Lockdown being imposed on us back in March 2020 was the start of a new way of working. In my previous blog I talked about how I found that my view of lockdown went through a number of phases as I adjusted to the new challenges and ways of working. I’m in phase 4 now and have restructured my working processes to allow for the new norm. Things I thought I didn’t have time for before I now realise I can achieve with the help of virtual meetings. One such thing is the formation of a Black Business Managers network.
Back in January 2020 the results of the ISBL workforce survey were released. I was surprised to see the low numbers of Black and Asian Business Leaders in the U.K. according to the survey results. I looked at the previous survey results and noted that it hadn’t included ethnicity questions before so there was nothing to compare to. Nevertheless, it was a clear snapshot of where we are now. The survey shows a clear majority of women in the profession. It reveals a number of interesting stats in relation to career progression, age, role types, role focus, qualification levels and so on. I was keen to see how this related to the ethnicity stats but there was no further detail. Fast forward to May 2020 and I make the decision that I want take steps to launch a network. Something that seeks to raise the profile of Black and Asian SBMs, provide support and encourage more in to the profession. Having searched online I see nothing that is already out there, I’d hoped something might have followed on from the ISBL survey results. There are a number of networks for black educators and although we are most definitely leaders in education, we don’t quite fit with the networks already in place. So I decided to get stuck in. I’ve done this before so I know it can succeed. Back when I was in uni I launched the African Caribbean Society (ACS). It was a successful group which sought to support students, provide a forum for regular networking and also host speakers from a range of backgrounds covering relevant issues. I’m proud of my time as president of the ACS and think I could put that experience to good use.
Having bounced my ideas off a few trusted colleagues I’ve received great feedback about the need for such a network and I put together a small working group. That was in early May, before current events shifted. You’d need to be under a rock not to have been aware of racial tensions growing in America following the murder of a black man by a police officer on 23rd May 2020. This isn’t a new occurrence but for reasons I cant quite articulate it has sparked a worldwide conversation and spurred people into action. Since then racism has become a daily conversation on all forms of social media. Each day I have found myself feeling a myriad of emotions. I have experienced comfort and joy at the views expressed by colleagues, both face to face and online. I have felt disappointment at the deafening silence of others and I have felt so dismayed by other opinions that I have unfollowed them on social media as I cannot bear to see on my timeline the horrible comments being retweeted and posts being liked. There are so many vile opinions on Twitter at the moment that I have found myself withdrawing from it to avoid them. However, in the main, I get to see them because contacts are lamenting how horrible they are too. They are horrified by them. They ask me what they can do to help, how to be an ally. I’ll let you into a secret – I don’t always have the answer. Asking the question is an important first step – just being open to uncomfortable conversation. Being black hasn’t made me an expert but I can certainly tell you how I am feeling. I can certainly let you know how you can contribute to what I’m trying to achieve.
So whilst the formation of a black SBM network isn’t a reaction to recent events they have shone a light on how necessary it is to have one. A network that allows people of all races to work together achieve equality of opportunity and lead to better representation. As I prepare to launch this network I know I count on support from my fellow professionals to go from strength to strength and really make a difference. I have already received some offers from national organisations to assist me along the way such as #SBLConnect and the Education Collective, as well as many individual colleagues from #SBLTwitter who want to help. So watch this space, more news to follow very soon. In the meantime, like everyone else, I’ll be following world events and preparing for a change. Don’t be afraid to ask me how I’m feeling. Let’s have the awkward and uncomfortable conversation – it’s a start.