Part one of the Global Perspectives conversation that took place in November 2020 aimed to build upon momentum in the US by discussing tangible ways multinational corporations can contribute to dismantling structural racism and rebuilding more equitable systems, globally. In the follow-up conversation in December, Renay Loper, Vice President of Program Innovation at PYXERA Global, welcomed back Dr. Ambily Banerjee, Director at GSK (based in the UK); Rebecca Stevens, Head of Global Health Partnerships at Novartis (based in Switzerland); and Bruno Honorio, Researcher and Content Analyst of Social Listening at QuintoAndar (based in Brazil) to discuss global events that had taken place since they last spoke, as well as actions individuals might take to address structural racism within their own spheres of influence.
Among the events discussed were Black Awareness Day (also known as Black Consciousness Day) and protests against racial injustice in Brazil; a referendum in Switzerland to hold companies accountable for human rights abuses and environmental exploitation in supply chains abroad; and the recently published Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Jill Biden’s (wife of US President-elect, Joe Biden) “Dr.” honorific. In discussing these events, several common themes emerged, including: business ethics and the impact of government opinion on companies’ actions to tackle racism; the intersection of social justice issues (in particular racism and gender equality); and the significance of listening to our bodies when experiencing or learning about events involving race and/or issues of social justice. All emphasized the importance of entering conversations about systemic change without preconceived notions or predetermined solutions. As mentioned in part one of the conversation, tapping into local insights, learning what has worked in the past, and having an open mind are all key.
While part one of the conversation concluded with recommendations for leadership within multinational companies to address issues of structural racism, part two of the conversation provided recommendations for individuals, including the below:
- Be curious and intentional. Knowledge is powerful; seek to learn about and understand the various cultures and communities where you live and work (as well as where your colleagues live and work, where your programs are implemented, and so on). Understand the legacy of structural racism and social injustices, and challenge yourself to see their manifestations in everyday life.
- Listen to your body. As issues of structural racism and social injustice tend to be discussed in intellectual terms, we often disassociate our minds from the signals our bodies are sending when discussing these difficult issues. Be present and listen to your body as you engage in these conversations and continue to learn about the issues. Our bodies often tell us things our minds don’t want to explore; lean into that.
- Consider what you can do in your community and in your sphere of influence. You don’t need permission, nor do you need to hold a title with “Diversity & Inclusion” in it to make a difference. Explore initiatives and organizations you might be able to become more involved in within your community and/or your company. In your community, look into opportunities such as mentoring young people who are different from you – it not only helps you to learn (see first point), but also allows you to give your time and experience. Within your company, explore what social impact or employee resource groups are working on and join in on the efforts or make suggestions on what more they could be doing.
- Language matters – pay attention to your word choice and that of those around you. Question why certain words are used – or omitted – when speaking to or about certain communities or groups of people, and understand the connotations and inferences associated with such language.
- Connect and collaborate. Issues of racism and social injustices transcend boundaries and borders. To truly make a difference and build equitable societies, we must work together – across geographical borders and political affiliations, across sectors and industries, and across county lines and community streets.
We encourage you to view the full recording of the conversation here. We also welcome you to continue the conversation with us during the next webinar of the Rhetoric to Action series.