Diversity and Inclusion in Industry: Opportunities for BAME Students
In honour of Black History Month, I’m here to keep the conversation going surrounding diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Over recent years, this conversation has gained a lot more attention, but the more people that are talking, the better. People of the BAME community have been provided with less opportunities than those that aren’t of an ethnic minority. For example, in 2015 it was found that only 10% of the workforce were BAME individuals, and only 6% held top management positions (The McGregor Smith Review). Not only does a conversation need to be had, and awareness be raised, but actions need to take place to end this inequality.
I recently had the pleasure of having two guest speakers in a lecture, Ester Jamera and Tregson Davies, who came to discuss with us their experience in the workplace as part of the BAME community and how they had seen it change over time. Ester, a Senior Project Nurse at the NHS, qualified in 2009, and in 2016, surveys identified that ethnic minorities were having a much different experience to others. Ester began to make a change by raising awareness of the issues in her workplace, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing as the challenges had gone unnoticed for so long. After the the pandemic and the death of George Floyd, more people were able to see the reality of the inequalities being faced, and Ester was able to set up a group for black and ethnic minority staff – a safe space where they were able to share their experiences. This was a space where people could be heard, and being in a senior position, allowed Ester to pass these messages on to management to ensure everyone’s needs could be catered for. On top of this, Ester wrote a book about some of the stories she was told, ‘Amplifying Voices, Mending Divides’. Ester described the stories as being ‘difficult and hard to hear’, but with her main goal being to raise awareness for the BAME community, she didn’t back down to the task, instead faced it head on to be the voice for people that were not being heard.
Tregson works for the RBSNatwest bank. He initially began working in insurance, followed by commercial banking and now has the position of Assistant Relationship Director in corporate banking. Tregson had a somewhat similar experience to Ester, when he joined the diversity and inclusion committee, so he too could speak of his experiences being part of the BAME community and also listen to others’ experiences. In doing so, Tregson was able to help the bank understand more about diversity and inclusion and represent everyone that was a customer of the bank, rather than assuming all customers had the same background and didn’t have various needs that were to be catered for. In a business such as corporate banking, representation for all communities is is a necessity, as customers need to have trust in the people that are managing their accounts. An example of one of Tregson’s successes in helping the bank become more diverse was being part of a mentoring scheme where an individual from a minority group is partnered with a senior in the bank, allowing them a pathway into a higher role and the ability to expand their career. Schemes like this are powerful, and are what can assist in the increase of the low percentage of BAME individuals in top management positions, allowing everyone to have equal opportunities.
The moral here, and the message that both Ester and Tregson thought was important, is that anyone, from any background, should converse about equal opportunities for their peers, whether it be in the workplace, in the university or just at home.