Black History Month is an important marker in the company calendar. It helps to encourage conversations around equality and diversity, and ensures your business is contributing towards educating its people about race – and with 60% of Black professionals still reporting racism in the workplace, now is the time to get involved.
What is Black History Month?
Black History Month is an internationally-recognised celebration that takes place every October in the UK. It was first proposed in 1915 – 50 years after the abolishment of US slavery – but was not marked officially in the UK until 1987.
In America, Black History Month is celebrated in February, something to bear in mind if you operate international offices.
This year’s theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity in response to the stereotyped and often negative portrayal of Black families, especially in the media. Organisers want to see fairer representation, so here are some tips on how you, as a business, can play your part.
How can I meaningfully celebrate Black History Month?
- Make it a company-wide celebration
In the spirit of inclusivity, everyone in your organisation should be encouraged to participate in some way. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of Black employees to organise their own recognition, and you shouldn’t assume that they would want to spearhead any planning simply because of their ethnic background. This also prevents other employees from taking the initiative to educate themselves on the achievements, history and continuing issues that face Black people, which is the whole point of this special month.
Activities could include staff forums, diversity training workshops or inviting Black speakers to talk at company-wide events.
- Raise awareness for causes that support Black communities
Using your company’s power to raise awareness of organisations and charities that support Black communities is one way to help establish yourself as an authentic ally. Why not assess if you could be supporting more Black-owned suppliers or organise a fundraiser to help an organisation that specifically fights for equality?
Volunteering is another excellent way to support your local Black community, as well as provide an opportunity for team bonding and further engagement. This also opens the door to form corporate partnerships and create lasting relationships with social projects that could lead to internship or recruitment programmes and help make your impact a year-round one.
- Assess your company’s diversity policy
As well as outward shows of support, it’s important to do the internal work too to ensure your celebrations are truly meaningful.
A diversity policy is a written commitment, laying out the steps leaders and employees alike will take to promote inclusion and tackle discrimination. For Black employees – and those from all marginalised groups, in fact – it sets the standard for your company’s approach and demonstrates that everyone is welcome to bring their authentic selves to work.
Black History Month is the perfect time to assess your policy, gather feedback and make improvements where necessary.
- Take a look at your recruitment procedures
Concerned about the lack of diversity in your workforce? Take the opportunity to examine your current recruitment and interviewing processes to see how you could encourage more Black people and those from other marginalised groups to apply for positions at your business.
According to a survey by Glassdoor, 57% of respondents believe employers could be doing more to increase diversity and inclusion, while 67% of job seekers would consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor when deciding on where to take their talent.
- Pledge to tackle workplace discrimination and mean it!
There’s no point in having a diversity policy if it is not enforced. When an employee comes to you with concerns about racism or bullying, make sure to take it seriously and act. According to a recent study commissioned by the Trade Union Congress, 40% of those who reported a racist incident are ignored.
The best way to tackle workplace discrimination is through education and prevention. By teaching leaders how to recognise the signs of bullying and provide a strategy for dealing with those who are accused, employees will not be complicit to a system of oppression.
Tell Jane can help your teams become more effective allies in the workplace, and beyond, with our training workshops.
Delivered by trainers with lived experience, attendees will have the chance to discuss key historical figures and movements, explore the impact of racism through history, learn how to dismantle persistent bias and stereotypes that continues today and how to bring all this knowledge into the workplace. To find out more, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org.