Last week, Page Chair Charlene Wheeless wrote to members about the Diversity Action Alliance (DAA), asking them to accept its commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. Though the initiative was begun well before the public consciousness focused on ending racism, it’s come to fruition at a time that is more ripe for progress than ever before. Page could not be more proud to be one of the driving forces behind it. 

As of this writing, we’ve had 130 companies sign on to the DAA Commitment, with another 232 individuals adding their personal support. It’s a good start, but it’s only that. We still have a long way to go because we’ve set the bar high! We hope you’ll consider joining us in this effort as well. 

To help inform a way forward, Charlene moderated a DAA “Call to Action” asking Page and Page Up members to share best practices -- the efforts they’re making in their organizations that others might consider adopting for their own. 

Many acknowledged recently awakening to the impact of everyday racism and understanding their own White privilege. One told of a sixteen-year-old girl accustomed to being monitored while shopping. Another of a fender bender with a Black man who felt the need to call a friend to come to the scene of the accident to record his interaction with police for his own protection. A corporate example was when one CCO and her CFO both shared pictures of their teams, with the CFO realizing immediately how different the two were in terms of composition. 

These are stories about coming to terms with one’s own ignorance, and companies should help facilitate these types of opportunities for self-awareness and education despite -- or maybe even because of -- the difficulty of those necessary conversations. What communicators do is engender a judgement-free environment that brings issues into the open based on a shared desire to make things better. Some are using tools like Fishbowl to enable anonymous discussions among employees. 

Communications is a people-centric business that draws its strength from those people. Companies should consider their talent acquisition efforts to build a pipeline for diverse talent and eliminate unconscious bias. One spoke of using tools for resume review that strip out the applicant’s name, gender, location and where they went to school. Another spoke of personally funding, along with partners, five new positions for Black recent college graduates, perhaps made more important by how competitive the job market is now in the economic downturn and addressing how low or unpaid internships contribute to the racial pay gap. 

The efforts are important -- content, forums, resource guides, dialogues, policy reviews, employee training programs, reporting mechanisms, etc. But ultimately someone has to be accountable in a measurable way. The DAA asks us as a profession to be unafraid to accept that accountability. 

Special thanks to Kati Everett of Novant Health, Gail Heimann of Weber Shandwick, Stacey Jones of Accenture, Jen Prosek of Prosek Partners and Barby Siegel of Zeno Group for agreeing to share their insights on this call.