Using Data to Build an Anti-Racist Culture

After the tragic murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the events that followed, I’ve witnessed race & ethnicity take a more prominent seat at the D&I table. Commitments are being made, funds are being invested and action is being taken.

But for all these efforts, I believe most organisations will struggle to make genuine progress in building anti-racist cultures unless they have the right data.

Trying to build an anti-racist culture without the right data is like trying to build a house without a floor plan. Without the right data, organisations risk making huge investments on solutions that don’t address their underlying problems, with no clear way of tracking which initiatives have worked and which have failed.

So how can organisations measure how anti-racist their culture is?

To build a truly anti-racist culture, it’s crucial that organisations start with a clear understanding of what an anti-racist culture is. Actions such as running unconscious bias training or donating to black-owned businesses may contribute towards building an anti-racist culture. But these actions aren’t a measure of how anti-racist a culture is.

To measure culture, an organisation needs to measure the thoughts, feelings and experiences of its members. This is really tough. That’s part of the reason why so many organisations focus too heavily on metrics that are easy to measure, such as levels of diversity.

At FLAIR, we set out to understand what an anti-racist culture truly means, and find a comprehensive way to measure it. Our process involved extensive research: conducting dozens of interviews with employees from all ethnic backgrounds, studying the literature relating to race in the workplace, collaborating with leading social scientists and racial justice experts, and reflecting on our own lived experiences of being ethnic minorities within the workplace.

Through our research, we identified 4 key components of a truly anti-racist culture:

  • Racial Awareness – A culture where members feel confident in identifying, talking about and challenging racism
  • Low Racial Inclusion-barriers – A culture where race isn’t a barrier to feeling included
  • Low Levels of Racist Behaviours – A culture free from racist behaviours, such as racial microaggressions, racist verbal abuse, racial harassment and racial discrimination
  • Racial Diversity – A culture where the representation of different races is reflective of wider society

With our research complete, we then searched for existing methods used to measure performance across our 4 key components. We quickly saw that most organisations were struggling to properly measure how anti-racist their culture is.

For example, we found no clear method being used by organisations to measure levels of Racial Awareness. This is despite the fact that many organisations are making significant investments into anti-racism training, with no clear metrics to measure its success.

FLAIR – Helping organisations measure & build anti-racist cultures

Using the learnings from our research, we decided to create a product to help organisations measure and build anti-racist cultures. Our product is broken down into 4 main steps:

  • An independent, anonymous survey, sent to all members of an organisation
  • Guidance on how to gain stakeholder buy-in when rolling out the survey
  • A dynamic dashboard to visualise performance across our key metrics, and track progress over time
  • Data-driven recommendations based on survey results
Flair’s dashboard displays industry benchmark data, and allows survey results to be filtered across demographics such as gender, ethnic group and department

Using FLAIR’s data and recommendations, organisations can clearly pinpoint areas of concern, intervene with targeted solutions, and track success over time.

Since launching in September 2020, we’ve already worked with over 35 of the UK’s leading independent schools. We are now in the process of rolling out our product for businesses.

To drive real change, I hope that more organisations adopt FLAIR’s approach – where gathering the right data is core to their anti-racism strategy. I know that gathering the right data is just one piece of the puzzle. But it’s a key piece. A piece that organisations urgently need to get right, to avoid further years of slow progress and wasted investments. The time to act is now. And we’d love to help.

Why making data-informed decisions is the key to advancing racial equity: A conversation with Yasmine Laurent
5th September 2022
The two ingredients to help you realise racial equity in the workplace: a conversation with Samir Manek
30th August 2022
Why empathetic listening is so important in race conversations
22nd August 2022