Your Network Is Your Net Worth.
Our latest edition of our Black Networks series centered on Building the Bridge with Senior Leadership. As words like allyship and safe spaces are being thrown about it is important to examine what action we can take to hold leadership not just accountable but to bridge the gap between management and employees to foster inclusive workplaces. The world is changing as we know it, and employees from ethnic backgrounds are paying more attention to the systems and protocols of their workspaces. Dom Scott, Managing Director of Alexander Hall, moderated and focused on being a Black professional while curating long lasting networks of change within the workplace. Dom was joined by Dr. Grace Mansah-Owusu, Talent Consultant at British Heart Foundation and Sola Osinoiki, Senior Director of People Technology, Proses Group & Naspers, and they openly shared both their professional and personal experiences.
Dom began by addressing the growing desire for Black networks within corporate spaces. Describing it as 'a must-have for forward-thinking companies', he acknowledged that such companies endeavour to engage with the talent they have from underrepresented groups. Rightly so, as companies with culturally diverse individuals on their team are said to see a higher percentage of overall revenue. However, this is ironic because these connections are often left to be established by those underrepresented and without effective resources.
When asked about whether effective structures of building a network were visibly in place when joining the British Heart Foundation, Grace explained that a small attempt had been made and an outline of the framework existed. However, it took external assistance from another agency named 'The Challenge' to create an effective and enduring strategy. The importance of intentionality during one's recruitment stage was a much needed takeaway. Grace explained that it took her initiative in expressing her concerns that led her to become a key player in creating a change at BHF. Growing up in Berkshire, a culturally homogenous town, she knew what it looked like to be discriminated against, not just in the workplace, but during her time in education, subsequently fuelling her interest inequality. "I explained when I first started that I had always been interested in Diversity & Inclusion and two days later I was placed in a steering committee."
Sola’s experiences differed from her fellow panelists as he explained that during his career progression, Diversity & Inclusion had only just broadened to include the Black community. Sola was born in the UK, but migrated to Nigeria as a child. He would later return to the UK in the nineties with his fianceé and a degree in Civil Engineering. Unfortunately, he found that engineering opportunities were scarce in the UK and this resulted in him transitioning into IT. He depicted the networks he encountered at the start of his career in the UK, which unlike Grace's, were not as structured. These Networks were much more informal and lacked the involvement of those in leadership positions. Things are improving though, Sola cited the last seven years as the period in which senior involvement concerning Black networks increased.
The Q&A section of the webinar saw a plethora of thought-provoking questions from the audience, which in turn inherited great advice from all three speakers. An engaged member of the audience asked, “how can professionals truly see if their senior leaders care about Black networks and what actions need to be taken?” Sola emphasised the need to shift the attention on those that express the desire to learn, aiding them and educating from a Black perspective. Grace also acknowledged that truly not every senior leader is sincere when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion but in having them affiliated with the network, it may potentially open the door and attract another senior leader who is actually willing to assist and sponsor the change.
You can access the full session here.