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Survey finds equity still lacking in Chicago arts and culture sectors

Three years after the racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd, Enrich Chicago, a nonprofit working to address systemic racism in the arts, released the results of a survey showing the work needed to advance racial equity in the arts and culture sector in the city.

Since 2014, Enrich Chicago, comprised of more than 40 cultural and philanthropic institutions, has been conducting research, collaborations and racial justice workshops aimed at providing access and opportunity to African, Latino, Asian, Arab and Native American artists and organizations. In a 2017 report, the organization found major racial disparities on the boards and decision-making staff of foundations and arts and cultural organizations. It was also found that funding given to BIPOC arts organizations is half of what white arts organizations receive.

make chicago rich Latest survey published this month, reveals the need for greater transparency and communication when it comes to racial equity efforts on behalf of employees and communities of color. It also notes that public racial equity statements made in 2020 did not lead to intentional actions, and that racial equity training for staff was more effective than training for people in leadership positions.

According to the survey, 30% of Asian American and Latina cisgender women do not feel safe coming to work at all. And 40% of Black people who identify as LGBTQ said they “disagreed or strongly disagreed” that they were paid fair compensation. And nearly 24% of respondents who identified as Hispanic/Latino strongly disagreed with the idea that they were being compensated fairly.

“This is an issue with arts and culture, and I think it’s quite symptomatic for wider society,” said lead researcher Anh Thang Dao-Shah. His company, Creative Equity Research, conducted the research.

“I am confident that if we did the survey for other types of organizations, the result would probably be very similar,” Dao-Shah said. “What I hope is that this small research project will stimulate other kinds of questions, research projects in other sectors, so that together we can continue to maintain the momentum that was sparked by a tragedy but led to a major crisis of awakening for our society.”

There have been numerous recent efforts to reduce diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill Banned state colleges and universities from spending money in May diversity, equity and inclusion programs and reports from corporate America Cutting DEI positions It was created after Floyd was killed by police.

Tiara Hughes, senior urban designer at Skidmore Owings & Merrill and key commissioner and founder of the First 500, describes it as “Performative DEI.”

“Companies engage in performance practices while appearing to be committed to fair workplaces and community well-being while making the minimum effort necessary to achieve real change,” Hughes wrote in a recent commentary. “When companies believe they are doing enough to appear socially responsible, they are less motivated to make radical change. As a result, pressing issues such as racism, sexism and other biases persist in these workplaces, perpetuating a climate of inequality.”

Enrich Chicago’s 17-question survey was created by Black, Indigenous, and people of color groups and staff at Enrich Chicago network organizations and promoted to the Enrich Chicago network on social media. It was conducted from mid-March to early May, with questions regarding compensation, training, leadership representation, organizational capacity, sense of belonging and safety, as well as public racial equity statements as possible measures of change. Participants expressed varying levels of agreement or disagreement with a number of statements.

“It was about how we understand where change is actually happening, how change can continue, and how we understand that we not only do what we say we will do, but also what we learn in the process. And we will keep trying,” said Enrich Chicago Director Nina Sánchez.

The survey also listed recommendations to help keep DEI a priority; These include promoting and communicating racial equity action plans that go beyond disclosures for accountability purposes, and third-party racial equity audits to determine how the organization is doing on its racial equity commitments. and developing a model to compensate BIPOC staff for work activities based on their lived experiences.

Sánchez said that over the next six months, Enrich Chicago will double down on its ongoing efforts using the survey as a tool.

Dao-Shah said the results of the survey were not surprising. While working in the field of DEI as a consultant and within his own organization, he said he saw that DEI did not remain the priority it should be.

“The data shows that there is awareness, but that may not translate into action that we can feel as change right now,” he said. “The problems we experienced three years ago still continue; You cannot resign as an organization. “If you made that commitment…if you had to make those commitments and hire someone three years ago because of pressure from your employees and your communities, that still applies.”

Dao-Shah said his goal is to create accountability.

“What we can do is create structures where if you do something discriminatory, you feel the pressure to say, ‘Oh, maybe I shouldn’t do that,’ because there will be consequences,” he said. “These results can only occur if you actually have systems in place to keep things going.”

Sánchez agreed. “This isn’t about finger pointing,” he said. “It’s about understanding how we can emerge again and emerge differently. The report receives generous feedback from our black colleagues. “This is a clear call to action with meaningful next steps we can take in the near future to strengthen our efforts and continue to build trust in impacted communities.”


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