CIPD anti-racism support/materials to use at work - what do you need?

UPDATE: https://www.cipd.co.uk/news-views/tackling-racism-workplace

I know that this week has been incredibly difficult for many of you and you will be looking to us, at the CIPD, for advice and guidance. I'm also acutely aware that this isn't just about this week.

We have put together a set of four principles to help support you through addressing evident and deep rooted challenges and we will be expanding on them soon; we would welcome comments and input on them. If you don't think we have done enough then help us understand what you need and what would be helpful.

To be clear - because sometimes it helps to name things - this isn't about general inclusion, although some lessons will be common, but this is specifically about racism and the damage it does. 

We will also be sharing some really honest discussions with people over the coming weeks where they talk about their experiences and what needs to change, but in the meantime we want to hear from you:

  • Let us know what you need from us that would support you and your people.
  • This will help shape our work to make the biggest difference to you and the organisations that you work in or with.
  • We look forward to hearing from you; we are listening.
  • I'd also like to re-share the details of our Wellbeing Support for members for any of you that would benefit.

I know that some people felt we weren't fast enough in responding to current events - we took some time to speak to our people internally to see how they were and what they felt we should say - but I want you to know that we are committed to building something rapidly and then sustaining that momentum over time.

We are trying to find ways to drive positive change together, so please ensure that the conversations here are clear and honest. I've asked that members of the CIPD team step into the conversations where possible to add their thoughts and also to listen. 

  • We cannot combat racism, nor should we. It's a natural, instinctive, animal reaction, and because of that, not, in itself, 'wrong'. We are, and should be, tribal. But racist BEHAVIOUR is abhorrent, and must end. We cannot 'manage out' racist prejudice, or anti-LBGTXI feelings, but we can manage out behaviour based on those feelings. I have never understood why the liberal left doesn't realise this.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    18 Jun, 2020 14:36

    In reply to Nonie Westbourne:

    You have some interesting opinions, Nonie (on your Facebook profile).

    So we're born racist, are we?
  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    I didn't say we are born racist. We have no tribal feelings when we are children. But that doesn't mean, either, that we are conditioned to have racist feelings by our upbringing.

    As children, we fear danger, not 'otherness'. Everything is new, and everything is acceptable. But I do believe it's natural to fear the 'other' - less so when one is very young.

    I was brought up in India from the age of 2 1/2 and had a South Indian, Thomasian Christian Ayah. I loved her. She was very dark skinned. Because we grew up in a strongly non-racist family, I was groomed to be non-racist. Then we went to Africa. Ditto. But when I came home to England, I started to feel racist. I felt and feel that many black people do not share our cultural norms, and are aggressive about their right to behave as they do.

    I react instinctively against them, and have to control my emotions, and remember that such feelings lead to racist behaviour, and I am wholly determined that no human being should act in a way that would diminish another.

    So colour and form and appearance and behaviour are all conflated, and all represent the 'other'. Yes, I do think it natural to want to stay safe in our own tribes, and to react instinctively against others.

    I think we pretend otherwise in HR, and that doesn't help eliminate racist and other prejudicial behaviour. We need to counter that, not the autogenic feelings that engender it. And we need to be open about the root cause if we are to succeed.
  • Like many of the respondents surveyed in the CIPD 2017 report on ‘Barriers to BAME employee career progression to the top’, I too as a black female in the HR profession have experienced significant challenges with career progression and stability across my c.9 year HR career to date, locking me into a career that’s largely comprised an endless round of insecure, short-term temp. contracts in order to gain employment.

    Like Prince, I also suspect that a portion at least, of the lack of follow-up/feedback I’ve experienced after sometimes painstakingly submitting job application after tedious job application over the past 2 years particularly, and throughout my career generally, is attributable more to reservations about my ethnicity (implied by my “non-English-sounding” African name) than my qualifications (CIPD HRM L5 Diploma, award-winning, 1st-class degree student, Master’s degree from Times top 10 University – none of which has been enough.) or abilities.

    I can still recall managing to secure an interview not too long ago that I was really excited about, which unfortunately went downhill fast, after I met with my interviewer for the first time and was informed, with an accompanying look of palpable disappointment, that she thought (hoped?) I’d be Japanese (-given that I was the only ‘diverse’ person in the building that I could see, I suppose one must still applaud the fact that they were attempting to push the envelope on diversity at all however).

    I too therefore very much welcome this opportunity to support the CIPD in driving forward these long-anticipated, positive changes, and if there’s any way I can help David, please do let me know!

    Moving slightly off topic, I would like to be quite vocal about the fact that my individual, personal experience of the CIPD as an organisation has been quite laudable throughout my career. – I appreciate that everyone’s experience is unique, however I’ve consistently found the CIPD to be a strong professional support to me over the years, which has been most welcome.

    As far as how the CIPD could support frontline HR professionals in overcoming racial equity barriers, I think I would say that a good start would be to first really commit to it; - as I think that for change to have any real chance of occurring, it will require continuous and consistent, conscious action.

    Short workshops and one-off articles/events/initiatives that trend while this issue is in vogue but which die down as quickly as the historically fickle media headlines on this topic, do more harm than good over the longer term, and will only foster doubt concerning your sincerity.

    Tangible solutions/ideas could perhaps involve the development of materials dealing with:

    • Diversity recruiting with associated specialist training guides
    • Conducting race equality audits
    • Race equality/antiracism/anti-oppression training
    • Guidance to effective allyship
    • Mental health support
    • Strategies and guidance to ensure the appropriate embedding of racial equity in company policy development as well as performance management, compensation benchmarking and leadership development processes (among others).

    All such resources could, I believe, help to create the sea change needed to help us go beyond simply paying another round of lip service to these pressing issues, and actually start to courageously live up to our name and values as ‘people champions’, and progress authentically and empathetically towards ending oppressive practices of all forms.
  • It would be useful to flesh out terms that are used - examples being 'white privilege', 'institutional racism', 'white fragility', 'microaggressions' - these are inflammatory terms and we need to be careful not to cause a division between people within workplaces.

    Personally I find these terms about white people offensive and I imagine a lot of people would, and I think care needs to be taken to focus on uniting people rather than dividing them.

    If there are inequalities we need to be able to understand, identify and address the functionality of it within our workplace and institutions in a concrete way so that we can and prescribe a remedy based on evidence rather than conjecture or a particular world view.
  • One of the things I would like to see are resources for leaders to have conversations in their teams about race. We have a very small number of BAME employees of which I'm one and some leaders don't think they need to discuss this issue if they only have white people in their team. Others who want to discuss it are unsure where to start and don't want to get it wrong so instead they say nothing which isn't the best thing to do either. How can we help them to have those courageous conversations more routinely?
  • In reply to Leah:

    welcome to the communities.

    Out of interest do you believe the term white privilege to be offensive because you don't believe it exists or that you believe there is a better way of drawing attention to the fact that it exists? Isnt the very fact that we cant even recognize something part of the problem? I see white fragility every day in discussions about race and equality issues.
  • In reply to Keith:

    I believe in many aspects of life some are more privileged than others and that’s unique to individuals for many different reasons, but I don’t believe in the identity politics of grouping by race and I think that is a simplistic and very dangerous philosophy to uphold.

    For example, Oxford university are now proposing that students of colour may have a reduced work load and lower academic standards for exams.

    This may seem virtuous but all it will do in the real world is decrease the value of a degree through these types of programmes and lower the self esteem of people within these groups, who will never know whether they truly earned their degrees no matter how hard they worked. These are the kinds of destructive policies that can result and send the message that people are not capable because of their race.

    I think recognising something you don’t believe exists and for which you have seen no evidence would be contradictory, it’s a philosophy and it’s not a world view that everyone ascribes to.

    I think the term ‘white fragility’ is something that is used every time someone disagrees with a premise from this philosophy. Putting that in the reverse, ‘you’re just saying that because you’re black’ would be deemed racist and taking the ability of someone to have a contrary opinion away from them through race shaming. It’s not conducive to discourse about real issues in my opinion.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    19 Jun, 2020 15:35

    In reply to Steve Bridger:

    Sharing some Race in the workplace FAQs, which include guidance and suggested responses to questions such as: 'How do I start a conversation around race in the workplace,' and 'What advice can you give on setting up an employee network or affinity group around race?'

    The CIPD team asked what people professionals wanted to know in order to help their organisations address the issue in their workplace and these FAQs came out of this.

    The work on our anti-racism hub is ongoing and we'll be developing more content - in collaboration with others where relevant.


  • In reply to Nonie Westbourne:

    Nonie, You seem to be saying you have developed instinctive and tribal reactions towards people based on the colour of their skin and then say you have to struggle to not let this leak into your behaviour towards other people. This leaves we wondering how your racial prejudices influence your work as an HR professional? I suspect you may part of the problem of continued racial inequalities in organizations, rather than part of the solution of overcoming discrimination not just on the grounds of race, but also other personal characteristic, such as sexual orientation, gender and religion. Since you are an HR professional and a CIPD member I would urge you to read more widely on the subject of racism and inequality and engage in conversations with those HR practitioners seeking to make a difference to BAME's experiences and improve working lives.
  • In reply to Leah:

    Leah, You seem to be questioning well established concepts like racial inequalities, institutional racism, white privilege, white fragility, micro-aggressions without any evidence. These are not some "philosophy" to be dismissed, because you find them uncomfortable. They are well researched and evidenced social practices and concepts. There are numerous government reports and academic studies evidencing race discrimination and inequalities in organisation and societies. Further, your attempt to trash Oxford University attempts to increase BAME representation at the university is misleading and disingenuous. Your post seems to be a good example of some who is demonstrating 'White Fragility" and you should read Robin DeAngelo's book to help you understand this better.
  • In reply to Geoff Boot:


    I can question any concept that I choose to, particularly when they’re based on concepts where I find them lacking and I’m at liberty to say so.

    I did not question that racial inequalities may exist what I did say is that these need to be evidenced and we need to be able to understand the functionality of them beyond a person’s presumptions about other people’s intentions, otherwise it’s not scientific or logical and we cannot hope to be able to create a fair and balanced system or discussion otherwise.

    How is my criticism of Oxford misleading and disingenuous? My criticism was completely logical and highlights that if you give preferential treatment to one group, you disenfranchise another and create more inequality – one standard for all because all are equally capable.

    It seems more of a racist assertion to me that you presume that they need this kind of assistance because of their race, my proposal is that BAME are perfectly capable of performing to the same standard as everyone else and saying otherwise disempowers and insults them.

    I have a right to question any concept in the world, particularly regarding the theory/philosophy of white fragility and privilege and your immediate assumption that I cannot do this because I am coming from a standpoint of white fragility upholds my original point.
  • In reply to Samantha Wainwright:

    You might like to audit your own personal and professional network and encourage your leadership team/workforce to map out the diversity of your contacts. Look for patterns in who you are gravitating towards and reflect on what is attracting you and to some people but not others. Explore the profile of the local community residing in your area - your local council will have data on this as well as other national census data and local NHS health and racial disparity data. Identify all the local community groups - arts & culture, religious & professional and interest groups. Find out what events they are holding and connect. Get a slot on the local hospital, school newsletter, stand outside the Leisure centre/retail area, etc The aim is for you to reach out and let them know about your organisation, roles and that you have put in the work to create a welcoming culture for those who are under-represented. Its the difference between being passive or pro-actively networking - once you start the ball rolling it literally snowballs.
  • In reply to Leah:

    Thanks for your reply to my post. Your posts seem to be intended to undermine rather than open up discussion about how we address racial inequalities in organizations and society and serve only to maintain the status quo.

    Firstly, you seek to discredit terms like white privilege, institutional racism, white fragility and microaggressions because you consider them ‘inflammatory’ and ‘offensive’. You should consider the often-daily offense and trauma caused to many BAME individuals in their daily interactions at work and in wider society through implicit and explicit acts of racism. You seem to think the use of these concepts risk causing division between people. When in fact these terms are not the cause of divisions but serve to describe the existing divisions and inequalities in our society.

    Secondly; you question ‘if equalities exist’ and ask for evidence of their nature and impacts. There is mountains of evidence about the injustices and inequalities white societies have imposed on BAME people, both in the past and in the present, evidence of structural, institutional and personal racism and the traumatic and damaging impacts these have on BAME work and life experiences.

    Thirdly; you seek to undermine the concepts used to describe racial injustices as a philosophy that you can pick and choose according to your own prejudices and while you ask for evidence of injustice and inequalities, you provide no evidence in support of your own viewpoint.

    Finally; your description of the Oxford University Access and Participation Plan is disingenuous and misleading. The access arrangements do not seek to reduce the workload or academic standards for BAME students, nor decrease the value of an Oxford degree or undermine the self-esteem of BAME students. The university recognises its legal obligations to address discrimination and advance equality of opportunity. The access and admissions policy starts from a recognition of the structural inequalities in education that disadvantage many BAME and other sectors of society and privilege others based on the intersectionality of wealth, class, whiteness and access to private education. You ignore these societal issues and resort to a glib assertion that everyone is equally capable. While I agree all humans have the capabilities to learn and thrive, they also need to be given the same opportunities to do so. There is not ‘a level playing field’ in the UK for access to education or to career success. Further your argument is based on a well-worn trope used by commentators with ‘white privilege’ who seeks to undermine positive action programmes addressing racial inequalities by claiming they undermine standards and are not in the interests of those they seek to help.

    I believe the views you have expressed in your posts are offensive to many BAME and other members of the HR profession and are worrying if you are considering an HR career. You should consider how your worldviews aligns with the CIPD New Profession Map, including the purpose of the profession to champion better work and working lives, through a principle led and an evidence-based approach. The principles listed include amongst others; do what is right; inclusivity; access to opportunity; fair treatment; rights and protections under law and act with integrity.
  • In reply to Geoff Boot:


    Your interpretation of the intent behind my comments is entirely up to you but you should note that it is not an absolute and objective truth, you seem to be ideologically possessed and presuppose my point of view rather a lot.

    The terms I was criticising are inflammatory and offensive, the answer to offence is not more offence which is as true as the answer to racism is not more racism. I would suggest that they are mired in an untruth that there is no diversity within the white community in terms of poverty, wealth and class and it does not consider individual circumstances and life experiences.

    For example Naz Shah claimed poverty as a child as she only received one free holiday a year from social services to Scarborough, she obviously doesn’t realise that this would be considered a luxury for many white working class people in the UK to have a yearly holiday – we must realise that our society has many layers and levels that aren’t guided by race and be very careful about the way that we define society.

    It’s a broadsweep approach to classify people in terms of colour that is patently false as society is more complex than this. It’s a far cry from MLK’s position of ‘judging a man by the content of his character, not the colour of his skin’.

    I did not question if inequalities existed at all, I said that if inequalities occur they need to be demonstrable and we need to understand the functionality of them within organisations so that we can remedy appropriately, which is a perfectly reasonable point to make. (This also addresses your third point)

    As an example of this, in the USA there have been discussions about over-policing in certain states that have mainly comprise the black community, it was identified that certain states had provided financial incentives for more community interactions by the police which led to community members being over-policed and harassed – these types of discussions are ones that should take place, where we can identify what the inequality is and how it works so that we can address it. Screaming racist at every white person solely on the basis that they’re white isn’t going to cut the mustard and will cause divide.

    Regarding Oxford university, I did not ignore accessibility in terms of wealth and class as that was not the point I was making, I addressed the reduction of workload and lowering of exam standards, therefore if anyone’s point is disingenuous it is yours. These kinds of programmes exist in the USA and disadvantage Asians and Whites, so the question is whose equality would you prefer to impinge upon, and is it not better to have one standard that everyone has the opportunity to achieve? As you rightly say, opportunity needs to be there for everyone who can meet that standard.

    There never has been an equal playing field to certainly the top universities in the UK in any walk of life and this certainly could be looked at, however I also feel that university for all as an idea is a platitude for those who believe that everyone is equally capable which they aren’t, and this had led to a lowering of standards and a lowering of values of degrees in general but that is a separate issue and not racially bound.

    On the contrary, many BAME people find the philosophy espousing white privilege offensive as it implies a natural superiority of the white race in general within society, and assumes that they need assistance where they are perfectly capable so your presumption that a philosophy is widely accepted within these communities is false and there is much more intellectual diversity in the world than you assume.