Workplace
Read Part 3: Steps to Advance Race Equity in the Workplace