As another Black History Month draws to a close, it’s worth reflecting on the purpose of this annual celebration. 

Yes, the commemoration of Black pioneers like Frederick Douglass or Maya Angelou is important. But it’s also necessary to ask: what actions are truly being taken to honor their legacies? 

It’s a question that resonates in the equity space as well. When companies commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion, how willing are they to go beyond cultural celebrations and take real action on their commitments?

During my time as a director of DEI, I witnessed first-hand the challenges faced by so many directors of DEI in their efforts to achieve meaningful change. Their work was often hampered by issues of how to effectively manage and implement the change necessary for advancing equity within their organizations.

The reason: real change is uncomfortable and complex.

Companies are too often hindered by an over reliance on internal solutions to address issues of equity. They expect to achieve cultural and organizational transformations through the use of existing, internal, and oftentimes limited resources. Without engaging external partners, who possess the expertise in managing change, companies face greater risk of delaying progress, fostering inauthenticity, and wasting resources in their pursuit of creating more equitable workplaces.

By relying heavily on their employees, organizations ignore the conflicts of interest inherent to this dynamic. Lack of independence and/or fear of repercussions make the recommendation of wide-reaching changes highly unlikely. And with limited perspective and experience, internal DEI leaders are often unequipped to navigate the complexities of organizational change. 

Consider it another way: would it be wise for a non-cybersecurity company to rely solely on  internal resources to address its most pressing cybersecurity threats? Equity-centered change, like cybersecurity, is a deeply complex and specific performance issue that demands collaboration with unbiased, experienced partners to be successful.

So, as we reflect on Black History Month, let’s reconsider its purpose: remembrance, yes, but more importantly that real change requires real action.

Let’s change…together.