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Equality in workplace responsibility of all managers

Participants at the REACH network meeting

Supporting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all leaders and managers, a meeting of the Thames Valley Race Equity and Cultural Harmony (REACH) Network at the University was told recently.

REACH brings together over 30 businesses from the Thames Valley region – including the University of Reading. Oracle, Thames Water and Berkshire NHS Trust – in an effort to attract, progress and retain diverse talent at every level across their organisations.

Dan Robertson, who leads Vercida, a consultancy promoting inclusion at work, said it was important that leaders were “colour brave” – curious to understand and talk about how race affects an individual, their life chances and their career progression – rather than be “colour blind”.

He said, “The employment rate for ethnic minorities is only 62.8% compared with an employment rate for white workers of 75.6% - a gap of over 12 percentage points. This is against a backdrop of all BAME groups being more likely to be over-qualified for the jobs they are doing, but less likely than their white counterparts to be promoted. I feel this is something that every hiring manager and leader should be curious to understand more about.”

Cabinet Office's META Programme

Manisha Pathak, leads the Minority Ethnic Talent Association (META) programme at the Cabinet Office, talked about how the programme is accelerating the development of ethnic minority employees to create a more diverse and robust pipeline for senior roles.

Through a combination of one-to-one coaching, action learning circles, events and focused sponsoring, the participants develop their leadership skills and visibility.

In 2017, 37 participants signed up for the META programme and 24 have been promoted to senior roles. In 2018, 46 participants signed up and 11 have been promoted. From the 2019 cohort of 56 participants, five have already moved to senior roles.

Mentoring Circles

Thames Water’s Jaymin Patel and Denise Phillips run the BAME Mentoring Circle for their organisation. Mentoring Circles are an initiative by the Department for Work and Pensions and Business in the Community to mentor young people aged 16-24 years in England, Scotland and Wales. Thames Water has run nearly 10 of these events across the South East.

A recent Mentoring Circle in north London attracted 30 young BAME men and women. Over three days, the participants got to hear about the career options at Thames Water and advice on preparing CVs, covering letters and interview techniques. Some of them also visited a Thames Water site.

“The event helped us develop a better understanding of the barriers and challenges faced by young people,” Jaymin and Denise said. “Such events offer a real opportunity to make a difference to a young person’s life and help attract a diverse and talented pool of job-seekers.”

REACH Network

As a part of our ambition to make the University a more inclusive place for BAME students and staff, we have led work on setting up the REACH network with the aim of developing  a collaborative approach to attracting, progressing and retaining diverse talent in Thames Valley. It will focus on the following key areas:

  • Cross company networking – Destigmatising and enabling conversations about race (it’s okay to ask!) creating a safe, open, transparent and inclusive environment. Includes extending the invite to members of our supply chain and the job centre
  • Mentoring –Cross industry mentoring and reverse mentoring, sharing Return on Investment and evidencing the benefits of this approach
  • Create platform to share best practice – This includes experiences and successes in relation to recruitment, progression and retention as well as other themes both at face-to-face meetings, via email and social media LinkedIn group and a regular network newsletter
  • Senior leadership collaboration –Visible collaboration from MPs and CEO’s to leaders and senior managers across companies
  • Charter/ inclusion commitment – Work towards signing up to a collective cross-industry charter e.g. Business in the Community (BITC) Race Equality Charter
  • Role models – Support our peers and act as role models


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