‘Now is the time for action on racial equity’

WM People’s new Top Employer Award judge Bukola Adisa speaks about the need for more action on racial and gender equity in the workplace.

Bukola Adisa


Employers need to show that they have paid more than lip service to racial equity and inclusion over the last year, says WM People’s new Top Employer Award judge.

Bukola Adisa is Founder of Career Masterclass, an online Career Development Platform which seeks to leverage technology to democratise career growth and progression for Black and Ethnically Diverse Professionals. She says the last year has highlighted the need for employers to go above and beyond when it comes to tackling issues relating to social equity, from racial equity to women’s career progression.

She wants employers to move beyond PR statements about Black Lives Matter and stop putting the responsibility on Black employees to educate their white colleagues, often through reliving past trauma. “Putting the responsibility onto marginalised people drives the unfairness even deeper,” she says. “There has to come a point where people start to take action. Otherwise they can remain in listening mode for years.”

She adds that there was a huge mental health toll involved in retelling stories of trauma and racism. “Employers need to look for other ways to learn and move forward to take action. Some are doing fantastic work, but others have not yet left the starting blocks,” she states.

Bukola says the pandemic cannot be an excuse to pause action on such an urgent issue. She would like to see more work being done to increase diversity at senior levels. In fact the situation at FTSE 100 companies has gone backwards during the pandemic. “There need to be more Black people promoted and on the boards not just of local government organisations or charities. Until we start to see that employers cannot say they are truly inclusive,” she states, adding: “This is not a political issue. It is a human rights issue.”

Women’s career progression

Bukola is also concerned about the impact of the pandemic on women’s career progression because they have been the primary carers for children and older relatives. She says the pandemic, has brought into sharp focus all the previously hidden care work women have been doing, including looking after grandchildren or children with special needs. “It’s a huge mental load,” she states.

While Covid ways of working have made remote working more accessible, women have also been left with “a general sense of exhaustion”, says Bukola. She cites the US organisational psychologist Adam Grant who talks about how many have been “languishing” during the pandemic, neither too depressed to function, but somehow lacking the motivation to get going again. 

“The pandemic has also given many people, particularly women, time to rethink their relationship with work and their idea of success,” says Bukola. They are moving more towards “purposeful work”.

She says employers need to take into account individuals’ needs, understand the headwinds they are facing and tailor support and help to their particular context. “It is vital that they show how they help people navigate tricky phases of their careers. There is no blanket approach that works,” she says. 

When it comes to the Top Employer Awards, she says she is looking for employers who have gone the extra mile. She states: “I am looking for employers who have really stepped up to take a more humane approach during the pandemic, who have looked beyond commercial success because that is only part of the social contract that employers have with their employees. I want to see employers who have taken into account the different needs of their stakeholders, who have led with purpose and have not just been focused on revenue generation, who have been able to balance keeping the business going with taking into account their employees’ needs.”

*To enter the Top Employer Awards, click here. The deadline for entries in 21st October. 

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