Two years on from the killing of George Floyd

Post author image. Sandra Kerr
Sandra Kerr CBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community reflects on the anniversary of the killing of George Floyd, which sparked protests around the world.
Sandra Kerr smiles at the camera

What should our reflections be two years on from George Floyd’s death? Watching the horrific scenes play out on our screens for more than nine minutes bought into sharp focus the racial disparities that still exist. In response to the protests in the US and UK, I called for a key focus on leadership, allyship and listening to your Black employees and communities.

From our Race at Work Survey that we ran for the third time in 2021, we saw evidence of improvement. The number of executive sponsors for race at the top table shifted from 33% in 2018 to 44% in 2021. More employees told us via the survey that they can see leaders responsible for equality and fairness.

We didn’t have any evidence about how serious White people were about allyship until we saw them take to the streets, alongside Black people, protesting the ‘on screen’ murder of an unarmed Black man. The Race At Work 2021: The Scorecard Report revealed that 39% of White people in the UK who completed the survey believe ‘my employer supports people like me to promote race equality’. A quarter (26%) expressed a desire for more support from their employers.

The 2021 survey had 24,950 comments. Of these 9,500 were about the topic of allyship. Currently Queen Mary University and the University of Birmingham are helping us to analyse these. As such, allyship is now a vital component of the Race at Work Charter as its sixth commitment.

The importance of listening to Black voices, in the workplace, in the community, in education and in policy development cannot be stated enough. The Race at Work 2021 survey found that when it comes to the importance of role models, Black employees were most likely to want them, and they want them to be from their own background. It’s hard to be what you cannot see.

What actions can employers take? You can join the 867 businesses who have now signed the Race at Work Charter. Be public about your commitment to anti-racism and inclusion. Commit your organisation to leadership, capturing ethnicity data, zero tolerance on racial harassment and bullying, managers taking ownership of promoting inclusion, progressing diverse talent, supporting allies, and ensuring inclusive supply chains.

Leaders and managers can actively mentor and sponsor Black, Asian, Mixed Race and ethnically diverse talent in their workplaces. Use data to be transparent about the representation and pay of Black, Asian, Mixed Race and ethnically diverse employees. Amid the cost of living crisis this has never been more important. Or, in other words, two years on from George Floyd’s death, do the right thing.