The majority of Good Insight’s clients are nonprofits that serve historically marginalized BIPOC communities. They seek out our services because of our commitment to anti-racism. By going beyond “diversity, equity, and inclusion” frameworks, the Good Insight approach aims to address systemic barriers to advancement for leaders of color. We help clients evaluate diverse pools of candidates with skills and experiences to help advance their racial equity work.
Advancing racial equity has become a business imperative for nonprofits. From our recent experience, many nonprofit boards seek to hire professionals with a strong command of racial equity. With close to 90% of nonprofit CEOs identifying as white in 2019, according to BoardSource’s Leading with Intent survey. As a result, boards are engaging in robust conversations with candidates of all races and backgrounds about their equity experiences. In 2022, 62% of our placements identified as BIPOC.
Our board partners rely on Good Insight to recruit leaders who reflect the communities our clients serve, have experience building collective power, and can navigate community-level challenges. The strongest candidates have both a personal commitment and demonstrated experience developing strategies to operationalize their workplace’s racial equity objectives.
Good Insight’s client intake process assesses clients’ racial equity work and philosophy so that we can reflect their progress to candidates. Understanding where they are on their racial equity journey enables us to craft screening and interview questions to assess candidates’ ability to develop strategies that operationalize these objectives. We find that boards most often seek leaders who can:
- Create safe spaces for staff to build awareness of their biases and privileges;
- Recognize and understand the effects of structural racism;
- Understand social empathy and build trust in the communities they serve;
- Direct courageous conversations to address workplace inequities; and
- Operationalize the results of these discussions
Tell me about a time you led or participated in a project that helped advance racial equity in your workplace
Today’s boards hire leaders who can clearly articulate practices and strategies they’ve employed to advance racial equity. After asking countless executives this question, our team has recognized the inherent inequity between the answers of white and BIPOC candidates, as well as institution type.
- BIPOC candidates frequently default to their racial identity and lived experience, rather than discussing how they have initiated change management strategies to address racial equity. While boards value personal mission alignment, it is equally important to demonstrate how past leadership in the workplace may help their new employer.
- Yet, candidates in predominantly white institutions (PWIs) serving BIPOC communities, regardless of their race, often have an advantage with this question because of the trainings, professional development, and resources their employers have dedicated to addressing implicit bias and racial discrimination in these mostly white workplaces. In particular, we have observed white candidates who can unpack white privilege and anti-racism concepts are perceived to have a stronger record because they can clearly articulate strategies their PWIs have employed in undoing harmful PWI practices.
- On the other hand, BIPOC-led and centered nonprofits serving marginalized and under-resourced communities often have racial equity embedded in the fabric of their mission and identity. While this proximity provides an advanced racial equity frame and unique lens to understand community-level challenges, these BIPOC candidates often have fewer “traditional” examples, such as addressing racialized pay gaps or elevating community voice through strategic planning. Interviewers are curious about how they will lead this work in an institution earlier in its journey.
A Clear Approach to Questions about Your Racial Equity Leadership
Every Good Insight client adheres to our equitable hiring practices that focus on minimizing bias through training for hiring committees, structured behavioral interview questions, and strong assessment processes. While Good Insight takes responsibility for helping boards understand the context of each candidate’s answers, we have found a simple framework that can demonstrate your leadership skills and change management experiences that guide organizational racial equity work. The “STAR Method” stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result, which results in a clear approach to organizing your answer.
Situation: Describe the challenge and context for your example
Task: Describe your responsibility in the situation. Did you lead or participate?
Action: Explain the practices and strategies you took to address the challenge.
Result: Share the outcomes your practices and strategies achieved.
Here are two recent examples, one from a professional working at a white-led institution, and another from a Black executive leading a team of BIPOC employees. By framing their responses in the STAR method, readers can adapt them using their own compelling examples.
Example 1: Tell me about a time you led or participated in a project that helped advance racial equity in your workplace.
Situation: When I first started at ________, a predominately white institution, I reviewed three years of employee satisfaction surveys and found that many of the staff of color were dissatisfied, which was largely associated with what they named as pay inequity. From exit interviews, it seemed to result in high turnover among BIPOC employees.
Task: As the new Managing Director at ______ I was responsible for human resources and updating our current HR policies, practices, and compensation plans.
Action: During my first 90 days, I facilitated listening sessions with staff to better understand their responsibilities and grievances. After these listening sessions, I took the information to the executive leadership team to get their buy-in to begin a pay-equity analysis, which they unanimously approved. I hired a consulting firm to assist me in the process and worked alongside them to benchmark salaries from similar organizations, identified employees who performed comparable work and analyzed pay differences in their compensation, and updated job responsibilities to accurately reflect roles that employees were performing.
Result: Based on our analysis, I created new HR policies and practices by developing salary bands that resulted in pay increases for front-line and middle management, eliminated asking applicants for their salary history on job applications, and committed to ensuring salary transparency on all job postings. Over the last two years, we have seen a significant increase in our employee satisfaction surveys, particularly among employees of color, and have a 30% increase in applicants of color, which our executive leadership team has credited to this change in policy.
Example 2: Tell me about a time you led or participated in a project that helped advance racial equity in your workplace.
Situation: After the racial reckoning in 2020, a long overdue conversation about equitable funding disparities between BIPOC-led and white-led businesses was finally at the forefront of philanthropic and corporate giving discussions. While my whole team identifies as women of color, we focus both on how that impacts our workplace, as well as the lens we bring to addressing inequities faced by our constituents, women entrepreneurs of color.
Task: As a Black Executive Director leading a nonprofit centered on building Black woman-owned businesses, I recognize and understand the effects of structural racism. With this lens and my organization’s track record of empowering and building capacity for Black women-owned businesses, I was asked to join a coalition to support Black entrepreneurs through Capital One’s Impact Initiative. My organization was responsible for recruiting 15-20 BIPOC leaders to go through the Capital One pilot training program.
Action: Over the course of nine months, I worked with other members of the coalition to develop different initiatives to help level the playing field for BIPOC entrepreneurs. One of those initiatives was a pilot program targeted to train and assist early-stage female entrepreneurs. With Capital One’s support, my organization recruited twenty entrepreneurs and provided entrepreneurship training, business plan expertise, mentorship with experienced CEOs, and assisted them in submitting their application to compete for $100,000 through Capital One’s Black Girl Magic Summit Pitch Competition, which was another initiative our coalition developed.
Result: As a result, seven of our participants were selected to participate in the pitch competition which resulted in one of our clients being awarded $100,000 to scale their operations. Based on our program survey, 90% of all of our clients have increased their knowledge and understanding of running a business, 100% have increased their profit margins and attest to our program helping them build their network, visibility, and capacity as an entrepreneur of color.
We are confident that every candidate will benefit from the method described above to clarify and elevate their unique leadership experiences in advancing racial equity work. Good Insight invests in the nonprofit sector’s future by working with our clients to find leaders who have the skills and experiences to advance their racial equity objectives. To learn more about our work, please visit us at www.good-insight.org
About the Author
Isha Haley, Director of Search, joined the Good Insight team in early 2022. Before joining Good Insight, Isha served as the Managing Director and Interim CEO of National Urban Fellows (NUF), a leadership accelerator program for BIPOC professionals.