This past month, the Sylvera Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee hosted several events to celebrate UK Black History Month. We also used this time to discuss the racial injustices and discrimination faced today by the Black community and people of color in general, both in the workplace and in their personal lives.
What we learned during UK Black History Month
As the month progressed, BHM allowed us to rediscover history from the viewpoint of people that history may have ignored, and to think critically about historical events by considering root causes such as racism. Gaining a deeper understanding of history is an important step in building toward a brighter future. BHM was also an opportunity to celebrate, educate, and share, which included a series of short videos created by some of our Black colleagues that taught us more about their cultures.
Through a combination of internal and external speaker events, we gained a better understanding of challenges faced by the Black community and people of color, and during our month-long book club covering Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, we collectively discussed and reflected on what we could do as individuals and as a company to create positive change.
The importance of listening
In one of our panels, we explored the diversity of Black culture and how it should not be seen as a monolith. From this conversation, we learned that to truly value individuality, we need to take the time to listen to what others have to say.
It is our responsibility to educate ourselves rather than ask members of a marginalized group to educate us. While we are learning, remember to stay humble and open-minded, and recognize our own biases so that we can begin to challenge them.
Considerations when speaking up
Our panelists who spoke about intersectionality described the complexity of advocating for oneself as a person with multiple marginalized identities. As allies, before we speak up and take action, we should listen and learn first, so that we are amplifying the voices of others, rather than making uninformed assumptions and speaking on their behalf. Remember to be inclusive of other people’s perspectives by giving everyone an opportunity to have their voices heard.
It is particularly important that people with privilege, who are not part of a certain marginalized group, advocate for members of that group. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of our friends and colleagues who are part of the group to always be advocating for themselves; this can be mentally and emotionally draining and can even put these individuals at risk of backlash or further discrimination, in their professional or personal lives.
The focus of workplace DEI efforts
Our speakers explained why the recruitment process is the first step to ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce. At Sylvera, the commitment to this is evident, as we train our hiring managers to mitigate bias when interviewing, and we are continuously working to reach a diverse group of candidates from different locations as a remote-first company.
However, diversity and inclusion goes beyond recruitment. It was mentioned that many companies focus their DEI efforts on recruiting, but fail to create a sense of belonging and help existing employees develop, grow, and advance their careers. At Sylvera, we will ensure that our managers continue to share formal feedback year-round, and that career development is managed using career progression frameworks that are as objective as possible. We will continue investing in the learning and development of our teams, and making conversations about DEI a priority, so everyone understands what it takes to foster inclusion in the workplace.
As UK Black History Month comes to a close, we will continue to listen, learn, and talk about issues faced by all people of color. Colleagues at Sylvera have shared great resources that as a company we will use to educate ourselves, and we will use what we have learned to work toward building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive company.