Many of us are feeling proud of the initiatives, events and thought-provoking conversations held throughout Black History Month, and rightly so. However, I wanted to ensure time was taken to consider the journey which remains ahead of us.
As of this time, most would acknowledge that conversations about racial equality are inconsistent. There are still difficult conversations to be held around inequality faced by Black people at a macro level, outside of the comfort zone of Ethnic Employee Network Groups. A few recent figures to highlight this:
- Racially diverse people are losing out on £3.2bn a year in wages compared to non-ethnic colleagues.
- Racially diverse people are more likely to be diagnosed and admitted for poor mental health conditions but experience the poorest outcomes from treatment and are disproportionately detained.
- Less than a third of businesses (31 per cent) publish their ethnicity pay gap, despite 63 per cent of employers saying they monitor it. It remains unchanged for almost 7 years.
- Black African women have a mortality rate four times higher than white women in the UK.
- Racially motivated hate crimes increased by 37% in one recent year.
- Around 13% of the working age population are racially diverse, yet we hold just six per cent of top management positions.
For many years now, it has been illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their race or ethnic group. However, the above depicts clear barriers to equality for certain people based on nothing more than the colour of their skin or the pronunciation of their name. This must change.
What can you do to support this change?
- Mitigate bias – We have partnered with organisations who have taken progressive steps in removing bias from senior leadership through to executive profiles. This was achieved by removing prospective candidate names and education history from all longlist reports and pairing this with mandatory diverse interview panellists. Whilst this approach doesn’t fix underlying cultural issues within an organisation, it does allow for a significantly more unbiased view on a candidate profile based on skill and suitability over status and ‘fit’.
- Adopt the Rooney Rule – In 2003, the American NFL published a policy that stated, “for every open vacancy a candidate from an ethnic-minority background must be interviewed”. You can demand a more diverse candidate slate from your search partners.
- Extend diversity metrics beyond gender – While female representation is regulated for FTSE organisations, ethnic-diversity should and can also be measured.
- Become a Sponsor – This role is just as important, if not more so than a Mentor. Sponsors take an active role in elevating an individual’s profile within the organisation. You would ideally be in a position to endorse or assign your diverse Future Leader or Rising Star as a lead on notable projects. This would not only allow access to wider parts of the business but, when delivered with a successful outcome, would help position the conversation for a pay rise or promotion. As a Sponsor and Career Champion, you give voice to the underrepresented person, in the room, they continue to seek representation in.
We have had an incredible time this Black History Month, celebrating culture, heritage and brilliance, alongside everyone else. But I can’t help but recognise the disconnect between intent and action and demand more from the activity.
My hope for BHM next year? It’s simple. Black History Month is to be better utilised as a catalyst for progress. I hope that the recognition of Black history and contribution is better used as a business case for furthering Black equality, for furthering positive action towards the pay and opportunity disparity experienced by Black people and for furthering the proportional representation of Black and Ethnic Minority people in the workplace at all levels.
Until such time, the celebration of Black History does just that, keeps us focused on the past.