October is Black History Month in the UK. The month recognises the contributions that people from African and Caribbean backgrounds have made to this country over hundreds if not thousands of years.
Continually learning from the past and improving what and how we do it is part of our DNA; and, it’s no different when it comes to talking together about and identifying what we can do differently on taboo subjects such as race.
Co-mentoring; learning from each other
Following the George Floyd murder and Black Lives Matter protests, the BPDTS RACE 4WARD network pioneered a co-mentoring programme to pair members of the Executive Team with colleagues from the BME community. The initiative, part of a broader support and intervention package to promote equity and equality, aims to encourage mutually beneficial mentoring relationships.
In today's post, we hear from several co-mentoring participants as they discuss the benefits of the programme and what it means to them.
Marcellina and Loveday
Marcellina Boyle, Digital Service Practice Manager and Senior Business Analyst, supports BPDTS’s Women in Digital programme. Marcellina is paired with BPDTS CEO, Loveday Ryder. In a candid video interview, Marcellina and Loveday share their co-mentoring experience.
Shamsu and Mal
Shamsu Subhan, a Senior Business Analyst and member of the RACE 4WARD network is matched with Mal Singh, BPDTS Chief Finance Officer.
"When the co-mentoring started, I was matched with Mal Singh from the ET. It was the height of the George Floyd protests, and I thought, 'great, another tick box exercise.'
Since Mal has been my co-mentor, I'm retracting my initial reaction. The last few months have been surprisingly refreshing and have helped me from a career standpoint. It started with an informal discussion, understanding what makes us both tick, personally and professionally. It's a conversation we don't often have with an ET member, and it was uplifting to hear the commonalities and the differences I can take from the experience.
After we ironed out the formalities and small talk, we got down to business; what can I do to help? Mal suggested we break down my short to long term goals within the next 5 years and then create a personal development plan (PDP) and map against Senior Civil Servant (SCS) indicators. We then had a plan. Next, we started looking at strengths and weaknesses, aligning them to the longer-term goals. Mal was adamant in reiterating, 'Don't look at the next role, look beyond'.
As our session grew with tangible outputs, it allowed me to think long term, and I've gained valuable advice from someone who has gotten the t-shirt. Our sessions are informal, with the one critical constant: outputs. In each session, I'm given tasks/actions to complete, which I can either present or research in my own time. This exercise allows me to write down what I want, what my goals are, and how I can get there with the networks that are opened up.
Our next session is for me to review Mal's CV and provide constructive criticism; therein lies the benefit of co-mentoring! I have the opportunity to review the CV of our CFO and understand how it's written. And, I can provide feedback so Mal can digest my suggestions, quid pro quo."
Listen and learn on multiple levels
Providing unconscious bias and diversity and inclusion training sessions for employees will help open an understanding and dialogue on cultural diversity, racism and our company's policy and procedures in dealing with racial discrimination to promote equality at work. But training alone can only ever be one small part of the progress that needs to be made to eradicate inequality. It is not enough for individuals ‘not to be racist' and remain passive. We must all be actively 'anti-racist' in our behaviours and in the way we work together.
BPDTS recognises that racism is a difficult subject to raise and discuss. Sometimes the mere act of introducing the topic of racism and acknowledging that it exists in society is a first step towards doing our part to help change things for the better.
At BPDTS, we're listening and learning on multiple levels:
- As individuals, our people are engaging in open and honest dialogue, extending our antennae to be more aware of what's happening around us and how, as individuals, we can take personal responsibility to lead through change.
- Through our communities and networks, we're committed to sponsoring and engaging in initiatives to increase awareness, understanding and engender change. The BPDTS RACE 4WARD network is running Open Dialogue events to provide a safe environment for all colleagues to ask members of the network and other BME colleagues questions to foster engagement and understanding.
- As a company, BPDTS is committed to eradicating inequality now as we've ever been. Our stance is clear; we deplore any kind of racism, other forms of discrimination, bullying, harassment, persecution, or any violence – and we back this up with zero tolerance.
Be an ally
We want to create a workplace where people can be themselves, thrive, and celebrate their differences. At BPDTS, we want everyone to be authentic and true to themselves regardless of their race, religion, colour, gender, age, or any other attribute they have. Diversity helps to deliver better services and makes us a better employer.
Across our BPDTS communities, we’ve created ally cards highlighting tips and pointers on how to support our colleagues as allies. The cards include examples of how people can provide support as an ally, challenging behaviour, offering someone support, using inclusive language in your meetings, recognising differences, and adapting your approach to someone.
We’d like to hear what your organisation is doing; use the comments field to share the programmes and initiatives you’ve put in place.