Celebrating Black History Month in the workplace

Lizzie Buxton

Written By AdviserPlus

18th October 2021

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October marks Black History Month in the UK; an annual event that celebrates and recognises the huge contributions to society by people from African and Caribbean backgrounds.

The UK has a diverse and multicultural population, however its’ roots can be traced back to a much darker part of the UK’s history. During the days of the Empire, much of Britain’s wealth and power was obtained due to its involvement in the slave trade. As a result, many of the accomplishments and contributions made by Black, African and Caribbean people in shaping the UK into the country we know today were overlooked, ignored or simply forgotten.

In response, Black History Month was established – in the UK in October 1987, through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who worked for the Greater London Council. The event aims to not only address the lack of representation in the UK’s history books but it’s also an opportunity for people to learn more about the effects of racism and how to challenge negative stereotypes, that despite great efforts in recent years, are still present in today’s society.

Why should businesses mark Black History Month?

If your business celebrates other national days such Mental Health Awareness week, Pride Month or International Women’s Day, you should include Black History Month in your schedule of activities – even if you have a small percentage of black employees. It continues the dialogue around race and identity in your business, and ensures your organisation is contributing to educating its employees and addressing the societal educational imbalances we experience.

How can businesses mark the event?

  • Successful workplace cultures ensure that everyone, especially those from ethnic minorities, feel empowered, recognised and listened to by their employers. When planning activities, involving your employees in discussions is a great way to understand what would really resonate with them – making any activities meaningful and valued. Creating a diversity, equality and inclusion committee that can take the lead on this kind of event and bring lots of different ideas to the table, will help your  business create a more diverse environment. At AdviserPlus, our Inclusivity+ team ensures that group members input into important company choices like supporting with policies and procedures, communications about raising awareness of DE&I issues, provide information about religious celebrations and, overall, ensure colleagues continue to feel safe, listened to, involved every day and confident to thrive.
  • Involving your leadership team and encouraging them to take an active role in promoting any activities that you organise will encourage buy-in from across the entire workforce. When employees see that their leaders genuinely value their people and are committed to creating inclusivity across the business, staff engagement will increase, and people will feel happier in their roles as well.
  • Highlight your own employees’ achievements. If your employees have their own stories and experiences that they wish to share, Black History Month is an ideal time to do this. Organisations can share and celebrate these achievements, with the permission of the employee, via their internal comms. channels or externally on the company’s social media.
  • A really positive way in which you can promote Black History Month in your organisation is by raising money for charities that support people of Black and ethnic minority backgrounds. The list of ways to fundraise is endless; they could be as simple as a raffle, a quiz or sponsored activities.
  • Events such as Black History Month are a fantastic way of advocating diversity and inclusion in your business however it shouldn’t be a tick box exercise or just stop on 1st Organisations and their employees have a responsibility to promote and encourage these initiatives throughout the entire year as part of a continued diversity and inclusion strategy. Not only will this promote a positive, inclusive workplace culture but demonstrates a commitment to empowering employees from diverse ethnic backgrounds year-on-year. 

Our Learning Solutions team has produced a webinar which goes into more detail about managing diversity in the workplace. To watch on demand, click here.

For help with policy or DE&I strategy support take a look at our consultancy services webpages.


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