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CAMW! | How Employers Can Celebrate Black History Month

Michigan Business Beat
February 17, 2021 2:00 PM

Carrie Rosingana 3Carrie Rosingana CEO, CAMW! joins Chris Holman to talk about how employers celebrate Black History Month and why it is important. They discuss in detail how leaders facilitate conversations about race and change within their organizations, and what leaders can do to impact change.

Watch the full interview with Carrie now!


QUESTION: How can employers celebrate Black History Month? Why is it important they do?
ANSWER: Black History Month is a celebration. It is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of Black individuals to our country, to our professions and, most importantly for those of us in leadership positions, to our teams. Celebrating is important, but it must also be intentional. Part of that is being authentic and knowing your own organizational culture. Part of it is your own values as a leader. And part of it is understanding diversity, equity and inclusion and ensuring your celebration is not performative, but backed up by a company culture that values diverse perspectives and people. At CAMW!, I’m incredibly grateful for the trust and energy our team put forth in working to authentically explore and celebrate what Black History Month means to our organization. This kind of dialogue is authentic to our culture, rather than a forced conversation marginalizing certain members of our team based on their race. One of the things I heard as I listened was, for many on our team, Black History Month is a celebration. And I also heard for others, it’s a time to educate about how our nation must dismantle the systems fueling many of the disparities we still face today, including the impact of those disparities on workforce development. So that’s what we’ll do, because it’s rooted in who we are and our organizational values — we’ll celebrate the chance to go beyond history books and bring collective excitement and positivity to Black culture and Black contributions. And we’ll speak up about the disparities still impacting our work today and how we move forward. 
QUESTION: How can leaders facilitate conversations about race and change within their organizations? 
ANSWER: It will never be easy. You have to accept that first and foremost. As an Equal Opportunity Officer, much of our training and education centers on openness and a willingness to have difficult conversations. One thing that’s always been important to me is that our team knows they can come to me to talk about important topics that matter to them. Black History Month is an opportunity for leaders to continue the daily work to listen and learn, as it has been for me this year. As a white CEO myself, I walk the fine line daily of how to challenge my white peers to do better and lead by example while trying to balance how to avoid being white-centering. I question how to authentically engage and support, recognizing my own white privilege. I’m incredibly grateful to have a diverse team at Capital Area Michigan Works! willing to talk and come to me when that dialogue is needed. To facilitate meaningful conversation, trust is absolutely necessary. Employees need to feel comfortable engaging in dialogue around race, and that starts at the top. I’ll say it again — it starts at the top, and if you’re not comfortable having the conversations or leading them, hire people to help. Bring in DEI experts and compensate them for their time to help you navigate and lead. 
QUESTION: What can leaders do to impact change? 
ANSWER: Leaders, hold your people and peers accountable. And hold yourself accountable. We must accept feedback as much, if not more, than we give it. We must listen and set aside our own implicit bias, and the desire to react or defend. We must commit to learning diversity, equity and inclusion fundamentals to incorporate those principles into our organizational cultures and actions, and we must hire those with the experience to continue these efforts if we realistically do not have the time or knowledge to do so ourselves. One of my team members said to me recently, “We need the power of white-to-white conversations. No one is going to change their minds because of us. They’re going to change their minds because of their white peers.” We need to begin and continue conversations about race with our peers. We need to be willing to stand up to injustices and help others learn, as we ourselves continue to listen and learn. Share DE&I initiatives with each other. Don’t just call out or condemn behaviors — bring people into conversations to help each other grow. More than anything, we must act. We can each commit to having conversations and doing the work surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion beyond a single month. Black history deserves celebration. And DEI deserves discussion and action by those in positions of leadership every day of the year. February can be the start and continuation of those conversations.

Michigan Business Beat, hosted by Chris Holman, discusses economic development, new or unusual entrepreneurial initiatives, and successful business practices from different regions and industries around Michigan with a wide range of entrepreneurs and business leaders.

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