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Let’s talk ‘ethnic diversity'

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

George Floyd’s passing created an unprecedented media storm pushing the #blacklivesmatter

movement to the forefront of the global agenda. Companies big and small have since been

scrambling to re-evaluate their ethnic diversity policies and how to deliver upon old and new

commitments under the threat of intense public scrutiny and backlash.

We heard firsthand from young black professionals* not just about the issues they face, but also

what practical actions would support them to navigate the workplace.

Where are we going wrong?

With this question on employers’ minds, black candidates are currently:

  • offered fewer jobs and opportunities

  • excluded; when hired they do not feel like a part of the team

  • not heard when raising concerns about challenges in the workplace

  • paid less than their peers and colleagues

  • promoted much less than their peers and colleagues

  • find it challenging to get the right mentors and sponsors

How can employers support black candidates?

We’ve identified the following practical actions:

  • Engage with socially inclusive recruitment agencies and foundations such as The Taylor Bennett Foundation, Creative Access, Aspiring Solicitors, The Bright Network (who recently made headlines for spearheading the UK’s largest virtual careers experience) and the European Social Fund

  • Ask candidates when hiring them what the workplace can do to support a smooth and seamless transition into the new team

  • Intentionally ask candidates how they are getting on in the workplace, what can be improved upon and how they suggest this should be done (when employers show that they genuinely care and value feedback - this can go a long way toward supporting long-term talent retention)

  • Remunerate candidates level with their peers and colleagues. If the employee requires support to reach the desired pay or responsibility bracket, it is important to socialise it as a two-way process to develop a plan of action which proactively helps the individual to meet the salary band expectations

  • Encourage regular mentoring catch-ups with candidates to socialise progress and development, creating flexible, transparent and safe spaces for employers and employees to build mutual trust

  • Allow candidates the option to choose their workplace mentors once they are familiar with the environment and team dynamics to ensure the most optimal match is secured. This is likely to foster trust and transparency when discussing workplace issues.

More than the bottom line...

Companies are expected to be transparent about their Diversity & Inclusion statistics and to highlight intentional efforts to provide equal opportunities. Yet there is always more we can be doing to foster diverse and inclusive work environments.

The productivity benefits of having a diverse team are clear: faster problem-solving, clear decision-

making, boosted profits and higher levels of employee engagement. However, this is not just about

reinforcing the bottom line: it’s about having better cultural insights, diversity of thought, of

approach, of skill and of course, talent. Diverse teams are not only more creative, but also have

better reputations, a global perspective and are happier.

Let’s be smarter and more respectful about how we hire, who we hire and the support provided

once hired. Inclusive and collaborative work spaces make socio-economic sense.

Words by Lucy Mutawe, Taylor Bennett Alumni, Co-Founder and CEO of the Young East African

Aspiring Lawyers Network (YEAAL Network)

*We have avoided using BAME as a catch-all category. While this blog reflects the experience of black candidates, we also understand that it’s important to address the wider issue of ethnic diversity and social inclusion in the workplace. If your experience is different to that highlighted above we would welcome your views to build on this vital conversation further.

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