Every week we talk to, learn from, and are inspired by amazing people doing innovative things in the world of social value and we are excited to share some of those conversations with you.
This month we speak to Pheona and Micheal Matovu, Co-Founders of Radiant and Brighter, about how and why workplaces should diversify, how you know when you are 'diverse' enough, and why they remain optimistic about our ability to change.
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Five minutes with…Pheona and Micheal Matovu, Co-Founders of Radiant & Brighter
Tell us what you do at Radiant and Brighter?
Pheona: Our vision is to develop a true understanding of culture and diversity through education, inspiration and changing perceptions. We work across public, private and third sector organisations, providing end-to-end services including diversity training and consultative support with specific emphasis on diversity of ethnicity.
We work with black and minority ethnic communities, refugees and migrants in Scotland to ensure they get the support they need to find employment or set up their own business, and also work directly with businesses and organisations across Scotland to help them diversify their workforce.
Tell us more about how you work with organisations to help diversify their workforce?
Pheona: We work with organisations to develop bespoke programmes that support diversity and inclusion. This might involve staff training, mentorship or recruitment. We also provide staff with the skills and tools they need to make a sustainable change to the way they work. These issues are not a quick fix and we always recommend that clients take this on as an ongoing, long-term project. Changing the hearts and minds of people takes a lot longer than having a diversity policy in place.
Is this something that all organisations should be doing, whether they are big or small?
Micheal: All organisations should reflect the communities in which they operate. We are based in Scotland and here the workforce is not very diverse at all, particularly in middle management and senior management. So yes, this is something that all organisations need to be looking at.
Pheona: The issue is, if you don’t come from a diverse background and you haven’t had enough exposure to diversity, then you are highly likely to have encoded perceptions. These perceptions then influence everything you do at work, whether it is designing a product or delivering a service and it means you are then highly unlikely to reach people from diverse backgrounds. This is a systemic problem. We need organisations to understand the benefits of diversity. A diverse workforce is not just good for the black and ethnic minority people you employ, but it is also proven to have a positive impact on an organisation’s productivity and profits as well.
What are some of the biggest barriers to workplace diversification?
Micheal: One of the biggest barriers is people recognising unconscious bias and racism in the first place. People will always say “I’m not racist”, but most black and ethnic minority groups will have encountered racism in the workplace. We are the ones that feel it. The way you look at me; the way you speak to me; the way you respond to me; the way you behave around me; it says a lot.
The challenge is that when we try to talk about these issues we are immediately met with a defence; people are afraid of being judged. We need to work together to have more honest conversations and we need to move away from just listening and talking to actually taking action. There is a lot that needs to be done.
Pheona: The reality is that many black and ethnic minority groups are still made to feel they are outsiders; whether this is intentional or not. Another issue we often find is that organisations don’t recognise their own lack of diversity or they think they are diverse because they have some women on the board or have recruited one or two BAME employees. They carry on and think everything will be alright, but it will only be alright for so long.
Q: How do you know an organisation is ready to diversify its workforce?
Pheona: You can only make this work when senior management is on board and willing to commit to the time and budget needed to properly make a change. Everyone in the organisation has to take part and go on this journey together.
Micheal: The challenge at the moment is that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and claiming to be doing something but they are just trying to tick a box. These things have been embedded as part of the system for centuries and there is no single solution. This isn’t something you are going to solve today or tomorrow. You can’t unbuild the system with two hours of diversity training or by employing one person from a more diverse background. It requires honest discussion, engagement and commitment. We need to change the workplace so everyone - from senior management right down to the grassroots level - feels safe and comfortable having these honest conversations about diversity. That is the missing piece of the puzzle.
Q: How does an organisation know if they are diverse enough? Is there such a thing as being diverse enough?
Pheona: When you are diverse, people within your organisation will be comfortable and confident to talk about diversity and you will be able to reach diverse communities without any complications. I don’t think that any organisation can say it is ‘diverse enough’ at the moment and that’s ok. We are still in the early stages of change and this is something that is going to take a long time, but we need to do a lot more now.
Q: Are you optimistic in the power of organisations to make a change?
Pheona: We have to be. We can’t afford not to be. We can’t come this far only to think it will not happen, otherwise there is no point in even beginning.
Micheal: These issues have got to be addressed very quickly because we are living in a world that is very small and getting smaller. The world is watching. At the moment we are too heavily focused on fixing the people who experience racism as opposed to fixing the system. We are focused on the symptoms and not the cause. This pandemic has highlighted a lot of issues that people knew but didn’t know how to address and I think now is our opportunity to do something differently and take action to make a change.
This article first appeared as part of the Social Value Files, sign up here to keep up to date.