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How organisations can actively celebrate Black History Month

19 Oct 2021 By Cynthia Davis

There is a flood of support for black employees every October, but sadly, that is where it begins and ends for many businesses, says Cynthia Davis

Black History Month is a significant month in the calendar every single year. With people celebrating their family and friends on social media, and businesses praising their black employees, there’s an outpouring of support during October. However, it’s a sad truth that, for many of the above, that’s where it begins and ends. 

Just like Pride month, with companies rainbow-washing, Black History Month has become a chance for them to capitalise on showing their support. Then, once the month is over, these values and beliefs rarely continue. I think it’s important for businesses to remember that both current and future employees notice whether or not they put their money where their mouth is. Celebrating the lives of black people is about much more than a social media post or sending out a company-wide email. 

With Diversifying, we hold companies to account with their ways of celebrating and promoting diversity and inclusion. We understand how these 31 days of the year shouldn’t just be part of a tick-box exercise and ensure that brands who host vacancies with us know the same. To really show support, there are several different ways for employers to implement an inclusive workplace.

Here are my top five ways for brands to ensure that their efforts are not just seen as a promotion strategy this year:

  1. Build a safe place
    This doesn’t just mean by sending a supportive email. A space needs to physically be created to ensure that black employees feel appreciated and have an opportunity to raise any concerns or issues. A culture needs to be created where these can be raised without a fear of being judged or discriminated against. 

  2. Have resources readily available for employees
    By having resources for other employees to refer to, this removes the burden of black employees to educate those around them. You can provide interesting books, websites and stories that help to inform those about the prominence of the month and why it’s still important today. 
    One of the most important aspects is to get fully behind the celebrations. Put a budget to your ideas and make it an integral part of your typical workday. Diversity and inclusion is not an HR strategy, it’s a fully-fledged business strategy – just like you inject money into your marketing or recruitment, promoting inclusivity should be treated the same. 

  3. Schedule regular discussions 
    A schedule should be implemented to allow for time to have these points raised and discussed. These dedicated sessions allow for everyone to be heard – so their voices and their lived experiences are valid, valued and understood. 

  4. Bring in and pay guest speakers
    When you bring in guest speakers to speak with your employees, especially accomplished minorities, you are giving them a chance to share their unique insights and experiences with your organisation. By enabling your black employees to speak with and learn from similar professionals, it can inspire them to seek out leadership opportunities for themselves. 

  5. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know
    People are afraid to ask questions in case they say something offensive, or slightly wrong. Instead of shying away from it, encourage employees to talk about their experiences to make sure that there is an understanding of everyone’s situation. If you don’t ask, then there’s no way you can learn to phrase something correctly and will always remain silent to avoid embarrassment or causing offense. 

Cynthia Davis is the co-founder of Diversifying.io, a careers platform

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