These eight actions can help organisations to ensure their workplaces are diverse and inclusive.
The ICE's Anti-Racism Toolkit is a resource for organisations who want practical advice on how to ensure their workplaces are inclusive and representative.
The following is an excerpt from the toolkit, which gives ideas for how to achieve this goal.
1. Make an action plan
The Association for Black and Ethnic Minority Engineers (AFBE-UK)’s Access A – Action Plan sets out the positive steps any organisations can take.
Leadership is crucial. When the lead comes from the top, buy-in from all employees will follow.
Your action plan should include the following points:
Firm up the company’s stance and policy. This requires visible leadership and a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination. This applies to employees, suppliers, sub-contractors and clients.
Enable people to share experiences including examples of where they stepped in or even suffered.
If managers are actively participating as well, then staff will feel managers care and can be trusted.
Ask staff for their opinions on how to make people feel included.
Establish a baseline – where does the company stand? If a micro-business, this may be relatively easy.
Gather recruitment data, from application to shortlisting, interview and appointment, and break this down to specific ethnic groups, not simply white and ‘other’. Check this against demographics.
Do the same for promotion and retention. Look at using exit interviews to understand how the company is viewed.
You might also:
- Publish your ethnicity pay-gap report alongside the gender pay-gap.
- Use targets to set direction, bearing in mind that under UK law, quotas are illegal, and that targets set at company level must not unlawfully favour an individual.
- Train managers. While blind applications can be useful, at some point there is a face-to-face interview.
- Use the Supply Chain Sustainability School’s short eLearning modules on Race and Intercultural Competence which go further.
- Take a look at the Royal Academy of Engineering’s diversity and inclusion in engineering measurement framework, which has 16 useful measures to set a baseline and drive change.
2. Develop company policy, guidance and materials
Develop company policy, guidance and materials. Circulate these to all new joiners, including this toolkit.
Make available resources to provide context to the history and experiences of marginalised groups.
3. Become an ally
Being an ally is important, but it’s also not a status you should bestow upon yourself.
To be an ally requires working for change and breaking down systemic barriers.
An actor is ‘more like a spectator in a game'. It is performative support which doesn't challenge racism.
We need more than just wearing a T-shirt, liking something on social media or attendance at a demonstration.
Actors have only a minimal impact on change.
An ally is active.
You should not call yourself an ally – that’s for others to decide - but behave as if you are one.
An ally will understand white privilege, recognise institutional racism and work to eradicate it, often in predominantly white environments and contexts.
An ally isn’t a bystander, and will interrupt, and explain why comments, behaviours and systems are unacceptable.
Importantly, being an ally is not an invitation to ‘whitesplain’ things to people of colour.
Accomplices go further.
They realise that individuals are conditioned by and accepting of organisational structures that are systemically racist and do not give up in the face of indifference or opposition.
Their actions will be informed by and may well be directed by people of colour.
Accomplices will be collaborative.
They will not be using their work to seek recognition. They can expect to be diminished in their efforts.
Accomplices will persist even when an event is deemed less newsworthy.
Actions for allies
- Recognise your own privilege. You probably weren’t lucky to get that job – recruitment may have worked in your favour.
- Stand alongside your Black and brown colleagues and support them. Be an active bystander.
- Continue with that support in all-white spaces.
- Challenge discrimination of all types.
- Do your own research. Read. Don’t expect people of colour to educate you on anti-racist strategies.
- Always speak out first if something is wrong. Don’t leave it to the person of colour.
- Listen and support people who confide their concerns.
4. Be an active bystander
When you observe a situation which doesn’t feel right, trust your discomfort.
An active bystander will recognise behaviours which are inappropriate or potentially dangerous and will seek to intervene with others if necessary.
Call out the behaviour and tell the offender to stop. Try to stay low-key and try not to escalate the situation.
Point out why the behaviour is offensive but make it factual – no adjectives, no attributing motives and no emotion. Provide reassurance to the victim.
Step up, and distract the offender so that the victim can remove themselves from the situation.
If you don’t feel confident enough to intervene, call in someone else – a manager at work, a steward at a venue or a train guard for example
When a situation is potentially violent or when it is a group of people posing a threat, try to walk away taking the victim with you.
When the situation has passed, ask the victim later if they are happy for you to report it.
5. Call out aggression and micro-aggressions
Openly racist comments are easily spotted and must be called out.
Micro-aggressions are much harder to call out.
They may seem trivial and easy to ignore, but the cumulative effect of years of disparaging comments is wearing and distressing:
Examples of micro-aggressions
- Where are you from? If you’re white, you’ll rarely have been asked this.
- Your English is really good. This implies that the questioner has a stereotypical view of how someone from a minority ethnic group should speak.
- We need to have a discussion about this. This is often used to deny someone’s lived experience.
- I’m colour blind. I don’t see colour. This denies part of a person’s identity and is a form of gaslighting.
- As a woman/gay man/lesbian, I know what you’re going through. A comment like this has the effect of denying the lived experience of people from ethnic minorities.
How to avoid micro-aggressions
What’s going on at the moment and what’s the context?
Will what I was about to say have negative impact? Is it even necessary?
Don’t become defensive.
Don’t turn yourself into the victim by being hurt.
Don’t attack someone for being too sensitive ‘it was only a joke’.
Do try to understand the point of view of the other person.
If you are feeling sensitive about having been challenged, you probably recognise that the challenge was justified.
Take it on board and adapt. People of colour spend their entire lives adapting.
6. Talking about race - the practicalities
Talking about race can be uncomfortable for minority ethnic employees and white employees.
CIPD’s Tackling racism in the workplace is a comprehensive guide for HR leaders covering all potential questions a company may have.
Creating safe spaces for discussion, such as an employee consultation group, is essential. These can be ‘actual’ or ‘virtual'.
Points to consider
- There should be a clear reason for having a conversation. Change is a reason to start a conversation; enabling a safety valve so staff can let off steam less so.
- Absolute confidentiality must be maintained. If a senior manager attends, they must be trusted to maintain confidentiality/anonymity if consent is given to feeding back concerns.
- Listen to and acknowledge the perspectives of your ethnic minority employees.
- Acknowledge that conversations can be uncomfortable but try to avoid defensive behaviours.
- Consider allowing allies to be part of the groups, by invitation.
- Provide a budget and/or a designated time allocation for an organiser.
- Search out shared understanding. Ask open questions.
- Acknowledge the diverse and different experiences of minority ethnic employees.
7. Use mentoring and training
You may have addressed recruitment, but if your minority ethnic employees leave within a couple of years, ask why.
Use mentoring and buddy schemes. Pair new employees with senior employees from minority ethnic backgrounds to help them develop their careers.
Or match minority ethnic staff with more experienced managers willing to discuss their roles, answer questions and hear about the challenges faced by someone who may feel isolated.
Consider reverse or reciprocal-mentoring schemes, whereby younger ethnic minority employees mentor senior leaders and managers.
When piloting your mentoring scheme, use the experiences of participants to develop and evolve the scheme.
8. Build diversity and inclusion into your performance reviews
Diversity and inclusion targets can be built into performance reviews for board members and line managers.
BITC’s Race At Work Charter One Year On (2019) found that while 50% of respondents’ board and senior teams had performance objectives that included action on race, only 21% of line managers had such objectives.
The high-level objectives may be quantitative and/or qualitative.
When reviewing progress, if there's a difference in performance at different grades, it's also worth checking for structural disparities.
For example, minority ethnic employees disproportionately working in areas where outstanding performance is harder to achieve or measure, being deployed to undertake routine work rather than prestigious projects.
Access the full Anti-Racism Toolkit
The ICE has published a second version of its Anti-Racism Toolkit to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to EDI.
The aim of the toolkit is to offer a voice to the lived experiences of the ICE’s Black and minority ethnic members. It seeks to ensure that civil engineering is an industry that is representative of those who work in it.
It’s no longer enough to be non-racist or not overtly offensive. The ICE calls for the industry to treat racism the same way it treats a health and safety issue – stop and report it.