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4 steps corporate leaders can take toward genuine allyship

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms reflects on being the mother of a black son, a Fortune investigation into the health risks of breast implants gets results, and tips on being a real ally in this moment. Have a healthy Thursday. 

– 4 steps toward real corporate allyship. Yesterday, Fortune’s MPW community convened a discussion on racism and allyship as protests over the death of George Floyd and persistent racial injustice continued to roil the U.S. The business leaders and activists on the virtual conversation, hosted by Fortune‘s Ellen McGirt, proposed four ways companies should respond to the outcry and support their black employees right now. Emma has the full scoop here.

1. Focus on black belonging
“It’s incredibly important to focus on black belonging—the sense that your black team members feel a sense of solidarity from corporate leaders and everyone around them,” said Erin Thomas, head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging at freelancing platform Upwork. For a company trying to adequately respond to this societal movement, she said, everything else should come second right now.

2. Recognize your power 
“The services we bring, our purchasing power, our voice in D.C.—we have not used any of that power to address the systemic injustice of racism in this country,” EY U.S. chair and Americas managing partner Kelly Grier said of her $36.4 billion firm. “That has to change.” She is working to help her company acknowledge the power of its privilege on an institutional level in the same way white people and non-black people of color are recognizing theirs as individuals.

3. Make room for mistakes
There’s little room for error for companies responding to this moment. However, leaders should make room for their non-black employees to make mistakes while having these discussions, the group agreed. At Cisco, managers are trying to support employees in having “imperfect conversations” about racism and discrimination, said chief people officer Fran Katsoudas.

4. Be authentic
Rote discussions of programs like diversity initiatives won’t cut it in this regard, said Crystal Ashby, CEO of the Executive Leadership Council. Diversity programs have their place, but they don’t necessarily provide companies with the right toolkit to respond to police brutality against black people, she said. 

“This response can’t seem like a diversity program. This response can’t seem like something on a checklist. It can’t seem like they’re doing it for that reason or it’s no longer real,” said Ashby. Corporate America must ultimately remember: it’s not about them, she said. “This is not an issue about companies,” Ashby said. “This is an issue about people.”

This list is by no means complete. We’d like to hear from you about other steps that white and other non-black leaders and employees can take to make a true difference in supporting black friends and colleagues in this moment—and beyond. Email me at claire.zillman@fortune.com and we may share your suggestions in a future Broadsheet.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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