Black History Month 2023: Celebrating Our Sisters

5 min read | Jason Dunwell | Article | Corporate social responsibility DE&I Workplace | Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Black History Month 2023

Black History Month (BHM) is an annual celebration throughout October that aims to shine a spotlight on the achievements and accomplishments of the Black population, focusing on – but not limited to – individuals from the African Diaspora.

It was first launched in the United States back in 1926, albeit under a different name and during a different month, and the United Kingdom followed suit in 1987. Campaigner Akyaaba Addai-Sebo initiated the movement as a way to tackle the “identity crisis that Black children faced” in Britain, and since then, it has gone on to become a time dedicated to celebrating the community’s contributions to British society, and to help with a greater understanding of Black history in general.

What’s this year’s theme?

This year, the theme for BHM is “Celebrating Our Sisters”, which highlights the incredible attainments of women within the community, but also provides a chance for reflection on what needs to change for there to be greater equity for this demographic.

Sadly, racial biases in our society have led to Black women being one of the groups that face the most discrimination and systemic racism, so the organisers behind BHM are using this opportunity to “pay homage to black women who had contributions ignored, ideas appropriated, and voices silenced.”

Despite the plethora of challenges that Black women have faced, the relentless campaigning by the community and its allies is slowly starting to turn the dial. As civil rights activist Maya Angelou said in the 1970s, “Out of the huts of history’s shame, I rise. Up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise.”

However, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Here, we’ll focus on some of the challenges that the Black female community face within their careers and working lives, with the aim of inspiring the leaders of today to make way for a tomorrow where everyone can reap the rewards of boundless opportunity, regardless of gender, race, or colour.

Lack of equality

Racism and discrimination against people due to their ethnicity or skin colour was made illegal in the UK in 1965, and while we have come a long way since then, it’s still something the Black community face today, overtly, and in the form of micro-aggressions. When it comes to equal opportunities, sadly, Black women are the group that miss out the most.

According to the Black Women In The UK Workplace report 2022, by Black Women In Leadership (BWIL), 44% of Black women do not believe they are offered the same career-advancement opportunities as their non-Black female colleagues. The research also found that almost half believe they will be overlooked for promotion, despite being completely capable and deserving. In addition to these sobering statistics, four in 10 Black women do not believe they earn the same as their non-Black female colleagues who are in the same jobs.

Most sadly, though, is the fact the BWIL’s study highlighted that 68% of Black women they surveyed had experienced a racial bias at work, and that 33% had actually resigned from their roles altogether due to race-related unfair treatment.

What needs to happen?

Each year, we survey thousands of employees and employers on topics around diversity, equity and inclusion, to not only better understand how minority groups are feeling within the workplace, but to be able to provide advice and recommendations to organisations on how they can do better. This year, we spoke to over 5,000 individuals to find out what they believe needs to change in the workplace to help close the career gap.

Out of the individuals from the Black community who participated, only 43% said they agree or strongly agree that their organisation is proactively taking action to improve career outcomes for under-represented talent. When it came to the actions they’d like to see their employers take, the following came out on top: committing to reviewing and improving their assessment and selection frameworks, mitigating bias and ensuring inclusion at all stages; communicating their strategy for attracting and retaining under-represented talent internally and being transparent about progress; and assigning dedicated resources and investment to improve the career outcomes of these groups.

If you’re interested to find out more, get your copy of the Hays Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report 2023 here.


About this author

Jason Dunwell - Head of Solutions

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