The panelists were diverse: two African American senior executives and two white members of Lilly’s executive committee, the company’s highest executive body. The questions were candid. While the panelists had been prepared for a serious conversation, no one really knew where it would lead. Nor had anyone foreseen the esprit de corps that would emerge from an honest and respectful conversation on race in the workplace. We all believed, however, that such a conversation would integrate rather than divide the workforce, providing oxygen for other important discussions.
There was a clear recognition that for African Americans in particular, experiences with racial trauma are difficult to divorce from experiences of work or any other part of life. Further, racial traumas may occur in the normal activities of workplace interactions through inequities, microaggressions and other forms of bias.