Centring intersectionality at the heart of your Black History Month objectives

Black History Month UK is a time for us to celebrate and showcase the achievements of the UK’s vibrant Black community. It’s also a time to re-commit to and set fresh goals for inclusion that go beyond the 30 days. When crafting your aims for Black inclusion it’s vital that this is done with intersectionality at its core.

‘Intersectionality’ is a term coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights activist and scholar, describing the double oppression that women of colour, particularly Black women, experience due to the overlap of their marginalised racial and gender identities. Simply put by Crenshaw, intersectionally is ‘how certain aspects of who you are will increase your access to the good things or your exposure to the bad things in life.’

Addressing these challenges requires a multi-dimensional perspective towards social inequalities and discrimination. The International Center for Transitional Justice (IJRC) also defines intersectionality very simply:

Intersectionality is about fighting discrimination within discrimination, protecting minorities within minorities, and tackling inequalities within inequalities.

Therefore, when we talk about diversity, it’s important to view individual identities as they are – inherently diverse. When using Black History Month 2021 as a springboard for initiatives to support your Black employees, it’s important to take age, gender, sexuality, neurodiversity, disabilities and so forth into account to ensure every member of the Black community is included – whether that is through crafting inclusive policies and strategies or when implementing targeted career development initiatives.

The actions leaders take to drive change within their business effects society as a whole. Therefore, it’s vital that we are creating inclusive businesses not just for benefit of increased profits, innovation and belonging within our own four walls, but because these actions can reverberate through society and has the power to positively impact wider Black communities.

Below, we’ve listed some ways that you can drive inclusion for Black employees with intersectionality in mind.

Qualitative and quantitative data

Despite gender pay gap reporting now being mandatory for UK businesses, organisations have no legal requirement to report on other types of diversity data. However, without measuring and tracking all aspects of diversity within their workforce, organisations cannot accurately determine the root of problems that arise and ensure their workplace is fully supporting its employees.

Qualitative data is equally as important as the numbers, and can be obtained via focus groups or listening sessions which facilitate better understanding of minority employees’ lived experiences. INvolve’s RADAR benchmarking tool is one great way to gather this data. Implementing RADAR within your organisation not only gives you a clear starting point to drive change from but also allows your organisation to benefit from tailored inclusion solutions and recommendations.

Data that accounts for multiple demographics, races, genders, sexualities, and so on, will help your organisation to create an accurate and holistic picture of your organisation’s successes and locate areas of improvement to drive Black inclusion.

Bias within the hiring process 

Hiring processes are often riddled with biases and it’s vital that these are eradicated in order for organisations to truly hire the best person for a role.

Organisations looking to hire inclusively should consider the following:

  • Where are you advertising your vacancies? Is your organisation using the same channels and methods of hiring, such as approaching specific graduate pools or networks? If so, this culture-fit method might be a reason why your candidates slates aren’t diverse. Black people historically have not had access to the same opportunities as their white counterparts, thus diversifying your initial hiring methods, for example by using social media, could be crucial to diversifying the face of your organisation.
  • Is your hiring panel diverse? The Diversity Recruiting: Employer Benchmark Report indicates that just one in five companies include team members from underrepresented groups in their hiring process. 63 per cent of employees said this would be a red flag, making them reluctant to accept a job offer from the company.
  • When hiring at senior level, is your senior leadership team reflective of the organisation and society as a whole? It is vital that senior leadership teams are diverse in order to create a top-down inclusive culture across any business. Equally, junior employees are able to see what they could one day be and a lack of Black representation at C-Suite level could be impacting the way your junior Black employees view their progression. Audeliss specialise in levelling the playing field for businesses and ensuring that every candidate has a fair chance at success. By working with us, you are creating an organisation that is diverse and inclusive; and therefore setting it up for the future.

Talent development programs

Organisations must invest in their talent, however, a one-size-fits all program or career development opportunity is not beneficial for everyone. By employing intersectionality when developing and implementing programs for your Black talent, their individual and unique needs will be met, thus they will be able to excel. For instance, INvolve’s Emerging Leaders Program is an intensive modular development program for LGBT+, Women and ethnically diverse talent that supports them in harnessing their own existing abilities and leveraging these to succeed within the workplace.

Larger organisations are beginning to recognise the role they play in social and cultural change. Rather than simply recruiting diverse talent, some companies, such as Sky and Mastercard, are starting to offer training and placements for young people of minority backgrounds to ensure equal opportunities from the earliest stages of their careers. This provides a chance to get involved with real, live briefs and gives the company a fresh perspective.

Recognise the influence of role models

Role models must be positioned at all levels of a business, providing inspiration, guidance and proof that progression is possible. Those in more senior positions have the ability to amplify the voices of other women, elevating their concerns and challenging others’ perspectives in the boardroom. In turn, when employees are able to see thriving executives that reflect their own personal lived experiences, it can go a long way in promoting diversity within the business.

Mentoring

Mentors, whether formal or informal, can encourage ethnically diverse employees to champion their abilities, build their self-esteem and identity pathways for progression. When a mentee can see their experiences mirrored in their mentor’s own, their self-confidence rises – even more so when the two work for the same organisation.

Those in positions of power may default to mentoring someone with similar lived experiences to them, known as affinity bias, which can lead to diverse employees missing out on mentoring opportunities. Equally, the lack of diverse mentors at senior levels of businesses can impact progression for mentees looking for someone that they feel more comfortable discussing uncomfortable realities with.

Mentoring programs are also an excellent way of nurturing talent internally and strengthening the company’s pipeline of future leaders. INvolve’s global cross-industry program is a fantastic way for employers to support the career development of their high-potential diverse talent by pairing them with a mentor that can guide their career and leverage their networks to drive career progression.

If businesses are to achieve genuine diversity which reflects the thriving communities that they operate in, we must not only embrace the many ways in which we are all unique from each other, but actively work towards overcoming the invisible challenges that so many silently face each day.