A WiHTL Forum ‘How can we become an anti-racist organisation?’

‘How can we become an anti-racist organisation?’ was just one of the questions posed in the first webinar in a series of three webinars on race and ethnicity in the workplace organised by WiHTL (Women in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure) in partnership with the UK’s leading pub retailer and brewer, Greene King and ENAR (European Network Against Racism), designed to support leaders across hospitality, travel and leisure to drive forward race equality in the industry.

The 3 part series sees speakers from ENAR address a range of key issues to tackle race equality in the workplace including an exploration of the barriers faced by women from ethnic minorities, how to create inclusive approaches to accommodate religious beliefs and practices, and practical insights into the importance of understanding how racism and discrimination at the interpersonal level impacts the mental health and wellbeing of employees.

“By educating leaders of all backgrounds across the industry on the importance of their role in creating diverse and inclusive environments that do not tolerate racism, we hope to see real industry progress in people from diverse backgrounds feeling comfortable that they can bring their ‘whole’ selves to work and progress their careers in the HTL industry,” said Tea Colaianni, Founder & Chair, WiHTL.

In a poll run during the first webinar, 40% of attendees said that as an industry, they thought they are doing ok in terms of inclusion of women of colour and 56% said that they are not doing so well or are doing poorly. Somewhat strikingly, 72% said they have fewer than 5 women from diverse ethnic backgrounds in senior roles in their organisations.

So what can be done?

Juliana Wahlgren-Santos, Senior Advocacy Officer, ENAR talked about the importance of adopting an intersectional approach to remove the exclusion and inequality experienced by women of colour and outlined a three-stage process employers may want to apply:

a) understanding the issues at the intersections,

b) transforming the organisation,

c) empowering women of colour.

Juliana shared the Woman of Colour journey from entering to exiting the organisation via the different stages of the honeymoon period, tokenism, microaggression, denial of racism and retaliation.

The webinar addressed what it means to be anti-racist with Juliana sharing that ‘racism is not something that can be tackled in a passive mode. You have to demonstrate action in order to tackle it [..]. Racism is an issue where if you are not actively trying to change it, it will just continue [..]. It’s a question of actively working to make sure everyone has the same privileges.’

She shared that at an organisational level, becoming an anti-racist organisation means that the organisation works to actively denounce racist behaviour, taking action to dismantle systemic discrimination and institutionalised racism. Making a declaration to highlight an organisation is anti-racist was one piece of advice she shared that a company could do.

“How are we going to become anti-racist? – a great question I will start to ask when engaging our leaders. With only 2% women of colour in our business, we definitely have a problem,” said one attendee.

The second webinar explored how leaders can take a positive approach to issues in the workplace related to race and religion. Julie Pascoët, Senior Advocacy Officer, ENAR highlighted the barriers faced from those from diverse religious backgrounds and how companies can accommodate the needs of others in an inclusive way.

Key actions included:

  • Create a ‘quiet room’ – a space not just for prayer but for all employees to use as a place to take time for reflection or meditation.
  • Be mindful of asking individuals to do something that might conflict with their religious beliefs eg. serving alcohol. If it is an integral requirement of a role it should be explicitly clear as such.
  • Be seen to actively value difference – At a strategic level religious diversity increases the cultural and religious understanding of all employees. This awareness is necessary, not only in a global business environment, but also at the local/regional/national level to reflect the diversity of the customer base and society as a whole.
  • Assess the purpose of neutrality eg. restricting freedoms to wear religious garments or symbols. Is it a legitimate policy with clear benefits for the workplace? Or does it single out some employees, creating a hostile and unequal work environment?

The webinars represented an opportunity for leaders to listen, reflect, be curious. Attendees were encouraged to take the next step and enact change, create an ethos of psychological safety, openness, honesty and empathy.

Next Monday 29th September sees the last webinar in the series take place and will examine how leaders can tackle race and mental health. Michael Privot, Director, ENAR will be joined by Sonia Meggie, Inclusion & Diversity Consultant at Business in the Community (BITC) to explore the relationship between racism, mental health and wellbeing, particularly in the context of the workplace and how racism and discrimination at the interpersonal level impacts the mental health and wellbeing of employees and colleagues.

The three webinars form part of WiHTL’s ‘Inclusive Leader Programme’ – the most comprehensive cross-industry programme ever put in place to support leaders across HTL create, nourish and sustain diverse and inclusive environments. Over 1500 leaders have already signed up to join the Inclusive Leader Programme from across hospitality travel and leisure.

Tania Holcroft, people and culture director at Greene King, said: “We’re really pleased to team up with WiHTL and ENAR to be part of these webinars to promote race equality in the workplace. It’s really important that at Greene King, and as part of the wider hospitality industry, we continue to focus and develop our position on inclusion and diversity. At Greene King we’re continuing to listen and learn to help us understand how we can create a more diverse workforce.”

Michael Privot, Director, ENAR said: “ENAR congratulates WiHTL and its members for seizing the opportunity of the current #BLM momentum to move forward decidedly on improving the full inclusion of racialised people, people of colour and Black and Ethnic Minority People in the Hospitality, Travel and Leisure sectors, which are among the largest employers of people with a diverse background. Reaching out to ENAR – which has centered its D&I approach on Human Rights and full equality as making total business sense – is a clear sign of the dedication of the sector to go beyond announcements of good intentions, but to engage in a concrete journey towards progressive change, whatever it will take.”

The three part ‘Race & Ethnicity at Work’ webinar series is open to all leaders across hospitality, travel and leisure to attend. Email gina@wihtl.com to receive the recordings and registration link.

Gina Baillie

Marketing & Partnerships Director

WiHTL gina@wihtl.com