Last month, North Highland’s Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) network in the London office hosted a discussion event titled ‘Let’s Talk About Racism’. The event highlighted the importance of talking about racism in the workplace, manifestations of racism, overcoming individual biases, how individuals can get to enact change and more. Following the event, we connected with the BAME leaders for more details about the group, ways to overcome racism at work, and upcoming events for North Highlanders.
Tell us about the London BAME community.
The London BAME community came as a result from conversations from North Highland’s Black Employee Network (BEN) in the US. While the North Highland London office is in the heart of the city, we realized that the office did not reflect the diversity of the city we live and work in. We wanted to create a community for ethnic minorities to provide support, check in with people and help those individuals starting with North Highland, provide encouragement and more. Last year, we made the decision to change the name to BAME to align with the names of similar ethnic minority groups within other organisations in the UK. Our hope for the BAME community is to create awareness for other colleagues who are interested and want to know more a create a space for people to ask the uncomfortable questions.
Why is it important to discuss racism at work?
Because it’s the elephant in the room. It exists, we know it’s there, but we don’t want to talk about it. We notice it and see it with our colleagues in the minority community. To not address racism in the workplace is to not address your colleagues. To not address your black employees is to not see them. Ignoring the issue is not seeing or investing in the organisation.
What can North Highland and other businesses do to be aware of our own bias?
First, we have to admit that everyone has biases. You need to own and admit that there’s an issue. Once that’s done, you can really educate and help yourself improve. But until you decide that something is wrong and that you want to change, you will continue this cycle. You need to have the conversation, as uncomfortable as it is.
What can individuals do to ensure they are being aware of bias?
Give yourself the opportunity to see people around you. If you’re in the same setting, you will have the same mindset and you won’t know that there is a bias. By exposing yourself to different people and cultures, doing things differently and working in different settings, it reveals your biasness. Until you give yourself that exposure, you won’t know you have a bias. We all have an element of unconscious bias within is. We must be aware that those exist and look for ways to move forward.
How important is it to host discussions like this in the workplace?
It is incredibly important to host these discussions. When you are employed and go to work, you typically spend eight hours a day with your colleagues, Monday through Friday. Your colleagues become your family – some people spend more time at work than with their own families. If you’re in a family setting and you feel like you can’t be yourself, you’ll feel like you don’t belong in that family and that’s a problem. You need to have these discussions to understand other people’s needs, wants and ideas. If you don’t have these conversations, you’re catering to only one side of the family and not the other.
Change can’t happen if these conversations don’t happen. When we have these conversations, we bring a little more light to others. We can truly have an inclusive setting, and the workplace is the best place to have it.
What’s next for London BAME?
We will continue having these discussions. We all have the opportunity to really make change, educate each other and bring awareness. These discussions are open discussions about experiences and understanding.
We have upcoming sessions in the “Let’s Talk About Racism” series discussing privilege, microaggression, unconscious bias and more. We’re looking forward to the next session in August and helping the North Highland community learn and grow.