Since returning from holiday, I have pondered for the last two weeks about writing this blog and sharing with you the efforts I have made over the last six months to:
- Raise the profile of my PhD research and book.
- Educate senior leaders predominantly in the Ministry of Justice, about the value in applying an intersectional approach to not only diversity in its broadest sense, but how it can be used to broaden understanding and address the disparities that exist between different ethnic groups in the workplace.
- And explain and describe in simple terms, how organisational psychodynamics can be used by organisations to avoid regurgitating the same practices that were wittingly/unwittingly devised to position people from non-white ethnic groups as ‘deviant’, ‘othered’, or ‘victims’ of institutional structures that perpetuate institutional racism. By this I mean, the misconception that talking about race without taking action to remove the structures that create racial inequality, does nothing to create an inclusive workplace or increase equality of opportunity for all.
The root of my indecisiveness stems from the backlash I am currently encountering from some individuals who fear culture and organisational change. And from others who lack an understanding of the benefits that can be gained by bringing together academics and policymakers to address racial and diversity inequality in the workplace. In addition, there are those who are attempting to discredit my study because it provides a new way of thinking and approach to address the entrenched practices and structures that perpetuate white patriarchy in many organisations. Sadly, I have found that the presence of educated black women such as myself, is disrupting the status quo. There are individuals and groups who feel they need to defend (Bion, 1961) the status quo and destroy (Jacques, 1965) – psychoanalytically speaking, those who pose a threat.
However, when I started my journey to make black women visible in Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, and contribute to prison occupational literature. I knew it would be difficult and expected challenges along the way. And believe me, there were many. But I must admit, I never expected to be going through this current ordeal.
Determined to make a positive difference to support the Ministry of Justice to be more than diverse, but racially inclusive in all areas of the business. I have continued on my quest to meet with all the Race Champions and Gender Champions at the Ministry of Justice. I have met with the majority and engaged in illuminating and thought-provoking conversations with them.
I am fully aware that culture change takes more than goodwill and emotional labour by a few. It takes more than increasing the visibility of race and gender champions talking about race, gender and diversity inequality at senior levels, because the ‘gate-keepers’ – middle managers and below have the greatest influence on the success of culture change, especially when it clashes with existing structures such as institutional racism, systems that are embedded in all levels of most organisations in the UK.
I hope improvements will be made, but I remain skeptical. As a practitioner-researcher and specialist in organisational psychology and race relations, I have endeavoured and will continue to use my experience, knowledge, and research to support organisations that have a genuine interest in creating racially inclusive work environments.
Bion, W. (1961) Experiences in Groups and Other Papers, London, Brunner-Routledge (this edition 2001).
Jacques, E. (1955) ‘Social systems as a defence against persecutory and depressive anxiety’, in Klein M., Heimann P. and Money-Kyrle, E. (eds) New Directions in Psychoanalysis, London, Tavistock Publications.