October marked Black History Month in the UK. Black History Month gives us the opportunity to share, celebrate and understand the stories, achievements and contributions of people from African and Caribbean backgrounds.
I have been thrilled to see so many events and activities taking place at Royal Holloway to mark this important month including the Audience with Baroness Doreen Lawrence OBE, anti-racism campaigner, education advocate and Labour Peer, organised by our active and much valued Black and Global Majority Staff Network. This was a hugely powerful and inspiring event and every question posed by the panel and audience members, which included school-children, provided much scope for reflection and inspiration for action. It was a privilege to hear directly from Baroness Lawrence and I am very grateful to our colleagues for making this happen I was also very excited to read about the Black Literature Timeline, created for the British Library by one of our very own students in Social Work, Gaverne Bennett.
While Black History Month is a time to celebrate unsung heroes and embrace black heritage, it is also a time to fully acknowledge that structural racism is real, and put careful thought into planning, impact and legacy. Black History Month is vital, but it is not enough. This is why we are looking forward, beyond Black History Month, to the work we will be doing to recognise and remove the inequalities experienced by Black and other Global Majority staff and students at the College and actively work towards achieving social justice.
This term, we have established a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Governance structure that sees staff networks, such as the Black and Global Majority Staff Network, having a direct line of influence through to the College EDI Management Committee, which I Chair. Our first meeting of the Committee within the new structure is taking place in December, and will focus on setting priorities around race equality, following a consultation we had with our Black and Global Majority Staff Network.
We still have work to do and we will continue to focus on improving the environment for BGM staff and students. I will share a further update in December, after the EDI Committee meeting.
Building a diversity-confident community
Colleagues can read more here about some of the future plans and current initiatives listed below
In the summer, we ran two pilot ‘Conversations About Race’ facilitated sessions, intended to create spaces for staff and students to engage in meaningful, honest and at times challenging discussions about their experience of race and racism.
It was encouraging to see that colleagues and student participants reported a substantial increase in their confidence to engage in conversations about race, following participation in a session. We will continue to host these sessions in 2022 with trained facilitators at school and professional service level to understand people’s lived experiences within their spaces of work and study and uncover the issues that are at the heart of inequality and racism at the College. These will feed into action-planning processes and help us develop a diversity-confident community that understands and values difference.
We are working with Advance HE on a new anti-racism training package which will become available to students and staff very soon. The course is designed to familiarise our community members with concepts including overt and covert racism and micro aggressions amongst others.
We are strengthening our work around fair recruitment through:
- Embedding an EDI section on fair recruitment in our Recruitment and Selection training which focuses on inclusive job descriptions, affiliation bias and positive action.
- Our EDI Manager is available to provide advice on individual job descriptions and job advertisements as required.
We are acutely aware that more needs to be done to diversify our institution and make it inclusive; and as part of our new governance structure, we have a dedicated recruitment and onboarding strategy working group to strengthen action planning and implementation in this area, including around induction and belonging.
The College’s commitment to supporting staff has been strengthened by an agreement to include EDI workload allocation for key staff working in this area where the impact on their time will be more than termly meeting attendance.
We will continue to offer Mandala to support the career development of Black and Global Majority staff. The programme, which has a strong practical component, is not about ‘fixing internal shortcomings’. We are fully aware that barriers and challenges colleagues face are institutional and cultural. The programme does however explore the strength, resilience and power in participants' personal history and what this means for career development. The course explores participants' authority and presence as a leader and is based on discussions around becoming even more impactful through ‘being you skilfully’.