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Racism is a virus, silence is a condition, you are the vaccine

Silence is no longer an option. It’s time for meaningful action.

No matter where you sit in the business world, you will be aware that no organisation is excluded from the black lives matter disruptor. A recent report on the charity sector - a sector that is expressly built on principles and commitments to justice and equality - shows that they also experience under-representation of Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnic (BAME) people and that those who work in charities are also subject to racism and antagonism not faced by white colleagues. This is really not a new issue - Equality Pioneers, a Culture Lab Consultancy partner, have been advocating for belonging cultures at work for many years - but recognise that this is now more visible as customers call for action; and staff across different organisations begin to reflect and relate to the black lives matter movement and how their employers are addressing issues of anti-racism in the workplace. Many organisations invest millions in understanding their customers better, but very little data exists in the workplace about employees. Why is this the case? Perhaps your organisation does collect data, but there is a big disparity in the data as people don't feel safe enough to reveal sensitive information? Or your organisation collects data but like many struggle to make sense of it?

Most organisations have not done the work internally to help the voice of their people be heard, in particular the voice of BAME people. The experience of racism in the workplace is not a visible experience, but one that tends to be internalised, and for many normalised - whether these are microaggressions or outright experience of racism. The result is normalised silence.

As Internal Audit Leaders we should be encouraging our organisations to take an ethical and moral stance on this issue. We should be brave and have these conversations with our Audit Committees, with our Executive Leadership. We should be challenging our Leaders to show up with acting on their PR statements. With ears to the ground we should be listening and observing. We should be recognising that an inclusive workplace culture addresses anti-racism and creates inclusion and belonging for all employees. And transparency is key.

It is difficult to discuss racism without having the dialogue with those who experience it - but this is not an invitation to go and find yourself a person of colour and ask them their experience of racism - that is counterproductive. For people who are white, in particular you might be a white leader in your workplace, there might be an underlying fear of doing and saying the wrong thing. However, this is not insurmountable - the key action is to engage with racism, the realities of the lived experienced of BAME people and put in an action plan to tackle it at all levels. This should be relevant for ALL teams including Internal Audit functions. Culture Lab Consultancy has recently partnered with Equality Pioneers - they guide Senior Leaders to focus on cultivating mindsets and cultures that nurture a sense of belonging through authentic leadership - especially when they are facing or dealing with a major disruption. The resulting impact shows a substantial increase in psychological safety, connection and value experienced by employees and the organisation at large. From an Internal Audit perspective, these are key outcomes to promoting an inclusive culture.

We are working with many organisations to address this right now. Want to know more? You are welcome to reach me at, Let's have a conversation.

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