Global events over the last few years have shone a light on institutional (also known as structural) racism. This term refers to policies and practices that exist in an organisation that unintentionally, disadvantage people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Whilst our society has continued to progress in its understanding of racial injustice, tackling institutional racism has not progressed in line with the understanding of racial injustice. That’s because it’s often easier to think about racism as being purely about individual mindsets and actions instead of accepting that it may be something that policies and practices may inadvertently be a contributing factor.
In addition to other socio-economic factors, institutional racism also contributes to some of the health inequalities facing the global majority communities. Health inequalities refer to the unjust and avoidable differences in people’s health the population and between specific population groups.
A sad and well-documented example of this are the ethnic disparities in the mortality rate for expectant mothers. Whilst women who die in these circumstances are dying from the same causes, Black and Asian women are dying more frequently. The reasons for this continue to be explored to gain understanding, but factors impacting on the care that women received, including ignorance, bias, microaggressions and racism have been cited as part of the explanation.
As Chief of Staff and the Equalities Senior Responsible Officer (SRO), it is my responsibility to ensure our staff and the population served by SEL ICB are treated in an equitable way. A large part of this involves deconstructing all forms of racism throughout the south east London Integrated Care Board (ICB). The first and most important thing is to acknowledge that it is simply not enough to be passively non-racist. Instead, we must strive to be actively anti-racist. That means reviewing policies and changing practices, and embedding anti-racism into our policies.
To make this a reality, I am delighted to have received full Board support south east London ICB’s first anti-racism strategy tailored for our workforce. The strategy seeks to embed anti-racism into our culture, policies and processes throughout the employee lifecycle. As an ICB with a more than 40% global majority workforce, this mission is especially important.
The aim of the strategy is for our ICB to become nationally recognised as an anti-racist organisation that challenges racism and promotes race equality as an employer to create wider positive impacts for people and communities. Let’s take a deeper look into how and why we’re planning to achieve this:
Anti-racism is a commitment to not only acknowledge the negative influence that racism has on global majority communities, but also doing the work to transform the inequitable structures that continue to disadvantage these communities. In other terms, anti-racism is about taking action to improve diversity, equality, and inclusion whilst taking time to reshape how we think about racism and interact with people from different races.
Unsurprisingly, racial inequity has a significant impact on people’s health, wellbeing, and wider life chances. That’s why it’s so important to have a solid plan of action to tackle it in all its forms. As such, we’re committed to creating a workplace that provides equitable treatment, access, and representation to all and where race is not a barrier to success.
Additionally, whilst we have a diverse workforce, global majority colleagues are underrepresented at the more senior levels of our organisation. Our strategy aims to address this and attain equitable representation throughout the organisation.
Our anti-racism strategy is part of our wider anti-discrimination strategy (which covers the nine characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010). It focuses on building anti-racism into the culture, policies, and processes of our ICB.
Our full strategy provides details of how anti-racism will be implemented in every stage of the employee lifecycle.
We will actively seek anonymous and honest feedback from our staff on how we’re performing through surveys and other benchmarking tools. As usual, our staff are always welcome to come forward and tell us about their thoughts anonymously through our Freedom to Speak Up route and staff networks dedicated to diversity and inclusion.
So, to conclude, tackling racism is a collective effort and everyone has a part to play. In the words of the great political activist Angela Davis, ‘In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.’
Full details of the anti-racism strategy can be found here: Anti-racism strategy – high level plan.