Two-thirds of UK professionals worry about using the wrong language when discussing race in the workplace

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Almost two thirds of UK professionals are nervous about using the wrong language when discussing race in the workplace, a survey has found.

The survey comes as INvolve, a consultancy and global network championing diversity and inclusion in businesses, release their annual EMpower Ethnic Minority Role Models Lists, which celebrate professionals playing a central role in breaking down barriers at work for black people and other ethnic minorities.

The research, released by INvolve in conjunction with Censuswide, found that, of the senior professionals polled, 65% are nervous about using the wrong or inappropriate language when discussing race in the workplace.

Similarly, 56% of respondents are uncomfortable using the terms ‘Black’, ‘Asian’, ‘BAME’, and ‘Ethnic minority’ in the workplace, with 44% saying that they change their natural language choice when talking to someone of a different race.

Commenting on the findings, Suki Sandhu OBE, Founder and CEO of INvolve, says the research shows how much work still needs to be done to have important conversations about race and racial inequality in business: “The ability to discuss issues surrounding race in the workplace is crucial and if white and other employees don’t have the confidence to have these discussions, we cannot create the meaningful long-term change we need. As shown by the lack of ethnic minority representation in senior leadership, systemic racism is still pervasive in British business and until we are all able to have difficult conversations by eliminating the fear surrounding them, we cannot successfully address racial equality in the workplace.

“Our EMpower lists celebrate role models in business who are smashing barriers and actively advocating for ethnic minorities. Businesses function as agents of change and like these amazing Role Models, we must all step up and play our part in making our workplaces and society fairer and more inclusive for all. This starts with being able to talk openly about the problem.”

Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive Officer at Diageo PLC who has topped this year’s global EMpower Executives Role Model List says: “It takes time to see shifts in representation at all levels in the organisation. It requires the setting of targets, changes in policy, leading the change from the top and having role models within the business.”

Carolyn McCall, CEO at ITV has been named the leading Advocate for Ethnic Minority individuals in the 2021 honours. Speaking about the diversity and inclusion agenda, McCall said, “For us – committing to increase diversity in our senior leadership team is important, in addition to running focused initiatives on accelerating career progression like our Step Up 60 and Rise programmes. Culture is absolutely crucial too, and we are educating and developing ourselves and our people so everybody in the business understands the part they can play in creating an inclusive environment.”

Suki Sandhu added, “Celebrating ethnic minority talent is a great way to champion individuals in business who are paving the way forward for inclusion. I am thrilled to be able to showcase the achievements of another fantastic group of role models in business who are reaching the top of their fields while ensuring that they send the elevator back down for others.”

The full EMpower Ethnic Minority Role Model Lists can be found here and you can view the full report here.


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