Lucie Jones, Executive Paralegal at EIP, has kindly shared with us some of her personal thoughts about how allies can support their colleagues and friends in the BAME community. She makes some wise and powerful points about the need to take an active stance against racial injustice.
It is only by being open about these things, by being prepared to make the first move and also to listen to the responses we elicit, that we can be useful allies. In that spirit, we would welcome other suggestions, from both BAME and non-BAME professionals. Please feel free to contact IP & ME, our networking and support community for BAME professionals and their allies, if you would like to contribute to the discussion or get more involved in their work: email [email protected].
Like all of you I have been horrified by the murder of George Floyd and deeply saddened by the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in our country. In my naivety I had not realised the extent of racial intolerance around us and these recent events succeeded in bursting my “colour-blind” bubble where I wrongly thought everyone had the same opportunities whatever their ethnicity.
Thanks to the amazing work of IP Inclusive, 150 firms and companies have now signed the IP Inclusive Charter and therefore have an equality, diversity and inclusion policy. However many of our BAME colleagues are still victims of racial prejudice, unconscious bias and systemic racism in their everyday life and there is a lot more to be done to improve their trust and confidence.
So I have been wondering whether there is anything that a simple employee like me could do to make it better for them. Somehow I knew that adding a #BlackLivesMatter tag on my social media profile picture and binge-watching David Olusoga’s documentaries on iPlayer were not enough. Therefore I came up with a list of actions that might make a difference, even if small, and I thought it would be useful to share it with like-minded people as the more of us do something the more will be achieved.
Racial prejudice is an extremely complex matter not only tied up with intolerance but also history, politics, media and more. There are lots of good books and useful resources on the internet to find out more. I joined a local “Unity in Diversity” group on social media where members share relevant articles and videos for us to discuss and they also get support when confronted with racism or xenophobia. This has been an enlightening process for me even if I have so much more to learn.
Reach out to our BAME colleagues
Discussing with BAME friends and co-workers is another great way to learn and build a better understanding of the situation. It is also incredibly important to show that we are here to support them and encourage them.
BAME employees are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome: no wonder when there are so few of their representatives at senior levels.
I had the pleasure of attending the “Allies, Advocates, and Supporters” event organised by IP Inclusive back in January 2019. One of the speakers, a director at the UK IPO, was telling us that she did not think she could apply for the role because of her gender and skin colour and thanks to a colleague encouraging her to go for it obtained the job. That made me wonder how many people miss out on opportunities because they wrongly think they would not be considered for the job, and how much impact encouragement from another person can have on someone’s career.
Talk about race and culture
Many people are uncomfortable talking about race, me included. It might be that we are worried about using the wrong language. But if we are honest with ourselves it is also because we find it easier to relate to those who are most like ourselves or who come from similar backgrounds. The less we are able to relate to people around us, the less confident and competent we tend to feel. That makes some of us appear shy and miss out on socialising with colleagues, thereby reducing chances of a promotion.
This also means that some may find it difficult to share their own cultural values and would rather blend in an office culture that is predominantly white British. If we could get out of our comfort zone and have open discussions on cultural differences our lives would all be enriched.
Be aware of our employer’s policy and schemes
We know our employer has a policy on diversity and inclusivity but how many of us have actually looked at it? We should not forget it on an obscure web page but read it, know it and share it. I had a look at EIP’s policy, and realised that I had never really paid attention to it. This part particularly caught my eye: “We do not discriminate on any grounds other than ability to carry out the task, and we encourage our employees to bring their whole selves to the work environment”. So not only are we assured of fair treatment whatever our background is but we are actively welcome to show up in our own diversity.
It is also useful to know what schemes already exist and could be helpful to our BAME colleagues. For example, at EIP we have mental health first aiders and an employee assistance programme that offers counselling sessions.
Hold our employers accountable
Even if we do not hold leadership roles, there is a lot we can do to help our employers stick to their policies. For example we can encourage them to be transparent about their progress on making the company more diverse and inclusive, we can report anything that goes against their efforts, we can request training on unconscious bias, challenge the lack of BAME professionals at senior levels… The list goes on.
Of course, this does not just apply to ethnic minorities: LGBT+ people, women, disabled people and many others can all benefit from these small actions.
We may feel extremely disheartened to see the extent of racial prejudice and systemic racism in our society today but the worst thing we can do is remain defeated and inactive. We have had a massive wake-up call that it is not enough to be “non-racist”. We must stand up with our BAME colleagues and together make this world a better place.
Page published on 16th July 2020
Page last modified on
amazing work, it's so very important and we sadly still have a long way to go, keep us posted on sm what bairns next in your organisation.