Ending Racial and Gender Inequities: The Shared Sisterhood Framework

Diversity Management
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Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Ending Racial and Gender Inequities: The Shared Sisterhood Framework

How can you eradicate racial and gender inequities and at the same time diminish worried, stressed post-COVID feelings among your employees? Read on…

I just stumbled across a new diversity management framework which I'd like to recommend as it is primarily a good good tool to understand what it takes to get rid of remaining systemic racial and gender inequities. The "Shared Sisterhood Framework" (SSF) by Opie and Livingston is meant to accelerate the change process to diminish discrimination and racism in organizations. A noble cause that most people embrace wholeheartedly, but also a situation that is extremely persistent.
The SSF is based on a set of 3 "practices": Dig, Bridge and Collectively Act.
  • DIG IN: People should constantly explore their own assumptions, biases, and collective power. You can do this by doing 3 things:
    • Identify who you are (what are your social identities).
    • Research power dynamics (how do your identities fit in the broader context of history and status).
    • Recognize your knowledge gaps (and fill them by learning).
  • BRIDGE DIFFERENCES: Use this self-exploration (of dig in) to build bridges with colleagues from different racioethnicities and genders. Establish relationships with others that allow to mutually express thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, ideas and emotions in an atmosphere of trust, empathy, vulnerability and risk-taking.
  • COLLECTIVELY ACT: Use these (individual) bridges to make professional environments more welcoming and inclusive. After a critical mass of individual bridges has been established, this allows to exert power and influence organizations to change.

SSF Governance

Opie and Livingston stress that even though the SSF is primarily a bottom-up approach, it can also be implemented top-down by senior management by introducing it at company or business unit level. Think along the lines of a series of workshops and small peer-group sessions under the guidance of an external diversity management expert. For more info, view the best practices Organizational Change Effort to Increase Diversity and Inclusion and Managing a Diverse Workforce: Challenges and Measures.

❗I recommend both companies and non-profit organizations to consider such a program. Not only can it help to 1. Diminish discrimination practices etc. and 2. Mobilize valuable talent as a result, but it could perhaps also be a smart idea in current situation in which due to the pandemic so many people are feeling unhappy, isolated, uncertain and angry. Giving sincere attention to other, less-advantaged people might well be an 3. Excellent medicine against these widespread unhappy feelings as empathy is known to prevent burnouts and diminish stress.

⇨ Please share your thoughts on the Shared Sisterhood Framework. Is it clear, helpful, relevant, complete? Do you agree with the 3 benefits I mentioned?

Opie T. and Livingston B.A., "DIG, BRIDGE, COLLECTIVELY ACT - A proven approach to dismantling systemic inequities via authentic personal relationships", HBR Sep-Oct 2022, pp. 80-87.
Opie T. and Livingston B.A. (2022), "Shared Sisterhood".


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