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The killing of George Floyd has awakened us all to the need to address structural racism. For Sri Lankan Tamils in particular, racism is an issue close to our hearts – having left Sri Lanka due to the consequences of racial prejudice, and facing racism in our adopted homes such as the UK, Canada, Australia and so on.
In this article I share my journey in launching globeAll – a multicultural employee network at my organisation - in the context of both a global pandemic and the killing of George Floyd. I give you some tips on how you can pursue racial inclusion at your workplace, and direct you to a useful resource to help you get started on your own racial inclusion journey.
Company, and UK, demographics
The vast majority of employees at my organisation – including our senior leaders - are white men. Due to the regional locations of our major sites we have historically struggled to attract multicultural talent. Up until this year there was no active vehicle in the organisation for engaging and supporting multicultural talent. As disappointing as this is it’s also fairly typical across the UK economy.
Lack of ethnic minority representation in senior leadership is common in the UK. According to Business In The Community only one in 16 people at senior levels in the private and public sector are from an ethnic minority background – despite making up one in eight of the working-age population. Even in the UK’s overall workforce ethnic minorities are under-represented– according to the McGregor-Smith Review only one in 10 people in the UK workforce are from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. Clearly there’s a lot to do at both organisational and national level on multicultural inclusion.
Consulting fellow multicultural employees
I wanted to help my organisation address the lack of multicultural diversity and its causes. So, over the course of 2019, I consulted with multicultural colleagues at various seniorities to establish whether they felt a need for a multicultural employee network: a resource for multicultural employees (ethnic minorities, foreign nationals, white minorities, religious minorities), their allies, managers and leaders in the pursuit of multicultural inclusion. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so I decided to press ahead.
Launching the network
I launched globeAll – my organisation’s multicultural employee network - in March 2020. As part of the launch I invited a group of multicultural colleagues to a network planning session: where we discussed the key areas they wanted the network to focus on. This has formed globeAll’s three-year business plan. We agreed on four key themes:
- providing safe space for multicultural employees,
- instigating cultural, policy and practice change within the business,
- providing timely and credible communications and
- partnering with relevant external organisations.
Despite the practical challenges posed by the global pandemic I was, and continue to be, excited about pursuing the work of globeAll.
globeAll’s impact so far
The killing of George Floyd on the 25th May 2020 was a real turning point in our organisation on the issue of racial inclusion. Our CEO made an internal statement in June denouncing George Floyd’s killing, and reiterating the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. I’ve met with our CEO twice to discuss multicultural inclusion, hosted a listening session between the chairman of the board and globeAll members, and secured an executive sponsor for the network - who will champion our work at executive level and beyond. Our membership continues to grow, and the scope of our work expands as we move into 2021 – in particular supporting senior leaders in delivering multicultural inclusion in their respective lines of business.
How you can pursue workplace racial inclusion
I encourage everyone in the Tamil community and beyond to pursue racial/multicultural inclusion wherever possible. If you want to create an employee network like globeAll then:
- be clear about who you represent, what you plan to do and how you plan to do it
- don’t be afraid to speak directly to senior leaders – they’re more open to discussing racial inclusion than ever before
- let your passion shine through, and
- get your message in front of as many people as you can.
You may be pleasantly surprised by just how many people want to support you!
Want to learn more?
If you want to learn more about workplace racial inclusion then you can listen to my audio course – How To Build Racial Inclusivity In Your Workplace – on Listenable. It covers everything from unconscious bias and structural racism, to the role of allies, managers and leaders to how to measure racial inclusivity - all in eight bite-sized chapters. Help make your workplace a better place for everyone.
PS: I’d like to thank the Black Lives Matter movement for shifting many people’s thinking towards greater racial inclusion. Many of my members – particularly allies – have joined globeAll precisely because of what they’ve learned from the BLM protests. The success of globeAll this year stems from the work of BLM – please do support them in whatever way you can.
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