One of the most “controversial” things we’re doing at Diverse Leaders Group is implementing a reparations model of compensation for our people. It’s yet another way we’re doing things differently.
But what does this even mean, and why are we doing it? We answer both questions on our “work with us” page, as follows:
“Black and Brown members of the team will be paid a % more than white members of the team, as a form of financial reparations and to acknowledge the additional, unseen labour of microaggressions, biases and other forms of racial discrimination that will happen.”
But let’s take a step back and look at why we feel this is necessary…
First of all, the white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist model is broken, especially as it relates to deliberately disadvantaged people:
- The legacy of historic inequities makes it harder for Black and Brown people to access the finance, housing, educational opportunities, promotions and more that white people take for granted.
- Depending on where you live, the gap between the average income and savings of Black people and white ones is colossal; in the US, Black households typically have 15% of the wealth of white ones, and the figure is about 20% in the UK.
So, paying Black and Brown folks more closes the gap for the individuals who work with us AND could make it possible for them to start to build up some wealth to have easier lives. It’s a matter of equity (closing the gap with affirmative action), as a stepping stone to equality.
But that’s not the only reason to have a reparations model of compensation…
One of the things we learned at the last startup we worked in is that even in a company with the aim of being explicitly anti-racist, Black and Brown colleagues will face racism and microaggressions from their white colleagues…
- Some people never question why they read feedback differently if it comes from a Black or Brown colleague rather than a white one.
- Or why they feel comfortable treating Black or Brown colleagues like “the help” when they wouldn’t dream of treating white colleagues that way.
- Or why they will bend over backwards to explain away behaviour in a white colleague that they would be quick to decry in a Black or Brown one.
The bottom line: Even white colleagues who are aware of their biases and committed to working on them can find it hard to change deeply ingrained behaviour. That means additional emotional labour for Black and Brown colleagues in educating them and additional harm when they experience racism and microaggressions.
And all of this is without the societal context that means that Black and Brown colleagues bear an additional emotional load, when generational or personal trauma is reawakened by incidents in the wider world, like the murder of George Floyd or the killing of Asian Americans in Atlanta.
For us, a reparations model of compensation is just ONE way we show tangibly that we value and support Black and Brown colleagues and are committed to closing the gaps, equitably, that continue to exist when it comes to achieving equality.
Plus, it’s proven to reduce stress, improve mental health, and increase income and wealth. Isn’t it about time we did this differently?
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