Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month, is an annual commemoration that began in the United States. Governments in the United States and Canada have recognised it, and it has also been observed in Ireland and the United Kingdom more recently. It originated as a means to commemorate significant figures and events in the African diaspora history. In the United States and Canada, it is observed in February, whereas in Ireland and the United Kingdom, it is observed in October.
This month is an excellent moment to learn more about the past, present, and future, as well as to consider how we may continue to drive the agenda for positive change.
Business leaders frequently use this time to reflect on how diverse and inclusive their workplaces and policies are. Our aim at bartlett mitchell is to ensure we are on course to do all we can to attract, recruit, develop and retain a diverse team. We also want to continue measuring and monitoring our own demographic so we can identify any underrepresentation, be it at job role, levels of seniority or salary banding (to name three examples) and then work to identify and remove barriers to people from underrepresented groups.
As part of our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in bartlett mitchell, we are encouraging our teams to recognise Black History Month by sharing their own examples of black people throughout history that have made a contribution to the world, or to them personally. It is really important that our team is involved in our activity around diversity – whilst the agenda is led by our D&I Steering Committee, the #bmFamily💜💚 way is to encourage engagement, by keeping the team informed, and perhaps more crucially through their encouraged involvement and by ensuring the team has a voice that can be heard.
This year, Black History Month is focused around the phrase #ProudToBe – our activity includes two things we are proud to be doing.
- We continue our work towards the commitments we have made by signing the Race at Work Charter which include committing to a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and bullying at Board level, having clear ownership of equality issues from all leaders, and managers appointing an executive sponsor for race, collecting ethnicity data and publicising progress and taking action that supports ethnic minority career advancement.
- I am also #ProudToBe involved in a reverse mentoring programme with one of our longest serving Kitchen Porters whom I got to know when we worked together at a contract in Canary Wharf, and I am keen to learn from them to help me better understand life from the perspective of a person of colour. I feel as a white person, indigenous to the UK, I have no real understanding of what life is like as a black person living in the UK. I am hoping that through talking with my colleague in an informal way I can start to understand the prevalence of racism in the UK and how this can affect someone. Gregory Hall, our D&I Lead, will also be undertaking a similar reverse mentoring programme, we feel this is essential in informing us in our approach to tackling the goal of supporting the attraction and advancement of people of colour in our business.
As I mentioned earlier, here in bartlett mitchell we are celebrating our own Black heroes. Floella Benjamin – a favourite of mine from the days when I would watch Playschool, is an strong advocate of the importance of Black History Month – through her work as an actress, presenter, broadcaster and parliamentarian she has continually fought for and defended the need for an agenda that promotes diversity – she believes that “diversity is an important issue…we all need to have an informed understanding about the importance of it to be reflected in every aspect of our society…when diversity is embraced we become culturally richer”.
Floella has recorded a message about the importance of knowing our history and looking to the future – so please take a minute to watch this, I would like to hand you over to Floella for the closing words to this blog: A message from Floella