TAMPA, Fla. - Big-name corporations nationwide are sharing messages of solidarity, but many communities are calling on companies to practice what they preach and make the effort to include diverse voices in the boardroom.
For people of color, seeing a lack of diversity in the workplace can feel isolating. Dr. Jamaris Glenn, co-owner of 7th and Grove in Ybor City, shared some of his experiences as a minority in the corporate world.
“You deal with microaggressions. You deal with always being looked over, and not really knowing your true worth,” said Glenn, who is a pharmacist.
Glenn opened up restaurant and lounge 7th and Grove in the Ybor City area of Tampa nearly a year ago after leaving a pharmacy chain job as a pharmacy manager. He and the other co-owners created their business as a space for diversity and inclusion after they didn’t feel welcomed in some area establishments. He said inclusion is a step toward understanding and empathy.
“Creating a diverse workforce is incredibly important because of those shared experiences. You're able to talk to other people,” he said.
Racial injustice is the focus of dozens of companies currently supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Many brands are also remaining silent.
But as communities call for change, they say they don’t want empty statements, and they say change should include workplaces and leadership boards that don’t all look the same.
“The first step is to acknowledge and normalize diversity,” said Triparna De Vreede, Ph.D., a business professor at the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business.
De Vreede added that just hiring minorities does not completely address inclusion issues, and employers should have conversations with employees and cultural workshops.
“Unconscious biases are not challenged if there’s no diversity,” said De Vreede. “Have trainings that are more based on unconscious biases because often we make mistakes. We make assumptions because we don’t know that that is not the right assumption to make.”
De Vreede also said being aware of how words and actions can affect marginalized groups makes a difference, and that awareness can come from conversations about race and diversity.
Glenn said he agrees that bringing diverse voices to the decision-making table is beneficial.
“And then maybe you may not end up with your foot in your mouth when you say something that's totally offense. So I think starting off with someone or color or a different sexual orientation or whatever the case may be to share those types of experiences,” said Glenn, who added that having someone in charge of diversity and inclusion can help.
De Vreede said businesses should strive to listen and learn from this moment in order to make long-lasting, systemic changes.