Bukola Adisa, one of the new judges for the WM People Top Employer Awards, says that employers need to show that they have paid more than lip service to racial equity and inclusion.
Bukola founded Career Masterclass which is an online Career Development Platform seeking to leverage technology to democratise career growth and progression for Black and Ethnically Diverse Professionals. She says the last year has highlighted the need for employers to go above and beyond when it comes to tackling issues relating to social equity, from racial equity to women’s career progression.
Bukola wants employers to move beyond PR statements about Black Lives Matter and feels it is really important to stop putting the responsibility on Black employees to educate their white colleagues. “Putting the responsibility onto marginalised people drives the unfairness even deeper,” she says. “There has to come a point where people start to take action. Otherwise they can remain in listening mode for years.”
She adds that there was a huge mental health toll involved in retelling stories of trauma and racism. “Employers need to look for other ways to learn and move forward to take action. Some are doing fantastic work, but others have not yet left the starting blocks,” she states.
Bukola would also like to see more work being done to increase diversity at senior levels, and says the pandemic cannot be an excuse to pause action on such an urgent issue. The situation at FTSE 100 companies has actually gone backwards during the pandemic. “There need to be more Black people promoted and on the boards, not just of local government organisations or charities. Until we start to see that employers cannot say they are truly inclusive,” she states, adding: “This is not a political issue. It is a human rights issue.”
Bukola is also concerned about the impact of the pandemic on women’s career progression because women have been the primary carers for children and older relatives during this time. She says Covid-19 has brought into sharp focus all the previously hidden care work women have been doing, including looking after children with special needs or grandchildren.
While the last 18 months have made remote working more accessible, women have also been left with “a general sense of exhaustion”, says Bukola. She cites the US organisational psychologist Adam Grant who talks about how many have been “languishing” during the pandemic, lacking the motivation to get going again.
“The pandemic has also given many people, particularly women, time to rethink their relationship with work and their idea of success,” says Bukola. They are moving more towards “purposeful work”.
She says employers need to take into account individuals’ needs, understand the headwinds they are facing and tailor support and help to their particular context. “It is vital that they show how they help people navigate tricky phases of their careers. There is no blanket approach that works,” she says.
When it comes to the Top Employer Awards, she says she is looking for employers who have gone the extra mile. She states: “I am looking for employers who have really stepped up to take a more humane approach during the pandemic, who have looked beyond commercial success because that is only part of the social contract that employers have with their employees. I want to see employers who have taken into account the different needs of their stakeholders, who have led with purpose and have not just been focused on revenue generation, who have been able to balance keeping the business going with taking into account their employees’ needs.”
*To enter the Top Employer Awards, click here. The deadline for entries in 21st October.