Mike Clarke, the National Diversity Manager at theEnvironment Agency(EA) says that equality, diversity and inclusion are not passive issues. You must take an active role. You can’t just expect the community to come to you. You must ask yourself: what are you doing to resonate with that community? What affinity have you established with them?
We’re opening this conversation as October is Black History Month. This annual celebration of the heritage, history and heroes of the African diaspora and beyond is marked annually in the UK. It’s a key opportunity for employers to develop conversations with their teams about how they feel and how they work. Teams within the EA are running events in October, focusing on “embracing difference, including everyone”. The events are celebrations of “life enhancing” work centred on outreach, diversity and inclusion.
Mike says that, ‘’we haven't got as great a representation of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues as we’d like. And so, we are increasing the pace.’’ The team’s current drive is a programme (launched in 2016) called Increase the Pace on Race. Among other things, thishighlights environment sector work opportunities and challenges and facilitating BAME communities. This underlines the EA’s core priorities: RISE - respect, include, support and engage, and helps deliver the EA’s corporate objectives.
“This is the first time we are actually doing a national campaign programme for Black History Month. But that’s really an indicator that we are doing more and can actually start calling it a campaign now,” Mike says. Events over the next few weeks include a BAME Network Conference at their head office in Bristol on 3 October. The theme is “Make A Difference”
A few weeks later (16/17 October) the EA is holding a BAME Personal Skills and Confidence Workshop in Birmingham. This is one of many positive action initiatives for colleagues already in the workforce. Mike says this will be, ‘’geared around BAME colleagues being in the same place, sharing their successes, but also sharing whatever challenges they have, in a safe zone”. They will leave the workshop feeling even more confident about performing to their full potential, and with a range of hints, tips and good practice, an action plan, one or more buddies to help the achieve their action plan, an invitation to have a mentor, and a date in the diary to all meet up again for a follow-up workshop in January
Black History Month celebrations for employers
The last part of the schedule is a session led by the Environment Agency’s Chief Executive, James Bevan, focusing on, “Resonating with BAME Audiences”. Mike explains the important principle is bridging into real communities. ‘’That’s a key thing for us, leaving that footprint now, and being seen in the community.’’ That includes community footprint meetings in local centres, away from regional offices. It’s about opening up dialogue and meeting people where they are. Creating an awareness that leads not just to better environmental outcomes for all, but also to a wider talent pipeline from which to have more talented and diverse candidates for our vacancies, including at apprentice, graduate, and executive positions.
Learn more about the support the Environment Agency provides to their staff, and the opportunities to work with them here. The EA currently employs people across England in diverse teams from scientists through planners and policy advisors. There are opportunities to join their teams at all stages of your career, from apprentices, to graduates, leaders or experts.