Report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities – Inclusive Employers responds

On March 31 2021, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities published its report. We had hoped the report would call for some much-needed change in support of eliminating institutional, structural, and systemic bias faced by people of colour.

Unfortunately, the report fell short of our hopes. It focuses on a narrow view of the research which highlighted areas where things are going well. While it's important to call out what is going well so that we can celebrate and learn from it, this narrow focus has led to a set of findings which do not reflection the lived experience of many people in Britain today.

Supporting your employees

This report, and the fall out on traditional and social media could be very triggering for people of colour. Check in with your Black and Brown colleagues and offer support if it’s wanted. Remember, we all respond differently. Don’t take it personally if a colleague doesn’t want to speak to you. It’s not about you, it’s about being an ally to others.

Check in with your ethnic diversity networks and ask if they need support. Listening circles are a good way to hear views while giving people the safety of a group for support.

Supporting workplace conversations

The report could be very divisive, further dividing opinions on race and racism in the UK. The findings will support the assumptions of some, whilst failing to represent the lived experiences of others.

It can be helpful to get ahead and put out a statement to employees which shows your support to:

  • seek fairness and equity;
  • recognise the real lived experience of the wide range of ethnicities, and;
  • clarifies your expectations in how employees respectfully share views and seek to learn from each other on such matters.

Many organisations have already given their views externally. They have used social media platforms to show where they stand on racism and confirm their intentions.

Being an ally to your colleagues and friends of colour

Unfortunately the report has come across as minimising the experiences of racism that many people face here in the UK. As colleagues and friends of minority communities, it is important to ensure that we create safe and supportive environments and maintain the highest level of respect and dignity.

Allies can make a conscious effort to check in with colleagues and friends. Whilst allyship is important, we also encourage you to give space to individuals and respect their right and privacy. Many people of colour may not want to share their experiences as it can be traumatic to relive. However, good allies can create opportunities for individuals to feel safe. They can remind colleagues that they have a voice which people are ready to listen to – if and when they decide to share it. Allies can remind people that their experience will be heard and not belittled.

There are other ways to be an ally:

  • You can be a visible ally by sharing your views, or;
  • Use this opportunity to improve your racial literacy and increase your knowledge, by reading or engaging with different resources.

Unconscious bias training isn’t making a difference…

The report called out, once again, that unconscious bias training isn’t improving the situation. We agree that any training done in isolation is unlikely to deliver the change we need to see. It needs to be part of a more rounded plan of activities to improve inclusion. At Inclusive Employers, we are delivering behavioural change programmes to support awareness of bias, as well as creating the conditions needed to drive real behavioural change.

The report called out four aims:

1. To build trust between different communities and the institutions that serve them.

We agree that greater trust can be an enabler to greater inclusion. This must also come with greater awareness of inequalities and commitment to overcoming them.

2. To promote greater fairness to improve opportunities and outcomes for individuals and communities.

Fairness is critical. To reach fairness it is necessary to understand why fairness has not been the reality for many people of colour, and work to resolve the underlying causes.

3. To create agency so individuals can take greater control of the decisions that impact their lives.

Greater agency and control of decisions impacting our lives is important. We welcome this but encourage those involved to fully explore the blockers to greater agency. You must ensure that resolving the blockers forms a meaningful part of the work.

4. To achieve genuine inclusivity to ensure all groups feel a part of UK society.

Genuine inclusivity for all groups in the UK is at the heart of our values at Inclusive Employers.

While there is a lot of work to do to achieve genuine inclusion, it’s critical that we do not downplay the experiences and challenges of Black and Brown people or confuse these with other marginalised groups. The specific challenges of racism and racial bias need clear and targeted efforts and intervention to move towards a genuinely racially inclusive UK society.

We have a range of resources to support your understanding and action on racism and anti-racism. If you are a member of Inclusive Employers please click here to download these resources from the Member’s Area.