Levelling the Playing Field: How do we make sure the World has its Fair Share of Black Leaders?

Apr 28, 2021

Last week Co-op held a session with BYP members to talk about furthering Black representation within senior roles. Hosted by Co-op’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion Rachael Bickenstaff with keynote speaker and former professional NBA player John Amaechi OBE, the webinar focused on self preservation, accountability and active recruitment.

“Black and Brown people, all kinds of different people, the world is not made for us weirdos, but you are not broken” keynote speaker John Amaechi OBE started. His hard hitting beginning an emotive one, emphasising that individuals from an ethnic background are enough even when the world does not celebrate or put such people at the forefront. His intro addressed timely social matters as he pointedly addressed the year as one of exhaustion for Black people, counting the last three hundred and thirty two days of George Floyd’s murder. It was apparent that self-care and self-preservation are important to John, and he would iterate this through various illustrations, the most common one being “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”

His references to self-care were very warming, as it set precedence for the rest of the meeting. It was a clear statement that in order to truly level out the playing field and ensure there are Black leaders, Black people need to replenish and recuperate themselves when necessary, especially as there are a plethora of injustices, microaggressions and prejudices towards the Black community each day.

Please do not get the idea of ‘self-care’ misconstrued. Self care is not ‘falling into your couch, and falling asleep to Netflix, or consuming junk food regularly because you are too exhausted with the things going on in everyday life. It is imperative that you find ways to recuperate so that the remarkable things that your talents will allow you to do, can get done.

How does this tie in to Black leadership? In order to lead one needs to be honest with themselves and effectively be able to evaluate. Do not lie about skills you do not have, but equally do not lie to diminish or erase skills that you do have. Knowing your personal strengths and weaknesses will always place you at an advantage when handling projects, clients, speaking your mind or making results-driven decisions. 

So how do we make sure that the world actually receives its fair share of Black leaders, the first step is taking accountability? Co-op’s Head of diversity & Inclusion manager Rachael Bickerstaff candidly acknowledged that Black representation within senior leadership currently stands at 3% with the goal to push this to 6% by the end of 2022. ‘We recognise that we have work to do in terms of recruitment, but we also have incredible talent within our organisation, so the question is how do we allow such talent to grow further within Co-op” She stressed the importance of hiring Black talent with leadership qualities but also  supporting existing individuals within organisations and allowing room for upskilling and demonstration of such is incredibly necessary.

To learn more about Black people holding leadership spaces, you can catch the full webinar here.

To be a part of Co-op’s progressive journey, please see their open job roles here.

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