As companies across industries face allegations of racial injustice by employees and customers, human resources and legal departments often struggle to develop strategies for addressing and eradicating racial inequity. Professor Courtney D. Cogburn, co-director of the Justice Equity + Technology laboratory at the Columbia University School of Social Work, says in order to achieve true social progress, society must recognize that confronting racial inequity requires that we first understand racism.

A social worker and psychologist by training, Professor Cogburn has seen firsthand company after company getting diversity and inclusion efforts wrong. She finds companies are often mis-framing “diversity, equity and inclusion” and its function, which contributes to ill-fated interventions.

Considerations for Diversity & Inclusion Efforts

Based on a transdisciplinary approach from the fields of social work, psychology, technology, design and education, Professor Cogburn offers three reasons why organizations miss the mark on tackling racism:

  1. Organizations assume diversity initiatives fix racism and inequity. Hiring more employees of color does not solve the inequity problem. Remember why diversity and inclusion efforts are necessary in the first place: because all people are not equally positioned in society.
  2. Organizations misinterpret and don’t analyze the right data. Do you analyze exit interview data? If not, you’re missing a trove of insight as to what issues your organization has that active employees might not express on the job.
  3. Organizations don’t ask the right questions. Are you focused on reducing individual levels of implicit bias rather than bias across systems, policies and culture?

Professor Cogburn developed an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience simulating the experience of a Black man facing racism, discrimination and systemic brutality. The experience is just one component of a broader approach aimed at structural and cultural transformation in service of achieving racial equity.

Beyond VR, Professor Cogburn teaches audiences to recognize and curtail subtly racist language that unwittingly makes members of minority groups uncomfortable, helping organizations (1) retain valuable talent and (2) boost their reputation in a time of heightened sensitivity to incendiary, racist language in politics and the media.

Contact us to learn how Professor Cogburn can help change the conversations about racism, equity and diversity within your organization.