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Ann Arbor’s Oxford Companies announces diversity, inclusion initiative

The Oxford Companies team. Photo taken prior to the pandemic.
The Oxford Companies team. Photo taken prior to the pandemic. (Oxford Companies)

ANN ARBOR – Throughout the spring of 2020, people around the world came together to support the Black Lives Matter movement and to demonstrate outrage at systemic racial injustice and brutality against Black people around the world.

The death of George Floyd, as well as the killing of Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake among others, activated a cultural reckoning of institutional racism in the United States and beyond. Oxford Companies’ leadership, and its entire company, felt impacted by these events.

At Oxford, our values include respect and accountability – and we can’t embody those values without diversity and equality.

We decided that it was imperative that we create a committee to discuss Oxford’s culture related to diversity and inclusion, and for the related work that we do as a CREW to be long-term, action-oriented, authentic, and beneficial.

The Oxford Companies Diversity & Inclusion Council had its first meeting in July 2020 and has since been hard at work creating educational opportunities, reviewing policies and recruiting practices, and engaging in team discussions. As we’re now approaching one full year of reflection and education, we’re pleased to share with you our intentions and where we plan to go from here.

The Oxford Diversity & Inclusion Council’s mission is to root out systemic racism and discriminatory practices in our community through education, conversation, and support.

To work toward this mission, we’ve completed the following:

  • We reviewed our job posting language and processes with the help of an employment law professional to eliminate unintentional barriers affecting the diversity of our applicant pool.
  • We developed a needs assessment and survey for our staff to gauge our understanding of racial justice and examine our biases. We learned that our CREW had, overall, a good understanding of these issues – demonstrated by an average score of 81%. The subtopics we identified as needing the most education were about cultural appropriation, the history of Black Lives Matter, and discrimination in legislation and policies.
  • We created a ’'choose your own adventure” style challenge, communicating an expectation of the consumption of articles, books, podcasts, films, and TED talks for understanding of racial justice issues in the United States. Approximately 50% of our staff participated. We’re working to grow participation by implementing trainings at the departmental level and facilitating more small group discussions. We’re also working on new mediums and types of activities, including incorporating more resources from local organizations. We intend to drive up our participation rates.
  • Our council supplied weekly educational resources above and beyond the aforementioned challenge to our CREW on the topics of bias, discrimination, history of race relations, and racial justice issues.
  • We initiated efforts to drastically increase our vendor relationships with businesses owned by people of color, including becoming corporate members of the Michigan Minority Supply Development Council. We’re working through their orientation process and Best Practices for Supplier Diversity to develop an implementation plan.

What’s next for the Diversity & Inclusion Council?

We intend for these efforts to be long-term, so we’ll work toward more participation from our team, more partnerships with Black leaders and experts in diversity education and training. We’re also focused on expanding diversity in our applicant pool and new CREW members.

We’re going to begin sharing some of our educational opportunities, community contributions, and acknowledgments publicly. And finally – we’ll create a publicly-available resource guide with the educational opportunities that we share with our CREW, in case it’s helpful for others in our community.

We are certainly not claiming to be experts on the topics of diversity and inclusion – quite the opposite. We’re doing our best to learn from the experts, and learn from our community, as we work toward becoming a more diverse and equitable company. We know we won’t always get this exactly right, and we’ll continue to ask questions, examine ourselves, learn, and grow – and we hope you’ll do the same.

Keep an eye on our blog and our social media to learn more about our Diversity & Inclusion Council and how we’re working toward an equitable future for everyone in our company and community. Follow us on FacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn.

Click HERE for our first edition of a Diversity & Inclusion Resource Guide.

Have a resource or educational opportunity you’d like us to consider sharing with our CREW? Our Diversity & Inclusion Council can be reached at diversityandinclusion@oxfordcompanies.com.