October is Black History Month in the UK. Many organisations celebrate it each year, but may have questions about how best to do this – and more importantly, what they should avoid doing.
Race in the workplace
If your organisation acknowledges other days such as Pride Month, Mental Health Week and International Women’s Day, you should include Black History Month in your roster – it continues the dialogue around race and identity in your business.
What to avoid
One key pitfall to avoid is only celebrating black and cultural history by highlighting ethnic food weeks in the canteen, or holding ‘wear your traditional outfit to work day’. This is a very 1980’s approach – not everyone has grown up in, or even visited where their ancestors came from, and there is a lot more to celebrate – not just food and clothes.
Studies are still finding that around 60% of ethnic minority professionals continue to experience racism in the workplace. The CIPD cites that ‘Organisations must step up and help to stamp out prejudice, and build diverse and supportive cultures of respect and fairness to all.’
According to Nuffield College’s Centre for Social Investigation (CSI) British citizens from ethnic minority backgrounds have to send 60% more job applications to get a positive response from employers, when compared to their white counterparts.
The findings suggest an unconscious bias is still prevalent with some employers when they see a ‘Middle Eastern or African sounding name’. Recognising and acknowledging unconscious bias can be challenging, which is why some employers have introduced blind hiring into their recruitment process. Removing identifiable characteristics from the recruitment process allows hiring managers to simply focus on skills, qualifications and ability.
Stamping out racism and discrimination, in whatever form it manifests, should be at the heart of responsible business. It’s up to managers and directors to demonstrate their commitment to diversity, and set the standard of how to eradicate discrimination and bias – both conscious and unconscious.
Management should clearly communicate what won’t be tolerated in the working environment – and highlight the consequences of what will happen if policies are ignored or breached. Businesses should also conduct regular equality and diversity training – as responding to claims of discrimination in the workplace is your responsibility.
Some businesses will even extend their policies beyond the working environment, as we have seen in several recent cases involving comments on social media platforms, most recently as the response to England’s loss at the 2020 Euros.
All too often, people are reluctant to speak out if they have been a victim of racial abuse – and will instead quietly leave the business instead of bringing it to the attention of management. To combat this, management should ensure it is very clear that they want to hear of any grievances, and emphasise they will take the appropriate action once reported. This will encourage staff to feel comfortable enough to speak out and be heard.
Original article here.