I recently attended a conference called Supporting BAME Colleagues in the Workplace to further increase my knowledge in this area
In the UK, there are 3.2 million black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees, but many still encounter many barriers at work. These can include:
- Employment pay gap: Black workers get paid 8.3% less than white workers – costing them an average of £1.15 an hour.
- Qualifications pay gap: black workers whose highest qualifications are A-levels earn 10% less than their white peers – missing out on an average £1.20 per hour.
- Type of employment: BAME workers are over a third more likely than white workers to be stuck in temporary or zero-hours’ work.
- Abuse at work: more than a third (37%) of BAME workers have been bullied, abused or singled out at work.
- Effects of racism: TUC polling shows that over half (57%) of BAME women affected by bullying and harassment have suffered mental health problems.
- Gender: When gender is intersected with race, the barriers multiplies.
On arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to meet a diverse audience of attendees, from a range of public sector organisations, and, after a delicious fruit tea and a few biscuits, we were ready to start. The session began with the mantra that nearly all BAME people have been heard from their parents from a young age - that you have to work twice as hard to achieve the same things as your white counterparts and unfortunately, I feel this is still the case today.
The panel of speakers discussed the use of diversity targets in their organisations to drive diversity and inclusion, which I thought was an interesting but controversial approach. As a seasoned recruiter, I don’t believe that targets address the real problem - the barriers to equality, which I feel are due the bias in the hiring process. I feel that only once this is addressed will society witness real change.
Next, we discussed how to use positive action to increase the diversity of talent pools; it will be interesting to see what impact using positive action in processes will have on diversity.
One particular speaker who left a lasting impact was Asif Sadiq, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at the Telegraph. Asif discussed the challenges of diversity and inclusion and the perception held by some staff that positive action initiatives are deigned to take from one group to benefit another. Asif tackled this this misconception head-on by publishing their organisation's diversity statics so that all staff could understand why positive action was being used to level out the playing field.
As the IOPC begins to have discussions about positive action, I can appreciate the possible reluctance of colleagues to embrace positive action. The conference highlighted to me the need to ensure staff understand the reason why positive action was being used, to avoid creating a culture of ‘them’ and ‘us’. Asif believed that positive action should be used to bring disadvantaged groups to the start line, and that people often confuse positive action with positive discrimination.
Asif also discussed the benefits of sponsorship program for diverse talent. He described a sponsor as a senior leader who will actively vouch for you when you are not in the room and who supports your career progression and will open doors for you. Asif felt that diverse talent need sponsorship from someone who will champion the individual and help them to progress further.
Lastly, we discussed the benefit of staff networks to foster inclusion and power the equality agenda. I learned that network chairs are expected to be the voice of truth to those in power, acting as a critical friend to foster inclusion. The importance of holding network chairs to account was also discussed.
Overall, it was a very informative day, and I came away with lots of new insights to share with my team.
Written by Tutu Amoye