5 steps to ensure Black Careers Matter

Nov 1, 2021 | Diversity

Based on the findings in our Black Careers Matter report we are proposing five steps for employers and educators to ensure that Black Careers Matter.

Step one: Stand together against racism

Racial justice can’t just be seen as an issue for people from Black heritage backgrounds. Everyone has a role to play:

  • Educate yourselves about the experience of people from Black heritage backgrounds. Black heritage students, candidates, employees and colleagues are not there to act as teachers. It is important to listen to Black voices, but this should be done sensitively, perhaps by approaching representative groups, or running a consultation.
  • Be aware of who is in the room. Notice when there is nobody from a Black heritage background in the room, particularly when you are making decisions about Black candidates or employees.
  • Be prepared to talk about race. Problems do not go away if you never mention them.
  • Be actively anti-racist. Notice racism, inequalities and bias and be prepared to challenge them even if they do not directly affect you.


Step two: Prepare all students for a diverse workplace

The education system has an important role to play in preparing young people for their futures in the workforce:

  • Ensure that everyone learns about a range of cultures. This should also include learning about racism and inequality and how to challenge it. It is important that this is not seen as a ‘Black issue’, but rather as a core competency that everyone needs to be successful in multi-cultural Britain.
  • Address racial injustice as part of career education. It should involve students learning about and experiencing the workplace and having open discussion about racism, bias and inequalities.
  • Build strong links with employers to challenge racial injustice. Employers are central to delivering high quality and impactful career education. They are also well placed to provide diverse role models and engage with young people’s concerns about injustice and unfairness.
  • Provide access to mentoring, internships and placements. Having access to professionals who are already in the workforce offers all students a huge advantage in preparing for their career. It is important that educators and employers think about how these opportunities are distributed and ensure that Black students get access to them.
  • Recognise and address the needs of Black students. Career education should support Black students to prepare for and consider how to confront the challenges that they might experience, e.g. experiencing, reporting and challenging racism and working within largely mono-ethnic workplaces.
  • Attend to its own diversity and representation. There is a need to increase the level of diversity within education and careers services and tackle racial injustice wherever it exists.


Step three: Turn recruitment into a force for equality

The process of recruitment is a key moment when inequalities manifest. However, it also offers a huge opportunity to level the playing field:

  • Take stock of where they are. Gather good data at all stages of recruitment. This needs to be broken down by ethnic groups. It is also important to gather qualitative insights, for example by seeking feedback on the process from Black employees. Also consider the politics of your organisation, where resistance to change will come from and how this can be overcome.
  • Avoid exacerbating existing inequalities in recruitment. Employers should try not to exacerbate inequalities by relying on judgments made about candidates earlier in their life. For example, judge candidates on their strengths rather than education performance.
  • Go where Black candidates are. Rethink your targeting strategy to focus on institutions, areas and subjects where you will find diversity.
  • Build a strong relationship with educators and career services. The professionals have good insights about how students are thinking and what is the best approach to targeting them.
  • Build a pipeline. Actively reaching out to schools, colleges and universities with diverse cohorts and then offering dedicated opportunities for Black heritage students helps to build a pipeline that will make long term recruitment easier.
  • Recruit for potential. It is important to challenge your assumptions about what a good hire looks like and focus on the recognition of potential. Consider a ‘contextualised recruitment’ approach that formally recognises different backgrounds.
  • Make sure people from Black heritage backgrounds are involved in the recruitment process. The people designing, delivering and making decisions within your recruitment process should be as diverse as the candidates you hope to recruit.


Step four: Maximise the potential of hires from Black heritage backgrounds

It is not enough to try and recruit Black students to join your organisation, it is also important to attend to the experience that they have once they are hired:

  • Create a positive culture. This is about ensuring that you have appropriate policies in place and making sure they are successfully implemented. Where problems emerge and you identify racism, bias and other issues, these need to be dealt with quickly and robustly.
  • Provide role models, access to sponsorship and mentoring and create support networks. Help Black staff forge connections with White staff by providing opportunities for affinity groups and networks.
  • Regularly monitor the progress made. Identifying problems in performance, satisfaction, progression and retention.
  • Keep striving to improve. Real organisational change takes time and so it is important that organisations commit to this for the long term. This means mainstreaming activities around racial justice and diversity into the organisation’s ordinary operations.


Step five: Transform your organisation and influence the world around you

Many of the problems that we encounter when preparing students for employment, recruiting them and employing them during their early career have their roots in large societal problems. There is a need to think bigger and to consider how our organisations and wider society also need to change:

  • Think over the long-term and across the whole organisation – starting at the top. Organisations need to work to ensure Black representation at all levels include the C-suite and the Board. Many Black students will be looking for these real commitments as a way of judging the culture of an organisation and its commitment to diversity.
  • Develop KPIs and hold yourself to account. You should have a clear idea what success looks like and a process for measuring and reporting on it.
  • Expect diversity from your suppliers and partners. It is reasonable to expect high standards from your partners and suppliers. In some cases it may be appropriate to write this expectation into procurement processes to ensure that you are working with organisations that share your commitment.
  • Advocate for racial justice. Make your commitment to racial justice public, talk about it with your partners, customers, trade bodies and with government. The more voices that are raised in favour of diversity and against division the more likely there is to be real and lasting change.

This is an excerpt from ISE’s Black Careers Matter report

Read more Black Careers Matter data, advice and case studies

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