Risha Grant wrote the book on diversity and inclusion communications in business — literally.
She recently released a new book, titled “That’s B.S.,” about her experiences running her diversity and inclusion companies in Tulsa for almost 20 years, the economic advantages of diversity and inclusion, her own bias and what she calls validated bias.
The B.S. in the book’s title stands for “bias synapse,” a term Grant came up with to explain the way the brain validates bias, she said, but that’s not the only thing it stands for.
“Literally to stick everybody in one box because of the actions of a few is b——-,” Grant said. “And so that’s why I developed a simple three-step process to help people deal with it because it’s not this complex, costly concept. It’s really a simple concept that goes back to humanity.”
Grant is the founder and CEO of Risha Grant LLC, a diversity communications and consulting firm, and DiversityConnex.com, a website connecting diverse professionals and companies.
People are hesitant to talk about diversity and inclusion, Grant said, because the topic makes some people uncomfortable, and people don’t like to talk about what makes them uncomfortable.
“I think people automatically think that it’s about guilt,” Grant said.
She said her approach to talking about diversity and inclusion is a bit different: She tries to focus more on changing perspective and sharing her perspective rather than talking at people. Her goal is to create conversation and allow people to say how they feel. This is part of her Permission — Granted process which is about identifying, owning and confronting bias.
“I wrote the book as a simple way to explain and help people understand diversity, inclusion and bias, why it’s a competitive advantage for your company and hopefully just kind of see it in a different light and kind of get a different perception for how it’s understood,” Grant said.
When Grant started her business, it was a video production company and the goal was to help African American-owned small businesses make commercials and get them on television.
“At the time, I wasn’t calling it diversity communications,” Grant said. “But that’s what we grew into, and we really try to focus on being the disconnect between diverse populations and corporations or organizations and how they can attract those markets.”
Grant went around to different public relations and marketing firms in Tulsa to pitch the idea of adding a multicultural arm, but they weren’t interested, she said. She was trying to figure out how she could compete with bigger companies when a book caught her eye while she was at Barnes and Noble. Grant said the book was called Multicultural Marketing, and it was about how bigger cities and companies were realizing the importance of inclusivity. It was an epiphany for Grant.
“It was an idea before it’s time here — that’s a nice way to put it,” Grant said.
Grant said she thinks there is still progress to be made in the way of implementing diversity and inclusion in business.
“But I think people are open to the conversation,” Grant said. “I don’t think people were open to the conversation before. And I know it’s uncomfortable. My goal is to make people comfortable discussing the uncomfortable.”
A difficult sell
Grant said companies are embracing the conversation more because they care about diversity and inclusion now and see the financial power it can have, something that only began a year ago.
“I didn’t get into it for money,” Grant said. “As a matter of fact, I thought about moving so many times because it’s really been a difficult sell in Tulsa — in Oklahoma — it’s really been a difficult sell.”
In her book, Grant points to different statistics that highlight the financial benefit of diversity and inclusion and marketing to diverse groups. For example, she cites a report which details the buying power of different minority groups like African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and the LGBTQ community to illustrate how marketing to diverse groups can help companies.
Grant said diversity is already here, and, while there is still work to do, diverse hiring is becoming more inevitable as minority populations continue to grow.
“But it’s inclusion that is what’s missing,” Grant said. “Because we’ll hire people, we’ll have a really diverse group and then we never ever include them in what’s going on.”
While society seem to have taken some steps back, in Grant’s opinion, she said she’s seen improvements in the business world because it is willing to have the conversation.
“I think there are some (companies) making legitimate strides, and I think there are a lot still checking the box,” Grant said.