On April 12, 2022, Tara Jaye Frank, equity strategist and author of new book The Waymakers: Clearing a Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence, talked with Christina Betancourt Johnson, Executive Director of Conscious Capitalism’s Washington, D.C. Chapter, not only about her newly released book but also the importance of those at the top beginning to break down barriers and open doors to opportunities for professionals from groups currently underrepresented in the workplace.
Here are three of the ways you can become a Waymaker, leading by example and embracing accountability for true organizational transformation to take place.
1. Get off the sideline.
The Waymakers sets the groundwork for discussing meaningful change by starting off with why we’re stuck—organizationally and societally—when it comes to progress in the DEI space.
For Tara, the answer is simple: complacency. There are too many people on the sidelines, sitting on the fence, watching instances of injustice or inequity and not taking action.
“In any change,” Tara says, “the majority of people are in the middle. They’re waiting, they’re watching, they’re trying to figure out how they feel about what’s happening. They feel bad about what they see but don’t necessarily see themselves as playing an active role in facilitating it. We’re stuck because that group of fence sitters is too big.”
In order to see their workplaces become a more equitable, inclusive space, Tara invites senior leaders to start with evaluating the role they play in their environment, ensuring they are not acquiescing unfairness by remaining on standby until someone else comes in to affect the changes they want to see.
Tara also stresses the fact that waymaking is not just for DEI leaders, it’s “for any leader who wants their particular … environment to be a psychologically safe place, an open place, a creative place, an innovative a place, a place where every single person on their team feels they belong and that they can contribute fully without fear or personal or reputational risk.”
2. Respect and value the individuals who bring diverse perspectives and backgrounds to your workplace.
Tara cautions leaders to avoid the tendency of many to reduce respect to simply being “welcoming,” because being welcoming should be a given at any organization.
The respect piece is really tied to this belonging.
“The respect piece is really tied to this belonging … we talk about inclusion sometimes and we simplify it to belonging, and then we simplify belonging to being welcoming.” But to Tara, “people don’t go to work to feel welcomed.” She emphasized that, at the end of the day, people go to work to fulfill their professional aspirations.
So what it means to respect individuals from underrepresented groups is to acknowledge their personhood, embrace their expertise and experiences, create space for their ideas, and appreciate their decisions. In turn, to value them not only takes on the form of higher pay and promotions, but also showing appreciation for what they bring to the table.
3. Measure your goals.
Accountability was a big piece of the conversation around waymaking. And for Tara, a key factor in holding yourself accountable to your commitment to break down barriers and open doors for others is to measure how far you’ve come.
While DEI can in some ways be difficult to track, Tara offered that “anything you set a goal for can be measured. … it’s just a matter of how you measure it,” suggesting leaders begin to take closer looks at the levels of participation, movement, and representation within their organizations.
Finally, Tara called for leaders to be patient in making progress, seeing DEI as a long-term practice rather than a final destination:
“It’s a matter of how seriously the leaders take it, how much they take it to heart, what they’re willing to invest, time-wise and certainly money-wise, and how patient they’re willing to be with the journey. Because it is a journey, it’s not a box-checking exercise.”
To get the full conversation, watch the recording of this virtual gathering.
Our Virtual Gatherings are designed for business leaders, investors, and advocates who are looking to level-up their practice by learning from and connecting with Conscious Capitalists around the world.