Black History Month (BHM) is an annual celebration of the achievements and contributions of Black and People of Colour to European cultures and empires. It is a time to honour these communities’ rich and diverse heritage and inspire future generations. However, as I prepare to lead the BHM events with a council, I feel excitement and profound sadness.
There is sadness for the limited recognition and resources that BHM receives and sorrow for the persistent racism and discrimination that Black and People of Colour face in various aspects of life.
In this article, I will explore the emotional, physical, and financial impact of racism on individuals and society and argue that investing in Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging (DIE&B) is a moral duty and a smart business decision. I will also share some examples of how organisations can take action to promote DIE&B and create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all.
Diversity and belonging are not empty buzzwords; they are lifelines. Racism inflicts profound emotional wounds, corroding an individual’s sense of self-worth and giving birth to self-hate. Racial trauma, born from exposure to racism, leads to hypervigilance, negative thoughts, stress, and cortisol imbalances. Racism casts a long shadow over emotional and mental well-being, but its harm extends far beyond.
Not only does racism affect the mind, but it also exacts a physical toll. It increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, and inflammation, all precursors of chronic illnesses. Tragically, in some cases, racism claims lives.
Moreover, racism restricts access to essential healthcare, housing, and education, undermining physical health. It exposes people to harsh environmental conditions, including pollution, noise, and violence, endangering their safety and well-being.
The Price Tag
In the financial realm, racism takes a heavy toll. The Runnymede Trust reveals that people of colour in the UK are twice as likely to experience deep poverty as white individuals. Discrimination against Black and people of colour workers costs £2.6 billion annually, with white counterparts earning significantly more per week despite similar qualifications. Shockingly, discriminatory pay practices drain £127 billion from the UK economy yearly. Yet the same report revealed that the top 25% of organisations in terms of diversity were 12 percentage points more likely to surpass the national average turnover per capita compared to the least diverse employers.
So, something is amiss when the media criticise the Bank of England [BoE] for investing approximately £650,000 in diversity roles to transform itself into a more welcoming and profitable business.
Racism is a multifaceted challenge demanding collective action and systemic reform. The BoE’s investment is a critical step because, for organisations to be truly fit for business, they must wholeheartedly invest in Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging (DIE&B). Mere lip service will not suffice; it requires unwavering commitment and financial backing. Racism, in essence, poisons its creators first, and the antidote is DIE&B.
This imperative for investment and commitment extends beyond paper policy. According to a report by Hays, 57% of UK employers have implemented a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) strategy, with 40% having dedicated DEI leaders or teams. While this is a start, it falls short of the transformational change required.
The Need for Executive Leadership
One aspect that remains to be seen from the Hays report is how many of the 40% have dedicated executive directors heading the team. It is crucial to appoint directors with executive powers to lead on anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion because they can significantly influence an organisation’s culture, policies, and practices. These directors can also advocate for and allocate resources and support to initiatives that promote equity and justice for all employees and stakeholders. By appointing directors with executive powers, an organisation demonstrates its commitment to creating a more inclusive and respectful work environment and ensures effective leadership in this critical area.
Proctor and Gamble [P&G] have a Chief Equality & Inclusion Officer. And P&G has made notable strides in DIE&B, particularly in areas like gender and racial equity. Their initiatives have improved their diversity statistics and have been associated with a more inclusive company culture and higher employee engagement.
IBM is known for its long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. They’ve implemented programmes to promote gender diversity, racial equity, and disability inclusion. IBM has positively impacted innovation, with diverse teams leading to a wider range of ideas and solutions. The company also reports higher retention rates among employees engaged in diversity and inclusion programmes.
In conclusion, combating racism and promoting Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging (DIE&B) requires collective action and systemic change. DIE&B is essential to creating organisations that reflect our diverse society. Racism affects us all emotionally, physically, and financially, making it a moral and economic issue.
Investing in DIE&B is both the right and smart choice, fostering innovation, productivity, and growth. We need collective action, systemic change, and organisations allocating sufficient budgets for this crucial work to achieve this. Together, we can rise above the poison of racism, forging a fairer, more inclusive future.
RozEtwaria is a multi-faceted professional, serving as an organisational culture designer, wellness practitioner, executive coach, and leadership team developer. Explore our comprehensive development services.