LIFT: Announcing the Leaders for Inclusion, Fairness and Transparency Scholarship Program
2020 brought issues of racial equity and justice to the forefront of our nation. Diversity, equality and inclusion matter in our nation and in our organizations, and we have a long way to go. For the Small Giants Community team, it became a powerful call for us to enact meaningful change in the work we do to connect, identify and develop purpose-driven leaders.
Over the past year, we’ve devoted our time, minds and hearts — individually and as a team — to deepening our understanding of and commitment to social justice and racial equality. Most importantly, we’ve been putting the wheels in motion to act: we are committed to making a real, lasting impact on the business world and we're excited to share our plan.
The cornerstone of our program is the LIFT Scholarship program (Leaders for Inclusion, Fairness and Transparency), a scholarship program we're launching to fully fund enrollment in the Small Giants Leadership Academy for business leaders in underserved communities, where many business owners of color don't have access to or are not able to afford our Leadership Academy.
Learn more about the program in this statement from Small Giants Community co-founder, Paul Spiegelman:
I was as shocked as everyone learning about the murder of George Floyd. I was even more moved by the response of the world, and yet saddened that we still have so far to go. I hate that our children are growing up in a society where there is still a lack of equality and opportunity. They deserve better.
I found myself in deep periods of self-reflection and a desire to understand. As a white person, I contemplated my own instances of unconscious bias. I began to think not only about everyday life but what it must be like for people of color to work in or lead in the business world. I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a public company CEO who was very proud of her company’s long standing diversity program. But she admitted that she never asked an employee what it was actually like being a person of color in their company. That hit me hard. Because I never asked that question either, even though I’m sure that at least half of the thousands of employees I had over the years were people of color. It struck me that it's not so much about the numbers as it is about understanding what it is like, and using that understanding to strive for equality in everything we do and in every conversation we have.
As the co-founder of the Small Giants Community, we have the honor of training leaders how to lead in a purpose/values driven way, and I believe we are making a positive impact on the business world. But I believe we have a unique opportunity right now to act, not to make a statement. To change, and not to just promise. To contribute and to be held accountable.
Our small team has had very open conversations, read books together, and listened to many leaders of color in our small universe. It occurred to me that we might be able to combine what we already do well and make a contribution to the social justice movement at the same time. So we developed our own plan for inclusivity, diversity and understanding; we’re creating the space to help companies engage in uncomfortable conversations; and we’re making these topics part of our standard curriculum.
But I want to do more. I know there are many business leaders in underserved communities where minority business owners don't have access to, or are able to afford our Leadership Academy. That’s simply not fair. So I am going to personally fund the LIFT Scholarship (Leaders for Inclusion, Fairness, and Transparency) to subsidize our program for leaders of color in these communities.
I hope we can all join by doing more listening, being honest about our own shortcomings, and open to giving everyone a chance to feel welcome and valued.
Along with the LIFT Scholarship program, we're also incorporating topics of diversity, inclusion and understanding into every aspect of Small Giants Community programming. Here are a few of the practical ways we aim to encourage inclusion and equality in the workplace:
Start with ourselves first.
Our team is small and close-knit, and following the murder of George Floyd, we all needed to talk. We began sharing resources with one another to increase our competency on racial equity and social justice.
Our team is seventy percent women and ethnically diverse, but we’re all white. We don’t know what we don’t know — so from there, we started our own book club together, reading and discussing So You Want to Talk About Race? By Ijeoma Oluo. We held a listening session with leaders of color in the Small Giants Community, and we documented a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy for our organization.
Encourage dialogue and understanding that lead to equality in the workplace.
What does it mean to be a person of color in the business world? We believe that the real work starts with learning to understand. Our resources this year will address how to build that understanding in organizations and how to contribute to everyone having an equal chance to becoming a successful leader. Just like purpose-driven leaders work to incorporate core values into every aspect of the business, we'll explore practical ways to equalize opportunity in recruiting, operations, and leadership development.
The 2021 Small Giants Community Summit will have several mainstage sessions exploring everything from unconscious bias and microaggressions to cultivating truly inclusive workplaces. The Small Giants Leadership Academy will have a dedicated module on unconscious bias in May, and we’ll be covering diversity, equity and inclusion on the blog, on the Growing with Purpose podcast, and during upcoming virtual roundtables.
A key tenet of inclusion is involvement and empowerment: we want purpose-driven leaders of color to have a platform in the Small Giants Community to tell their story and experiences and share their expertise. In order to hold ourselves accountable to reaching more leaders of color and amplifying their voices, one aspect of our mission is data-driven: we’re tracking the demographics of those involved with the Small Giants Community. In particular, we're focused on the race, ethnicity, gender and age of our Summit speakers, Leadership Academy facilitators and participants, and other content contributors.
It’s one way for us to be transparent about where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going when it comes to racial and ethnic diversity. Our work is ongoing — expect progress reports to be published on our blog mid-year and end of year.
Tackle taboo issues in real-time through Community forums.
Many people find talking about race and equality uncomfortable — we're going to talk about it anyway. Dialogue is key for understanding why these issues are so important, and understanding one another's experiences is a key step in enacting meaningful change for our employees and organizations.
We’re creating more forums for you to tackle these issues in real-time with like-minded leaders, and we encourage you to join the conversation and learn how we all can be more aware and disciplined in creating cultures where everyone feels valued, welcomed, and has an equal opportunity to be successful.
|Learn alongside like-minded leaders in the Small Giants Leadership Academy||Learn from diversity and inclusion
experts at the Small Giants Summit
|Engage in meaningful dialogue at
a Small Giants Virtual Roundtable
Small Giants leaders have an opportunity — and a responsibility — to positively impact the business world by proactively engaging in these important conversations and learning how to build a more equal and fair workplace. At the 2021 Small Giants Community Summit, we have multiple sessions devoted to exploring this topic and discussing it with fellow business leaders so that you can do your part to build a more just business world.