Closing the Racial Leadership Gap, Part 2

Board room table and chairs

In the first part of this series, we looked at how nonprofit staff and leaders can create a more inclusive culture. Now, we will dive into key strategies nonprofit leadership can use to make the hiring and promotion process more equitable.

Diversity training

An important step an organization can take is to require that executive leadership obtain diversity, equity, and inclusion training. As the findings of the Race to Lead report state: “Training and preparation should be required for people in positions of power in order to raise awareness of the barriers facing aspiring leaders of color. This consciousness would need to continue once leaders of color land the job so they are not marginalized by boards and funders.”

Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, an advisory board member at Building Movement Project and the Vice President of Organizational Growth at the Community Coalition in Los Angeles, is proud of the diversity of her organization and hopeful that the report will lead to more executive leaders making changes within their organizations.

Montes-Rodriguez suggests that to determine what type of training your organization needs, you should first look to leaders of color that you can learn from.

“I don’t believe in a cookie cutter process for diversity training,” she says. “I think a basic first step in training is to invite leaders of color who are doing a good job running nonprofit organizations to come in and talk to you. Hear from them what allows them to lead and what challenges they have faced. From there, come up with agreements about what kind of training you need.”

Pro Tip: There are many national organizations that can help you organize a training for your office. Check out The Equity Consulting Group, which offers a variety of team building, coaching, and leadership development opportunities. Paradigm is another group that provides resources and training. And check out the W.K. Kellogg’s Racial Equity Resource Guide, which has hundreds of articles, books, training guides, and research about racial equity in communities and workplaces.

Implicit Bias

The survey illustrates that the majority of people of color and whites believe that leadership and boards do not do enough to recruit people of color and do not support their leadership potential. One reason for this is unconscious or implicit bias, which refers to the information, attitudes, and stereotypes that affect the way we process information subconsciously. If gone unchecked, implicit bias can impact organizations’ hiring decisions.

Here are some simple yet effective ways to change hiring policies to counter implicit bias:

  • Provide training for managers and staff on implicit bias and how to recognize it.
  • When reviewing resumes, cover up the candidate’s names and schools so you can’t make assumptions about what you think their race might be.
  • Use a hiring rubric so you compare people equally on their skills and qualifications.
  • Remind yourself and other hiring managers to check for implicit bias. You can set your calendar to give you a reminder before you interview a candidate, or include a bias check on candidate feedback forms for the hiring committee.
  • Look for candidates outside of your typical referral network. Instead make sure jobs are posted in a variety of places, including with affinity groups, and encourage your staff and board to diversify their networks and share the job description.

Pro Tip: For more recommendations on how to train staff members about implicit bias and how to prevent it, check out “Managing Unconscious Bias: Strategies to Manage Bias and Build More Diverse, Inclusive Organizations,” a white paper put by the diversity consulting group Paradigm.

Retention and promotion

Of course, it’s not just about making sure you hire diverse folks but also retain them and provide them with growth opportunities, says Kerrien Suarez, Director of Equity in the Center. To do this, be sure to review your current policies on how the organization decides on promotions and salary increases, on how grievances and discrimination complaints are addressed, and on your flexible work policies, for example.

Suarez suggests taking a broad look at where people of color are employed within the organization. How many are in leadership roles? How many are on the board? How many are entry level or administrative? It is vital to measure how well you are retaining people of color and how your newly enacted policies are working. Make sure to come up with metric for holding yourself and fellow organizational leaders accountable.

According to the report, when respondents were asked if they aspire to obtain an executive role in their nonprofit, 50% of people of color responded yes, while only 40% of whites said they would. Yet, when asked if they plan on pursuing jobs outside of the nonprofit realm, more people of color (21%) said yes than whites (10%).

Montes-Rodriguez, the advisory board member at Building Movements, says this indicates to her that nonprofits need to look at what they are doing to retain people of color. She is hopeful that having this data will help support organizational leaders who want to make policy changes.

“I think there is a lot of support for creating diverse, strong organizations that reflect the communities that are being served,” she says. “This data really supports that [addressing hiring and retention policies] is the right thing for governance bodies.”

How has your organization worked to address the racial leadership gap? Do you have examples of policies and procedures that have made your organization more inclusive?

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Samantha has worked for nonprofit organizations in NY, TX, and NV. She has experience in nearly every niche of nonprofit work, received her journalism degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, and her law degree from New York Law School.
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