As a recruitment specialist and black man a lot has changed during my 25 years in the sector.
At the start I used to experience something now referred as ‘microaggressions’, which could be verbal or physical, intentional or unintentional, but are mainly targeted towards minority groups.
It’s hard to believe looking at me now but I used to have a distinctive high top hair style when I was younger and people thought it was okay to pat my hair. I used to hate it inside but didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to be seen as complaining.
At the time I would laugh it off, get my head down and focus on my career but I actually I regret not challenging it in an intelligent way.
Back then there weren’t many black people working in recruitment and, if I’m honest, I wasn’t really looking for them because I was just trying to build my career.
Subconsciously I must have been aware of it because all I remember feeling was that I had to work twice as hard as my peers around me to prove myself because I was black so that’s what I did.
Thankfully things have changed a lot since then and I’m now a director of Fairmont Recruitment, where we work with a number of tech firms.
In my experience companies fall into three distinct categories when it comes to their approach to diversity and I define diversity as listening to the views of everyone in the room irrespective of their race, religion and gender.
The first are the businesses who see diversity as a box-ticking exercise. They see the PR that goes with it but they don’t see the lasting benefit that comes with truly embracing diversity.
There’s not much that can be done for this group because the leaders aren’t looking beyond their own reflections.
If you’re only looking for people who look and sound like you then you won’t create a product that appeals to everyone.
The second category is made up of the companies who just get it and have diversity running through their DNA.
The greatest leaders get the best people in the best positions no matter who they are. They almost don’t see gender or colour but they recognise that a diverse workforce is a happier and more productive workforce.
Businesses in this category see things quicker so are more agile in their decision-making.
The final category are the businesses who fall somewhere in the middle.
They recognise the importance of diversity but need some help and some guidance.
I visited a business recently that fell into this third category.
They had photos of all the partners on the wall and they just happened to all be white.
I’m not criticising them but imagine the powerful message they would be sending out if they also had the photos of associates and aspiring partners on the wall and they were from a diverse background. You can’t be what you can’t see.
In my opinion diversity is a journey and it’s not something that can be fixed overnight but by truly embracing it the benefits can be life-changing and long-lasting.
- Wayne Bennett CertRP is a director of tech specialist Fairmont Recruitment [email protected]