D&I Task Group
We are only halfway through 2020 but it is already proving to be unforgettable. None of us could have anticipated a year in which the world would stay at home, a year in which we would hold more virtual meetings than face-to-face and a year in which so many would sadly lose their lives. Despite the unfamiliar nature of this new normal, a very familiar theme won’t go away: this is the issue of systemic racism.
In January, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex took a step back from their official duties, citing negative coverage in parts of the media which they felt veered into racist harassment and bullying. Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities; an effect which is due in part to structural inequality in our society. The pandemic has also led to an increase in acts and displays of racism against people of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent.
The brutal killing of George Floyd in the US in May and the protests and outrage it has sparked around the world has rightly brought the issues of racial equality and ethnic diversity to the fore (yet again).
Whilst we were all horrified by it, we recognise that this tragedy weighs more heavily on the minds of people of colour, not just people in the US but our colleagues and friends here in the UK.
Discussions around race and ethnicity tend to be sensitive; in order to avoid saying the “wrong thing” many leaders retreat into the comfort of silence and wait for the storm to pass. It was Albert Einstein who said: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
One way to make progress and affect change is to accept that there is an issue and accept that your company can do better. Listen to your BAME employees; in the current climate this can be done effectively through virtual ‘tea and talk sessions’ as well as employee engagement surveys.
Do not lump the experiences of all minorities and protected characteristics together – each has its own challenges, difficulties and disadvantages which may not be significant to the others.
No cause ever succeeds without people who champion it and those champions only get so far without allies. Now is not the time for inaction, now is the time for us all to stand together against racism. We need deeds not words.
In that spirit, the oil and gas industry stands in solidarity with our BAME colleagues and pledges to do all it can to promote inclusiveness. Together we will work to address underlying inequalities from which our industry is not immune. We call on company leaders and every professional working in our industry to be unequivocal in their commitment to racial parity.
Fine speeches and great blogs are not enough; this is a call to conscious action.
- A call to our leaders to articulate to their staff, their commitment to fighting racism following the example of leaders like Bernard Looney of BP
- A call to ensure that principles of racial equality are incorporated into our policies and recruitment practices
- A request that commitment to diversity becomes a yardstick against which employees’ performances are appraised
- A call to our companies to train and support diversity and inclusion champions at all levels of our companies
- A call to show our commitment to acquiring data internally and cooperating with the OGUK D&I Taskforce industry-wide survey so that progress can be measured
- A call to transparency by publishing the ethnicity and diversity pay gap audits
- A request for greater emphasis on upward and downward mentoring
- A call to support diverse role models to boards and senior positions.
- A call to our employers to create safe spaces where employees feel they can share how they really feel about recent events.