Working for change to make rail more inclusive
This year for Black History Month, we’re publishing a series of blogs by members of the RDG’s minority ethnic network, Embrace.
This blog was written by Cassius Morrison, Accreditation Analyst and Co-Chair of Embrace.
Throughout October, we have explored the origins of Black History Month and why it is more important than ever before that we recognise it; the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace; and a few pioneers from BAME origin who paved the way for greater representation of BAME colleagues across the industry through their struggles.
This week, we are exploring BAME people and allies who are currently working within the rail industry and working to shape a better tomorrow. Here are some examples of people encouraging all to stand up for justice, equality and diversity.
BAME executives driving change
Although significant work still needs to be done to address the under-representation of BAME people at senior levels of organisations, Rail Delivery Group, Network Rail and train operators are making significant changes, led from the front by colleagues from BAME backgrounds - colleagues who have often faced many challenges in these struggles.
Loraine Martins MBE FRSA is the first to hold the position of Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Network Rail, which has some 42,000 employees. Loraine leads a centre of expertise which supports Network Rail’s ambition to be a more open, diverse and inclusive business.
In November 2019, Loraine was awarded the Mike Nichols Award (Association of Project Management APM) which recognises contributions to transformational change for the world and society. Loraine’s advice to others looking to emulate her success is: “Always be the best that you can be. Work hard. Be authentic, be true to yourself and the values you hold.”
Ola Ogun is the Chief Financial Officer at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG). Ola has been instrumental in setting up and supporting the continuous running of RDG’s BAME network, Embrace. A key advocate for meritocracy and equality, Ola champions diversity and inclusion at RDG. Ola shared his thoughts on EDI at RDG in his blog entry last week.
Employee Networks bringing people together
It is not just those at Director level that advocate for change. Employee Networks play an important role in bringing people together and helping to raise awareness and concerns.
Emma Palmer was the first Chair of the Embrace network at RDG, helping to bring together the BAME employees and initiate challenging discussions to bring about change. She has since moved on to a secondment at Chiltern Railways where she plans to continue championing diversity and inclusion across the industry.
The Network Rail BAME employee network, Cultural Fusion, aims to recognise the benefits of a diverse workforce. Sharon Salmon, who runs the network, advocates “embracing our cultural diversities to help build an inclusive and progressive organisation for everyone.” Sharon says: “We want people from all backgrounds to be part of the network and become change makers. I am proud of what we have built together as a team to help grow the network and reach out to our members, allies and wider communities as a place to learn grow and be educated on the issues which affect BAME colleagues.”
Sharon has been instrumental in her role as Chair to develop and foster collaboration with the other employee networks to recognise intersectionality which demonstrates common struggles and how the power of coming together helps to create an environment of support and strength.
Several TOCs also have their own BAME employee networks, such as Govia Thameslink Railway that aims to build an inclusive organisation with greater understanding and fairness based on a meritocracy.
The support of allies within organisations
Allies provide invaluable support in driving change, with their assistance taking on many different forms.
Cultural Fusion’s growth has been supported by numerous dedicated individuals such as Yvonne Owuor, who wishes to increase BAME success across the organisation and Sonia Hazel, who sits on the leadership team after two years of being an advocate and endorses the network’s purpose.
Yvonne promotes inclusion and diversity by running educational events, writing articles and sharing her knowledge with others across the business. Yvonne believes that, ’allyship is about visibility and going out of your way to show support. This means either amplifying the voice of your BAME colleagues, or other times just being the voice that champions inclusion on their behalf.’
Sonia has supported the network by creating safe spaces for people to be themselves, either in the weekly virtual tea break that she created, which has been supported by the whole leadership team, or by personally following up with colleagues suffering. Sonia has facilitated team sessions encouraging people to talk about race or encouraging people to be productive D&I Champions and confident allies.
Similarly, at RDG, the BAME population and network is supported from within the organisation. Paul Plummer, the current CEO of RDG, has been a big proponent for increasing diversity and inclusion. Other members of the Executive Team such as Robert Nisbet are leading several programmes to improve inclusivity and tackle unconscious bias.
However, it is not just the senior leadership - RDG’s Inclusion Forum consists of colleagues from all levels of the organisation who are passionate about driving change and creating a fairer, more inclusive place to work. As our recently published ethnic pay gap analysis highlights, there is a long way to go to achieve true equality, but significant changes are being made across the industry to address its EDI challenges.
It is important not only for us as a network, or as BAME colleagues, but for everyone that these frank conversations continue long beyond Black History Month and we look forward to continuing to challenge the status quo and deliver tangible improvements for all.
This concludes our blog series for Black History Month, during which we have explored:
- Black History Month: Celebrating black railway workers that made history
- The benefits of diversity and inclusion at the workplace
- Equality, diversity and inclusion at RDG
We will continue to celebrate BAME colleagues, before past and present with their contribution throughout the year.
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