4 things businesses need to do to create a more inclusive workplace

With more discussion on diversity than ever before, it is important that companies take an active role in driving change forward. Kavita Singh outlines the steps that need to be taken towards an inclusive culture.

Race can be a difficult topic to discuss. Fortunately, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought racial inequality to the fore of the public’s conscience, and the marketing sector is no exception. It has made companies take greater strides to promote inclusivity, and also made companies take a look at their blueprint to see if they’re actively promoting an inclusive culture both internally and externally.

The steps toward progress are possible regardless of where your company stands. If you’re not sure where to start, it begins with the business making these changes.

1. Start with the leadership

Amanda Fone, founder of the BAME2020 diversity programme, says: “The leadership of organisations needs to understand that if it’s got a white board, or a white owner or a white venture capital company behind it, the first point is to know that you will have unconscious bias. And there is no point in arguing about it, all of us have unconscious bias and there is white privilege just by being white.”

Unconscious biases are re-learned stereotypes that are unintentional, deeply ingrained and universal. These can include factors such as gender, race, religion and age – all factors that impact equal opportunity and advancement in the workplace. Studies have shown that women of colour are most impacted by these systemic biases.

If a business is serious about change, it starts with the leadership. It is important to realise that it’s not up to the BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) community within your organisation to incite these actions. It needs to start with the leadership within the company. If your senior management is turning to only the BAME community for solutions, they are only adding to the problem at hand.

While it is certainly okay to get a second opinion, if senior marketers are not making active efforts to educate themselves, this will not only be simply putting a band-aid onto the issue, but it will also most likely cause frustrations internally. Don’t place accountability on others.

Amanda says: “It’s not the responsibility of the BAME community. It’s actually the responsibility of the leadership to become better educators and become more aware of what racism actually looks like and to recognise that they are part of a white privilege themselves.”

So if these diversity initiatives are not being brought up at meetings, make an active effort to continue the conversation and encourage leaders to unite.

2. Educate yourself and your business

Of course, change is only accomplished if everyone is one board, but the brutal truth is that a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about race for several reasons. Some might have never had to talk about it, so they don’t know where to start. Others might feel guilty. And some might be scared of saying a hurtful statement.

Regardless of what those reasons are, marketers need to educate themselves first and foremost, so they can feel comfortable talking about these societal issues. If they don’t make that conscious effort, it will reflect poorly on your company and be seen as an excuse.

At BAME2020 and her recruitment business, Amanda suggests her colleagues read books about white fragility and white privilege so that they can understand the oversensitivity that surrounds race.

Books include White Fragility and Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change. Podcasts include The Diversity Gap, Diversity Deep Dive and Choose Inclusion. Additional resources come from films, webinars, research studies and diversity focused organisations.

Once marketers start educating themselves, they can start to identify any macroaggressions or microaggressions they project onto the BAME community.

For example, for someone with a complex sounding name, people might try to shorten it to a nickname or ignore addressing that person all together. When in actuality, a lot of people would just prefer someone simply being asked how to pronounce their name. In addition, women and men’s ethnic hair can be often criticised or commented on in a way that’s disrespectful.

Amanda says: “If you talk to black men and women about their hair, some don’t particularly like people commenting on the fact that their hair might have different styles and they don’t want to explain it. It’s about being respectful. Unconscious bias presents itself in so many different ways.”

3. Revisit your recruitment process

Unconscious bias in the recruitment process can be addressed in a series of questions.

Where do you put job ads? How do you write job ads? What audience are you writing for? What platforms are you promoting your ads?

Once you have a look at all of these factors, you can identify patterns. That means if you’re simply having white people coming from university applying to your job ads, why is that and how can you change it? It could be the HR team has an unconscious bias they need to address or it could be the language you’re using in your advertisements.

Amanda advises: “So the organisation needs to look at every facet and every process just to strip it back to see why it is there? Why was it put there in the first place? And who is it benefitting and actually, is it fit for purpose?”

Having these questions addressed should simply open the door for more inclusivity.

The interview process can be trickier. Look at who you’re interviewing and what the process entails. Is it a level playing field? A lot of the time during the recruitment process, a senior manager might favour someone similar to themselves without realising it.

In addition, watch your assumptions and judgements that you make about future candidates. Tomasz Dyl, managing director for GottaBe! Marketing, manages an ethnic marketing agency that strives for diversity both internally and with its creative campaigns.

He says: “For example, someone with the name Mohammed, you could assume he’s not from the UK, or that he didn’t go to Oxford University, but for someone with the name James, we would believe that without a doubt. Keeping an open mind makes all the difference.”

Make sure if you are looking to get more diverse candidates, you’re not simply trying to check boxes. Tomasz explains that’s the last thing you would want to do because it undermines the BAME community’s talent. Your recruitment process should still feel organic and these changes should happen naturally over time.

4. Actually make your ‘working culture’ inclusive

If your company is looking for more diversity internally and with its client base, you can’t expect that to happen if you’re not making sure everyone at the company is comfortable.

Amanda says: “What I hear from a lot of white people is ‘Oh, I could never get it right. I try my best but I get it wrong all the time, so it’s best to not bother anymore.’ When actually it’s about people working together. And I think that it’s fine for a white person to say ‘Oh I think I've upset you. I’m sorry, tell me what I did wrong.’”

If you’re experiencing any form of discrimination, what should you do? Amanda says it’s a question about being brave for both parties. While you certainly can go to a mentor, HR or someone on your team, the most important thing is to NOT to do nothing. While you might not want to feel ‘blacklisted’ or isolated from your peers for speaking up, saying something will educate someone of what they did wrong.

At BAME2020’s event Let’s Be Bold, over 100 people showed up to the event to discuss BAME talent in the industry, and three CEOs raved to Amanda about what a revelation it was. They all said sentiments such as:

“We don’t read enough. We don’t have enough questions. Everyone wants to say they’re opening their doors to diversity but they’re not making it very welcoming. We’re welcoming diverse communities into our organisations but we’re not actually doing any work to make them understand how to make them feel welcomed and be a part of our organisation.”

If these are all sentiments that sound like your company, it’s okay to realise you’ve got some work to do. However, before raving about your workplace culture, ask yourself if ‘inclusive’ and ‘diverse’ are words associated with it.

At B2B Marketing, we know we’re not perfect, and we need to keep these things in mind as much as anyone else. If you have any ideas for content to keep this discussion at the fore of our industry, please feel free to drop us a line at: editorial@b2bmarketing.net