Looking up

The US Election is still rumbling on but for many of us there has been an acknowledgement that Biden/Harris have been successful and are the President and Vice President elect.

There is something incredibly important to me about looking up in an organisation, community or country and seeing yourself in those people in leadership positions. It gives me confidence that I have a valid stake and tells me that it is possible for me to succeed.

My daughter is now a big fan of Kamala Harris. She’s a pretty confident young lady anyway but seeing Harris win office has made her believe that anything is possible for her. I remember feeling something similar when Obama was elected President, and the reason for this inner glow was brought into sharp focus by the stark reality of the latest meme trend:

How it started / How it’s going

But though positive, that is really a story of two high profile successes and it is all happening thousands of miles away ‘over the pond’ . Here in the UK, there is a worrying lack of People of Colour in senior positions. This is something brought to life by the excellent Colour of Power Index produced by Green Park. As you scroll down through this list it very quickly and very visually illustrates the scale of challenge we face as a society if we are to redress this imbalance.

So where do we begin? I see three key steps and the first starts with me and the thousands of other Black and Brown folk doing great work.

  1. We must continue to knock on the door. Whether for senior job roles or positions as Trustees it is crucial that we have confidence in our capabilities and put our hat in the ring. We’ve got to be in it to win it. Let’s shrug off setbacks as things that just weren’t meant to be. Our resilience depends on it. But importantly when we do make it through, it is imperative that we do all we can to support others up the ladder. #POCImpact is doing great work on this and I applaud their efforts.
  2. If you consider yourself an ally there are some great things you can do. Firstly, encourage People of Colour in your networks to go for positions of seniority. Sometimes a nudge from someone else is enough. If a head hunter calls you and asks for recommendations think about the balance of names you are providing. If you are on a panel be mindful of any bias you may bring into the room and challenge yourself and fellow panel members on your choices. I have been on panels where there has been a greater willingness to take a punt on a White candidate than a Black or Brown applicant of the same (or even higher) calibre.
  3. For organisations now is your time! You are freed from the shackles of chasing after leaders with tried and tested experience because no-one has experience of managing an organisation in a post-COVID world. The old merry-go-round of predictable appointments can stop and there is a chance for you to consider a different approach. Actually, one thing we all know is going to be important for organisations as we move past coronavirus is that Equity, Diversity and Inclusion has never been higher on the agenda.

I would love to hear your reflections on this and any examples of brilliant recruitment practice, talent development and targeted mentoring / sponsorship activities that you have seen in the workplace. Who can we learn from? Who should we admire? How can we create a society that gives us our very own Barack and Kamala moments?

This will take some effort from all of us but #ImNotTired.

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