blm and d&I are not the same thing.

monday july 20th 2020

The problem corporate culture is facing is so much bigger than any one dimensional diversity and inclusion initiative. The fact is, the term Diversity and Inclusion is by no means going to fix the problems that the BLM movement are actually about. So we need every company to stop thinking that promoting their D&I pledge is the fix.


Amina Folarin, the Global People Director at Oliver told Campaign Asia;


“D&I is critical. It gives us ways to recruit, welcome and include people regardless of socioeconomic background, neurodiversity, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, religion etc. It’s non-specific and often a matter of pride for organisations that do it well.  


BLM, on the other hand, is about systemic racism and inequality – specifically, the exclusion of black people from benefiting from opportunities that are afforded to others.”  


D&I programmes are important. But often they are part of a tick box exercise, devised by HR teams to win recruitment awards and show that they care. But the problems that affect Black people specifically in the working world are systemic. They can’t be fixed by a cleverly crafted video campaign or by sharing Black History stories during Black History Month for your internal comms strategy. 


Nope, it’s far more intricate.


It’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be uncomfortable and it’s going to mean taking a long hard look in the mirror, to understand the roots of the issue in your own organisation.  And we need to stop hiding behind the comfortable veil of unconscious bias training. Instead, we have to call it exactly what it is, talking about racism.


Ultimately, if we don’t call it out, nothing will change and you can keep recruiting Black talent, but if they come into a hostile environment that isn’t prepared to nurture them, they won’t stay. 


So, that means the seats at the table when these conversations happen, categorically can’t just be HR. They need to be people who are actively wanting change and will talk about the issues candidly. And not only does it need to be a space where these people can challenge their leaders, it should be hosted by an external person to ensure an open, safe environment to communicate in. 


Because these conversations aren’t going to be pretty. It might mean realising your fave co- worker is an “All Lives Matter” person, or that you’re paid more than your Black colleague, or it could even prompt you to refuse a pay rise until others in the office are paid the same. 


But this is the groundwork that needs to be done. Because institutional racism in corporate culture is literally a gaping wound, and your Diversity and Inclusion programme is one of those plasters with cartoons on it, that falls off as soon as it gets wet.