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Human Resources and Justice: Addressing Racism and Sexism in the Workplace

Author: The document was written by RoadMap network member Rita Sever, with input from network members Mala Nagarajan, Terrill Thompson, Scott Lowther and Emily Goldfarb.
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Human resources (HR) management runs through every vein of an organization, either directly or indirectly.  If an action touches or impacts the people in the organization, then HR is involved, from strategy to workforce planning to organizational culture to people development.  Unfortunately, the dominant model relied upon by too many mainstream HR professionals focuses solely on the administration of recruiting, hiring and onboarding of staff. This approach is a lost opportunity for HR to play a productive role in creating equitable organizations.

Studies[1] show the nonprofit sector is still predominantly white-led (over 90% in some studies) and that the root cause is systemic racial barriers. In addition, while about 73% of nonprofit employees are women, only 45% of nonprofit CEO roles are held by women.  When it comes to pay, women leaders make just 66% of male salaries.[2] Human resource work, if not done through an explicit lens of racial and gender justice, perpetuates these structural biases.  That said, human resource professionals are in an optimal position, through formal and informal roles and practices, to begin to dismantle systemic racial barriers.

RoadMap seeks to support nonprofits with HR management practices that center racial justice. We would do so by developing a comprehensive, integrated solution that:

  • Embeds HR professionals who employ an equity and inclusion lens within organizations to support and build organizational capacity to practice human resources management with a racial justice lens
  • Develops guidelines that distinguish which HR activities can be done by non-HR professionals and which need a higher level of HR expertise to protect against potential liabilities
  • Supports client engagements, where appropriate, by assigning OD and HR consultants and coaches, to integrate a multi-disciplinary approach to undoing systemic racism across all levels of organizations, movements, and the sector
  • Offers templates, trainings and support to HR staff who are committed to transforming their in-house practices to reflect racial and gender justice

[1] Daring to Lead (2011), The State of Diversity in Nonprofit and Foundation Leadership (2017), Race to Lead: Confronting the Nonprofit Racial Leadership Gap (2017).