Phenomenal Evening Marks Awards Success

Blog by Sandra Kerr OBE, Director, Race for Opportunity 

Wow, what a night! It’s been a long process leading up to the Race for Opportunity Awards 2014 but I’m delighted to say it’s been a great success.

Last night we welcomed over 500 people to the Hilton London Park Lane to celebrate the organisations that are leading the way in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) recruitment and progression and creating more inclusive workplaces.  We also heard from Richard Heaton CB, Permanent Private Secretary to the Cabinet Office, First Parliamentary Counsel and Race Champion for the Civil Service, who spoke passionately about the work that the Civil Service is doing to increase the diversity of talent throughout the organisation.

The theme of this year’s awards was Management, Monitoring, Mentoring, Mobility – Collaborate and make change happen’   – and our winners this year are definitely doing that. I know I say this every year but the quality of entries was incredibly high and all our shortlisted organisations deserve to be congratulated on their success. There has been lots of interesting learning coming out of their case studies and I’m sure many of them will give us food for thought.

Collaboration within and across organisations can help attract, retain and progress BAME talent across a huge range of sectors, and I hope other employers will learn from them.

One of the main themes in this year’s winning and highly commended case studies was the involvement of senior leadership. Many of our winning and highly commended organisations engaged with senior leadership to gain support for their activities and reported progress back to them, whilst others held senior leaders accountable for increasing diversity or asked them to sponsor networks or mentoring for BAME staff. In some cases the senior leaders themselves are driving change to put diversity at the heart of their organisations.

There was also a significant emphasis on the benefits of mentoring for BAME people, both within organisations and for young people. This included strategies such as recruitment processes for mentors and mentees and gathering input from network members to ensure that mentoring processes were beneficial to all involved – something I would encourage other employers to consider.

Finally, many of our case studies also addressed the issue of employability and careers support, from increasing BAME talent pipelines within the workplace to supporting young people to get into university through residential schemes, walk-throughs of the application process, careers events and work experience.

At a time when BAME people aren’t reflected at senior level and barriers to equal progression still exist, it’s hugely uplifting to see that so many organisations are serious about changing this by setting clear targets for increasing BAME representation and measuring their success in reaching these targets. They offer great examples of how collaboration within and across organisations can help attract, retain and progress BAME talent across a huge range of sectors, and I hope other employers will learn from them. I’ve certainly been inspired by the commitment to action and the efforts that our winners, highly commended and shortlisted organisations have put into tackling this issue and am sure that many of you will feel the same way.

Next year is Race for Opportunity’s 20th anniversary. Whilst we have achieved so much in that time – not least last week’s announcement that the Financial Reporting Council plans to add ‘and race’ to the UK Corporate Governance Code – there is still a lot more to be done. I hope that at the 2015 Awards we will have learnt from the excellent work that we’ve seen this year and that there will be even more progress towards creating equal and fair workplaces for everyone.

I would also like to say thank you to EDF Energy who generously supported the dinner this year.

Please visit the Awards 2014 Showcase for a full list of the winners, highly commended and shortlisted organisations who all receive a Business in the Community Big Tick.