On Thursday 3 March, senior leaders from students’ unions came together at the University of West London Students’ Union for our first ever Race Matters Summit. Across the day, staff and officers confronted the current under-representation of Black leaders within the student movement and discussed the necessary steps which need to be taken in order to address the issue. Here are some of the highlights from the Summit.
1. We can learn a lot from the people around us
Perhaps the single biggest source of encouragement from the Summit was the feeling that we’re not alone in wanting to tackle race inequality in the workplace.
The event got underway with introductions from Simon Blake (NUS Chief Executive), Malia Bouattia (NUS Black Students’ Officer) and Kat Stark (UWLSU Chief Executive) before delegates heard from fellow champions in the field including Mandeep Rupra-Daine (NUS Equality & Diversity Consultant), Jacqui Clements (Warwick Students’ Union Chief Executive), Samantha Budd (Bristol SU Chief Executive) Ben Whittaker (UWLSU Deputy Chief Executive) and Megan Dunn (NUS National President).
2. The voices of 24,457 individuals cannot be ignored
Sandra Kerr OBE, Race Equality Director at Business in the Community, used her keynote speech to look at why employers need to talk about race and where to start with race equality in the workplace. During which, Sandra also shared findings from BITCs Race At Work report - the largest survey into race and employment.
3. Black graduates are actually over-qualified for the jobs they do.
During his keynote speech Omar Khan, Director at Runnymede, presented on the importance of being bold in your leadership to challenge race inequality, the principles to talk about race equality and the role of positive action in the workplace.
Throughout the day a number of delegates and speakers stated the notion of Black staff having to work ‘twice or thrice as hard as their counterparts’. With this in mind, Omar’s most telling slide was the one below which demonstrated that a large percentage of Black graduated in the UK are overqualified for their jobs.
4. We can each show that Race Matters through being a good ally
The day’s penultimate session focussed on the importance of creating inclusive cultures in our working environments so that colleagues can both survive and thrive.
Youcef Hassaine (Business In The Community Race Equality Campaign) firstly spoke about attracting and recruiting diverse talent, before Dan Robertson (Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion) touched on practicing inclusive leadership and Tina Mason (Ernst & Young) explored a leader’s role in championing race diversity.
To round off the session, NUS’ very own Bindz Patel (NUS Development officer - Liberation and Training, People & Talent) talked about how white staff can understand their own privilege on a path to allyship.
5. Addressing the lack of Black staff in the movement is key to creating an NUS we can all be proud of
The final session focussed on NUS’ Project100 work and allowed SUs and NUS to identify some ambitions for the movements, and suggestions for working together to achieve them. This included discussions on what the content of the day means for SUs, exploring the key steps delegates intend on taking and discussing the challenges unions may face in leading their race equality work.
If you couldn’t make it to the Summit, this Loomio group offers a space where you can add ideas, suggestions or comments to the various discussions in the Project100 session. We strongly encourage you to start conversations in your union/association and upload them to the group, but please note that the group will close on the Friday 11 March.