We must do more

5th June 2020

Gemma Quirke, Managing Director for Security Services

Our industries need to do more for those from BAME backgrounds

At Wilson James, we have placed diversity at the heart of our organisation. The subject means a lot to me; not because I am a woman in a traditionally male industry, but because I have seen first-hand how organisations are stronger when they better reflect the diverse societies in which they operate.

None will deny that the UK’s security and construction industries have not been diverse historically. So I am proud of our progress at Wilson James in making the business more LGBTQ+ friendly, and I am thrilled to see more women and Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the business and across the industry as a whole.

Like many, I have watched the scenes unfolding in the USA, as protestors express their justifiable anger at the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Some might point to the USA’s unique historical, economic and social conditions and argue that it could never happen here in in the UK. This would be a mistake.

Our Risk Advisory team recently produced analysis on the role of “intersecting crises” through which certain communities experience overlapping negative effects of various circumstances, and the cumulative results that follow. As I write this, there is scrutiny on how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting BAME communities in the UK.

While very different circumstances, there is an undeniable common thread.

I was interested to read an article by Dr Nicola Rollock about the role of white ‘allies’ in supporting people of colour. This ‘allyship’ involves acknowledging white privilege, listening to BAME experiences of racism, and not being quiet bystanders to racial injustice. Most importantly, allies must act to ensure their organisations, and the power they hold, do not enable racism—even and especially inadvertently through ignorance.

I am conscious that we at Wilson James have made huge strides in some areas of diversity. But I am also aware we must do more to ensure the organisation better reflects, respects and supports those from a BAME background. The tragic death of George Floyd abroad and the public health realities at home reminds us why we – and our wider industries – must do more. Tweets and hashtags are no substitute for action.

As others have pointed out, while Pride month has evolved into a much more joyful celebration of progress towards equality, its roots are in protest movements. We are in a moment where, as individuals and industries, we have an opportunity to recognise where we have fallen short of our own goals and commit to better allyship. Our organisations, our clients, and our own workforces will all be better for it.