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Racism – it isn’t us and them, it’s us

By Amanda Powell-Smith

I don’t feel very powerful most days. But I’m cloaked in power, as are the other senior leaders at Forster. Those levels of privilege may vary, a private education here, the male chromosome there, but there is one area that is entirely consistent – we are all white.

Forster has been female-led since its inception nearly 25 years ago, and our entire business has always been focused on how we deliver positive social change and tackle inequalities, which is something to be proud of. However, in all that time we have never had a person of colour in a senior leadership position, and that is something to be ashamed of. There is no valid excuse for this, we operate in one of the world’s most diverse cities full of talented and experienced people of colour.

Over the last few years, we have been trying to create change by supporting the Social Mobility Foundation, putting in place a blind recruitment process, and only being part of public panels that include women and people of colour. But like so many other organisations, we have been too complacent and must do more.

The UK is awash with systemic racism, it bleeds into every aspect of our society. And yet it remains a blindspot for too many. Others much more qualified than me have explained eloquently and powerfully why that is the case, so I won’t. Suffice to say, we are part of the problem, so what are we going to do about it?

Firstly, we are going to talk about it more, within the business and with our clients, and call out problems, instances of racism and prejudice and take action to rectify them. We’re not going to ask people of colour in our team or elsewhere to explain the issue to us, or seek their approval to assuage our guilt – this is a problem of our own making that we need to take the lead on solving.

Secondly, we are going to work with other progressive businesses to challenge and change the structural racism in our own organisations and those we work with, and have kicked that off by talking to other B Corps about what we can do practically in this area.

Thirdly, we are going to measure what matters – you can’t solve a problem if you can’t quantify it, so we are looking at the best way to audit our performance in this area, identify the shortcomings and take action to improve.

As a progressive business, we pride ourselves on tackling tough, complex social and environmental issues and know an inclusive economy cannot be created without addressing the injustices of racism and discrimination. We join people across the world in a demand for change and pledge to use the power of our communications to drive meaningful action.