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The Big Actions Small Businesses Can Take to Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
By Lachandra B. Baker, Founder & Lead Consultant, LBB Edutainment and Small Biz Cares Board Member
February is Black History Month.
As a Black American female entrepreneur of a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging consultancy, I have mixed feelings about it. I love it because we intentionally and deliberately focus on the many contributions that Black Americans have made over our history and in society today. I feel challenged by it because there is always an inevitable backlash that comes from opponents who fail to see the importance of sharing stories and achievements of specific cultures through a dedicated month.
In a way, I agree with the opponents. We shouldn’t have to carve out a specific month to celebrate the contributions of a portion of our society. We should be constantly infusing recognition and appreciation for all histories, cultures, and successes together every day, 24/7 and 365. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.
We are in a very tumultuous time in our country. Divisions and fear continue to threaten our collective progress forward. The headlines that we see daily are full of clickbait and rarely show the positive advances being made regularly, not only in the workplace but also in communities, neighborhoods, and homes.
As a part of the small business ecosystem, we have more power than you can imagine to be at the forefront of impactful change. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses of 500 employees or fewer make up 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. While larger companies get more attention in the media, small businesses’ impact in terms of the number of people employed, families being cared for, and communities being connected is unmatched. We are even more resilient and agile in times of financial uncertainty. So I would argue that we have the greatest power to lead and support true improvement with how all cultures, lifestyles, and experiences are welcomed and accepted in the workplace and society at large.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. – James Baldwin
Leadership in the new era is all about authenticity, inclusion, and empathy. If the last three years have taught us anything, it’s about the importance of finding the appropriate harmony between work and personal life. How we show up as a leader doesn’t just matter in boardrooms or classrooms; it matters everywhere.
Showing up authentically and being able to be our full selves, no matter where we are, must be accepted, embraced, and celebrated. We don’t have to adapt to what has previously been the standard for leadership because it more than likely only included one style and one type of person.
Our identities, history, and experiences are valid and should guide how we show up as a leader. We must dedicate ourselves not only to the work but also to the rest. Mental and emotional well-being are equally as important as physical well-being. Leading in this new era means we consider all of this and adjust accordingly. This is where inclusion and empathy take effect.
Everyone we encounter will be coming from different places. We have to meet them where they are and work together to help them reach their goals and potential. Each goal will be different. Each path will look different. And that’s ok! It’s more than ok. It’s the way it should be! And that’s how true leaders lead!
As a trailblazing entrepreneur, here are some things you can do to improve your own inclusive leadership journey and help shape the future of our country by supporting, respecting, valuing, and encouraging people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and abilities to do and be their best.
- Do some self-reflection to examine, challenge, and improve your mindset and behaviors
- Spend time learning, unlearning, and relearning information that will increase your positive intelligence and support your efforts to be a better listener, space holder, and grace giver
- Use your influence to encourage others to do the same
I fully believe that everyone needs daily guidance and grace to succeed. We all have that power in our hands. And as Uncle Ben from my beloved Spideyverse says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Please consider engaging with some of these non-profit organizations that support equity around Columbus by spending some of your time, talent, and treasure to amplify their work.