Take Time to Focus on DEI Efforts as Juneteenth Approaches

By Sonia Chowdhury posted 06-02-2023 08:37 AM


Juneteenth, officially recognized by the federal government as Juneteenth National Independence Day, commemorates the day the last group of enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, were freed on June 19, 1865. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed almost two and a half years earlier by President Lincoln, many slave owners continued to hold Black Americans enslaved. Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, and other names, is a symbolic representation of freedom for many Black Americans to this day.  

In 2021, the United States government officially recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday, an initiative that was first introduced to Congress in 1994. Since then, all 50 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or date of observance. A handful of states have also passed legislation to recognize Juneteenth as a paid state or legal holiday, including three states from Employers Council’s region: Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. 

In response to protests calling for racial justice in June 2020, many organizations made public promises for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. In the following months, DEI roles increased by 55%, according to Glassdoor. However, three years later, DEI positions have experienced attrition and been impacted by layoffs at a higher rate than non-DEI positions. One study found that DEI roles experienced an almost 40% rate of attrition, whereas non-DEI roles had a 21% attrition rate in 2022. In industries that have been impacted layoffs in the past few months, like the tech industry, DEI roles have been some of the first that have been eliminated. The reality is that many promises made by organizations to create change and build more diverse and equitable workplaces were not followed by actual investment to drive implementation.  

This year, the Juneteenth holiday is Monday, June 19. As we approach the day, employers should consider how to re-engage in the DEI conversation and re-commit to creating lasting and impactful change for equity and inclusion in their workplace. Depending on the size, resources, and culture of an organization, that can include the following 

  • Declare Juneteenth as a company holiday, demonstrating a commitment to recognizing and honoring the significance of the historic date and allowing space for self-reflection.  

  • Educate employees on the history and significance of the date, including finding and participating in local events, hosting a lunch and learning session, volunteering and partaking in community outreach. 

  • Reflect on DEI efforts and future goals. What has the organization done in the last few years and what are the goals for the future? Consider plans for unconscious bias training, inclusive hiring practices, and an audit of compensation for pay equity.  

  • The day creates an opportunity for senior management and leadership to commit to a call to action for what lies ahead for the organization. 

  • Juneteenth should not be a one-time opportunity to focus on DEI in the workplace but part of a larger, ongoing, and sustainable vision of driving toward goals and outcomes focused on broader diversity and inclusion.  

  • Solicit feedback from employees. An employee resource group or a workplace culture survey is a great way to gather information on what employees are looking for from the organization. Seeking employee input helps create meaningful and inclusive initiatives for Juneteenth as well as the rest of the year.  

Employers Council can assist members with their DEI initiatives and create customized strategies tailored to an organization’s needs. Learn more in our DEI whitepaper, use our DEI Roadmap to Success Checklist, and contact us with any questions.