10 Oct Working together to improve ethnic diversity
Our executive sponsor for ethnicity, Rowan Jeffreys-Hoar, shares the practical steps we are taking to improve ethnic diversity and how we’re helping our people become better allies this Black History Month.
Despite my passion for equality in the workplace, I’m not afraid to admit that I was worried when the board asked me to be the executive sponsor for ethnicity. As a white, middle-aged man, I haven’t faced the challenges ethnic minorities encounter. But I quickly realised that wasn’t the point.
It isn’t the job of people belonging to ethnic minorities to confront inequality or racism in behaviour, words or policies. It’s everyone’s duty. I’ve discovered it’s OK to own this duty and admit you have some learning to do. The important thing is committing to gathering the awareness and knowledge you need to create change.
My learning journey
I’ve found that learning how to talk and think about these issues requires some hard work and soul-searching, especially if your ethnicity is not something you identify with. The uncomfortable truth is that ethnic minorities have to think about race every day, and as a white person, I’m never confronted with my race. Reflecting on this perspective and the dynamics of white privilege has been an important learning curve.
I’ve realised that it’s not enough to approach with good intentions and stay silent in the knowledge you aren’t a racist. It’s better to be an ally. Someone with an active role in the conversation, who stands alongside ethnic minorities, listens, learns, supports and builds trust. That’s the kind of ally I try to be.
I’m still on my journey of reading, absorbing and understanding the nuances of ethnicity and what it means in the workplace. It’s important I don’t stop seeking knowledge, and I hope I can inspire others to do the same. But I wanted to write this article to update you on our work and the key actions we’re taking to improve ethnic diversity at Ricoh UK.
Our goal is to create allies at all levels and do everything we can to challenge privilege, champion inclusivity and offer equitable opportunities for all. Importantly, we want to achieve our goals with the support of our employees by encouraging everyone to play their part in improving ethnic diversity.
Our ethnic diversity data
Our workforce diversity data stands at:
White – 43.6%
Asian – 3.9%
Black – 2.1%
Mixed Ethnicity – 1.3%
Other – 0.5%
(this data excludes participants who opted to prefer not to say)
We’re not interested in increasing these percentages for appearances. Creating a diverse working environment is not only the right thing to do; diversity ensures we will be better, stronger, and more successful as a business. Removing existing barriers will enable us to recruit from a wider talent pool and help retain our key talent.
Creating more diversity also means our company is reflective of society and well-placed to serve our diverse ecosystems of customers and partners. It’s also important for us because it’s core to our values as an organisation, where a love for people and communities sits at the top of our agenda.
The Race at Work Charter – An action plan for better ethnic diversity
By signing the Race at Work Charter, we have expanded our commitment to building greater ethnic diversity across all levels of our organisation, and have a proven framework to hold our efforts accountable. These are the seven Race at Work Charter principles, outlined by Business in the Community, which will guide us to take action toward our goals.
- Appoint an executive sponsor for race
- Capture ethnicity data and publicise progress
- Commit at Board level to a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and bullying
- Make equity, diversity and inclusion the responsibility of all leaders and managers
- Take action that supports Black, Asian, Mixed Race and other ethnically diverse employees’ career progression
- Support race inclusion allies in the workplace
- Include Black, Asian, Mixed Race and other ethnically diverse-led enterprise owners in supply chains
What we’ve done so far
This year, we have taken immediate action to improve data collection. With better data at our fingertips, our HR team is now analysing the data and understanding where barriers or blockers to entry exist. With this intelligence, we are building a programme of activities to remove those barriers.
Where we have gaps in our data, we’re also questioning why, and exploring ways to engender more inclusion, so people feel comfortable and empowered to share their identity in the workplace.
We have also created an ethnicity affinity group to offer support and a safe space for all employees to discuss ethnic diversity and how it’s developing at Ricoh.
Black History Month at Ricoh UK
During October, we are running an internal campaign to mark Black History Month – an annual observance which remembers the triumphs and challenges of black people throughout history.
As well as honouring history, we want to take this opportunity to champion inclusion by encouraging our people to get involved and start their journey towards allyship. And we need to take these opportunities. Recent studies show that black people only make up 3% of the UK technology industry. They are also more likely to have experienced racial discrimination in technology than any other ethnic minority.
Alongside a series of webinars on Black History, we are encouraging colleagues to continue the conversation, self-learn and start discussions around ethnic diversity. We will also be challenging our people to learn more about the experience of their Black colleagues and engage each other in conversations about ethnicity, race, culture and nationality.
Look ahead with humility and play your part
When I began my journey, I was worried I couldn’t do justice to my new role. But my experience so far has reminded me that it always pays to step forward with humility, no matter how challenging it seems.
Most of us think the knowledge we have is powerful, but there’s much more value in the knowledge we’re yet to acquire. After all, there is an infinite amount of knowledge out there left to learn. Alongside this willingness to learn, we also need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and be prepared to make mistakes along the way.
I look forward to updating you again to review the results of our actions soon.
For further articles relating to workplace inclusion please see below;
We challenge our people at Ricoh to adopt Inclusive behaviours – Read our article ‘Inclusion: It’s time to act.‘
June 2022 marks 50 years of Pride in the UK – Read our article ‘Taking Pride in Pride.‘