Millennial Femme has been on a hiatus for a rebrand and launch which looks and feels amazing & which I hope you enjoy! It also means I haven’t written an article for a while. But you know what, it’s been good to have a reprieve, as things have been tough working in the Equality & Diversity & Inclusion industry.
And I know it’s not just me who is feeling this way. From Instagram to LinkedIn, I’ve witnessed a plethora of individuals who occupy this space talk about how exhausting this journey has become and this is my synopsis on the ‘why’.
As we all understand now, 2020 was a call to action for the rest of the world to understand what issues people of colour have been experiencing for years upon years. George Floyds murder shone a light on the inequity in all avenues of life and particularly the magnitude of institutional and structural systemic racism. In the workplace – opportunities for decent jobs and the lack of leadership positions, decent salaries, housing – or the lack of decent housing, the criminal justice system and how the education system is skewed to a white curriculum etcetera. I mean the list and the statistics to back these assertions go on and on.
However, 2021 is now widely recognised industry wide as a ‘call to action’ and how we are now societally at a crossroads on how we are going to practically shift the dial, fundamentally and tangibly, to ensure equity for ethnically diverse individuals and groups. Because if we are not investing, protecting, recruiting, and promoting ethnically diverse individuals and talent then it is not going to happen effectively, and it certainly won’t happen organically. Crucially, I’ve recognised that this isn’t a movement for myself or for my generation to benefit from. What we are doing is for our kids and our kid’s kids, because it, the journey, is moving at a glacial pace.
Not only is narrative painfully slow, but it has also become abundantly clear that there are several factors hindering real progression. For instance, the irony of the amount of white facing organisations and businesses occupying this space and who are ‘leading from the front’ on this agenda without the real expertise and lived in experience of being a person of colour. In addition to the lack of the lived experience of the struggle, of course, they are leading from the front. Why? Because we know statistically Black and Ethnically Diverse individuals are not given leadership positions or equitable opportunities to progress –in 2021, there still no Black chairmen, chief executive officers or chief financial officers in any of Britain’s 100 largest companies, as represented by the FTSE-100 index.
And I can’t quite get my head around the fact that the white businesses are still taking from one hand and giving it back by another. The fact that the white people in this space are monetising above anyone else on the very back of the very systemic racism construct that they formed part of, is galling. And in my experience, they are more likely to get the gig, because what is more palatable if you are a board comprising of 99% white cis gendered males – hearing that you need to improve or be anti-racist by a white person or delivered via a Black individual? We still must work two or three times as hard to prove our worth comparatively – but isn’t that we are fighting against – the inequity?
And then there is the gaslighting. I like the definition by Wikipedia as ‘Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gas lighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction and disinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs.’
I have witnessed the tears, anger, and exhaustion of some of the strongest Black people and women (in particular) that I know in the industry and I have also personally experienced first-hand gas-lighting that temporarily shook my core.
Delivering anti-racism training, is relentless and we are relentlessly held to account, even though it is acknowledged that we are not the ones who need to do better. To progress the narrative, businesses should be challenging their existing assumptions and stereotypes. However, the onus is still placed firmly at our feet, for example, my Indian colleague, being told several times she is too aggressive, too serious, because the stereotype is Indian women are passive, or for my fellow Black women – too aggressive or not aggressive enough, too Black, too direct and the list goes on. The worst being the unquantifiable reasons e.g., ‘you didn’t quite resonate with everyone’. I witness a lack of real understanding on how to translate theoretical anti-racism into the practical, everyday workplace and these are classic examples of continuing perpetuation.
Then there is the Governments ‘Sewell’ report. Gaslighting at its finest. Jesus wept, I can’t even begin to describe the disappointment and alarm at this report. Even with all the statistics to hand of unequal treatment including the ethnicity pay gap report which clearly highlights the disparities in treatment, Boris has held the UK up as a ‘Beacon to the rest of Europe and the World’. Denying institutionalised racism exists at the pivotal point where Black Lives Matter really started to have a voice in this country, is disingenuous and ultimately dangerous to our communities.
So, the shift is slow and its thwart with issues and sometimes a disappointingly continuing tick box approach. However, despite all of this, I am aware that there is a genuine individual and collective desire from a lot of organisations to get things right. And there are solid examples of those with lived in experience of what it means to be a person of colour in 2021, making real changes with them – for instance Guys and St Thomas’s hospital has recently started working collaboratively with the ‘Five X More campaign’ (#fivexmore) and launched the ‘I am here to listen’ badge project to negate the negatively disproportionate treatment that Black pregnant women experience in the NHS. I am also hugely impressed that many corporates have joined the ‘Black British Network’ as founded by Cephas Williams and supported his ‘letter to Zion’ www.LetterToZion.com to improve the economic advancement of Black and Ethnic Minority groups and individuals.
To change the status quo, its perhaps time to ‘give the space back’ to those with lived in experience or at the very least if you are in an influential position of power using that white privilege to amplify these voices by recruiting, collaborating, investing, supporting, and protecting Black and Ethnically diverse individuals and groups working in this space.
However, despite all the above, I am determined to continue this journey, to show up authentically, grow, educate, lean in, and put myself out there no matter how hard it may seem.
For our kids kids right?