Black Inclusion Week: John Amaechi on inclusion fatigue and better approaches

In Black Inclusion Week's opening fireside chat, Amaechi explores the framework for a successful inclusion journey

Started by Black activists in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Black Inclusion Week supports an inclusive Black community that encompasses a diversity of identities, including women, parents, those with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community.

This year’s Black Inclusion Week kicked off with a fireside chat with John Amaechi OBE, a psychologist, consultant and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) advocate.

Interviewed by Aggie Mutuma, Chief Executive Officer of inclusive organisational culture consultancy Mahogany Inclusion Partners, the first topic was “inclusion fatigue.”

Race inequality and inclusion fatigue

Inclusion fatigue is when people grow weary of talking about inequality and the work needed to create equity for oppressed groups. Amaechi feels that some think the inclusion discussion has “gone too far” and that we should stop.

This thinking he equates to “laziness” and “thoughtlessness” and people being “too tired to care.” The way to change this thinking around inclusion fatigue, according to Amaechi, is to “reframe and reflect back the implications of this fatigue.”

He gives examples of young white boys being treated as children while young Black boys are treated as adults and regularly stopped and searched by police.

The conversation turned to this year’s theme for Black Inclusion Week; “together for a better tomorrow.”

Allyship across the Black community

Amaechi said this means allyship and advocacy across the Black community, so if you’re an advocate for Black people, you’re also an advocate for Black queer people and all the other intersections of Black identity. “Together means respecting that intersectionality.”

With race inequality, Amaechi admits that “discomfort” within organisations is common, adding that “discomfort is a proxy for inexpertise” and that we should “reframe discomfort” as a sign of growth. He believes that the more skills and knowledge people learn, the more comfortable they will get with talking about it and dealing with the problem.

The next topic was tracking diversity, equity and inclusion journeys within organisations.

Tracking a successful inclusion journey

The key to a successful inclusion journey, Amaechi says, is having a clear destination. He used the example of people getting on a bus, who wouldn’t do so unless they knew its destination. He said having a clear destination means those on the bus have a clear view too. However, he says this is not the case in most inclusion journeys.

“Inclusion right now means gender pay gap inclusion, but not race.” He also believes that Belonging means between teams across global regions and not for ethnic minorities.

He also believes that the duration of the inclusion journey is too long, adding that Black people have been in the United States for many centuries and the UK even longer, so when will the bus finally arrive? “This didn’t start with George Floyd‘s murder,” he added.

Accountability is also core to a successful inclusion journey; “there are multiple implications for saying I want to have an inclusive environment.” This includes policies, procedures, and the way that people work needing “to be audited and addressed.”

For employees to become inclusive, they need knowledge and skills, including formal learning and informal opportunities to network with different people. He added that company values must be plain, with a clear framework for holding people accountable.

The next topic was pay gaps. While Amaechi thinks they can be useful for making firms aware of the reputational risks of pay inequity, he believes they “tell us what we already know” that women and Black people are at the bottom end of the pay pyramid.

The purpose of pay gaps

However, he believes organisations must not lump Black groups together when collecting pay data. Different data sets, such as those of African heritage versus those from the Caribbean, are likely to score differently.

Amaechi concludes that firms can put a dent in the Black pay gap via “strategic hiring.” By this, he doesn’t mean hiring underqualified people as there are “actually qualified Black people in every sector.”

He warns firms to be precise in their language when they say they “can’t find Black talent,” when the truth is that no Black talent wants to work for them due to their lack of organisational inclusion or that firms simply aren’t looking for this talent pool in their recruitment searches.

For more information about Black Inclusion Week, click here.

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