Why making data-informed decisions is the key to advancing racial equity: A conversation with Yasmine Laurent

IMPACT 365 spotlights future leaders and organisations committed to advancing racial equity 365 days a year.

Yasmine Laurent is a 2021 Empower Top 100 Ethnic Minority Executive, consultant and Director of People and Culture at Tides Advocacy. She’s a seasoned talent, equity & inclusion practitioner with over 15 years of human capital experience in both for-profit and non-profit sectors.

Yasmine Laurent

We caught up with Yasmine to discuss why making data-informed decisions is the key to advancing racial equity.

We’re so grateful to chat with you, Yasmine; thanks for being part of our IMPACT 365 campaign. Let’s jump in.

What does creating an anti-racist culture mean to you?

To me, an anti-racist culture acknowledges the inherent inequities and inequalities that exist due to systemic and institutional racism and corrects them in their policies, practices and structures.

It creates a culture that intentionally centres those groups often disproportionately disadvantaged to foster practices that create true equity.

Why do you think other organisations must invest in creating long-lasting, significant change to advance racial equity?

All organisations must invest in long-lasting change to advance racial equity because the ownness is on all of us to do our part to work towards improving our environments for a more equitable and inclusive future.

On an internal purpose, everyone must have the opportunity to feel valued, heard, supported and feel like they can be themselves in their workplace.

Organisations that put in the time and effort and prioritise creating and upholding suitable structures and practices are more likely to see greater employee satisfaction, productivity and retention. In addition, these organisations invest in their employee's well-being and foster company loyalty.

On the external front, organisations play a significant role in defining systemic structures and social norms. They also can mobilise and activate large populations.

Why do you think so many organisations are struggling to improve racial inclusion?

I believe many organisations struggle to improve racial inclusion because the work is often decentralised from the organisational goals and not lifted as a priority.

Often, racial equity and inclusion work is treated as an additional task. It’s often relegated to an under-resourced team or an organisation's affinity/employee resource group.

In addition, many managers and leaders are not appropriately trained on how to be effective inclusive leaders. As a result, on many fronts, the people with the greatest capacity to make the most significant impact do not know how to effectively contribute to the organisation's diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Have you ever had an “AHA!” learning moment while working on racial equity? What was it?

I have engaged in equity, inclusion and belonging work for over a decade. Still, it wasn’t until I had a robust discussion with a peer that one of the most critical aspects of approaching my work came forward. One of my most comprehensive programs came about from this realisation.

For me, that AHA! moment was understanding how to best centre my work to create a more effective and larger-scale impact by focusing on the right target individual.

By identifying the most critical influencers within a team and an organisation and honing in on developing their capacity, awareness and skills, I am creating more opportunities for more equitable and psychologically safe environments. This allows for employees to feel more valued, heard and seen.

What efforts have been made individually and collectively by the leadership team within your organisation to understand what Black and other racially marginalised employees experience at work?

As an organisation, we have made the inherent choice to commit to a Pro-Black framework, in which we centre the dignity, humanity, autonomy and restoration of Black lives, which is inherently essential to our mission of collective liberation. With such an approach, we continue to stand in solidarity with other marginalised groups to uplift and support their causes. That said, within the organisation, we employ healing justice and trauma-informed practices within our daily routines.

As a leadership team of all marginalised women, we all bring our distinct experiences and perspectives into our work to foster environments that support our collective freedom.

We have taken on many techniques to understand what’s happening within the organisation and help our staff accordingly, including listening sessions, engagement surveys, employee resource groups, one-on-one conversations, brave/safe space conversations and feedback sessions.

What is the importance of data to your organisation when advancing racial equity in the workplace? And what are you currently measuring?

At our core, we are a racial and social justice organisation that supports independent power building and collective liberation amongst BIPOC political advocacy groups. We offer services that allow these groups to centre in on their strategic initiatives while we manage the behind-the-scenes.

To effectively support our partners in elevating their work, we must make data-informed decisions to best advise.

We believe that our work is not a singular mission and requires the partnership of the collective ecosystem to impact long-lasting change. Through our partnerships, research and engagements, we can do without the stellar diverse team we have established.

Regarding racial equity initiatives internally, we strive to create equitable practices across the entire team. From periodic pay and equity audits to reviews of our talent acquisition process to ensure inclusive recruitment tactics are employed to reviewing our benefit offerings to examining our internal mobility process.

We utilise data across all departments to support our organisational mission and drive operational excellence.

What is one piece of practical advice you would give to someone starting to think about how to tackle racial equity?

My recommendation would be for that person to start by doing some individual identity work. Because before looking externally, you must begin internally asking yourself those critical questions.

In terms of what role you have played in perpetuating the existing structures, where are your blindspots, what change you are trying to implement, and what you must do to make the change you’re looking for?

Thanks, Yasmine, for sharing your voice with us and highlighting how data-informed decisions are critical to tackling racial inequity effectively.

Find out how you can harness the power of data to drive racial equity