It’s the time of year when resolutions abound. And it’s no wonder—as the calendar turns and the old year gives way to the new, it’s natural to think about how we can become even better versions of ourselves.
But New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for individuals. They’re for organizations, too. Whether you lead an entire company or a single department, you may find yourself wondering what changes you can make to move your company or department forward. How can you help your organization grow and become more successful, while at the same time supporting all of your company’s stakeholder groups?
This is a great question, and it has a myriad of answers. However, research has shown that one of the best ways to boost your company (and all of its stakeholders, from your employees to your customers to your community at large) is to create an organization where people feel safe, seen, and supported. To do that, it’s important to ensure your organization prioritizes not just equity, but justice.
When you actively and intentionally focus on justice—or, to put it another way, on actionable equity—it will create a cascade of positive effects for your employees, your customers, your shareholders, and your bottom line. To help you get started, let’s walk through a simple, systematic tool that will help you move beyond good intentions and into positive action.
What you will learn:
Playing a Game of Thrones
Before we dive into how you can start to implement actionable equity within your organization, let’s take a look at a “case study”: the film industry. Hollywood has long struggled with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). In 2015 and 2016, people began to call the industry out through the use of hashtags such as #Oscarssowhite. However, the problems existed long before that. With few exceptions, Hollywood was not known for diversity or representation of marginalized groups either in front of or behind the camera.
As awareness about the lack of diversity grew, various members of the industry began to take steps to address the problem. Organizations began assembling their own databases of BIPOC professionals who were eligible to be staffed on film and TV production crews. Some of those groups even came together to launch a website (diversify.film) that combines the various directories together.
Various Indie filmmakers started focusing their time and energy on hiring diverse camera crews for their films, as well. And the producers of House of the Dragon (the prequel series to Game of Thrones) started a program that paired underrepresented people who wanted to work behind the camera with experienced camera operators—then ended up hiring many of those people once they were trained.
Each of these are examples of actionable equity. They are examples of leaders using their power, their influence, and their money for good. These leaders weren’t just talking the talk, they were also walking the walk. And leaders in every organization have the ability to do something similar.
From Intention to Action
What makes each of the steps described above so notable is that they go beyond declarations of inclusivity and into action. This is not to say that writing declarations, or even creating committees (like the one created by the Society of Camera Operators), aren’t important steps. But justice requires going further.
As a business leader, resolve to make decisions from the lens of equity. Create a collaborative environment that welcomes diversity of thought from a diverse group of people. Look at your organization’s messaging, your imagery, and your languaging, and ask yourself if it reflects the values of equity and equality that your organization supports.
Taking these steps is the key to shifting from intention to action. Sometimes, though, getting started can seem daunting. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there is good news: there are tools available that will help you move through the process in a manageable way.
One such tool, and a great starting point, is the Corporate Equity Walk Through Tool. We designed this free tool to support businesses in evaluating how inclusive and representative their brand identity and current marketing assets are. This tool helps businesses connect to their clients, employees, and community on a deeper, more meaningful level. In doing so, it also enables them to expand their brand’s reach and influence, which promotes business growth.
The Corporate Equity Walk Through Tool
The Corporate Equity Walk Through Tool contains a list of questions about equity and representation that you can ask yourself to help determine where you are doing well, where you could use improvement, and where you might be missing the mark.
For example, when you are considering how inclusive your brand is, the tool guides you to reflect on whether your brand’s mission, vision, or values use language that emphasizes the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It also asks you to consider who your current clients/customers are and how you could expand your definition of “target audience” to make it more inclusive and diverse.
The tool also offers a way for you to examine behavior. For example, it asks you to reflect on whether or not you actively research and interview diverse groups when developing brand strategies or marketing campaigns.
The tool isn’t just focused on your brand’s level of inclusivity. It also helps you examine your marketing assets and channels. For example, when you consider your customer/client-facing marketing materials or channels, the tool asks you to think about whether the images you use are consistently inclusive and diverse. Do they actively use “non-traditional” role assignments and portrayals to break down stereotypes (such as a model with a physical disability or a gay couple with children)?
By working through each of the tool’s questions, you will gain a deeper understanding of your brand’s inclusivity, along with the inclusivity and representation of your visual, written, and digital marketing content. To access the full set of questions in the Corporate Equity Walk Through Tool (for free), click here.
Once you’ve identified areas where your brand or your marketing assets/channels could be more inclusive and equitable, it’s time to turn your attention to the most important piece: making improvements. In many instances, the solution to a lack of representation may be evident, but be prepared to engage in some out-of-the-box thinking to create substantive change, as well.
For example, let’s say that, after working through the questions posed by the Corporate Equity Walk Through Tool, you realize your brand’s mission, vision, and values use language that emphasizes the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, you also realize the images on your client-facing marketing materials don’t include a broad representation of ethnicities, gender identities/roles, sexual orientations, physical abilities, family structures, socioeconomic statuses, and so on.
Once you’ve come to this realization, you have taken a big step forward, because now you have a starting point for actionable equity. Your next step, then, might be to identify where representation is lacking, and then actively take steps to find images, illustrations, and so on of underrepresented groups.
Don’t stop there, though. Seek out opportunities to address the needs of unique or marginalized populations. Look for ways to actively begin breaking down stereotypes. You might want to reach out to a diverse group of employees or community members for ideas about how to do this, then work to put the best ideas into action. Or, you may want to research the ways other brands (both inside and outside your industry) are breaking down stereotypes. Be open to exploring different ideas with diverse groups of people; that is often the most effective way to engage in actionable equity and move toward justice.
Create Real and Impactful Change
Taking steps that support actionable equity in your organization will create real and impactful change. That’s the power of tools like the Corporate Equity Walk Through Tool: they help you move your organization beyond good intentions and into action.
The steps you take, when done with intentionality and focus, will add up to big changes. They pave the way for conversations about inclusivity and belonging throughout your organization. They demonstrate to your stakeholders that you aren’t just talking the talk, you are walking the walk. Perhaps most of all, they are a tangible demonstration to your community and to society at large that your organization is committed to inclusion, representation, and justice, both now and in the future.