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Celebrating Black History Month: Working towards a more equitable future

Macquarie has been celebrating Black History Month in the UK, but as our Fusion EMEA Employee Network Group explains, supporting an inclusive, equitable and accountable culture is something Macquarie strives for all year round.

Against the backdrop of recent political and social movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Movement for Black Lives, Macquarie has strengthened its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) focus on racial equity, making this year’s Black History Month celebration more impactful than ever, tackling issues of discrimination, providing a safe space to talk about race, and promoting the power of allyship among colleagues and communities.

To mark Black History Month this year, Macquarie’s Fusion EMEA Employee Network Group organised a wide range of activities across the month, celebrating Black culture and empowering all employees to act for inclusion. Macquarie’s London office featured a pop-up art exhibition by acclaimed artist, Benji Reid, as well as displaying important messaging on racial equity. Events included a leadership panel of Black senior leaders and a keynote speech from British businessman Sir John Parker on the importance of increasing ethnic diversity from across industry to within our own teams.

Launched in 2017, with a growing membership of more than 570 members of staff – over a third of our employees in the region, Macquarie’s Fusion EMEA network aims to connect and empower colleagues from different races, ethnicities, cultures and faiths around the issues that matter to them and the communities they live in.

The Fusion EMEA network regularly invites guests to speak about the issues that face them in their personal and professional lives, with previous speakers including the UK’s bestselling Black author, Reni Eddo-Lodge and BBC historian, David Olusoga OBE. These initiatives fall under the ‘Know Better, Do Better’ campaign, a key part of the DEI advocacy work that came out of the BLM movement. The campaign also encourages staff to write and share posts weekly across internal channels on important topics including racism and discrimination.

This year, the network also celebrated the inaugural East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) Heritage Month. Since the beginning of the pandemic, hate crimes targeting East and Southeast Asians have risen at a distressing rate and, as a result, UK advocacy groups proposed that September is designated a heritage month celebrating and recognising the ESEA Asian community—a parallel to Black History Month. Alan Leung, co-chair of Fusion EMEA, comments: “The rise in these hate crimes laid bare the racism faced by the ESEA community and crystallised the extent to which racism is impacting on a number of different communities.” Fusion organised an active bystander training course, which enables staff to feel empowered to call out incidences of aggression and discrimination in public and learning ways to support a victim.

Creating safe spaces

For Macquarie, the concept of the ‘safe space’ is vital, and this became even more important following the BLM movement, when many staff wanted to talk about race, their own experiences and the change that needed to happen. Creating the right environment for these discussions to ensure that people can be as candid and open as they need to be is key.

Charlene McIntosh, co-chair of Fusion EMEA explains: “I had always shied away from talking about race at work. To be able to have that safe space, with my colleagues, in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd, to discuss what was going on, and how we felt about it, was revolutionary.”

“At Macquarie, we have developed a framework with questions and ground rules in place to create an environment to have these often challenging and confronting conversations. In addition, a diverse group of people will offer an equally diverse range of contributions so creating a psychologically safe forum to share concerns and ideas, can only be positive.”

Intersectionality is also forming an important part of Macquarie’s evolving DEI strategy. It is key to understanding individual experiences and will underpin how we continue to embed our inclusive culture. Our allyship programme has taken many staff who are not Black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background on a journey to becoming good allies.

Charlene adds, our responsibility for the future is to take all this work further, to continue having these challenging conversations and channelling learning throughout the organisation. Continuing to build momentum, awareness and support across the organisation is the only way to drive the initiative forward—learning from each other, confronting our own biases and working together for a more equitable future for everyone.”

DEI at Macquarie

This activity complements Macquarie’s strategic DEI initiatives, which have accelerated in reach and impact over the past 18 months. Such initiatives include our new buddy programme which allows new starters to request a buddy who shares their identity – for example their ethnicity, and the EMEA sponsorship programme supports groups that are under-represented in our senior management population as well as all of our Black employees.

Sarah Fennell, Macquarie’s head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in EMEA highlights, "we carry out listening exercises to understand the experiences of all our staff to make sure that the DEI strategy is not only driven by data but real employee needs. From the positive feedback we received, we know that these staff members feel that their voices are being heard. We’ve also implemented race fluency training across the entire regional management committee and all our leadership teams to ensure our leaders are equipped to lead everyone in their team.”

DEI has become a pivotal part of any organisational culture and Macquarie is in it for the long haul, embedding fairness at the heart of our ethos through our practices, policies and processes—shifting the emphasis from ‘shareholders’ to ‘stakeholders’. Recognising that graduates want to work for a company that aligns with their own ideals, Macquarie engages in early career recruitment, talking to university undergraduates about its DEI values.

Sarah adds, “we want to ensure that everyone feels that they can succeed at Macquarie. That’s the point. An equitable culture has trust at its heart, where everyone knows that the organisation is a place where they can thrive.”

Recognising that organisational cultures are driven by all those within them, recruitment is a crucial pillar of our engagement—attracting ethnically diverse applicants. “We are focused on increasing our Black population but, if the culture isn’t right internally, recruitment isn’t enough. We need to make sure that we build and maintain an equitable environment.”

Macquarie has been nominated as a Top 10 Outstanding Employer, and Alan Leung has been nominated as a Top 10 ‘Workplace Hero’ in this year’s prestigious UK Ethnicity Awards. Examining people processes, culture, leadership commitment, employee network groups and programmes, the awards recognise the tangible outcomes that this work has achieved.

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