Have there been real changes in business and/or society as a result of the BLM movement? When we compare instant reactions with longer term change and tangible outcomes, what needs to happen now? What are the priorities and how do we drive this forward? We asked our correspondents…
Garth O Dallas is Head of Collaborations at The Good Business Festival
Even though the BLM movement has been around since 2013, the recent killing of George Floyd on May 25 2020 heralded a new dimension in the global awareness of the movement, certainly in the UK. In that context I believe it is too early to make a judgement on ‘real’ changes. That said, there have been some encouraging signs from businesses of their intention to make changes.
But in the UK, only one CEO of a FTSE 100 company is Black; Arnold Wayne Donald, CEO of Carnival PLC. 37% of FTSE 100 companies have zero non-white members. There’s no quick fix to this as there are many systemic and deep-seated institutional hurdles to topple – a statement about ‘diversity and inclusion’ will not be enough. It is about really engaging with the hard work it takes to deconstruct racist systems that very much exist in the corporate UK.
Making ‘Black Lives Matter’ in business can’t stop at the door, it needs to run through every level of the business. It’s not just about recruiting Black people, it’s treating them equally to their colleagues (including equal pay). We also need to look at internal cultures and how inclusive they are; how biases and microaggression affect promotions and career progression. Additionally, measures should be put in place to prioritise the setup, nurturing and support of Black-owned businesses, providing specific measures like access to finance.
Race equality within corporate UK requires long-term, hard, painstaking work and commitment. It requires commitment to measure the work as well as the impact and this, in turn requires CEO commitment towards an organisational culture of inclusivity.
Adoption of race equality principles, like those in the Race at Work Charter, should be a priority. This should include, for example: appointing an executive sponsor for race; capturing ethnicity data and publicising progress; making it clear that supporting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all staff; taking action that supports ethnic minority career progression and ensuring this culture extends to both supplier and community engagement practices.
The systemic racism in society also flows through business, and it takes a proactive effort to address it. The drive must focus on promoting the benefit to business from ethnic diversity, as a multitude of research has proven that such businesses will perform better. Highlight those businesses that are making real and tangible changes, thus raising their profiles, and their attractiveness to their customers and other stakeholders.
Shazney Spence is MD at EQuanimity Lifestyle and Success Coaching Ltd. She’s also a transformational coach, reiki practitioner and speaker
There has definitely been an increased level of awareness as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement. As a Black business owner, I have been asked to contribute to more webinars, and received more requisitions to provide consultative support. In society, people seem more cognisant of the existence of systemic racism and appear to be seeking to understand ways in which it can be combatted. Targeted days such as Black Pound Day have resulted in more business coming my way. Additionally, online support groups created by Black entrepreneurs for Black-owned businesses have created a sense of community and camaraderie.
Organisations need to have some key measurable strategies in place around inclusion and diversity and not merely pay lip service. Management teams would do well to review the number of Black people employed within their teams at management level and to implement ways to attract the right level of talent from black communities as well as to implement processes to retain them. All members of organisations should have access to mandatory training which educates each team member on the importance of racial equality. Inclusion and diversity should be the core value that runs as a thread throughout the organisation and there should be freedom of expression for all employees to voice their concerns should there be any instances of discrimination.
Priorities should be inclusion and diversity training, mandatory training on how to spot racism within the organisation, a review of in-house policies around race and inclusion and representation of Black employees across every sector of the organisation –especially addressing inequality of positions held by Black employees at senior level.
We can drive this forward by asking organisations what their current modus operandi is to allow gap analysis; providing a directory of organisations that offer inclusion and diversity training; keep BLM trending – not just as a hashtag but as a constant area of focus within business and life and educating children on the importance of the BLM movement.
Dr Kehinde Ross is senior lecturer in biochemistry and cell biology at Liverpool John Moores University
Certainly, there have been some high-profile changes as a result of Black Lives Matters: Alexis Ohanian resigning from the board of Reddit comes to mind. But, on the timescales of social reform, it’s perhaps too soon to expect deep measurable changes to be evident. One thing that is clear is that everyone is more aware of the struggle for a better social contract for Black people, and organisations are making a real effort to support the cause, for instance as showcased by the Liverpool John Moores University BLM website. [https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/microsites/blacklivesmatter]
What should happen now? An honest conversation about what matters. “Show us your teeth mate,” a group of young White lads once said. “It’s the only part of you we can see.” Was I offended? No. Address me by my surname “Ross” instead of my first name “Kehinde”? It is not a micro-aggression.
However, when I read of a 28% attainment gap between Black and white students,1 my heart sinks. This is especially because its reflects many dashed aspirations, seeing that Black students are more likely to engage and participate in their university studies2 and graduate-level employment (as well as post-graduate study) often have a minimum entry requirement of a 2:1 degree or higher. Closing this attainment gap will likely go a long way to improving graduate job prospects, with all the implications for social mobility associated with such opportunities. Schools, community organisations, universities and business leaders need to work together to improve networks between young black people and black professionals, similar to an idea that has been proposed by NESTA to enhance diversity in innovation.3
Education and interaction should be the priorities. The young white man who called me a “nigger” will probably never read Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. But we had a chat, he said something about his girlfriend leaving him for a Black man and apologised. The point is that we need to create a culture that allows open and honest discussions by Black and white people without fear of judgement, one that extends beyond the metropolitan elite to parts of the country where golliwogs are readily available in local shops, recognises that many of the challenges faced by Black communities are more broadly associated with the class struggle and engages disadvantaged and marginalised white communities who certainly do not feel privileged by virtue of being white.
We could do with more high net worth individuals following Stormzy’s example in funding Black students and other underrepresented groups to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at our universities. This should increase the representation of Black people in academia, the professions and public life, help tackle the Diversity–Innovation Paradox in Science4 and provide a larger pool of highly-skilled Black talent to support innovation for business growth.
Paul Amann is principal officer (Employment and Skills) at Liverpool City Region Combined Authority
I’ve seen a lot of window dressing, with a lot of corporate organisations putting on a display of their commitment, often without engagement with actual Black people. I’ve seen a lot more activity by allies who have long been equality positive, which has been heartening. In local government, I’ve seen this rise up the political agenda and ideas sought as to response in a way that engages Black staff. In wider society I’ve seen some reactionary responses with some feeling able to dissemble BLM as an American matter of no relevance to the UK, with ‘oh he was a criminal anyway’, with ‘all lives matter’ etc; each of which need challenging in turn.
Businesses need to not just talk the talk but walk the walk in a meaningful manner. Yes, do some positive action, employ some Black people, but don’t stop there; retain them, develop them, progress them. Deliver social value in a way that is meaningful with the communities, don’t just come out once a year and paint a wall in a community centre, volunteer regularly in communities and support a continuum of engagement with Black communities and your business, including: provide work experience placements, T-level placements, supported internships, paid internships, apprenticeships, and employment opportunities for people from all of our Black communities. Work with local Black communities to hear their concerns and work with them to address them.
A diverse employment base that is reflective of the local Black communities and a diverse customer base that includes local Black communities should be priorities.
Delivering social value – not only through an engagement and employment continuum for Black communities, but also through the power of procurement – will drive this forward. Demand better from your supply chain and ensure there are opportunities for Black businesses.
Ngunan Adamu is a producer/presenter for BBC Radio Merseyside, BBC W2020 and an international multi-platform trainer
I have seen and witnessed a lot of conversation but not as much action as a result of BLM. This has been in the form of more businesses eager to work with Black consultants, Black businesses and listen to Black voices – however, I feel that some of their approaches are not sustainable and at times feels like it’s part of a trend. BLM has highlighted inequality for a lot of marginalised communities, not just the Black community, so it’s important that businesses are able to address all forms of diversity within their organisations. If businesses are serious about BLM we should see serious results by the end of the year
Outcomes come in the form of sustainable impact and goals, not during Black history month or BLM amplified voices – going forward, businesses need to train and continue to train staff. They need to showcase their fight for equality and diversity through the story they tell and that’s from the staff they employ to their social media.
Everyone has priorities that work for their company and organisation. It’s been proven a diverse workforce can increase your profits and longevity, so realistically, priorities need to be around their workforce. That’s not creating a positive action scheme that invites us in, yet can’t retain us due to the culture of the company – it’s about putting the right processes in place to employ Black staff and retain. That means looking at the culture of company from the language they use to how staff are developed and treated.
Collaboration and working with organisations that help companies achieve this, will drive it forward.