Removing Barriers and Bias for Black Women – Essential Actions for Employers
- Monday, March 7, 2022
- Posted By The Growth Company
The Centre for Community Organizations (COCO) outlined the typical experience that Women of Colour have in the workplace.
On the surface, employers want to seem inclusive – but in fact, they’re often reluctant to do the work necessary to make their organisation inclusive, or simply don’t know how to implement the changes required.
Our panel discussed how organisations can #BreakTheBias and foster a diverse and inclusive workplace culture where Black women can thrive, progress and be heard.
Sandra Smith, Director of Learning and Founder at Focus Lane Books, said: “Employers need to make you feel that there is a safe place where a Black woman can go to. There needs to be that safe haven where they can speak to you, because we do have a uniqueness and have unique concerns. It’s about feeling respected, valued and that something we’re saying (or the advice that we’re giving you) needs to be acted on.
Fiona Miller, Justice Service Hub Manager at the Growth Company, agreed that it’s crucial for employers to show respect. She said: “The bare minimum to me is to demonstrate a high level of respect for a Black person. I think that bare minimum will take an individual a long way, but unfortunately that’s difficult for some people to conceptualise, never mind implement in their day-to-day actions. Empowering a Black woman in the workplace isn’t a major thing to do because I believe we’re actually already empowered, we just need that level of respect demonstrated when we’re in your organisation so we can excel, do good for the organisation and do good for the people we’re actually serving.”
Unconscious bias is a term used to describe associations that we hold, without having any conscious awareness of them and training courses are offered to reduce the risk of this influencing decision making during the hiring process.
Laolu Dada, Chief Operating Officer at Black Codher and part of the founding team of Niyo Enterprise, works closely with employers to hold them accountable to any unconscious bias that Black women experience. “In my observation a lot of the time it is unconscious bias - these rose-tinted glasses employers are wearing - and they’re using this to mark against black women when they’re applying for roles or working in an organisation. It’s so detrimental because the women then begin to internalise this”, Laolu said.
The starting block of being able to implement positive change is understanding your organisation’s data. Sharon said: “Look at who is in your organisation and where they sit in the organisation. Then go beyond that, and understand what is their experience within the organisation? To what extent do they feel included? Do they feel valued? Do they feel as though they belong? To what extent do they feel that the opportunities for career progression are just as available to them as they are to their white counterparts? See what the data is telling you about your current state of affairs, because unless you do, you won’t know what you’re addressing. You also need to respond to that. There’s no point gathering the data and then doing nothing with it. Put in place formal organisational structures to address what you’ve found - and then measure and monitor the impact.”
Laolu also highlighted the importance of assessing data from the very start of the recruitment process. “What does the average applicant to their organisation look like? How can they expand or change the sorts of funnels they are marketing to in order to attract candidates for these roles? A lot of the time, companies go to the same recruitment agencies with the attitude of finding a 24-year-old white male with an accounting degree. But they’re not looking at these massive online communities of Black women with various skills – really talented people that they can tap into. Talent is so important, and when organisations realise there are different streams they can use to find talent, they will naturally begin to experience diversity.”
There are so many incredible advantages of diversifying your workforce, but did you know that it can directly impact your bottom line? “Google’s ‘I Am Remarkable’ campaign in 2020 actually found that $65 billion is spent yearly replacing people who have been discriminated against, and that’s a massive amount of money”, Laolu added. “When you look at it, organisations exist to make profit, and they need to understand that embracing diversity in their organisation helps their bottom line. A lot of companies don’t see it like that, but it’s beneficial to make sure that those people behind the scenes look like your customers and the people buying from you”.
Jay Bhayani, Solicitor and Managing Director at Bhayani HR & Employment Law, highlights things businesses can implement to make the workplace a diverse and inclusive environment:
This International Women’s Day, we are urging all employers to reflect on their Diversity and Inclusion strategies, and take the necessary steps to create a happier, healthier and more prosperous working environment for talented Black women. Together, we can #BreakTheBias, change the narrative, and start to eradicate some of the distressing challenges which Black women are still facing to this day.