Lead without fear: tackling racism in our organisations
Author: Aleema Shivji, Executive Director, Impact & Investment at Comic Relief, former CEO at Humanity & Inclusion UK, and member of the Steering Group for Groundbreakers. Twitter @AleemaShivji
A few weeks ago I had the honour of hosting a fantastic panel of female leaders on tackling racism in our sector. Amanda Mukwashi (CEO Christian Aid), Tessy Ojo (CEO Diana Award) and Polly Neate (CEO Shelter) shared their insights with over 100 female UK charity CEOs at a special virtual Groundbreakers UK event. The topic for our event was 'Tackling Racism: making change happen in our Organisations.'
So much was shared – and so openly – that it is only after weeks of reflection I feel ready to write down some thoughts. Our starting point for the event wasn’t about acknowledging there is a problem with racism in our sector. The Home Truths report recently released by Voice4Change and ACEVO, and so many other sources, have set that out already. We know it in our hearts. This event was about coming together to share challenges, ideas and progress in tackling racism in our organisations. Change has to happen at all levels, and it’s not only up to us.
However, as women leaders in our sector we have a key role to play in driving this change – in ourselves, our organisations, our sector, and society.
So, here are some of my key take-aways from the event:
- Understanding matters.
- Educate yourself. Do you understand the lived experiences of your staff? Define your narrative – where do you stand and what change do you seek to make? Find someone to mentor and challenge you.
- Representation matters.
- Place diversity and inclusion at the top of your agenda – right across your volunteers, staff, and Trustees. Collect and use diversity data, review your recruitment practices (are your interview panels diverse?), think about how your workplace embraces different identities and cultures.
- Safe spaces matter.
- Be ready to hear difficult things, be ready to reflect on what you hear, and be ready to act on what you hear. It will be uncomfortable, if it isn’t, you’re not trying hard enough.
- Allies matter.
If you’re not a person of colour yourself, as a leader in your organisation, you are the greatest ally any person of colour in your team can have. Could you set up an allies group that commits to educate themselves (book club?) and take action?
- Power matters.
To create a more equitable and inclusive world, we need to be ready to give up our power and privilege. It’s not about kindness, it is so much more. How can we give voice to others?
- Accountability matters.
It’s not enough to say things will change. Commit to specific actions, provide the resources (financial and otherwise), and put in place mechanisms to regularly review progress. At Groundbreakers, we’ll be hosting a follow-up event in 18 months’ time to hear from our members on what tangible and meaningful action they have taken.
It’s not about quick fixes – it is about meaningful change to dismantle ordinary, systemic and institutional racism.
To do this we need courage. We need to lead without fear.
At the event we committed to host a follow-up event in 18 months’ time to hear from our members on what tangible and meaningful action we have taken.
We’ll be holding this event in January 2022 and we want to hear from you. If you’re interested in sharing your experiences of tackling racism in your organisation (successes and challenges, transformative and incremental), please reach out to me, Aleema Shivji or Susan Daniels, Groundbreakers' Chair.
Aleema Shivji, Executive Director, Impact & Investment at Comic Relief, former CEO at Humanity & Inclusion UK, and member of the Steering Group for Groundbreakers.
Twitter @AleemaShivji @groundbreakeruk
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