Last spring saw a movement reignited in America. Reactions to George Floyd’s untimely in May resulted in protests, outcry on social media and other actions reflecting unrest. They were events that emphasized an overdue need to re-examine and rectify issues connected to racial inequality.
In response, many organizations issued formal statements of support. Some companies went so far as to add promises to the homepages of their websites. Across industries, businesses were committing themselves to enacting and encouraging change.
Better Business Bureau was among the companies that made a formal promise to the communities we serve. We promised to listen and learn, celebrate, encourage and prioritize diversity among our BBB team, and donate to causes that will help erase any ongoing racial inequality. Most importantly, we promised to hold ourselves accountable for making these changes.
What have we done and what can you do?
To uphold that accountability, our DEI (diversity, equity and inclusivity) committee has shared stories of diversity within our organization, celebrated culturally significant days, and overhauled our hiring process to increase its inclusivity. We also established an education series to help employees and businesses grow become more inclusive.
The key to starting a DEI committee is for participants to understand this is a personal journey. Identify which faucet of DEI your team is interested in and then make that your focus. If your organization is passionate about promoting equality or maybe even volunteering at local refugee learning centers, then run with those initiatives.
No matter which DEI focus your organization chooses, it’s important to continue educating yourselves. When BBB first instilled our DEI committee, we found out that there’s a lot to learn. So, we started with a book club.
How can I start a DEI book club?
Book clubs are a great, slow-paced way to introduce your DEI initiatives and start having conversations about diversity. While not everyone enjoys reading, many titles offer audiobook options.
Starting a book club is much easier than it seems. Here are five easy steps to get started:
- Elect a moderator or organizer. This person is responsible for scheduling meetings, distributing pertinent information, and ensuring participants follow rules and lead discussions. The organizer should be passionate about DEI and choose a co-leader in case of absence.
- Gauge interest. Send out feelers within your organization. Do people want to participate? If there isn’t enough interest, perhaps a book club isn’t for them. You can also try this process with a podcast series, documentaries or even a webcast.
- Choose a book. Choosing a book can be hard. Fiction and non-fiction stories about diversity can both create great conversation. Ask interested participants what they want to read or if they have any recommendations. Voting on a book as a group can help alleviate any feelings of discomfort. BBB started with “So, You Want to Talk About Race?” by Ijeoma Oleu.
- Schedule and prep. Schedule a time that works for everyone to meet up, call or even video chat. Preparations for your first gathering should include:
- Intentions for the club. What do you hope to gain or learn during this process?
- Ground rules. List out guidelines for your club and circle back to them before every meeting. This keeps intent in mind as your group grows together. Ground rules BBB established for our book club can be viewed here.
- Homework. The moderator should ensure they have prompts before you meet. This will help you start conversations or even redirect them if needed. You can find the prompts BBB used for Oleu's book, here.
- Discuss and grow. Once you meet, discuss feelings and share stories to learn, and grow with your peers and management. These conversations are meant to be a time of development, self-reflection and understanding. Employees should not fear for their job at any point in these meetings.
Regardless of whether your organization has issued any formal statements about diversity, your employees should feel comfortable enough to grow and learn with you. A book club supporting your DEI strategy can be an informative way of establishing that culture.