Dr. Erin L Thomas Profile picture
I have careful ears. Mama. Pragmatist. Chicagoan. Head of Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging & Access @Upwork. @FortuneMagazine 40/40.
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Dec 13, 2020 22 tweets 5 min read
🧵In January, our then-new CEO asked if we should have a Rooney Rule to increase racial diversity in hiring. (Yes, she’s a dream.) Here’s how I approached the question & what I’m thinking now in case it’s helpful as you consider new #DEI policies for 2021./1 January 2020 reflections:

The NFL’s Rooney Rule is a hiring policy that requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for head coaching positions. The Rule has failed to yield diversity 17 years after its adoption./2

Sep 27, 2020 18 tweets 4 min read
📣 For those committed to #InclusiveLeadership & #antiracism at work: One of the primary reasons that we aren’t progressing on #DEI is that we’ve been oversold the value of diversity and haven’t dug deeply enough into the personal costs. A thread./1 In my view, the greatest individual cost of DEI is the comfort of the status quo. As @mjmichellekim calls out, we love to coddle it. Breaking the inertia requires all of us to wrestle with the costs and benefits of change and reckon with what we are willing to give up./2
Aug 30, 2020 21 tweets 5 min read
I think James Baldwin oversimplified. Being Black in America is to be in *grief,* almost all of the time. After George Floyd was murdered, we encouraged Black employees in particular to take bereavement leave./1

fortune.com/2020/06/04/geo…. I took this leave myself last week. Grief is typically a private process but now we’re in a global pandemic that’s forcing us to work from home, nay to live at work./2

Aug 23, 2020 19 tweets 4 min read
Dear Egalitarian/Antiracist/Feminist/[Fill In The Blank] Manager:

One of the most impactful actions you can take to increase diversity on your team is MANAGE MEDIOCRITY.

Most workers are average. No shade, just facts. Think about your job candidate debriefs and 9-box matrices. Most people perform in the middle of the respective rating scale or grid./2
Aug 16, 2020 22 tweets 4 min read
🚸 After weeks of research, I’ve identified 4 categories of solutions employers should consider to support parents through the next year of childcare & education. On the back of a pandemic. And a race crisis. While they show up to meetings with a smile…/1 #1 - Give money & time. This is tough during a recession but we saw just how quickly companies could open up the coffers during June’s acute race crisis. CFOs got creative & budgets were rearranged./2
Aug 2, 2020 22 tweets 4 min read
Unless you work at Zoom or Peloton, odds are your hiring plan has been downsized or halted this year. There’s no better time than a hiring freeze to apply a #DiversityandInclusion lens to your hiring data and the practices that shape them./1 Traditional recruiting metrics can reveal - and even incentivize - behaviors that are in direct tension with diversity and, thus, quality. Here are 3 measurements to rethink/2:
Jul 26, 2020 10 tweets 2 min read
💡Dear Managers - If you found yourself completely unprepared or unequipped to discuss last month’s acute race crisis, it’s possible you haven't built strong enough interpersonal relationships with your employees./1 Let’s examine your 1:1s. The purpose of 1:1s is for employees to feel - and it to be true - that your job is to maximize their success. But odds are you’re using this touch point as a tactical meeting and missing a regular opportunity to connect with and empower your people./2
Jul 12, 2020 17 tweets 3 min read
Let’s talk about workplace “microaggressions.” The term is vast and amorphous, which can stymie org & individual understanding of the experience of marginalized talent. Here’s my attempt to unpack the essence of microaggressions so we can remediate them, naming aside./1 Belonging is a feeling - the extent to which employees can show up to work fully without having to sacrifice meaningful aspects of their identity. I think of microaggressions as the everyday moments that cause belonging breakdowns./2
Jul 5, 2020 19 tweets 3 min read
During the best of times, working parents hold things together through a tenuous tapestry of interdependent supports. These aren’t the best of times. Over the next couple of weeks, the parents you employ will make utterly impossible decisions about the next year of their lives./1 The individual algebra will vary. There will be an infinite number of wholly imperfect family solutions. And no US workplace is prepared to accommodate them all. Here are 5 key actions to take before August to get in front of this 💩 storm./2
Jun 28, 2020 9 tweets 3 min read
I’m jazzed to hear #company and #HR leaders finally saying the word “racism” instead of “insensitivity” or “bias” (🥴) to describe the broken promise of our society & workplaces. But I’m also nervous that we’re embarking on what @sapinker calls a “euphemism treadmill.”/1 I hear “racism” but I also see upticks in trainings. I hear “racism” but it’s already starting to roll off others’ tongues a smidge too easily. Here are a few thoughts on how we can resist turning the current moment into the next wave of #DEI corporatization./2
Jun 14, 2020 12 tweets 3 min read
HR/Talent/#DiversityandInclusion Leaders - Odds are the aspiring allies were at peak bustle last week. 🙌🏿 Here are a few tactical tips for harnessing their energy & mobilizing them in meaningful solidarity with their Black colleagues.../1 #1 - Give allies a place to go. Leverage Slack or other internal chat tool to give allies a dedicated place to share their feels, NYT articles and Robin DiAngelo quotes. Importantly, this space should not include your Black employees, whose peace should be protected./2
Jun 10, 2020 4 tweets 2 min read
On Juneteenth, join @Upwork CEO @hydnbrwn & me for a behind-the-scenes look into how we’ve operationalized 1) our response to the current race crisis & 2) our broader Black inclusion efforts. For C-suite, #HR, Talent, Comms & #DEI #leadership.

Register: upwork.com/enterprise/res… Image The graphic is wrong - SORRY, ALL. Juneteenth is a Friday. Same date, different day.
Jun 7, 2020 16 tweets 4 min read
C-Suite/HR/#DiversityandInclusion Leaders - If you condemned racism internally and/or externally last week, 👏🏿. Thank you. We needed you.

As you plan next steps, please resist the temptation to commit to all the things you *could* do. Now is the time to FOCUS. A thread./1 The #1 question I get asked is “What do companies do wrong wrt diversity, equity & inclusion?” My answer: they take on too much. This leaves them solving problems they may not even have and spreads the most finite resources - time and attention - too thin./2
Jun 5, 2020 6 tweets 3 min read
We just dropped 2 more resources from behind the scenes of Upwork's accelerated Black #diversity, #inclusion and #belonging (#DEI) efforts./1 #1 - "How to Support Black Employees in Times of Racial Crisis" is a tip sheet we shared with our managers to offer guidance on how to approach conversations about the current race crisis with individuals & teams./2
May 30, 2020 14 tweets 4 min read
📜Dear Company Leaders - You might be shocked by #Floyd & the subsequent protests you saw in the US this week. I guarantee you not one of your Black employees is. So if you’re moved, angry, or concerned...good. USE THAT. Channel those emotions to propel you to action. A word.../1 Over the past few days, I’ve seen a flurry of corporate activity like tweets and donations to public causes. These external-facing displays of solidarity are great. Please keep them up. Please also know that they’re not sufficient for uplifting your Black employees./2
May 24, 2020 15 tweets 3 min read
📢Well-meaning managers/allies: Black and brown employees don’t *always* want to talk about race. Here are some guideposts to acknowledge their humanity without overdoing it 📢: The backdrop is that being Black or brown at work is often a lonely experience. Many are the firsts - in their family to graduate from college or break into a profession - and/or the only - person of color on their team, in the meeting, in the [now extinct?] office./2
May 9, 2020 29 tweets 8 min read
On Friday, my CEO mentioned #AhmaudArbrey by name in her weekly all-company video message. It meant the world to me. Has your workplace acknowledged Ahmaud? Here’s why so few will & why they should reconsider that silence./1 78% of Black professionals say they’ve experienced discrimination and/or fear that they or their loved ones will. Yet 38% feel that their workplaces deem it unacceptable to speak about these experiences./2 hbr.org/2017/07/people…
May 3, 2020 11 tweets 3 min read
Employees are burning out. Concerned leaders are encouraging time off but folks aren’t taking it. Here’s my take on what’s going on (beyond typical flexibility stigma) and what empathetic managers can do about it./1 Some of the privileged workers I’ve talked to are so grateful to be employed in fair jobs with fair benefits & pay that they want to give their all to their employers. Of course, there’s an undercurrent of economic uncertainty to this gratitude./2
Apr 19, 2020 11 tweets 2 min read
Being stuck at home is no excuse for remaining stationary in your ally journey. Quarantine is the prime environment to focus on allying inward. 5 quick tips below: Provoke your privileges: Checking your privilege is so 2000 and late. Don’t just mark your advantages; investigate them like you’re Angela Lansbury./1
Apr 12, 2020 17 tweets 3 min read
📢Calling all people leaders 📢

Your Asian and Black employees may need some extra TLC these days, as COVID-19 has incited anti-Asian racism and is proving disproportionately deadly for Black people. Here are 5 things you need to start doing for them on Monday./1 #1: Acknowledge this reality - In your next 1:1, say something like “I’ve been following the data on the impact of the virus on the Asian/Black community. My virtual door is open if you want to talk through how this is affecting you and your loved ones.”/2
Apr 5, 2020 9 tweets 2 min read
Dear Employee - you are not necessarily fine simply because you still have a job. You are not necessarily ok because others are sick and dying. This whole situation is F'd and we are all experiencing loss. We are all suffering./1 We are grieving the world we used to know. We are mourning the routines that anchored us, our sense of safety, our understanding of how life is supposed to go./2