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Creating true change in the workplace post BLM

Category: BAME, black history month, Discrimination, BAME Inclusion, diversity discrimination, BAME Diversity, Avanade, BAME Network, black women, racism, Black Lives Matter, Bame recruitment, racial

BAME

Laura Hall-Williams is the co-Chair and Founder of Avanade’s BAME network Beyond for Avanade UKI. She works as an OCM Advisory Senior Analyst at Avanade UKI and is based in the London office.

The International human rights movement Black Lives Matter, which campaigns against systemic racism towards black people, has been high on the agenda across the world since the killing of George Floyd. The discussion around race and discrimination has been re-ignited on a global scale, with calls for change on all levels in society. But how can the corporate world drive true, long-term change and equal opportunities for everyone? We asked Avanade’s Laura Hall-Williams for her view.

How do we avoid the discussion around discrimination and racism becoming a flash in the pan and an ‘’Instagram moment’’ only? How do you turn the momentum into long-term, actual change?

To avoid the discussion around discrimination and race fizzling out once the hashtag on social media stops trending, we must ensure conversations continue and are followed up with actions and sustainable change.  

From an organisational standpoint, I think companies need to uphold their values and commitments. One of our core values at Avanade is being an organisation where everyone counts.

For real change to take place, organisations must first accept the fact that societal structures were built to benefit the majority at the expense of the minority. These same ideals often underpin and are reflected in organisational structures therefore companies should review and critically assess internal processes to understand if they are truly fair and inclusive.

I believe all organisations that make a pledge to being diverse and inclusive should have to uphold their commitments. Setting measurable objectives is a good way to monitor progress and to ensure changes are being actioned. This way, we can drive actual change and create a better and more inclusive workplace.

But overall, I think we should all be held accountable for creating a better, safer and more inclusive world as inclusion is everyone’s responsibility.

Some key questions organisations should consider:

  • Are central and core business units made up of diverse teams?
  • Are managers required to attend diversity and unconscious bias training?
  • How are complaints around discrimination handled?

14-15% of the UK tech workforce are from BAME backgrounds, with those of African or Caribbean origin being specifically underrepresented at senior leadership level. Why do you think the number is so low? And what can be done about it?

As Marian Wright Edelman wrote, you can’t be what you can’t see. There are currently not enough black role models in IT. This shortage is at all levels but is most prominent at management level and above. To create a pipeline of future black leaders, organisations need to ensure they are working with diverse partners and are vetting from a diverse pool of candidates when interviewing. A focus should be put on early careers and mid-director to management.

We also know that socioeconomic background plays an important part when choosing a profession; if your parents aren’t working in world of business, you’re less likely to consider it as a career path. But if you see someone who looks like you doing a job, you realise it’s possible as you can associate more easily. It makes it easier to work yourself up in the corporate world if you don’t have additional barriers of not being represented . Ways of opening doors for diverse talent can include reaching out to schools in less privileged areas and expanding entry talent targets outside the traditional ones at universities.

As Founder and Co-chair of Avanade’s BAME network group Beyond, can you tell us how you’re seeing change being driven within the organisation?

We’re working with Avanade’s European Inclusion & Diversity team as well as the HR and Talent Acquisition departments in the UK and have been encouraged to share our thoughts and opinions on how the company’s strategy could work best going forward. Included in this is a response plan to make sure the voices of our BAME colleagues can be . I am also part of a global task force at Avanade which is working to accelerate progress on race and ethnicity parity, spearheaded by our CEO Pam Maynard.

What is Allyship and why it is important within the workplace?

An Ally is someone who isn’t a member of an underrepresented group but who takes action to support that group. As an Ally, you have the ability to drive real change by standing up for what is right and speaking out when you see something wrong.

Allies act as both a support network and champions to drive change within an organisation. To become an effective Ally, you need to be willing to learn about race and discrimination. You should also be open to speaking and listening to your black/BAME friends and colleagues about their thoughts and experiences as this will provide an insight to the lived experiences and encounters of BAME individuals.

Some ways you can show your allyship in the workplace include:

  • Become a member or supporting the initiatives of BAME/Multicultural Networks to learn more your colleagues
  • Hold your peers and managers accountable and report any instances of racism or discrimination
  • Speak out. Silence is not Allyship.

Where do you think the business world will be in 5 years’ time? Many companies, including Avanade, invest in sourcing diverse talent and are putting further strategies in place. What are your hopes these schemes will deliver?

Companies have been talking about I&D for a while and it’s become a bit of a buzzword.

With the response that has been seen following this phase of the Black Lives Matter movement, I think we’ve turned a corner. I’m hopeful that in the next 5 years, we will see more diversity across all levels, but with a particular focus on c-suite level and above. I hope this means that the ethnicity groups that are lacking a seat at the table, will get one.

I also hope unconscious bias and zero tolerance for discrimination is something all managers will have to adhere to going forward, and that companies will honour their commitment to any diversity policies that are put in place today.

About Laura: Laura Hall-Williams is the co-Chair and Founder of Avanade’s BAME network Beyond for Avanade UKI. She works as an OCM Advisory Senior Analyst at Avanade UKI and is based in the London office.

About Avanade: Avanade is the leading provider of innovative digital and cloud services, business solutions and design-led experiences on the Microsoft ecosystem, and the power behind the Accenture Microsoft Business Group.

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