The CBI recently gave a great seminar on the issue of race and equality and it was fascinating to hear John Amaechi speak about some work his company has done on this. They asked 10,000 people what words they associated with blackness – ‘strong’ was the most common followed by beautiful, athletic, music, minority. They then asked them what others would say about black people. The words were totally different: criminal, uneducated, inferior, violent, scary, poor.
It was a really helpful way to see the difference between what we say and how we are conditioned. As John explained, people don’t want to admit that they are saturated with identity pollution, associations, stereotypes and that there is a haze through which they see black people. Yet it exists.
Diversity and inclusion form a key component of the Good Business Charter and we spent a lot of time trying to pin down the practical things that a business can do to show that they are serious about making their workplace an inclusive place to work. Diversity covers so many different parts of who we are. John Amaechi talked about his different identities and yet it was the identity of being black that was the thing that set him apart and made him feel he was treated differently.
I am married to someone from Latin America. Here in Britain there aren’t so many Latin Americans so when you are filling in those monitoring forms – white, black, Asian then you get to the ‘other’ column and he is always ‘other, other’. Which let’s face it when we first came to Britain and you are filling in these forms to register with the local doctor, is not the most welcoming way to be introduced to this country.
We do this so we can monitor what is going on – but if it is just a tick-box exercise with no practical steps to make those different categories of people feel included, it really is not worth the paper it is written on. It becomes a mere census which I don’t believe is the reason they were introduced.
We have placed this statement on our website in our Diversity and Inclusion component specifically against racial prejudice in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and in recognition that this is a particular area where there is much still to be done.
Statement against racism
We stand in solidarity with all those who are unjustly treated on account of their race or ethnicity and support their continued fight for justice and equality.
As a charity seeking to focus on responsible business practices, with diversity and inclusion a critical part of that, we recognise our duty to speak out and challenge injustice in the business community and wider society.
Diversity and inclusion involve promoting a range of protected characteristics but we believe there is a need to make specific mention of racism in the light of recent events and in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
We encourage all our members and those with voices and freedoms to protest for and demand equal respect and dignity for all.
Everyone needs to feel they can be themselves when they come to work. I am hopeful that there will be change and I think businesses have an opportunity to champion that, to make sure their recruitment and selection lists include people of all different walks of life and to make sure that each person in their organisation is able to thrive, whatever their background. To look to recruit people who are not just like them.
One of our trustees, Miatta Fahnbulleh, was interviewed by the CBI last Friday and drew out the two prongs of systemic racism – both the prejudice that exists and crucially, the long-standing inequalities there are amongst certain groups in our country. She also raised another of our components – employee representation – which is absolutely key to enable people from different walks of life to make their voice heard. This is why, even with the smallest companies, the Good Business Charter expects organisations to do regular employee satisfaction surveys and feed issues up to senior management so that each voice is heard. This should ensure that an employee isn’t just speaking into an abyss but will be heard and attention given to their issues.
We will go further if we embrace practical steps like these, steps we can all take, to show that we celebrate diversity and we believe in equality.