Su-Mei Thompson on why going back to normal isn’t an option when ‘normal’ isn’t good enough

Posted 1 February 2021

Media Trust CEO Su-Mei Thompson shares why Race Equality Week is the perfect time to turn lip service into action when it comes to tackling racism.

At Media Trust, we believe that giving everyone a voice is how we’ll get to a more equal society. That’s why we work in partnership with the media and creative sectors to give charities, under-represented communities and young people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds a stronger voice.

Hashtag activism is easy, the real work is much harder

But even as CEOs in their hordes took to social media following the killing of George Floyd to assert their commitment to racial equality, cynics were pointing to the fact that hashtag activism is easy, the real work is much harder. If you look at how the FTSE 100 companies responded to Black Lives Matter and compare this with what the same FTSE 100 companies are actually doing to address diversity internally: 14 CEOs penned statements condemning the killing of George Floyd and 20 FTSE 100 companies tweeted in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. But only two of the 100 FTSE 100 companies have published their ethnicity pay gap data and only nine publish data on the ethnic diversity of their senior management.

Get involved in Race Equality Week

In a similar vein, the mantra of Race Equality Week, kicking off today is “No words without action”. Race Equality Week is a UK-wide initiative to unite organisations and individuals in activity to tackle barriers to racial equality in the workplace.

Race Equality Week organisers, Green Park and The Collaboratory, conducted research with over 270 senior leaders, D&I experts and Race Network Chairs and discovered that while racial inequality still exists and the will to do something about it had grown, the skills and knowledge to make change happen had not. The key issue identified as being the failure to build a permanent and sustainable bridge between lived experience in organisations, investment and decision-making.

The organisers are making it easy for organisations to take meaningful action by offering free lectures, webinars, tools and resources to facilitate conversations, activity and commitment to change. Speakers include Dr Leroy Logan, author and founding member and chair of the National Black Police Association.

Participating organisations are encouraged to take part in one or more of three key initiatives, including displaying a “Virtual Badge” to showcase their commitment to the cause, publishing a “Big Promise” to ensure sentiments for change are acted upon, and/or creating a “Safe Space” within their organisation to enable dialogue between leaders and ethnic minority employees.

Supporting & Strengthening Diverse Voices

As a Founding Partner of Race Equality Week, Media Trust is marking the week by leveraging our significant experience of, and expertise in, giving marginalised groups a stronger voice through working in close partnership with the media and creative industry.

Media Trust is partnering with global communications firm, Edelman, to deliver multiple Charity Challenge Days for charities led by or supporting Black, Asian and minority ethnic people and communities. Media Trust and Edelman will match charities looking to review and rewrite their communications strategy with a dedicated team of experts with a mixed set of skills from PR and campaign management to digital content and social media.

Participating charities include the National Governance Association which supports and represents governors, trustees and clerks of state funded schools in England and are looking to recruit more Black, Asian or minority ethnic volunteers to these roles; the Equality Trust which is working to improve quality of life in the UK by reducing economic and social inequality; and Manchester-based Music Action International – a charity that uses music to support individuals and communities devastated by armed conflict.

Clearly though, achieving race equality is going to take more than just one week of activity. Media Trust’s Stronger Voices programme, which is now in its third year, is continuing to provide strategic communications training and support to equality organisations. We are delighted to be working with new training partners this year, including Gal-dem, NEON Network and Campaign Bootcamp, all of whom are known for their commitment to supporting diverse voices, as well as alongside longstanding partners like Google. This year, we reserved 60% of the 15 spaces on the programme for charities led by and/or supporting communities of colour.

Turning moments into movements

Race Equality Week has the potential to be game-changing in the way it combines conscious allyship with a strong peer network. As the Founder of the 30% Club Hong Kong chapter and The Women’s Foundations Male Allies Network, I’ve seen first-hand how powerful this combination can be in other scenarios.  It’s exciting to see it applied to tackling race in the workplace.

Looking beyond Race Equality Week, we’d also love to work with more media and creative industry partners on similar initiatives to the Charity Challenge Days happening this week. If you’re interested in helping charities working with communities of colour strengthen their story-telling, advocacy and campaigning, press engagement and social media, we would love to hear from you. Please contact me at su-meit@mediatrust.org.

From moments we must create movements if we’re really going to shift the dial on racism in the workplace and beyond.

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