Over the past few weeks we’ve been carefully considering what the race protests taking place across the world mean to our business and how we should respond in a meaningful way.
Although we may not get our response exactly right, we believe the worst thing we could do as an executive team, committed to diversity and inclusion, would be to do or say nothing.
Because of COVID-19 our business was forced to accelerate many of the plans we already had in place and our Group has proved that it is capable of embracing change at a rapid pace.
We want to ensure that we demonstrate our ability to embrace and accelerate our plans to change once more, following the recent tragic death of George Floyd but also remembering the countless others who’ve lost their lives or suffered as a result of racism.
The deeply embedded, systemic racism that protestors and the Black Lives Matter movement are highlighting isn’t unique to America, it’s a global issue and one which is also prevalent right here in the UK.
While progress has been made, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people are still under-employed and underrepresented at senior levels , despite the fact they are a growing community (13.8% across the UK and 40% in London) and represent one in three school children. Our own statistics around BAME representation disappointingly reflect that trend.
While race has been firmly on our agenda for many years, we recognise that re-energising our collective commitment is overdue. One of our colleagues Rebekkah has written a powerful personal account of why changes are so urgently needed.
Our action and how our colleagues can help
As part of our work to be a Responsible Business, over the past year we have aligned our efforts to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and as a result made ‘Equality’ one of our key themes. Prior to recent events, our Diversity Board had plans in place to revitalise our focus on all diversity strands, including race. Our approach utilises the concept of ‘intersectionality’ which means we recognise that people are shaped by many different strands of diversity, making each individual’s experience unique. One of our intentions, which we will fulfil today, was to sign Business in the Community’s Race at Work Charter, our long term commitment. The charter includes five calls to action to ensure ethnic minority colleagues are represented at all levels.
We’re sharing the details about what we are already doing and intend to do against each of these actions to be transparent and encourage others to come with us on this journey.
Let’s talk about race sessions
We recognise that becoming more inclusive will involve much listening and learning. One of the key findings from BITC’s Race at Work survey (2015) was that employees from all ethnicities in the workplace said that their employers were not comfortable talking about race and that conversations about gender, age and sexuality were much easier to have.
To help kick start conversations, through IM Respect, our 10 year-old diversity network for race, faith and culture, we will be hosting internal ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ sessions open to all colleagues and which the Executive team have all pledged to attend.
Leena Savjani, who co-chairs IM Respect with fellow Partner Chani Dhaliwal said: “We hope and encourage all colleagues to join us, not just those who identify as BAME. Discussions will be chaired by a senior IM Respect representative under Chatham House Rules.
“It’s about being part of something positive, listening and learning from each other, developing more tolerance and understanding and keeping this momentum going long term.”
We’ve also created a list of useful resources including podcasts, articles, books and influencers for colleagues who’d like to find out more about race, privilege, unconscious biases and the power of diversity and inclusion.
Making sure people are included and supported is part of Our DNA so it’s vital that we all consider the roles we play in promoting equality and using our platform to do the right thing.
We’ve made huge achievements in terms of diversity and inclusion in recent years, reducing our gender pay gap, increasing representation of women at senior levels, addressing mental health and re-entering Stonewall’s top 100 LGBT+ employers, so we are well placed to continue driving the diversity and inclusion agenda.
Read more about Our Race At Work Commitment.
Read an open letter from Rebekkah about racism.