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Today we're hosting our first ever Black Leaders Conference

Wednesday 11-11-2015 - 08:31

Today I am heading to the Black Health Agency’s 25th birthday celebration. I was a trustee and then vice chair for the organisation between 2005 and 2010 (or 2004 – 2011).

As I head for Manchester approximately 100 delegates will be heading for NUS' first ever Black Leaders Conference*. I am delighted that following the report of Race Matters earlier this year NUS is today (Wednesday 11 November) holding our first Black Leaders Conference for self-defining Black staff, officers and students from across the student movement. This conference is important because we know from Race Matters -  which was published earlier this year - that the student movement, including NUS need to really improve the representation of Black staff and officers, particularly in management and senior roles. 

It is an uncomfortable fact that despite the best of intentions, Black staff remain under-represented within NUS and the student movement. This is, of course, for a whole host of reasons, many of which are set out in Race Matters. It is time for that to change. And the time is now.

That is why this Black Leaders Conference, as well as the work of the Black Students’ Campaign, such as the Black Sabbs Network, is so important. This - a watershed event - is an opportunity for Black staff, officers and students to come together to learn, share and be inspired from speakers and each other, and to think about what their leadership means for them personally and in their students' union.

However, increasing Black representation is not the sole responsibility of our Black staff and officers. Creating a representative and inclusive student movement requires commitment and action from all leaders in the student movement. This is why the Black Leaders Conference will be followed by a Race Matters Summit on Thursday 3 March 2016.

The Summit will bring together a range of leaders and key influencers from within students' unions and leading race equality, diversity and inclusion organisations to learn and to think about the steps that need to be taken to make our individual institutions and the student movement as a whole a safe, enjoyable and a welcoming place for everybody to work; and that Black staff and officers want to and can thrive personally and professionally within the student movement.

As the ideas, commitment and expertise builds momentum through these key events, NUS is at the same time starting to taking forward some of the recommendations from Race Matters, starting with the review of the equality and diversity elements in Quality Students' Union and comprehensive equality and diversity training for all NUS staff. 

The learning from the Summit and Conference, combined with the learning and recommendations from Race Matters will be used to inform an ambitious goal to increase the levels of Black staff and officer representation in NUS’ next Strategic Plan which is published in July 2016. So by the time NUS is 100 years old in 2022 we will have made massive strides in ensuring that the staff and officer workforce profile of the student movement reflects the wider communities and society we live in. This will be good for individuals, good for student communities, good for students' unions, NUS and the student movement as a whole.

I hope everyone attending the Black Leaders Conference has a fantastic and valuable day. I know it will provide a fun, motivating and inspiring day. I look forward to hearing the outcomes. 

*I would like thank Malia Bouattia and Mandeep Rupra-Daine and all those involved in the Race Matters research and organising both todays conference and the Race Matters Summit. 

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