Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Cannot Be Just An Internal Initiative

September 14, 2020
Kathleen Brennan

“Our company is committed to making an impact in the effort to eliminate racism in the workplace and in society.”   

Anyone who takes our newly released Antiracism education is greeted with this statement on the title slide. 

It is, of course, not an idle statement but one with great intention and expectation. It was written by LRN in a purposeful way. It is both a reflection of our purpose and of the journey our client partners are on – one we are deeply committed to supporting. 

Yet, looking more closely, it is in the “and society’ where the true insight into LRN’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion journey can be fully understood. 

We often call ourselves a mission with a business.  We are a for-profit business with an aspirational mission of “inspiring principled performance”.  Our deeper societal purpose is to “help people around the world do the right thing.”  These ambitions cannot be realized if they are confined to the workplace.   

LRN was moved by the killings of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, among so many others.  As protests against police violence toward Black people quickly spread across the United States and internationally, so did calls within LRN. There was a movement within the company to take a more proactive role in combating racism and injustice, and to make equity central to what we do and how we do it.  

We issued our own Statement on Racial Justice.  Through several town hall discussions and an employee survey, we found LRN’s people wished for more education and support to take action. LRN needed to do more in investing, formalizing and measuring our own DEI efforts.  We also realized LRN had the platform and influence to accelerate change in our industry “and society.” 

Inspired by our values of Truth, Humility, Passion and Integrity, we challenged ourselves to do more to be diverse, inclusive and equitable and use these values to do more in our community. We need to be actively antiracist; we need to more actively seek diversity. We need to evaluate all our systems and behaviors to ensure that they are inclusive and equitable. 

 

Since we started having these conversations, LRN has: 

  • Analyzed how to better promote DEI in our eLearning 

  • Given financial support to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund 

  • Delivered ‘Breaking Bias’ training to LRN’s Leadership Team—and soon to the whole company 

  • Sponsored roundtables with LRN’s CEO on intersectional issues within our workplace 

  • Continued weekly all employee townhalls to build connections and understanding 

  • Conducted comprehensive compensation analysis—to measure gender and race equity in pay 

 

LRN also forged a grassroots DEI initiative, led by a steering group that includes leaders from around the company – and with the support of 30+ volunteer colleagues from around the globe, organized working groups focused on top leadership support; performance and compensation; sourcing, recruiting and on-boarding; environment; and communications. 

LRN is actively working on a full DEI strategy and action plan. Our work has just begun.  As we said in our company statement: “Our commitment to justice and to racial equality is central to what we do and how we do it. It will not end when justice is done in a particular case or in a few cases, or in many cases. We know that the journey to true racial justice and equality is a long one.”   

Atrocities against Black and brown people continue almost daily. Recent events in the United States, and in particular in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Rochester, New York, only strengthen our resolve to address fundamental inequities and proactively do our part to ensure justice in institutions and society. 

Helping people around the world do the right thing by “inspiring principled performance” requires an acknowledgement of the need and an obligation to create an environment committed to justice, truth, trust, fairness, equity, and inclusion.  This must be true of the cultures we seek to forge internally, with our partners and with our influence in the world.  To do this well, we must be willing to work on the systems at LRN and in the world where LRN operates.  DEI is a journey.  We must forge ahead… in our own workplace and in society. 

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