“This is a journey you’re going through with us so either you’re with us, and stand with our statement, or you’re not.” (Ama Africa-Tchie)
Since Race Equality Week this year, we are continuing to drive the importance of making race equality in the workplace everyone’s business.
With almost 600 attendees, Tuesday’s event hosted a series of expert speakers to talk about how they are driving race equality across all layers of the organisation.
For too long the responsibility has fallen upon our ethnically diverse communities and employees to bring about necessary change. This imbalance needs to shift, with responsibility and effort becoming rebalanced across all parts of the organisation. The majority need to play their part, ensuring allies become active allies.
So, where can you start in making race equality everyone’s business?
Where does responsibility lie in the workplace, and does this equate to who is taking action?
Top to bottom: Engagement of Leaders
Jo Heath– Managing Partner and Head of Practice at Green Park– informed attendees on how organisations can engage leaders to make race equality a shared responsibility and expectation.
Jo reflected on this issue of responsibility– traditionally falling on race networks, HR and D&I employees- and the need to reset these false assumptions:
“There is a multilayered role of responsibility… Some of these leaders are recognising this misalignment needs to be addressed. The more progressive organisations are moving away from just expecting people of colour to have all the answers, and they’re driving real change through connection at different layers.’’
With the example of ‘meaningful reciprocal mentoring programmes’(which is different to mentoring and reverse mentoring), attendees got an insight into how meaningful racial mentoring could create impact through enhanced promotion of ethnically diverse employees and a culture where ‘calling-out’ is acceptable and responded to. Jo spoke of the need for the correct infrastructure to ensure the efficacy of the programmes and creating a ‘safe space’, including:
- Careful consideration of matching: when matching mentors with mentees, understanding the hierarchies and power dynamics that may exist is crucial.
- Setting strong and clear expectations: Knowing what to expect can help measure the outcomes of the programme
- Planning the set up: Preparation for both individuals is crucial to ensure cultural awareness and cultural curiosity is ensured. This can be done through upskilling, for example conducting cultural connection coaching.
Initiatives like reciprocal race mentoring programmes can help make race everyone’s business:
“Many organisations have been doing mentoring for years and this is not particularly new to them. However, really impactful race reciprocal mentoring is somewhat different, and if done well and with the correct infrastructure it can be really powerful for all involved.”
Embedding Change from Within
Ama Africa-Tchie- Culture and Inclusion PeX & Engagement Consultant and Former Head of Culture and Wellbeing at Mental Health First Aid England– was our second expert speaker to speak on how to make race equality everyone’s business.
Through the example of Mental Health First Aid England, she demonstrated that the process of embedding and complete transformation needs to come from everyone within an organisation.
Ama informed attendees that in order to reach everyone in an organisation, and also external stakeholders, there is a need to take different approaches to both educate people and facilitate necessary change. Through a variety of race equity drop-in sessions, educational classes and provision of safe spaces, different people were engaging in different ways:
“For me, it was very important we had different spaces with different people because one size does not fit all and also you get a lot more embedding and impact when doing it that way… than one tickbox exercise.”
Beyond such exercises are issues of accountability and auditing, which Ama highlights is more than a simple checklist as changing people’s attitudes and behaviours is never a quick-fix. On the topic of reviewing impact, she said:
“Ultimately there is nothing wrong with a list of things you need to do or a list of commitments that you need to change… it goes beyond that… How are we ensuring people are learning and changing themselves? Because when you’re changing behaviours and mindsets it takes a while.”
So how can your organisation truly embed a commitment to race equality into the foundations of the workplace?
Ama considered the need for ‘legacy’ and for change to come from beyond one person to the entire team.
Allyship was central to the process of embedding in MHFA England, in which she encouraged people to have “courageous curiosity” and “empathy” when ethnically diverse employees share their thoughts and experiences. She argues that leadership is needed at the very top of an organisation:
“Allyship is about leadership speaking up and putting their head out from the powerpit to say, I’m not just saying this, I’m holding everyone accountable and role modelling that through real behaviour.”
Through learning, unlearning and relearning, people can do the work for themselves. Using the resources, using initiative and having the ability to “evolve” through self-motivation is how inclusion and equality can be reached.
Ama reflected on her role as facilitator as no panacea for everyone. She encouraged people to learn for themselves as “People knew they had to do the work first.”
So, how can race equality become embedded into your organisation: in every department, team, seniority level and location?
Let’s make sure Race Equality Week doesn’t become a distant memory. Let’s make sure the drive against race inequality starts now, and more importantly continues. #ItsEveryonesBusiness
Photo by Rita Morais