Companies in Action for Racial Equity (C.A.R.E.)™

Joy Mason

Are you a business or an institution that is ready to move beyond a nicely worded statement about diversity, equity and inclusion? Here are two compelling reasons why businesses should start moving beyond a statement:

1. Changing demographics will drive a need for change: The United States is projected to become majority-minority sometime between 2041 and 2046 (depending on the amount of net immigration into the U.S. over the next several years).

2. Companies perform better when they are inclusive. A 30% higher revenue per employee was generated by companies with inclusive talent practices.

These statistics and projections tell us that diversity is a fact and an advantage. However, diversity in the workplace does not always lead to inclusion and equity in the workplace. Unfamiliar with these terms?

Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another.

Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.

Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.

Now, let's go further by talking about racism, discrimination, root causes and corrective actions.

Racism occurs when race plays a role in structuring socioeconomic disparities. Racism is a social construct that is linked to differential power relations. Racism can lead to discrimination – discrimination includes overt, intentional treatment, as well as inadvertent, subconscious treatment of individuals in ways that systemically differ so that minorities are treated worse than non-minorities.

When actions to address racism and discrimination in the workplace are solely focused on forced hiring and promotion without understanding why Blacks and other marginalized minorities are not adequately represented, these actions are doomed from the start. 

So, how does a business or institution move beyond a statement to meaningful and sustainable actions?

In addition to voluntary training and reading books on culture and racism, consider a six sigma approach that examines the problem (or challenge) and root causes more deeply compared to a plan of simply diversifying the workforce.

With a six sigma approach, create a team that will:

1) Define – Define one problem.  

Example: We are not retaining Black employees in exempt-level engineering positions in Indianapolis.

2) Measure – Use data from your company and other sources.

Example: Retention rates for Black engineers since 2010 has declined to 15% compared to non-Hispanic Whites which has stayed steady at 72% over the same time period.

3) Analyze – Look for root causes that relate to systems.

Example: Black engineers voluntarily choosing not to stay is a symptom. A lack of mentoring, sponsorship, and development opportunities is about systems.

4) Improve – create a theory of change based on root causes, research, and potential interventions.

Example: Seek executives who are opened to being trained on culture, systems change, anti-racism and allyship and connect them with a small group of Black STEM students at the local university for relationship-building and mentoring on campus.

5) Control – implement policies, procedures, and practices with metrics and accountability.

Example: Incorporate lessons learned, make adjustments, and formalize a mentoring policy and program with metrics and clear ownership. Recognize success stories often.

Lastly, Companies in Action for Racial Equity™ can increase White managerial buy-in for any approach by communicating the problem positively.

For example, “we have an opportunity to significantly improve retention of our Black employees who are a valued segment of our workforce and community.”

With managerial buy-in and positive messaging, six sigma can be an approach for moving from nicely worded statements to meaningful actions based on root causes.  #RootCauseRacism

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Joy Mason
Joy E. Mason is a business owner, author, and motivational speaker. She is a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt Strategist who retired from Eli Lilly in 2017. During her 30 years at Lilly, Joy worked in Technical Services, Quality Control Management, Human Resources, and Quality Assurance. Before retiring, Joy successfully managed continuous improvement and global change initiatives for Lilly’s products across eight countries. She was also a leader of two different microbiological testing laboratories during her career. Joy earned a Bachelor’s in microbiology from Miami of Ohio University, Master’s in Pharmaceutics from Butler University, and Six Sigma Black Belt certification from Purdue University. Joy also co-founded, with Indiana University Purdue University Office of Community Engagement, the Indianapolis Coalition for Community School Partnerships which advocates for a systematic approach to wrap-around services for school-aged youth. After retiring from Lilly, Joy established Optimist Business Solutions, a training and consulting firm that helps organizations maximize their operational efficiency and optimize results. She also takes small business leaders from ideas to tactics and from problems to solutions. Joy has a strong track record of helping clients develop the infrastructure for success. She has worked with some of the largest non-profit entities in the state, such as Ivy Tech College, Lilly Endowment, and Central Indiana Community Foundation. Joy has literally written the book on problem solving and sustainable solutions: 5 Steps to Sustainable Solutions for Women in Business (2019). Joy spends her extra time mentoring young women who are navigating life and career. Joy published Purpose A Shift from Driving It to Embracing It (2018), which describes her deeply personal journey of re-finding her life’s purpose and getting her joy back. Based on her book, Joy will launch two separate leadership programs, Purpose and Power, which will apply an authentically inspiring and evidence-based approach to success, next month. Joy has been recognized with the Center for Leadership Development Distinguished Alumni Award and the United Way of Central Indiana Diversity Volunteer of the Year Award. She’s also a member of Butler University Alumni Board, the Miami University College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board and the American Society of Quality Indianapolis Chapter Executive Committee. Joy and her husband, Tony, are members of Eastern Star Church, and they enjoy time with their two sons and traveling.


  1. Thank you Joy! I appreciated two things in particular about this blog. #1 – Your definitions of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We often hear these words but many don’t know the actual definition of them. Or, sometimes they are used interchangeably, when they do indeed have different meanings. #2 – The tangible action plan you provided based on a sound Six Sigma approach. Again, thank you!

  2. Joy, thank you for the helpful definitions. It’s only recently that I’ve thought about the specific meaning of the terms equity and inclusion, and how that’s different than diversity.

    I think it’s also helpful to look at the definition of racism as a systemic social structure. That word so often gets used to describe bad behavior that might better be labeled as discrimination (the specific action) — would you agree? Or how would you compare the words racism, prejudice, and discrimination?

    • I also really like the framing of how we:

      “can increase White managerial buy-in for any approach by communicating the problem positively.

      For example, “we have an opportunity to significantly improve retention of our Black employees who are a valued segment of our workforce and community.”

      I think turning something in a positive is a strategy worth trying.

    • Great question Mark. Your question highlights why defining key terms is so important. The following is from the National Association of School Psychologist. I like this definition of racism because it emphasizes the system of social stratification based on race.

      Prejudice refers to irrational or unjustifiable negative emotions or evaluations toward persons from other social groups, and it is a primary determinant of discriminatory behavior (Friske, Gilbert, & Gardner, 2010).
      • Discrimination refers to inappropriate treatment of people because of their actual or perceived group membership and may include both overt and covert behaviors, including microaggressions, or indirect or subtle behaviors (e.g., comments) that reflect negative attitudes or beliefs about a nonmajority group.
      • Racism refers to prejudice or discrimination against individuals or groups based on beliefs about one’s own racial superiority or the belief that race reflects inherent differences in attributes and capabilities. Racism is the basis for social stratification and differential treatment that advantage the dominant group.

  3. Thanks for this great, insightful post! Thanks for demonstrating how to think deeply about a problem and for emphasizing that we have to move to tangible actions!

  4. Love the practical example of how to use Lean Six Sigma tools to get to the root cause of racism in the business world. How could we offer this as a model to C-suite and management committees?

    • This model can be communicated to the C-Suite execs as a continuous improvement effort that impacts the bottom line and improves engagement. If done well, this DMAIC has a greater chance of identifying targeted solutions that are more sustainable. Email me to discuss!


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