At Caterer.com and the Totaljobs Group as a whole, we stand together in not just saying we are anti-racist, we are committed to holding each other accountable in supporting the Black community; we are committed to doing better.
In the UK alone, there remains a structural, historical bias against black workers with 14% of the British workforce coming from a BAME background. In a study by experts based at the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, Oxford, it was found that applicants from minority ethnic backgrounds had to send 80% more applications to get a positive response from an employer than a white person of British origin. Last year, the total number of BAME board members, both executive and non-executive, decreased from 9% to 7.4%. This is one small snapshot of a larger problem.
Learning & Understanding
In keeping with our belief that we work with the industry, for the industry and in order to help Caterer.com to learn and make real change, we wanted to start a conversation. We invited The HR Conversationalist herself, the MD of HR Rewired, Shereen Daniels to speak to the CEO of Totaljobs Group, Jon Wilson.
Shereen’s ‘Freedom To Breathe’ interview has already gained a lot of traction online. Shereen said. “Caterer.com felt it was important to help other business leaders understand the depths of the challenges facing Black people in the workplace so they could think about what they could and should do to make changes.”
Shereen’s conversation with Jon Wilson was far ranging and Jon began by asking Shereen what kind of advice she would give employers to enable dialogue with employees on the subject of equity within the workplace. Shereen answer was for employers to educate themselves first.
Shereen advised that we all do our homework. “With the availability of information in the modern age, there’s no excuse. Google is free,” she said. She urged that we avoid sensationalism in the media and concentrate on real live experience, first-hand accounts. “I think people believe that the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly here in the UK, is focused on what we see play out on our television screens,” Shereen said. “People might think that it’s about statues, or the protests going through London,” Shereen believes that’s missing the point.
“Irrespective of whether you cast yourself as pro the movement or not, you need to understand that the real issue that Black Lives Matter is trying to address is the fact that black people are not treated equally.” She asked everybody to remember this.
Shereen believes that for a lot of senior leaders, this process means they may have to ‘unlearn’ a lot of things they’ve been conditioned into thinking for years, including the belief that the UK doesn’t have a race problem. “You might be sitting next to directors who fundamentally think that black people are making mountains out of molehills or think that (black people have) a sense of entitlement, or that they’re worried about losing their position to make way for more black people, and who may resist any attempt you make or as a business to move things forward,” she said.
Despite the huge amount of work that needs to be done, Shereen does believe there’s been a collective awakening. “We’ve been sitting in our conservatories and the windows have been blown off, and we suddenly go, ‘oh, my God, is that what the garden looks like?’” she said.
Shereen also believes that there is a problem in that businesses don’t always understand their influence and making gestures is not enough. “I always say to people, if you’re going to make public statements, do that, but understand that people will probably rip it to shreds. Be honest with yourself and say, ‘Are we willing to do the real work and not just surface level stuff?’ The real work that means you have to commit two, three, four years. The real work that says it will continue long after your tenure. So, if that’s your starting place, put out your statement and be honest.”
Shereen was heartened by her conversation with Jon. “As soon as Jon and l started talking l immediately felt he was here to listen. Not to try and trip me up, or disprove the Black experience. It was his honesty about what he had be learning and unlearning which let me know it was safe to say what l had to say.
“When l talk, it’s with honesty and a level of directness not usually accepted in the business world never mind when talking about race. Not all CEOs are willing to listen or centre the voices of Black people so it meant a lot to have the conversation with Jon,” she said.
If you haven’t yet watched Shereen Daniels conversation with Jon Wilson, we urge you do so. If you have seen it, watch it again.