Jun 2, 2020 - Economy

Diversity and inclusion training goes home with workers

An illustration of cutouts of employees working at an office

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

As Americans engage in difficult conversations about race, violence, privilege and more, one place they may receive training is the workplace.

Why it matters: Firms often ask or invite employees to attend programs that help them communicate about diversity and inclusion. With many people working from home, the skills they've picked up can also be applied in a family setting.

The big picture: "Unconscious bias trainings have been happening over the past couple decades, but ramping up in the last decade," says Rashawn Ray of the Brookings Institute and the University of Maryland, who leads diversity and inclusion training for companies, police departments and the military.

  • Cherie Brown, founder and CEO of the National Coalition Building Institute, which offers diversity training, said she was on a recent Zoom call with a client organization when one employee, who identified herself as white, shared that she was pulling together eight of her family members to read and discuss a book about racism.

Yes, but: Ray cautions that many companies will host these programs, but fail to take meaningful next steps. "Without a follow-up, they don't have a plan to really integrate racial equity going forward."

  • And Brown says there's an important distinction between the diversity and inclusion work embraced in the corporate sphere and "hard conversations about race and dominance and privilege. That conversation is not yet in the corporate arena."

What they're saying: There is a silver lining to the present situation, according to Ray — and an opportunity to be seized. "We are capturing a moment where people are paying attention."

  • Katina Sawyer, cofounder of workplace training company WorkrBeeing and a professor of management at George Washington University tells Axios that she's seen an uptick in interest in wellness-related initiatives since COVID-19. She sees diversity, inclusion and wellness as intrinsically linked, and brings D&I topics into the wellness programs she leads.

The bottom line: "I've noticed people are deeply reflective, much more so being at home than being at work," says Ray.

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