‘Corporate Allyship with the Black Community: From Talk To Action’

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On 15th June 2020, BYP Network held a webinar entitled ‘Corporate Allyship: From Talk To Action’. This event was centred on how those within corporations can be part of the solution in ‘changing the black narrative’ by being informed on what true allyship is. 

This webinar had several notable key speakers such as Simone Marquis, Founder of ‘Get the Antidote’ and ex- BT Group Director of Talent, Leadership and Diversity. Gary Stewart, Co-Founder of ‘The Nest’ and ex-Wayra Managing Director – an accelerator program for start-ups. Oli Holmes, Human Capital and Diversity Specialist at Accenture and Dom Scott, Managing Director at Alexander Hall. These panelists offered a wealth of knowledge from across different industries and experiences which gave the audience a variety of perspectives. 

Kike Oniwinde and Meera Raikundalia, Co-Founders of BYP Network, sharing their stories about what led them to create the BYP Network, with Meera explaining how her being non-black yet working in a black space such as BYP, has given her the agency to be an effective ally. This then led to the first point of discussion: 

What does being an ally mean to us?

Meera described it as being non-black yet willing to educate yourself on black issues and experiences. It means identifying everyday prejudices, understanding cultural biases and unlearning them. It means researching the racial history, advocating for black representation where possible and having those uncomfortable conversations.

Dom Scott described an ally as an individual using their privilege to help the cause and in the corporate space he gave three tiers of people who can be classed as allies:

  1. A junior person who is eager, willing to learn and ask questions
  2. Middle managers – people of influence
  3. Executives, who are able to push individuals to be in better positions. These people can allocate budgets and when used effectively can help to push certain agendas.

Gary Stewart described allies as people with power, who are willing to relinquish this power for social justice, not someone who says they support the black community yet when pushed, will only look out for themselves.

Simone Marquis described being an ally as being willing to step into a role even if it’s uncomfortable. “It’s not something which you can simply tick boxes for, you need to be able to walk the walk”.

Oli Holmes mirrored many of the above opinions and highlighted that people can see through tokenism and it’s not about making small gestures just to make people think you are supporting the cause, it’s about being a consistent advocate for creating change.

When the topic of corporate allyship was brought up, the discussion was directed to:

What does corporate allyship actually mean?

The kind of suggestions brought up were focused on putting investment where it actually counts and stating their wish to be a part of the solution. This is through changing the strategy of the company when it comes to sponsorship, changing recruitment practices, endorsing BAME networks, identifying black leaders in the company and investing time and energy to mentor and push them through the corporate ranks.

Oli Holmes gave a suggestion of companies having formal ally pages and programs and makes the point that everyone in their role can be an ally. Whilst Simone stated “What we could all agree on is that there is no silver bullet approach to being an ally and for those that wish for long term change in their companies need to take the right approaches – such as actively partnering with companies who specialise in implementing diversity in the workplace such as BYP Network. It’s more than simply posting on job boards, it’s upskilling and showcasing black leaders in the company”. 

This event concluded on practical actions to grab this window of opportunity and ensure there is a commitment to long-term changes. For example, if we were to address this topic in one year’s time the changes we’d want to see include: 1. Closing the ethnicity pay gap 2. Race as a comfortable topic for non-black employees 3. Measurable KPIs implemented in all companies to ensure accountability.

For those of you that are truly committed to change. We ask that you read our five steps on mobilising change, followed by your signature of approval.

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