According to government statistics, the experience of Black people in the UK is as follows:
- Overall, 28% of people in Black households are on a persistent low income compared to 12% in white households.
- Nearly 27% of Black people live in overcrowded accommodations compared to 8.3% of white people.
- Only 20% of Black African and 40% of Black Caribbean households own their own homes compared to 68% of white British.
- Black graduates earn about 23% less on average than white graduates and are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as their white peers a year after leaving college.
- Black people are underrepresented in senior positions. There are no Black executives in any of the top three roles in FTSE 100 companies.
(Excerpt from Equality vs Equity, tackling issues of race in the workplace)
These statistics highlight the need for Black Inclusion Week in the UK, which takes place on the 8th -14th of May 2023. Black Inclusion Week was organised because:
- The world must not forget the challenges that Black people face.
- There is a desire to understand, learn and change in so many.
- We need prolonged focus to build momentum and make changes that will make a difference.
The Objectives of Black Inclusion Week are to:
- Make Black people stronger as one community.
- Be a celebration of Black people in the UK.
- Create a commitment towards change, encourage everyone to join us by being the change and working to eradicate racism and foster Black inclusion.
- Empower all and facilitate action, increase education, and raise awareness through tools and resources to enable individuals and organisations to make tangible progress towards Black inclusion.
- Connect all people through collaborating who are committed to change.
Here are 10 practical and tangible ways that you can raise your awareness and take action in the workplace in service of Black Inclusion, we recommend that you share them with your colleagues and arrange to discuss your learning together. Let me know which you’ll try or what you’d add to the list and feel free to tag me on twitter @jennifergarrett or LinkedIn:
1.Learn to have conversations about Race.
Many people are uncomfortable talking about race and ethnicity. Having the language that you need to challenge the systems that disadvantage Black people is crucial, and you can do this by developing your race fluency. If you asked me to speak some words in Mandarin, I would trip over my words, as they aren’t familiar, talking about race requires the same level of intention and practice to become fluent. To support Black Inclusion, you need to understand why are discussions about Race at work important. How do you develop the vocabulary/language and fluency to discuss Race with your colleagues; and what are the pitfalls to avoid and the mindset to approach talking about Race at work? These resources can help, why not watch them/read them as a team and then discuss them.
VIDEO: How to have conversations about race at work pt 1
VIDEO: How to have conversations about race at work pt 2
CIPD Guide: How to have conversations about Race at work
2. Learn how to be a good manager to your Black colleagues.
As a manager, there may be things that you do that accidentally diminish the productivity, performance, morale or ambition of your talented Black colleagues. Things like microaggressions and bias are rife in the UK workplace. Microaggressions are statements, actions, or incidents regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of the global majority. Comments like ‘I don’t see colour, it doesn’t matter if you’re red, green, yellow, or blue, you’re one of us’ are usually well-intentioned, but to not see colour is to deny difference exists and when we deny that a difference exists it gives us permission to ignore racism and disengage from conversations on equity. Being mistaken for the only other Black colleague is an all-too-common form of microaggression in the workplace. You may just want to treat all staff the same to maintain fairness, but instead, you will have to take equity based action. See the resources below to advance your management.
VIDEO: How to be the hand up for your Black colleagues
VIDEO: What black staff need from White Managers
ARTICLE: Unpacking Equity at work – 15 resources that can help
3. Learn to consider the intersections.
The pioneering scholar and writer, Kimberle Crenshaw describes intersectionality as a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. I like the definition by the Centre for Intersectional Justice that Intersectionality is about Fighting discrimination within discrimination, tackling inequalities within inequalities and protecting minorities within minorities. Without a focus on intersectionality, some of your talent Black colleagues will fall for the cracks. Some resources to aid your understanding.
VIDEO: Why intersectionality matters
VIDEO: What women of colour need from their managers
4. Develop your level of allyship.
To be an ally to your Black colleagues is to take on the struggle that Black people experience as your own, recognise the advantages you have at work and transfer them and the benefits they give you to Black people that don’t have them. To amplify the voices of Black colleagues before your own and name injustices when you see them. Learn about why your Black colleagues need allies, what performative allyship looks like and what the issue with it is and concrete and tangible actions that you take at work to show that they are an Ally from the resources below.
VIDEO: How to be an actionable ally
TRAINING: Allyship Training
ARTICLE: 6 ways that HR can be an anti-racist ally
5. Engage with Black-owned suppliers & Collaborate with Black-owned organisations.
Many organisations in the UK do not have a diverse range of suppliers, if we just take the executive coaching pool as an example. Many organisations don’t provide a choice of executive coaches from diverse backgrounds for their staff, which means that staff may not feel as safe to share their lived experiences and truly benefit from coaching. Seek out diverse suppliers like the Diverse Executive Coach Directory If there are not many Black colleagues in your organisations why not collaborate with organisations like Black Equity Organisation (BEO), Black Cultural Archives and Black Young Professionals network or 56 Black Men to see how you can become involved.
CIPD Guide How to source diverse suppliers
6. Provide opportunities for positive visibility.
Your Black colleagues can be highly visible for their mistakes, but invisible when it comes to opportunities. Ensure that there isn’t just one type of colleague who is considered deserving of stretch opportunities, or who gets airtime and is listened to in meetings. A first step could be rotating the chairing of a meeting or asking for others’ opinions. A trap that organisations fall into is creating diversity-related opportunities for Black people, opportunities should be related to their expertise and interest rather than their heritage.
7. Increase awareness of biases.
Biases such as affinity bias, which lead to recruiting in your image; prove it again bias, when your Black colleagues are asked to prove themselves over and above what you would ask of their white counterparts and tightrope bias, where only a very narrow set of behaviours are accepted from Black colleagues, for example, they may not be able to be passionate about their ideas as it may be labelled aggressive. Once you are aware of them you can start to increase everyone’s awareness of them for example, in a meeting about promotions, you could call out if you believe that prove it again bias is at play and advocate for Your Black colleagues’ promotion.
8. Plan how to Recruit and Retain Diverse Talent
Organisations need to be better at attracting and retaining people from diverse backgrounds to remain relevant and thrive in our ever-changing market. Diverse talent matters, but can you identify it, and can you assess your readiness for a truly diverse workforce and the frameworks and support that you need to put in place to enable a diverse workforce to thrive? The video below should help you begin to think that through.
VIDEO: How to recruit and retain Black Talent
9. Make it your mission to find and remove the obstacles.
To create an environment where your Black colleagues can thrive, you will need to unpack decision points that lead to pay inequity, explore equity in talent development investments, and leverage initiatives like your Business Resource Groups (or Affinity Groups) as a vehicle to address equity succession planning. You will need to operate with a deeper level of transparency around compensation reporting, board representation, harassment reporting, advancement, and other talent management practices, such as remote hiring, and remote/hybrid working.
10. Educate Yourself
It can be tempting to ask Black colleagues to share their lived experiences, however, asking your Black colleagues to share their stories repeatedly for your learning, is like asking someone to re-open a healed wound just so you can understand their pain, and ensure that they are willing, and you are learning from it. Instead, you could research yourself, there is so much available: Books by Black British authors, podcasts, movies, videos etc
Two final thoughts, Black people are not a monolith, they have unique and individual experiences, get to know them human to human and you’ll see that. Lastly, I encourage you to search your social media for #BlackJoy and see how much positivity Black people can and do put out into the world.
What action will you take this Black Inclusion Week?
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