Launched by Black activists following the murder of George Floyd, Black Inclusion Week supports an inclusive Black community that embraces a diversity of identities, including women, parents, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community.
This year, Black Inclusion Week asked its online attendees to think about whether they can move the dial on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), particularly on race in the workplace. What is it that individuals can really do?
Sandra Kerr, Black Inclusion Week guest and the BITC’s Director of Race Equality, shared her views on what progressive organisations are doing in this area.
Dianne Grayson, Director of Equilibrium Mediation Consulting Ltd and founder of the #EthnicityPayGap campaign, shared her expertise and observations on Government consultations and actions that organisations can take. Bridget Tatham, partner and executive sponsor for e race at law firm Browne Jacobson LLP, gave her views on allyship.
They were interviewed by Aggie Mutuma, Managing Director of inclusive organisational culture consultancy Mahogany Inclusion Partners.
Mutuma started by asking the panel, “is this topic relevant? Kerr answered: “We will stop talking about DEI when the numbers tell us it is not necessary. But we are not yet, even if we do the work: we have higher education, PhD, but… “.
What companies should do
Kerr shared a seven-point roadmap to a more inclusive workplace to accelerate change: appointing an executive sponsor for race; capturing data on ethnicity and publishing progress; committing to zero tolerance on racial harassment; making equity, diversity and inclusion the responsibility of all managers; supporting ethnic minorities and supporting allies for race inclusion, including diverse led businesses in supply chains.
A lively discussion followed on how to ensure companies are really aware of all the global DEI points. Tatham highlighted the lack of knowledge about diversity issues, stating: “When people understand diversity, but only in terms of gender. They don’t talk about race.”
Greyson emphasised that talking about gender is a more comfortable conversation than race. “This case also reveals why Black Inclusion Week is important. We need more light; we need to be celebrated and respected, counted and valued.”
How can we organise a better future?
What strategy will bring about tangible change? All the speakers agreed that what is needed is collective action. “We have to be together to make it happen. The movement is amplified if we do it together. We are stronger together. The spirit of colonisation separates us. It is a strategy to divide and conquer,” Greyson added.
Kerr, who promotes unity, gave the same advice. “When they see us, they don’t know where we come from. The best thing we can do is lift up Black people and encourage them. That’s progress for all of us.”
The power of White allies
Tatham then spoke about the power of allies. She explained how important it is to engage with the majority. “We need to work with them because they still have the power. We need allies to continue the work. Kerr also shared her view and advised attendees to have White allies. “They can lift when you are not in the room. Who recruited you?” she asked.
The power of data
What action can individuals take now? The speakers urged the audience to use their eyes and ears to understand the data. Black people are underrepresented in all senior jobs. “Now we need real change, real action, having targets and training for senior leaders,” said Tatham.
Using our voices
The data results gave Greyson, the founder of #ethnicitypaygapday, the idea to launch a project to expose the pay gap. “It all started in 2018 when I saw the impact of the pay gap on Black women – 52% of the pay gap. That’s huge! Because the government is so slow, I decided to use my voice,” she said. “We need to learn how to use our voices.”
In this nuanced conversation, speakers acknowledged that not everyone has the power to speak up. Greyson highlighted the fact that some successful people turn a blind eye. “They don’t speak up. Every person has a sphere of influence. If you can, you should do it for all of us; it’s not just about you.”
Ask for help if you need it
And if you don’t know where to start, Sandra Kerr encouraged you to ask for help if you need it. “Find a mentor, they open doors, and they will also challenge you.”
The inspiring event ended with each panellist being asked to reveal their Black hero. Michelle Obama was the most cited for her commitment. Then Kerr mentioned a piece of advice from Nelson Mandela: “Don’t forget the importance of learning to work with adversity to build a better world.”
She also urged people of colour to pay special attention to mental health and shared a toolkit here.