“This nomination is confirmed.” – Vice President Kamala Harris
Another historic first announced by a woman who herself created a historic first.
With those words, our country changed again – forever. Business changed forever. The call for diversity, equity and inclusion to reach all levels of leadership has been answered in a big way with Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation. Her confirmation and presence on our nations highest court means so many things for so many people and will continue to mean much more. America's leadership is beginning to resemble America and that is so empowering for people who are and have been historically underrepresented.
Why is this important in business?
As business owners, we automatically inherit roles as leaders. Leaders of our communities, our staff, events, partnerships – there are so many ways, whether we are present to it or not, that we are seen as leaders.
More than ever before, potential clients and community members are looking in our direction to see how inclusive we are. We can't talk about being mission-driven and heart-focused while not extending a seat at the table to everyone. Recently, I attended an event with about 80 entrepreneurs present. It was a fantastic event. Structured well with multiple opportunities to create partnerships and produce results during the event. Everything about the event was amazing, but I couldn't help notice one thing – I was one of 4 people of color in attendance and one of the other 3 was my business partner (my wife).
Instantly, my focus went from the content of the event to having questions about whether or not the company was paying attention to what's happening in the world, if they knew what DEI is and what efforts are they making to diversify, or if that's even something they care about. As the evening progressed, I found myself increasingly unable to listen and feeling isolated. During one of the breakouts I mentioned that one of my focuses in my own businesses was not only empowering all people to find and express their voice, but that I had a particular focus on working with the BIPOC community and some people in my breakout room didn't know what that was while others championed it and got right behind it.
This told me what I needed to know.
Even though I loved the event – this wasn't the right event for me. They weren't growing in the ways in which I want to be a part of a company's growth. Equity doesn't happen by accident. It's a deliberate and intentional part of the way we grow. In systems not designed for it, it must be programmed in – in the marketing, in the prospecting, the sales and all the follow up. And it works best as a top-down phenomena – equity and inclusion can almost never be established working bottom-up, that's why there are so few examples of it, such as this one, in our history.
Again, what does this all mean for business?
In business, there's an onus on us as business leaders to reflect back to our audiences that we are socially intelligent and moving with the flow of the nation and often even staying ahead of that curve. People want to do business with businesses and people who operate from growth mindsets, especially in the coaching and personal development worlds. It's on us to make sure that our communities (our clients, fans, staff, partners, etc.) reflect the diversity now represented in the highest court of our country. Not only will we lose fans and potential clients if we don't, we may also lose currently loyal fans and long-term clients.
Beyond any of that, as leaders, it's what there is to do. Having that experience was a much-needed wake-up call for me. While our community is richly diverse and represents many groups, I can see clearly, there's still work to do and we're promising to do it.
Our intention with this blogpost is that you read it and are left with a new way of thinking, planning and acting. We hope your marketing efforts, sales efforts, events, hiring policies – everything we do as small business owners – gets re-contextualized by this conversation so that we can forge a new era of doing business that represents the actual landscape of our great nation.