Blog Inclusion & Diversity

Insights From the Field Part 2 — How Companies Are Taking Action on Anti-racism

This week we honored George Floyd’s life in memoriam, we watched the world rise up with us in solidarity against racism, and we heard vehement demands for policing reform. This swell of activism and empathy with and for the Black community has been met with backlash by police chiefs demanding respect and our president using the age-old evasion tactic of blaming individual bad actors instead of acknowledging systemic racism.

As the tide has shifted outside our organizations, so it has within them. Last week many organizations were focusing on leaders publicly responding in solidarity, providing resources for employees, making donations, and holding forums, town halls, or listening tours. This week some organizations are transitioning to longer-term thinking and planning for deep, durable change, while others are struggling to identify next steps.

Forshay once again connected this week with our community of leaders, diversity and inclusion practitioners, people leaders, and scientists across the US to share challenges, insights, and ideate solutions. With their permission, we are sharing what we heard in order to get ideas and resources out to the broader community so that we can help each other as we navigate this critical time.


Here’s what we are hearing about what’s happening in our organizations right now.

SPECTRUM OF STARTING POINTS For some organizations, current events have sparked the beginning of their I&D (inclusion & diversity) journey, while others are farther along the path. For many companies, acknowledging inequalities (often in the form of leadership messages of support), holding listening sessions, or donating to anti-racist nonprofits, is a big step. A small proportion of organizations have been committed to systemic equity since inception. And there are myriad somewhere in between.

LISTENING GONE AWRY Some company-wide listening tours have been productive, while others have created additional unintentional conflict or emotional and psychological pain. For example, turning exclusively to Black employees for finding solutions – adding to their mental load, focusing solely on the guilt that white employees experience, disruptive and counterproductive calls to recognize that “all lives matter,” and participation exclusively by majority member groups at the expense of hearing Black voices.

RUSH TO ACT VERSUS SUSTAINABLE CHANGE People leaders report that urgent requests are flooding in to make immediate statements of commitments to internal initiatives and changes. Many feel rushed and are worried that a focus on sustainable impact is getting missed. One HR leader noted that “the rush to make a statement avoids sitting in the uncomfortable reality of right now.”

MANAGERS ARE CULTURAL KEYSTONES Some organizations are realizing they need to intervene with managers. Managers are the point at which an organization’s policies and culture get enacted. They are the culture carriers, yet a lack of recognition of this critical role seems to be widespread.


Here’s what organizations across the country are doing right now.

TASK FORCES Organizations are creating internal task forces composed of a diverse group of employees from across all levels of the organization. These teams are collecting data to explore where the organization lacks fairness and diversity and how to address those challenges.

EXPERT FACILITATION Forums where employees can share what they’re experiencing are valuable, but they require trained facilitators who can ensure that dominant or counterproductive voices do not derail the conversation. Recognizing that different populations need different forms of learning and support, some organizations are using expert facilitators to lead “healing circles” for all employees. In one successful case, a co-facilitation model was used with one Black facilitator and one trauma psychologist. The pair held three sessions — one for Black employees where they could safely process what is happening; one for allies that focused on looking beyond immediate actions to long term involvement with change; lastly one for all employees together.

FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION Given the complexity of structural racism, some organizations are using a framework that targets three forms: the experience of individual employees, discrimination in institutional policies and procedures, and the hidden structural systems of power in society at large.

TALKING ABOUT POWER One CEO shared that their organization is talking through power structures in the organization. A practitioner encouraged majority group members to share their power with BIPOC folks while they look at how they can create a more sustained way of ensuring fairness into the future. There is growing recognition that investment in comprehensive equity analyses across the entire employee lifecycle is essential for robust and systemic change.


  • How do we help leaders understand that condemnation and statements of support are important, but changing how organizations operate—how decisions are made and who has power— will create true, lasting change?
  • How do we create an environment where people are confident that they’ll be treated and valued equally and will have the same opportunities as everyone else to advance within the organization?
  • Should we strike while the iron is hot and quickly roll out new initiatives or step back and think more intentionally about what action to take?
  • What is the appropriate balance of being bold with antiracist training while also meeting people at their level of familiarity with these complicated topics?
  • Is unconscious bias training effective at addressing racial injustice, and which kinds of training is most effective?
  • As new task forces and committees are formed, how do we ensure the work they are doing is compensated and not just added on top of their regular duties?
  • For organizations with low numbers of Black employees, how do we engage these few Black employees and assure them that their voices matter without leading them to feel that they are responsible for solving problems that they did not create?


We at Forshay are committed to sharing what we learn, as we learn it. We are committed to convening passionate leaders, leading edge researchers/scientists, and innovative diversity and inclusion practitioners to share insights and actions. We invite you to join the conversation. Contact us at

Blog Inclusion & Diversity

Insights From the Field Part 4 — The 4 Leading Edge Actions Organizations are Taking Now to Drive Inclusion For Black Employees

Over the last month, we have hosted four peer learning dialogues that convened leaders, practitioners, scientists, and thinkers to share challenges and insights on the current social justice uprising. We have noticed several trends. A month ago, we saw an outpouring of anger, grief, and a sense of urgency to act. The last few weeks were characterized by a flurry of activity to support Black employees, communicate both internally and externally a commitment to organizational change, and taking time to reflect on the history of racism in the US and how to sustainably prioritize racial equity within businesses. A common thread over the month has been a shared worry among White employees and leaders over doing something “wrong,” and how that worry can impede action.

This week, HR professionals feel thrust into the spotlight and inundated with demands. Some leaders are seeking coaching; others are fearfully shying away from the dialogue. While there is variation in how companies are meeting this historic moment, overall, the cultural tone has made a seismic shift towards hopetransparency, and action over reaction with more companies than ever before taking action to meaningfully move the needle on equity, diversity, and inclusion within their own four walls. The last month has awakened companies to the inextricable links between the business and race, equity, and inclusion—change is upon us.


Here is what we are hearing about what’s happening in our organizations right now.

IMPORTANCE OF BIPOC ERGs Smaller organizations are creating BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) employee resource groups (ERGs), recognizing the importance of providing BIPOC employees with a safe space to share their unique experiences and raise the profile of their collective voice.

BIPOC LEADERS ARE SUFFERING People leaders of color have been working tirelessly to support their employees during this time of crisis, but they face unique challenges. Some point out the difficulty in separating their race from their professional “self”: “As a top BIPOC leader it’s hard to separate myself from my role as leader, HR practitioner.”

WHITE FEAR OF FUMBLING White colleagues and leaders report that they want to learn how to engage in the Black Lives Matter dialogue and move forward, yet their fear of fumbling—of doing or saying the wrong thing—is impeding action.

NEW LANGUAGE More White people are willing to candidly discuss race and racism on the workfloor—something that was often avoided in the past because of the discomfort it can create. A new language zeitgeist has emerged and become integrated into our everyday work conversations—structuralized racism, institutional racism, white privilege, white supremacy, white fragility, racial equity, social justice, anti-racism. While many are feeling more comfortable using these terms, many are still uncertain about their true meaning.

SPOTLIGHT ON HR LEADERS HR leaders are under water. Whereas before their I&D activities often happened in the background, now employees are suddenly looking to them for answers and action. One HR leader said, “We are feeling immense pressure – now we are all of a sudden thrust into the spotlight with everyone demanding answers and actions  – our team is 1.5 people – it’s just too much – we’re inundated.”


Here’s what organizations across the country are doing right now.

START REFORM AT THE TOP Companies—and leaders themselves—now recognize that education on racism and bias is not just something that managers and individual contributors need to have; many leaders are requesting training and coaching to guide them and their team into taking meaningful action.

GOING PUBLIC WITH DEMOGRAPHICS Some organizations are now, for the first time, publicly sharing their company demographics. Others also published workforce diversity goals. These acts of transparency are leading-edge commitments to change.

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE COMPANY-WIDE DIALOGUE Companies organized educational events around Juneteenth last week, and some did so as part of new company-wide dialogue and learning series that raises awareness around the Black history (past), understanding structuralized racism and the current state of I&D within the company (present), and dialogue about next steps for I&D (future).

DISTINCTION BETWEEN ERGs & AFFINITY GROUPS People leaders are drawing the distinction between ERGs and affinity groups. ERGs are identity-related or functionally relevant groups that convene in a safe space to discuss their unique experiences, provide peer support, and inform I&D and business strategy (e.g., Black employees, Parents, LGBTQ+). Affinity groups, on the other hand, are social groups that convene to share interests, hobbies, and activities inside and outside of work (e.g., biking club, cooking club). One leader said, “Language is powerful. We are calling our new BIPOC group an ERG and the running group a club. The ERGs will have voice and influence, the clubs will not.”


  • How do we engage White colleagues who are afraid of “fumbling” conversations about race and racism?
  • How do we educate effectively around white privilege so that White employees can understand that their challenges have been different from the challenges encountered by their Black colleagues?
  • How do we make sure that BIPOC employees and ERGs have the organizational voice and influence they deserve without creating the expectation that they need to be the ones responsible for the added labor to drive solutions?


We at Forshay are committed to sharing what we learn, as we learn it. We are committed to convening passionate leaders, leading edge researchers/scientists, and innovative diversity and inclusion practitioners to share insights and actions. We invite you to join the conversation. Contact us at

Blog Inclusion & Diversity

Insights From the Field Part 3 — Companies Use Juneteenth to Reflect & Strategize on Anti-racism

This week the social justice movement ignited by the police killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and too many others, has shifted. Calls for racial justice are unfolding across all dimensions of life in America. From #BlackInTheIvory and #WeSeeYouWAT movements, corporate leaders ousted across industries, confederate monuments toppled, to the dictionary changing its definition of racism – structuralized racism is being dismantled brick by brick.

Now that the fervor of the protests has cooled and Juneteenth is upon us, companies are grappling with next steps and realistic business constraints. The overarching trend is that companies are taking time to reflect and learn about how large and deep of a problem racial inequity is while taking steps to educate their employees in the short-term and make meaningful, long-term internal changes. Some are feeling overwhelmed, some are wondering how business can return to normal, and many are forging ahead to support equity and inclusion within their company.


Here’s what we are hearing about what’s happening in our organizations right now.

DUAL PRESSURES Many companies are struggling with the dual pressures to “return to normal business operations” and to continue to respond to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. For instance, one company shared that marketing that is ‘business as usual’ (e.g., normal Instagram ads) are being called tone deaf or insensitive, even if that same company is also posting ads that support BLM. Another organization that requires onsite work is struggling to balance employees’ right to protest (free speech) with the negative consequences on operations due to mandatory shelter in place orders.

SEPARATE TO CENTRAL There’s a growing understanding among companies that I+D is not separate from other parts of the business. Increasingly organizations are evaluating how to build I&D goals and metrics into their culture, processes, and overall strategy. This includes evaluating how leaders are selected, how talent is developed, and how every employee is expected to drive increased I&D throughout the organization.

TAKE THE LONG VIEW Some companies are also grappling with the need to act quickly to meet this historical moment and support their employees, while also making sure that this speed does not come at the expense of implementing durable changes. Many people leaders are feeling rushed to provide quick solutions, but as one noted, “This problem is not new, the solution is not going to come in a month.”


Here’s what organizations across the country are doing right now.

PAUSE FOR REFLECTION Many businesses are taking time to pause, learn, and reflect. Some are holding listening forums with employees and employee resource groups. Others are honoring Juneteenth by educating employees. A couple companies are hosting fireside chats with historians and I&D practitioners to learn about Black history in the US.

SPEND TIME ON STRATEGY Because systemic inequalities are complex, practitioners are encouraging organizations to, yes, make commitments to change but to also take time to thoughtfully strategize on the specific next steps within the company.

PRIORITIZATION OF I&D Many companies that cut I&D budgets or paused on I&D due to Covid-19 are now making I&D a top business priority. Some companies are creating new I&D roles to carry the momentum of this moment into strategy and execution. One CEO announced hiring their first ever Head of I&D and has appointed himself interim in the role until the hire is made. Another company that had paused on an inclusive culture assessment reignited the work this week, adding company-wide training on anti-racism and allyship: “We want to make sure this isn’t just a fleeting moment.” Another leader said, “I’m hoping this sticks, that I&D is business leadership.”

PROVIDING SIMPLE RESOURCES QUICKLY With all the uncertainty, employees are asking for direction. Companies are responding with easily-shared resources, such as a 1-pager with tips for how to talk about racism and links to social justice nonprofits. Others are making small changes to existing ongoing workshops to address the current context.

POLICY CHANGES Many companies are honoring Juneteenth as a company closure holiday. Others are expanding PTO sick days to include mental and emotional needs/well being along with physical health needs.

DISRUPTING BIAS Some companies are taking steps to disrupt bias by removing names and faces from candidate portfolios. One organization has implemented a reminder to hiring managers and recruiters to list their potential biases before they make evaluations. One leader said, “We are trying to figure out an effective way to run parity [equity] audits – there isn’t an easy way to do it right now, so it’s a big lift.”


  • How do we balance our employees’ rights to protest (free speech) with our need for onsite meetings and the negative operational impact of requiring 2 weeks of quarantine after individuals participate in in-person protests?
  • How do we return to “normal business operations” without insensitivity to the current climate?
  • Do we provide unconscious bias, allyship, or anti-racism training? What approach to these training is appropriate and effective?


We at Forshay are committed to sharing what we learn, as we learn it. We are committed to convening passionate leaders, leading edge researchers/scientists, and innovative diversity and inclusion practitioners to share insights and actions. We invite you to join the conversation. Contact us at

Blog Inclusion & Diversity

Insights From the Field Part 1 — How Organizations Are Supporting Black Employees Right Now

Still reeling from Covid-19 and the structuralized racism it lays bare, another Black citizen murdered in public on camera. Continued police brutality. Rebellions and protests. Individuals are asking—what can I do? Organizations are wondering—how can we support our Black employees and what is our role in addressing social injustices?

This week we connected our community of leaders, diversity and inclusion practitioners, people leaders, and scientists across the US to begin a discussion to answer these questions. With their permission, we are sharing what we heard in order to get ideas and resources out to the broader community so we can help each other as we navigate this critical moment.


Here’s what we are hearing about what’s happening in our organizations right now.

URGENCY The number one issue is urgency. Employees are seeking support, guidance, accountability, and leadership now.

SUFFERING Employees are reporting very high levels of pain, exhaustion, and confusion. Employees are suffering and we must respond. Our Black employees are dealing with grief, exhaustion, and fear. Most of our non-black employees want to help but they don’t know how to.

SAFETY Black employees have concerns over basic safety. They have an urgent need for support around wellness and mental health support.

LEADERS ARE HESITANT Many leaders want to respond but are afraid to do or say something wrong. They are unsure what their role is. There is commitment to the issues but a hesitancy to act.

MIXED MESSAGES While many companies are outwardly expressing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and related causes at this time—some are even donating to supportive organizations—they are also slashing internal diversity and inclusion budgets. While the messages of support are encouraging, employees want commitments to action to improve how structural racism and unconscious bias affect the organization itself.

TIMES HAVE CHANGED This level of injustice and upheaval is a tipping point. While organizations may have been able to stay silent to happenings in the wider society before, that time is over. That doesn’t mean organizations have to take a particular stance, but they do need to take care of their employees.

HOPE Inclusion and diversity leaders are hopeful that this momentum will seed true change beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. They hope organizations will turn this passion into commitments to build diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging inside the organization (e.g., removing bias and increasing inclusion in critical processes like hiring, management, career development and promotions).


Here’s what organizations across the country are doing right now.

CONNECTION & HOLDING SPACE Many employee resource groups (ERGs), especially those Black/African-American ERGs, are meeting frequently to hold space, process, grieve, and strategize. During this time of Covid-19, many of these meetings are held virtually.

Many organizations are holding space for employees to dialogue—some conversations are useful while others are leading to discord. Two learnings are that these sessions must be voluntary and they need an expert facilitator/moderator.

LISTENING Some companies are holding listening sessions to ask their Black employees what they need right now. Others are checking in directly with their Black employees and their ERG leaders.

What they are learning is that some Black employees need to dialogue and process, others need space and time away from work. They are learning that what has been done up until now isn’t enough or isn’t aligned with what employees actually need. This is part of centering on the experiences and needs of Black employees.

ALLYSHIP Allyship is a word with many definitions but the bottom line is many employees are activated but they don’t know what to do or how to do it. Many organizations are making commitments to host allyship trainings to upskill employees around how to support their fellow Black employees and how to be an inclusive co-worker.

A central piece of allyship is taking responsibility for self-education and this means organizations have an opportunity to facilitate that process by curating educational resources for their employees. One organization shared they are asking all ERGs to focus on anti-racist material and activities in the coming months (e.g the parents club might share resources on talking to your kids about racism).

MENTAL HEALTH & WELLNESS Companies are providing grief/trauma support available in the form of therapists, counseling, and PTO, especially for Black employees.

AMPLIFYING BLACK VOICES Companies are seeking expertise and guidance from the Black community of scholars, scientists, activists, and diversity practitioners — like Dr. Erin Thomas (Upwork), who has shared an excellent list of recommendations for organizations to meet this moment effectively, and Dr. Angelica Leigh (UNC) who encourages positive defiance from employees to make organizational change.

CRISIS TASK FORCE Some organizations are creating cross-functional crisis task forces who will be at the ready to meet the two urgent needs now (racism and Covid-19) and as they arise in the future.

LEADERS EXPRESSING SUPPORT Some CEOs are sharing heartfelt letters and video messages with their employees. Many of these messages are met with approval and relief. Others ring hollow or miss the mark.

DIRECTLY ADDRESSING RACISM In the past organizations have been hesitant to talk about race and racism. But that seems to be changing. Companies are holding trainings on racism and unconscious bias that include tools like the Implicit Associations Test.


  • How can we align leaders with systemic change within the organization rather than just outward expressions of support?
  • How do we ensure our efforts will be sustainable — have lasting, robust effects year after year?
  • How do we use metrics and goals to hold organizations and leaders publicly accountable?
  • How can we support employees with chronic stress and the negative impacts on health outcomes?
  • How can we ask leaders to share what work they are doing to transform their own heart and mind?
  • How do we encourage employees/organizations to self-educate rather than ask Black employees to bear the burden of educating non-Black co-workers?


We at Forshay are committed to sharing what we learn, as we learn it. No matter what your expertise or experience in diversity and inclusion, we are all beginners in this pivotal moment. We are committed to convening passionate leaders, leading edge researchers/scientists, and innovative diversity and inclusion practitioners to share insights and actions. We invite you to join the conversation. Contact us at

Blog Thought Leadership

The Trick with Culture…

Would you say “yes” to an invite from a venture capitalist firm to join some of the smartest people and learn about building an engaging corporate culture?

The answer is not surprising. Rooms fill up on this topic. And of course, I rarely turn down a chance to debate, share, and learn what makes teams thrive at work.

At one of these recent gatherings, Steve Cadigan (the former head of HR who brought LinkedIn public) asks this group of People/HR leaders, “How many here have been asked to just do what Netflix did?”

Hands shoot up throughout the room. Nervous laughter follows.

This is where I fight rolling my eyes (I have to remember I am an adult) and pause to simply ask,

“Hmmm…do we think the copy-and-paste function works when applied to culture?”

Intellectually, even the founders asking for this approach know that corporate culture is not a copy-and-paste function. But there are some human-centered truisms to the Netflix’s Slideshare that somewhere in HR-policy land got lost, which is in part why it grew to be viewed by over 12 million people and Sheryl Sandberg called it “one of the most important documents to ever come out of Silicon Valley.”

Patty McCord, who wrote and re-wrote the Netflix deck with Reed Hastings for years before they published it, told me that although it was published in 2009…it evolved for years before, and it continues to evolve as the culture does. She said it’s always been a living document, so anyone copying-and-pasting is missing a huge piece of what makes it valuable—it is always a work in progress.

Your company’s culture is also a work in progress.

So unless you want to clone Netflix’s culture from 2009, consider the following:

1. What your company stands for (and what you stand against). This is learned—and reinforced—by who the company recognizes, promotes, and lets go.
2. What approaches/rules to work *actually* work (pay attention to neuroscience and social science for how people do their best work both individually and as a team).1. What your company stands for (and what you stand against). This is learned—and reinforced—by who the company recognizes, promotes, and lets go.
3. And here’s the tricky part…question how your answers to #1 and #2 change and evolve…perhaps yearly or more frequently depending on how quickly your team/company is growing.

Apple and Google have completely different cultures, and both are doing just fine. There is not a “best practice” (which is one of Patty’s least-favorite phrases…) to copy and paste.

Make it real, make it your own, and most importantly, be intentional about your culture so it’s filled with the purpose you want for yourself and your team.

Blog Inclusion & Diversity

Linking Your Head and Your Heart in Inclusion and Diversity

I felt as if I was approaching my career in inclusion and diversity all wrong.

Just like the practice of Inclusion and diversity, my career has been marked by a pull between the head and the heart. Inclusion and diversity (I & D) will have to evolve to find a way to integrate the head — data and science — and the heart — dialogue and empathy-building.

Reconciling two contrasting ideas is something I’ve gotten used to on several fronts. I’m multiracial — Mexican and Native-American on my dad’s side and White European on my mom’s. I’m both a social psychologist and a business consultant. I’m obsessed with science and data but am also an extrovert who loves connecting with other people.

What I’ve learned is that walking in two worlds has some clear advantages, both for me personally and for businesses who commit to forward-thinking I & D policies that integrate head and heart approaches.

Leaving academia for immediate impact

I began my career as a research scientist on the professorship path, conducting research on inclusive workplaces, belonging, unconscious bias, teamwork and communication. As a research scientist, work was all head, no heart. In fact, professors told me I’d be taken more seriously if I just stuck to the data and didn’t tell my own story of being a woman of color who didn’t always feel a sense of inclusion in science. There was no room for me to express my heartfelt passion for the subject or talk about my personal story. Apparently, doing so would somehow cheapen the science.

Publishing and presenting my research was exciting, but the pace was glacial. I was frustrated that my research might take decades to have an impact in the workplace. But when PhDs like me crossed over into business, I’d hear professors say, “Ah, we lost another one!” as if they’d died. I didn’t want get lost (or die!), I just wanted to build a bridge between all the great insights of science and the impact they could have in business.

So I jumped. I stepped off the academic path and into I & D consulting. But when designing how to actually be an I & D consultant with a scientific approach, I was once again faced with this opposition between head and heart.

Reconciling head and heart in I & D

I found that historically, I & D has been focused on dialoguing about it, which means building empathy and understanding across groups; compliance efforts, which means activities like sensitivity training; and creating support networks, such as employee resource/affinity groups. Unfortunately, despite having decades to make an impact, this “heart” approach didn’t significantly move the needle on actual hiring and retention rates in organizations.

Then, starting in 2014, when the technology industry started to release its workforce demographics, the pendulum swung the other way and we became obsessed with the science and data of I & D: the “head” approach. One good outcome of this shift was that I & D was recognized as a business imperative rather than a nonessential exercise. For example, 69% of executives now rate I & D as an important issue, up 32% from 2014. Rigorous, quantitative research convinced decision-makers that diverse teams are more innovative, thoughtful, and make better decisions. And executives saw evidence that a diverse workforce translates into a competitive advantage and better business results. 

However, the continuing problem is this: Even though research shows us we need both the head and the heart to effect real change, many business leaders have yet to hear about or completely accept that approach. Effective I & D consulting can help solve that problem. 

Here’s an example: Science has demonstrated that unconscious bias can undermine effective hiring decisions. That’s the head part. What I & D consulting can do is translate the scientific findings into a workplace practice like writing down the criteria for a job before reviewing resumes. That simple change can mitigate the bias. Then, adding the “heart” part means pointing out that storytelling and social connection can build the kind of empathy and understanding that motivates individuals to actually use those tools and strategies in their work. 

Achieving measurable business results

An I & D process that integrates head and heart to get results therefore looks like this:

Build empathy, connection, and understanding Promote change by educating employees on the science of I & D (head!), but also stress the importance of practices like storytelling (heart!) that can foster empathy and inclusion. Focus not just on diversity in hiring, but also on creating inclusive workplaces where all employees feel like they belong (like they are valued, respected, and fit into the culture).
Analyze problems using data and science — Use data analytics over the entire employee lifecycle to identify specific challenges, identify growth opportunities, and monitor progress over time.
Implement evidence-based tools and strategies — Translate the insights of scientific research into an I & D strategy customized to work within each unique organizational culture.

Approaches that blend head and heart are the most effective. I found that out in my personal life, and have seen it work in the business world. While getting that blend right is not always easy, the results prove it’s worth the effort.