BITC’s Sandra Kerr CBE on why listening to employee experiences will tackle workplace racism

Kerr has seen more firms commit to D&I since Floyd's death but says goal setting to drive action and listening to employee experiences is crucial

A year on from George Floyd’s death, we asked a group of diversity, equality and inclusion specialists if anything has changed within organisations regarding race equality. Here Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Director at Business in the Community (BITC), shares her views.

The tragic killing of George Floyd in May 2020 has changed the way businesses and the wider population as a whole think about diversity and inclusion.

Over the past year, there has been a significant shift in the appetite of employers to understand the needs of Black and ethnic minority employees in the workplace and how they can improve their representation at senior levels. I’m pleased to say that the solidarity many businesses displayed through social media campaigns last May has begun to crystalise into tangible changes of both attitude and policy in many organisations.

To support businesses with these actions, Business in the Community published the Race at Work Black Voices report, highlighting how employers can benefit from ensuring inclusion and effective engagement of their Black talent.

Perhaps the clearest indicator of positive change over the past year is the significant increase in signatories to the Race at Work Charter in 2018. Launched in 2018, the Charter has 713 business signatories to date – 436 of which have signed up since George Floyd’s death.

By signing up to the Charter, each business has pledged their commitment to five key actions to drive forward change in the workplace:

  1. Appoint an executive sponsor for race.
  2. Capture ethnicity data and publicise progress.
  3. Commit at board level to zero tolerance of harassment and bullying.
  4. Make it clear that supporting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all leaders and managers.
  5. Take action that supports ethnic minority career progression.

These are clearly steps in the right direction. However, we still have a long way to go to understand the experiences of ethnically diverse employees to truly tackle racism and discrimination in the workplace. Key to this will be the 2021 Race at Work Survey, which offers employers and employees across the UK the opportunity to share the realities of today’s workplace and have their voices heard.

The insight from this year’s survey will fuel our drive for a more inclusive workplace and shine a light on the areas that need addressing to benefit employees across the country.

Sandra Kerr CBE is a race, gender, and disability business and policy advisor and is currently the Business in the Community‘s Race Equality Director.

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