BLOG: Racial equality in the workplace over the last 12 months
25 May 2021
By Rebecca Burton, Communications Manager and Racial Equality Action Group member
For as long as racial inequality exists in society, we should always be doing something about it and never stop talking about it.
Tuesday 25 May marks one year since the tragic killing of George Floyd in America that had a butterfly effect globally on people’s views of racial equality in all aspects of life. Although it was something that happened outside of the UK and not specific to the housing sector, it was still very relevant to us all. At Network Homes it sparked a conversation which led to the creation of our Racial Equality Action Group (REAG). We continue to work on creating a diverse and inclusive workplace and have discussions with colleagues about racial equality at work.
Following the death of George Floyd, people across the world took part in Black Lives Matter demonstrations and all sectors of society responded in one way or another. It took just one of my colleagues at work to ask, ‘what are we (Network Homes) doing about it?’ which started the conversation with other people in the organisation at our internal discussion forum, Network Thinks. We had open and honest discussions about racial equality and people shared their experiences both within a workplace setting and outside the workplace. The feedback was clear that we need to spend some time focussing on racial equality if we really want to have a diverse and inclusive workplace.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that creating a diverse workplace that is inclusive for everyone was important at Network Homes prior to the events of last year. We already had internal training programmes specifically for people who are under-represented in the workplace, an active LGBTQ+ internal group, held awareness activities for Black History Month, LGBTQ+ month and Women’s Equality Day to name a few, signed up to Leadership 2025 which aims to make the housing sector leadership more diverse and created the 10 point plan for equality, inclusion and diversity which is Network Homes’ commitment to address the issue of inequality through the implementation of practical, time-limited actions and targets. However, the events reminded everyone that there’s always more we can do.
As a woman of Afro-Caribbean heritage and mother to children of Afro-Caribbean heritage, having a diverse and inclusive workplace and society is important to me. I may not have any influence on what happens in the wider society, but I can have influence on what happens in my own workplace. It’s always great when you have a leadership team who understand this and are trying to achieve the same thing. They supported and were adamant that it’s important to address any racial inequalities or anything that influences it in the workplace. Together with colleagues across the business, we setup the Racial Equality Action Group. The group reviews the feedback from internal discussion forums, actions change, promotes racial equality, and ensures Network Homes delivers on the 10 Point Plan.
A few of the changes we’ve achieved at Network Homes since the creation of the Racial Equality Action Group include:
- Being open and frank about racial equality – we’ve kept the conversation going around racial equality and held discussion sessions about it, so people have a platform to talk about racism at work and evaluate how we’re doing at Network Homes.
- Improving recruitment and selection process to tackle racial bias – we now have blind recruitment, therefore when people apply for jobs at Network Homes the recruiting manager only sees the information relevant for the job and not personal information that could identify the person.
- Adopting the Halo Code – we’re make it clear that no black or mixed heritage employee with afro-textured hair should have to change their natural or protective hairstyle to thrive at Network Homes.
- Proactively raising awareness and increasing people’s understanding of issues black people and people of other races experience – we share articles and blogs from colleagues about their experiences so more people are aware of racial concerns and experiences that affect or influence colleagues.
Please take a few minutes to think about racial equality in your workplace.