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. 

  • In reply to Leah:

    We clearly have very different views on this subject. Now, let us please move the discussion on to solutions.

    What would you recommend we do to improve BAME representation and inclusion in the HR profession?


    What would you recommend we do to address racial discrimination and inequalities in organizations?
  • In reply to Geoff Boot:


    Clearly we do and this isn’t a bad thing, intellectual diversity is important and respectful discussion equally so.

    My personal view is that it’s inherently bias and immoral to recruit people based on their race, and that equal opportunity should be given to all to apply regardless of their background so I wouldn’t back a specific BAME incentive assuming that equal opportunity is already in place.

    At the hiring level however, there could be discussions and courses available to both educate and open up discussions regarding different backgrounds, what to expect and how to accommodate particular needs from those in the BAME parts of society.

    Understanding how to integrate differences of culture and background into your existing team and how to facilitate and manage that effectively.

    For example, a lot of companies will skip the ‘getting to know you’ stage of the recruitment process which used to be quite common, however for those in a minority background this does become more important to establish a base of understanding for the team dynamic to thrive.

    In terms of inequalities in the workplace a lot of current processes, at least where I work, would hold up well in terms of grievances themselves as they rely on reporting, evidence, discussion and action.

    In broader terms there could be an organisational network set up for minority groups so that they can either speak to someone in the workplace as an elected representative (much like we have a HR advisor currently) that can empathise, support and assist communication as well as advise on ways forward if a formal grievance should be lodged.

    There could be surveys done to assess whether there is a common theme amongst the BAME in your organisation or an anonymous independent feedback system.

    I think we do need to bear in mind that the market currently is having a challenging time financially, and so things that can be slotted in or adapted to current ways of working should be both cost efficient, effective and direct. Plus we all know that HR incentives when they are overly complicated, time consumptive and involve an over-haul of work for managers are rarely successful in the long-term so manageable realistic options need to be available.

    I’m sure others will have more ideas, but I would be especially keen to see ideas that leaves politics and philosophies out of it and focusses on equal justice and fairness for all, regardless of backgrounds.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    21 Jun, 2020 19:11

    In reply to Steve Bridger:

    Thank you for an exchange that is robust, but just the right side of the 'line'. Appreciated.
  • In reply to Caroline:

    Hi Caroline,
    It's good you notice the level of comments to engage with the topic relative to the number of views (which now over 6,000+ - as at 21/6/20) I would be interested to see you expand and perhaps it may mean more of the 6,000 who are likely to be largely white (we don't know because CIPD refuses to monitor ethnicity of its membership or levels of engagement by ethnicity)

    1) Please say when you first noticed 'We are not as diverse [racially] as we should be" ? if it was some time before posting your comment depending on how long you have been in HR - what did you do with that information e.g. did you talk to your white peers/management about your observation? if yes - how did they respond to the observation and did you agree the racial diversity needed to change; if you did not discuss it with your white peers or agree anything needed to change - why not?

    2) You say you want to be an 'Agent of Change' - I assume to end racism where it is effecting decisions about who gets recruited, promoted, etc? if so, what investment have you made already to improve your understanding of racism and where you fit in? - do you you see yourself as outside of it or part of it?

    3) You have been applauded for having the intention to be an 'Agent of Change' to dismantle racism in HR and the workplace (and hopefully beyond). That's a start - but how will you do this? What do you believe are the personal qualities, skills and knowledge required to be a 'Agent of Change' to dismantle racism in your workplace and how well equipped do you and your colleagues feel right now to define them or know what 'tools' you need without the racial literacy and lived experience to talk about racism and 'white privilege' or the defensive reaction by white colleagues to this and similar terms on principle?

    4) Why do you believe that because you have 'white privilege' and by implication have not experienced racism personally that this disqualifies you from offering a perspective on racism? Can you talk about how you have observed you enjoy white privilege that you have seen or know have or would not be offered to BAME HR colleagues or BAME staff in the wider workforce?

    5) Can you talk about any experience where there has been a single BAME person in your current or past HR team and what you observed about what they experienced as to how you and others in HR interacted with this person and how you observed white line managers interacted with this colleague e.g. sought out or accepted the BAME's HR advice compared to your or other white colleague input. Please state if you have never or rarely worked closely with BAME colleagues and tried to explore with them their perspective?

    6) Can you share what the implications of working in an all-white team and how this has effected the way your team draft HR policies and enact them e.g. when recruiting within the team or wider workforce how have you audited your practices to establish why it is you and your peers keep recruiting look-a-likes into HR or the wider workforce; and how does it make you feel to know your practices replicating the same results - how much does it bother you?

    7) Can you share any examples of how your 'white privilege' manifested itself in your treatment compared to a BAME peer, manager or reportee? e.g. access to coaching/mentoring, performance management - when you are perceived to have made a mistake, giving and receiving informal feedback, getting promotion, pay, being included socially, being believed...etc

    8) In what way do you believe you or the wider workforce is missing out (or not) on with the lack of racial diversity in HR? For instance, you refer to not having the lived experience of 'challenges' BAME people face - how does the lack of relatable experience effect your ability to show empathy to a BAME person who shares concerns about their treatment which they suspect may have racial and intersectional undertones?. How well equipped do you feel you to explore such concerns and guide them?

    9) Do you believe BAME staff knowing you and your peers are all or mainly white along with line management make them more or less likely to trust you with their concerns of bullying and harassment, pay differentials, inconsistent treatment?

    If you and others can try to answer the above questions perhaps we can between us increase the level of engagement and take the conversation to another level? I look forward to hearing from you and others.
  • This is an observation for the CIPD Leadership: I would have liked the discussion to have been framed better from the outset on a number of levels to facilitate engagement from a largely white membership in order to make it safer for BAME members to contribute and stay on board rather than be traumatised by some of the views expressed and the silence from fellow HR and CIPD leadership.

    The current framing is presumptive on a number of levels. It does not make transparent the author's assumptions and basis for them as it does not even include any data as the profile of the HR profession or the CIPD's own staff given it says it has based its approach on consulting 'internally'. Did it consider consulting externally BAME communities and BAME HR professionals in the design and framing of this discussion.

    For instance did the CIPD consider posing a series of questions appropriate to the audience profile in anticipation of low engagement on a topic about racism or asking them to view some material to set the context to help them prepare to join the discussion rather than simply ask a broad question what 'tools' do you need when there is no definition of the problem or attempt to seek confirmation if people agree there is a 'problem' with HR and the wider workforce being homogeneously white? There is no attempt to share if there is any difference in the views of BAME HR and white HR members as to the 'problem'. There is an assumption has the racial literacy to assess what is racism and what is not as well as agreement it is unacceptable - we can see from some of the posts overly disagree with the premise and others do so in a more covert way.

    Why does white CIPD leadership assume that a largely white membership with no lived experience of racism would at this stage of the process be able to define what 'tools' it needs or want to define them to dismantle a system that privileges them when it is clear there is a lack of racial literacy to understand the 'tools' we already have to start talking about racism but there is a rejection of those tools.

    What consideration did the CIPD Leadership give to consulting for the perspective of the BAME people who have tried to repeatedly raise concerns about institutional racism in CIPD, HR profession for the last 30-40 years (half of the CIPD's 100 year history) in the framing of this discussion that assumes racism is a matter outside of HR and CIPD? Has CIPD examined why it has not listened to such people - could it be the same reasons as those not listened in the Grenfell disaster, Windrush, disproportionate effect on BAME key workers from the coronavirus pandemic and the numerous Employment Tribunal race discrimination Cases referencing the failings of white HR and the wider white leadership?
  • In reply to Prince:

    You are correct Prince there are mental health implications for BAME people suffering in silence whilst putting on a smile. The mental health effects of racism are totally under-estimated because BAME face a cultures of disbelief from people who do have to face the same challenges. This in itself is a feature of 'white privilege' to not to have to worry about speaking up in a white space about your challenges.

    Whilst we have seen increasingly good work on removing the stigma to talk about mental wellbeing - I have noticed in 100's of presentations I have viewed that rarely are images of BAME people depicted. Further on the list of causes of mental ill health - from divorce, bereavement, financial issues, substance abuse, domestic violence, ill health etc - the consistent glaring omission is any reference to the mental health effect of racism. The presenters are often 'wellbeing' specialists including psychologists who as a profession (along with Counsellors) are overwhelmingly white. BAME suffering racism struggle to find BAME psychologists and counsellors who have the racial literacy to understand the effects and therefore how to help with racial healing. The CIPD in setting up this discussion on racism given it has triggered memories of racism as well as effect of seeing some overt and covert of the comments with a racial undertone have negatively impacted BAME members, yet the CIPD has not had the foresight to provide any signpost for professional counselling assistance.

    When we take the issue of indifference to BAME physical pain in workplaces extends to healthcare settings - for instance black women are five times more likely to die during pregnancy in the UK than white women. This is further reflected in the fact that the Charity 'Pregnant then Screwed' (PTS) has disproportionately more calls for help from BAME women due to pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace. I have dealt with multiple cases first hand of the lack of empathy and poor enactment of maternity policies. In the 1990's I was the first BAME HR person to design my organisation's (IT sector) first ever maternity policy despite being part of an established white HR team. Having lived experience matters as it influences what you notice and what you don't notice after the effects of omissions from policy frameworks as well as those that exist - how they are framed and enacted. Diverse lived experience enables policy designers to put intersectionality into the heart of policy and its enactment to effect good work and working lives.
  • In reply to Keith:

    Thank you Keith, you are rare in making this admission. There are gatekeepers working within HR to prevent access and progression for BAME HR professionals. They are aided in this by HR recruitment consultancies who are also homogeneously white so this acts as a reinforcing effect. Commissioning HR recruiters do not demand data from their recruitment partners as to the diversity of their teams, the progression of BAME applicants at each stage of the process. When the CIPD does the same - the scale of the problem is hidden and that means there is no tracking of whether it is getting better or worse. BAME HR lived experience of the recruitment process is not treated as 'knowledge' or 'data' sufficient to act upon. Yet there is widespread date of under presentation and inclusion from other sources.

    As Chair of the CIPD Milton Keynes Group I hosted a half-day workshop on racially de-biasing recruitment last year as no one was offering this and also an event on bullying and harassment in schools and how they transition into the workplace unchecked as rarely does the recruitment process seek evidence of anti-racism from candidates before appointing them. It is assumed publishing a D&I statement is sufficient that only people aligned to this are applying to join the organisation or profession or as CIPD students and tutors. There is no due diligence being carried out.

    Whenever I host any event that has a racial element to it the attendance is low - its not an issue HR thinks applies to them or their issue. Yet I have a thriving membership who over-subscribe on many other events.
  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    Dear Steve,

    I have been thinking about your response for sometime and hoping the senior Leadership would respond to review your comment. Despite your short comment it is packed with several elements that require unpicking as they have serious implications for the framing of how racism needs to be talked about in in order to shift the focus from BAME people to talking about whiteness and white privilege.

    Firstly, thank you for finding one area you agree with me on that there is a gap between intention to abide by declared values and practice. I am glad you have now identified some books you need to read. Does this mean you had not read any such books prior to now?

    If not, it might explain why you believe the way I frame the discussion is 'a struggle' for you (surely you can't speak for the other 6000 unless they have all emailed you privately?) Could the way the original discussion question was framed by the CIPD leadership also be part of the reason for the low engagement and a feature of the homogeneity of those who framed it without reference to any conceptual framework? Or are you suggesting I am single handedly responsible for others struggle?

    I notice that you refer to me using different 'labels' in a dismissive manner as if this is somehow negligent or unfair of me? In the process you undermine not only me as a BAME expert in this area but also the BAME academics who formulated these concepts over decades of research due to a barrier to BAME into academia until recently and white academia's grip on what is 'knowledge'. This is an indication of the off-hand way white colleagues disparage the work of BAME colleagues in all sorts of work settings - I know because I have conducted 200+ discrimination investigations and served as on Employment Tribunals for 20 years, etc but I guess that does not carry any weight with you or the CIPD because you prioritise yourself and others to have an 'opinion' on the matter. You may not have intended to undermine me and the body of work, but that is the effect of your actions.

    A further effect is that you do not bother to name which 'labels' you specifically find problematic (although I can guess) and why as if you do not need to explain your rationale. Your response is designed to simply silence me from using expert conceptual frameworks to undermine the whole basis for having a discussion about racism and reduce it to simply about expressing uninformed opinions and the entitlement to do so regardless of any conceptual understanding of them. By admonishing me for using mere 'labels' you are in effect using your white-male privilege to dictate the language of a BAME women as well as the 'tone' she must adopt in order to keep you in a place of comfort. Why is this my burden and not yours to bear by coming to the table from an informed position so you are less triggered?

    These so called 'labels' are part of the tool box for talking about power relationships and the effect of challenging those power relationships when they are based on skin colour/race and ethnicity. BAME people like me are the beneficiaries of these conceptual frameworks based on decades of critical race theory, evidence of socio-economic racial disparities particularly by BAME academics who have formulated these concepts over the last twenty-five years. The BAME academics like Professional Kalwant Bhopal (author of #WhitePrivilege) who has compiled 30 years of data on discrimination in the education sector faced by BAME students and academics has only latterly started to rise to prominence due to the peer review process that is heavily biased and prevents BAME students getting access to PhD studies and becoming heads of faculty.

    When you only have a narrow group of people in power who define what is 'knowledge' and who has 'talent' and authority to frame a discussion they are not the best people to define the 'tools' for dismantling that system that privileges them to control the narrative and terms of engagement. They as you are doing find ways to resist it through collective and individual acts and acts of omission (silence by your leadership and viewers of this post is just one way and building an inpentrable ideological Breitbart wall as some have done is another). The only way to shift their consciousness is to get more people to do the required work on themselves and collectively to speak the same language as increasingly BAME people who are oppressed by their power system are having to do.

    There is a resistance by white colleagues to doing this work as it is seen as an optional extra given the belief racism is 'not their problem or lived experience'. Hence the low ability or willingness to engage unprompted on the topic and why CIPD and HR is only just starting this work yet we are 50+ years on from the Equality Legislation. It has been dragged along rather than being pioneers in this space (no different to CIPD's belated response to blacklisting of union officials which had implications for counter voices to advocate for BAME workers). It has taken the public loss of yet more black lives to get white people to even talk about racism (let alone take action), but on their terms and in their time - control, control at every step of the way.

    So whilst it is encouraging you are starting to identify resources to read on racism, it begs the question why was this not a priority for you before now?

    Further, how is that as a moderator on such a sensitive and complex topic does the CIPD believe a person appointed to adjudicate does not need to have any depth of expertise - what message does that send to BAME members and the wider public that it has such little respect for racial literacy? I am sure you will find this question pointed and uncomfortable but the accountability lies CIPD leadership hierarchy and its Trustees but you have placed yourself in the front line and they remain largely invisible to its members.

    The discomfort of this question from a woman of colour may even amplify the trigger you and the CIPD feel to use your collective privilege to delete this post unilaterally if it displeases the collective you. I am prepared for this having had it happen with an earlier post without giving any rationale in a transparent way.

    However, the questions I am posing are important as they relate to the comparative difference in treatment between why so many highly qualified BAME people are struggling to get access and progression into not just HR but other professions and wider civic, leadership and policy roles that would help accelerate the work on dismantling racism - which has global not just UK implications.

    I could not envisage as a BAME-woman being considered for appointment to any post I was not over qualified for - hence why we have a serious #EthnicityPayGap that is worse than the Gender Pay Gap and hence the issue of intersectionality of race and gender for the HR profession. It would be good for the CIPD to compare itself to other professions and professional institutes and publish such results but will it?

    If the above question triggers discomfort along with my use of conceptual frameworks to the point of 'paralysis' - do you believe I am accountable for keeping you in a state of comfort or are you responsible for how you choose to respond? Would your response be different once you have acquired the insight accessing resources on racism and it's historical origins and after taking time reflect where you and the CIPD leadership fit into systemic discrimination - past, present and future?

    Why did you feel it was not necessary to improve your racial literacy in order to engage with me and the topic from a common conceptual understanding basis, not withstanding that you have no lived experience of racism? For you it is a choice to invest or not invest your time. For me I have no choice but to continue to invest as I have skin in the game. I have invested emotionally, financially, intellectually and time-wise in improving my understanding especially as racism keeps evolving to avoid detection and none so then among 'educated' people. No doubt this, will trigger a reaction so take your time, breath and reflect before responding, let your discomfort sit with you a while.

    Further I would ask you take ownership of the effect you say the 'labels' have - are you literally saying I have caused you (and others) to become mentally and physically 'paralysed' - is this a temporary or permanent paralysis? What does it stop you doing in your working or wider life that compares to the effect of racism? Is it equivalent at a moral, psychological and material level?

    Would you and others help accelerate the pace of change for racism to be dismantled if you were not made 'uncomfortable'? Have you not been in a state of comfort so far? How much more time do you think BAME people need to give you to accept change and deliver on it? -5 years?,10?, 50? 100? may be 200 years? BAME people who are proactively working on dismantling racism already know it will not be dismantled in their their lifetimes. We are wondering if it happen for our next generation.

    Lastly, I am forced to share that I am not only an immigrant from parents of a former British colony that ruled over India and created the nation of Pakistan where I was born but lived more than 50+ years in the UK, I am also not only an Aunt but also Great, Great Aunt to 53 children and have two children of my own. So I admit, unlike perhaps you and others I have a vested interested in knowing what hope I can give them that they and their offspring will not continue to experience marginalisation as their aunts, uncles, great grandparents have on the grounds of the melanin content of their skin. What answer can I give them and the countless other BAME key workers living in precarious employment as key workers serving their white brothers and sisters? One day if you and others are interested I will tell you the way I even came to get access into the HR profession in the first place in 1980. These are the untold stories behind racism and why I have made it my passion to improve working lives long before it became the CIPD's strap line.

    I respectfully await your response at your convenience. Please bear in mind that how you and the CIPD leadership respond and the matters you remain silent on, wherever I have posed questions throughout this discussion set the role model for the membership and your peer professional institutes, of which CIPD should be the lead body.

    Safia Boot
    22 June 2020
  • In reply to Samantha Wainwright:

    Hello Samantha - where are you located? I would suggest broadening your search and seek one pool of diverse candidates. Quite often you will find specific support groups e.g. disability, gender, BAME.
    Think about networking with these groups - what you put into that community will pay you dividends when it comes to finding talent. It will also improve the organisation's brand in terms of csr.
    Please feel free to contact me if you'd like support / elaborate.
  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    Thanks Steve, it's important to have a variation of opinion so thank you for facilitating
  • In reply to Caroline:

    Hello Caroline
    I think you may have seen this suggested in another reply but I do recommend reading White Fragility by Robin D'Angelo and Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I really do think these books should be on the CIPD reading list for HR professional qualifications.
    Please consider the notion of being an effective, active ally - there can no longer be silent bystanders. As we all know - not responding is usually seen as agreement ....if not collusion.
    Happy to offer you support if you'd like to chat it through
  • Please can we have direct access to robust data about workforce progression, by industry and size of company, and key global issues such as the impact of the current pandemic, ideally with some top trends highlighted there by a research scientist.

  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    22 Jun, 2020 10:20

    In reply to Safia:

    I'm just doing my job here as Community Manager and facilitating discussions. While this discussion has been a challenging and good one... I'm not surprised we've had loads of views but fewer contributions. 

    I'm not going to publicly respond to your other comments. As you know - and for the benefit of others - the senior leadership team are well aware of these exchanges and I will leave it with them to continue the conversation with you.

  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    Thanks Steve and thank you to all those who have 'liked' my posts on this subject or contacted me directly. I will add no more posts to the discussion with Leah and leave people to draw their own conclusions about this exchange.

    For those who wish to understand more, I strongly recommend Robin DiAngelo's book 'White Fragility' and Reni Eddo-Lodge's book ' Why I am no longer talking to White People about Race'. Both authors discuss the difficulties of discussing and addressing racial inequality. Another reading recommendation is Professor Kalwant Bhopal's book,White privilege: The myth of a post-racial society. These books should be CIPD recommended resources for HR professions seeking to address racial inequalities in their organisations and in our profession.
  • One thing I would like to see this debate do in this forum (and indeed nationally and internationally) is move forward instead of looking back.

    Whatever the horrors of history, we cannot put them right, or heal them, by creating new conflicts; new stereotypes; new hate-figures, especially from those who, like myself, want to see meaningful change and not the "stopgaps" we have (all of us) been satisfied with previously. The images created by terms like "white privilege", of intimidated silence being automatically "collusion", or of CIPD somehow deliberately conspiring to block progress or discussion of (any) discriminatory issue are, to me, every bit as confrontational and offensive as the stereotypes imposed, often entirely innocently in the context of their times, on others; were they racially based or related to sex, age, religion, or any other difference.

    This might be a time for the outpouring of anger triggered by events in America; it is certainly a time for change, and there must be a time for reviewing how we teach and learn of the history of ALL the human rights we, both as a nation and as individuals, have disregarded or abused in the past or more recently, but to make any of these things of value we must, every one of us, draw a line from which to move forward to where we all WANT to be, of true equality; not merely where we change one discrimination for another; one blame-game for another, or one source of unjustified and inhuman offence or inter-personal degradation for another.

    If I am white and privileged then I want everyone to share that privilege; I see no reason that any of us, black, white, gay, straight, male, female, old, young, or of any other division, should need to become the underdog so that a newly privileged substitute might take our place, which is what the language of blame and alternative-stereotyping based on past wrongs and current presupposition inherently does; whether intentionally or unintentionally.

    I look forward to participating, where and when I feel able, in a positive debate moving forward to change both our profession and in some small way our world. I hope this is what we shall have.