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Understand the discrimination faced by black and minority people, support, gain information and take action. You can't be an Ally unless you understand the problem.

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By Anna Soussis

Since Justice Ginsburg’s passing last week, much has been written about her extraordinary lifetime achievements - her fight for gender equality and women’s rights. There have been international tributes to her from different colours, creeds and across the generational divide. She has been described as a pioneer, trailblazer, icon.

All this is true.

What I find most inspiring about RBG was her approach to adversity. The legal profession in 1950s America was a man’s world. Despite graduating from Cornell first in her class, no law firm would employ her as she was a woman. In the 1960s she was rejected from a clerkship at the Supreme Court due to her gender.

Despite her remarkable ability, the odds were pitted against her. In a sense, it would have been understandable if she became cynical, embittered or even opted out.

Instead she persevered. She found a ‘way’ – a different way. She pursued a career in academia, founded the Women’s Rights Project, took on private gender discrimination cases, building on each successive victory.

RBG famously said So often in lifethings that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” Rather than accept defeat, she used her setbacks to reassess, reposition herself and pursue a different course. For me, there lies her great strength. She recognised that she could not immediately change the external environment or the prevailing views of the time but she could choose how she responded to them.

This option is available to all of us. It’s not easy. It takes practice. It has become my mantra for the week.

In uncertain times such as these, recognising that we have this power is all the more important. It would be easy to become demoralised with economic uncertainty, ever-changing government stances on the pandemic and the competitive job market. Yet, instead of becoming paralyzed, apprehensive, reluctant to act, I see on Linkedin fellow members creatively reinventing themselves – as authors, podcasters, volunteers, keynote speakers, campaigners.

This is inspiring.

These strange times offer us options and opportunities. Time itself is a gift. We can reflect and reassess the things that are important to us. Remind ourselves of the things we enjoy. Come to think of it, never before would I have found the time to write this article. And for me, this is ‘good fortune.’

By Claire Coulter - Recruitment & EVP Manager St James's Place Wealth Management

I have been feeling pretty rubbish about things lately. First there was lockdown, then the murder of George Floyd, and then as the weeks passed a realisation that my head had been buried in the sand on the issue of race relations in the UK for some time. Having studied American history alongside gender, race and identity at University I am left wondering how I drifted here over the past 20 years. And here I am.

The turning point for me wasn’t the video of George Floyd being murdered (I couldn’t watch until much later) but listening to Clara Amfo’s heart-breaking reaction. For the first time, in a long time, tears poured. I held my youngest later that night and the tears came down again.

Speaking on her Radio One show, Amfo said the events in Minneapolis had reinforced a feeling among black people "that people want our culture, but they do not want us". She added: "In other words, you want my talent, but you don't want me.” An undeniable truth about white people’s fascination and appropriation of black art.

In my mind I have always been a good friend, ally, colleague. Recent events and an insatiable appetite for some of the amazing books out there regarding race, and racism in the UK have made me question, am I?

When a friend experienced racism at a café around 4 years ago my head was so buried in the sand rather than listen I ashamedly asked, “are you sure?” I saw our world through the lens of us both being new mothers and was convinced this man’s reaction was down to his irritation with my crying baby. She saw the world through her own lived experience. I now know to never ask “are you sure?” ever again.

Since the outpouring of support for black lives matter, I have found myself drawn to some of the black voices out there making a stand. Specifically, the black female voice. In a world of stylised content, and contrived communication, much of the dialogue coming out of this community I have plugged into is unapologetic, brave and authentic. I have become addicted to my LinkedIn feed – keenly waiting to see if one of these contacts has uploaded a new video blog or shared some new research findings. Despite the difficult topics I have felt genuine joy, experienced a lot of laughter. I have “been brought in”, to be made to feel uncomfortable but also to be entertained. It’s a powerful combination.

Is this the same fascination Amfo speaks of? I have considered this and realised I am craving an authentic connection – the cutting through of falseness in the quest for the truth. I am now more aware of white fragility and how it operates. It attacks to shut down conversations. I cannot tell you how ashamed I have been of some of the comments I have read to the simple statement “Black lives matter.” I have had sleepless nights and I have felt real anger.

I am learning about my white privilege and all the systems that are stacked in my favour. I hope better late than never to put into action how I can level that privilege on behalf of others. I have also learnt that whilst my intentions will have never been to make anyone feel uncomfortable, unheard, invisible, I now am aware of impact. By reading, learning about black British history, listening to others, opening up where I get my news sources from, I am starting to find the words to talk about racism. I am more conscious than ever about whiteness and its over representation. I will not always get it right, but I will hopefully find the words, so I start to get it right more often and become a better ally.

What HR can learn - By an HR Director in Tech (Anonymous)

It's been a momentous few weeks. All the recent social unrest has collided with Covid-19, toxic political climates and economic turmoil.

The focus of this is the events following the murder of George Floyd.

So, what's it all about?

And what should HR do about it?

The initial reactions of some in the HR community here in the UK to the events following the murder of George Floyd was "well...it's a US problem". 

Because the political climate in the US is so toxic, isn't it? And the national obsession with guns creates an underlying tension between any police/public interaction, doesn't it? And the 18,000+ police departments in the US are more like heavily-armed militias, aren't they? 

So it's not quite the same as in the UK, is it?

Well, yes, that may well be the case.

But it does miss the bigger picture. 

Allow me to expand...

My employer is a US-HQ'd technology company, and my role is to lead HR across the non-US territories across EMEA and APAC. 

What's happened in our company?

First of all, our CEO was quick to publish a passionate blog around the importance of equality, inclusion, justice and support for the BLM movement. My reaction to this was one of surprise that he had done this, tempered by pride that he was prepared to give a damn and "put it out there". The fact that he is not white (indeed, he is a first-generation immigrant into the US) meant he was speaking from the heart and there was no question of this being a PR stunt.

Second, there have been a LOT of conversations, initially amongst our US colleagues, but increasingly across our non-US offices too. Some of these have been emotional, with a lot of soul-searching, which in turn has prompted reflections at a company and individual level of "what can we do about this".

Third, our company's black network arranged an all-hands webinar last week and during this call they talked about the concept of "allyship". They encouraged all of us to:

1. Educate ourselves about the background to BLM. It's been developing over generations.

2. Recognize that there is a problem. 

3. Talk about it. Discuss it with our black or mixed race colleagues and friends. Learn. Question. Listen. Empathize. 

4. Be prepared to be uncomfortable. It's not an every-day, easy, conversation to have. Our thinking will be challenged. Our comparative privilege may be brought to the fore.

5. Don't worry if we don't have the answers. There aren't any ready answers. 

6. That said, recognize that we can make a difference. Don't just be quietly uncomfortable with any racism that you witness. Call it out. 

What can we, as experienced HR practitioners, learn?

I am sure most of us have always viewed ourselves as socially aware, in our roles most of us will have played some part in advancing the cause of diversity and inclusion for the various employers we have worked for. 

The bigger picture piece is to move from just being "socially aware", with a strong sense of right and wrong, to actually underpinning this with knowledge, passion and action-orientation. 

We need to educate ourselves on the reasons for disparities within various sections of society.

We need to listen and learn from people who suffer injustices on a daily basis. 

We need to redefine HR's role in all of this.


First, we need to make sure that the workplace is a safe environment that supports our employees who are engaging with this, to the extent that they are comfortable with. From the more vocal, activist-oriented employees, to those who may have strong thoughts about this but are nervous about bringing politics to the workplace, or blurring the personal with the professional. 

Second, we need to understand the current situation. It's important to establish our baseline by understanding the composition of our workforce, and benchmark with other companies and D&I organisations to get a feel for where we would like to end up.

Third, the destination... HR is in a unique position to drive equality in the workplace. "Diversity is reality, inclusion is a choice" has in my view been a great aspirational statement but one that many businesses pay lip-service to. 

It's time to move the inclusion needle from "choice" to "reality". 

So we should ask these questions of our employers:

- Does the culture genuinely value authenticity, and enable people to feel comfortable being their true selves?

- Are all contributions valued, and voices listened to and respected?

- Is diversity and inclusion baked into our value proposition, and reflect how things are genuinely done?

- Does our company's website and social media presence use diverse imagery and talk to equality?

- What programs are in place to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds?

- Do we hold third-party recruitment suppliers to account, in terms of accessing diverse candidates?

- What new channels have we started to use in recent months to access different candidate pools?

- Do we use de-biasing tools to ensure job descriptions, whilst conveying a genuine feel for the role and the company, are neutral?

- Do our hiring processes support the genuine assessment and selection of diverse candidates?

- How many employees from diverse backgrounds are on our executive team? The various leadership teams within our company? In key individual contributor roles?

- Do we have role-models within the business who mentor and guide others?

- What targeted development activities do we provide? 

- Is there transparent criteria for promotions? What proportion of promotions were diverse?

- What steps do we have in place to drive diversity into talent reviews?

- And succession plans?

- Have we looked at any potential pay disparities? What pay are your black employees, female employees, etc. on relative to those white employees doing the same or substantially similar roles? What action will be taken if there is a gap?

- What proportion of people leaving the company are from under-represented groups? Why do they leave? What can we do about that?

I could go on, I hope you get the picture - there's plenty of questions we could all be asking which will provide us with the data to act, to do the right thing.

Finally, make sure we are tuned in to the community that our companies serve, whilst not losing sight of the bigger picture. I work for a global company, and the picture differs significantly from country to country. Taking India as an example, BLM does not resonate at all there, as there is no black community to speak of. LGBTI is gaining momentum now that the Supreme Court recently legalized same-sex relations, but is still 20 years behind Europe and the US. But the bigger picture is that there are plenty of other sections of Indian society who suffer injustice on a daily basis and my challenge to our employees was to be an ally to those who haven't had the same level of privilege that they have had.

So if I had to pull my rambling thoughts together, I would want to leave you with this message:

1. Champion "allyship" within our businesses, and the broader HR community.

2. Engage with the black community. Educate yourself. Learn. Question. Listen. Empathize. And then do something to make a difference.

3. Apply this mindset to other sections of society which have also suffered from systematic prejudice over the years. 


It's the right thing to do.

And if that's not enough for you, I haven't even touched on the proven business benefits that those businesses that genuinely embrace equality realise... That should get your leadership team's attention! 

That's a topic for another blog, but here's some bed-time reading to get you on your way...



That's all for now. Be good, and see you soon.

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