Jacob Gibson, one of our Race Advisory Panel members, talks about his experiences on the panel and some of the systemic racial equality issues the Group is working to address.
Our Race Advisory Panel – made up of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues from across the Group – has been established for six months now, influencing as a group and consulting on an individual basis across the Race Action Plan commitments. Throughout 2021 we’ll be speaking to some of the panel members to get their perspective and find out how things are progressing. To kick-off, coinciding with International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (also known as Anti-racism Day), Jacob Gibson talks about his experiences on the panel and some of the racial equality issues we’re working to address.
Jacob joined Lloyds Banking Group on the graduate scheme four years ago, and is now a Sourcing Manager in the Business Process Outsourcing team. In this role he supports business areas across the Group to get the best value for money and facilitate strong relationships with suppliers, who in turn deliver solutions that benefit our colleagues and customers. He naturally applied to join the Race Advisory Panel last year, having been an active member of our Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (REACH) colleague network since joining the Group.
Though serious action in relation to lack of Black representation has been a long time in coming, the organisation has certainly made a positive shift over the past 12 months. The catalyst for this change in mentality was absolutely the Black Lives Matter protests – if anybody asks what the point of the protests were, this is a great example.
The launch of our Race Action Plan was huge news, it showed that the Group were prepared to go beyond words and token gestures by publicly committing to making a change. It’s been a productive start and the right conversations have happened to date, drawing on inputs of Black colleagues, advocates and senior leaders. However, now is the time we need to turn the plans into action and start implementing impactful and visible shifts. Keep the talk, which is healthy, but we need action too.
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic employees are being called on more than ever to contribute time and energy. It shouldn’t be incumbent on them to explain (or sometimes, even more exhaustingly, convince) people about the existence of racism.
Something else we need to consider is that with anti-racism work so high on many organisations’ agendas right now, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic employees are being called on more than ever to contribute time and energy. While this work is something I feel compelled to do, it can be problematic being in this situation.
It shouldn’t be incumbent on these colleagues to explain (or sometimes, even more exhaustingly, convince) people about the existence of racism. We shouldn’t be the only ones calling out inappropriate behaviour and the discriminatory processes that exist in and out of the work environment. We all have a part to play – to that point, it’s been encouraging to see so many White people stepping forward as advocates and shifting from a ‘not racist’ mindset to an ‘anti-racist’ mindset.
With today being Anti-racism Day it’s a pertinent time to reflect – both on the progress we’re making and the challenging nature of the systemic issues we still need to tackle.
Meeting targets for Black senior representation
Improving Black senior representation is one of the top priorities of the Race Action Plan. Levers are being pulled but are we moving fast enough to move from 0.6% to 3% Black senior representation by 2025? A very obvious short term solution to the issue is to hire Black people directly into senior positions. While this sounds like a shortcut, it will be beneficial to the long term strategy of developing the talent we already have here. The presence of role models can be a very powerful motivator.
It’s often argued that recruitment is a meritocracy and the best person for the role should be appointed regardless of their race. Unfortunately, the structural discrimination embedded in many organisations has meant that the best person for the role isn’t always chosen, with ‘good-fits’ being selected as opposed to somebody from a more diverse background with a different way of thinking. Hence the need for target-setting, diversity initiatives, and deliberate action plans to address this systemic issue.
There could be an expectation for newly promoted and external Black hires to arrive and not only deliver in their jobs, but step straight into role model or community leader mode for other Black colleagues.
Of course this means there will be a lot of pressure on new Black appointments, as well as on those who are promoted internally. Some people will always question whether they only got the job or promotion on account of being Black, which, as historical and existing representation data would indicate, is ridiculous but unfortunately a very common response. There could also be an expectation for newly promoted and external Black hires to arrive and not only deliver in their jobs, but step straight into role model/community leader mode for other Black colleagues. It’s important we recognise and do our best to mitigate these additional pressures.
Career progression for Black colleagues
From entry level up, building that ever-important diverse talent pipeline is the way to go in terms of ensuring there are enough Black colleagues joining the Group and moving up the ranks. There are so many avenues for us to explore in terms of getting people through the door. Are we getting the people in early enough? How many schoolkids in areas that are rich in ethnic diversity actually know what Lloyds Banking Group is and the opportunities we have here?
I had no idea what Lloyds Banking Group was until I was 21 and stumbled upon the graduate scheme at a careers fair for Masters students. Compare this to many of my non-Black peers on the graduate scheme, who had been on placements with the Group since they were 16 years old, while they were in school. Maybe my experience was an anomaly, but it probably wasn’t. A key question for me is: how do we engage talented, ambitious Black individuals much earlier? And of course, keep them.
Because it’s also retention. The commitment the Group has made with the Race Action Plan has certainly increased my inclination to stay put as a Black colleague, but it’s important that the momentum is kept up, that we continue to make progress and that we deliver on our promises to make working for Lloyds Banking Group an excellent experience for all our people.
Being part of the Race Advisory Panel
I’m really proud to be a member of the Race Advisory Panel and I’ve loved taking my place alongside some really inspirational co-panellists. One great thing the panel has done is bring together a group of colleagues who were previously siloed from each other, despite having been driving similar changes in our respective business areas for a while.
I’m really proud to be a member of the Race Advisory Panel and I’ve loved taking my place alongside some really inspirational co-panellists.
Something I welcome is the difference in opinions across the panel as to the ‘how’ – by which I mean ‘how do we fix the issue?’. We debate the pros and cons of different approaches openly, bringing our knowledge of the different areas we operate in to the table.
There’s always something you can do as an individual, too. There are definitely opportunities to build more inclusive decision-making into my role. A perfect example is a project I’m involved in which will impact one of the processes earmarked for review as part of the Race Action Plan. I’ve been vocal in ensuring that any solution we opt for suits not just the majority, but also our under-represented colleagues. Given the high level of traction the Race Action Plan now has, my views are being heard and appreciated more than they would have been previously.
It’s difficult to do all this, but I feel I have a duty. If I won’t stand up and speak, who will? And if nobody does, then how will this work have any impact? It’s not myself I worry about. It’s my sister, my younger family members, and one day my children. I’m trying to make sure they don’t face the barriers which currently exist. That’s what motivates me to make the extra time to drive cultural change.
The final thing I’d like to say is that listening to other people speak and agreeing with them isn’t actually contributing to the solution. No matter how big or small, go away and think about what you can do to drive actual change. Less talk, more action.