Diversity & Inclusion

Embrace committee leads Black History Month at Enterprise

In October, Enterprise UK celebrated Black History Month and the immense contributions that African and Caribbean communities have made to British society, with a month-long campaign. 

This followed the launch of Embrace – a new UK committee to address Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic inclusion at Enterprise.

DRIVE spoke to Kalifa Hickinson, Co-Chair of Embrace, and Ash Ahmad, Embrace committee member, to learn more.

The killing of George Floyd pushed the Black Lives Matter movement to the top of the social justice agenda in the US.

It led to a ripple effect as businesses redoubled their efforts around diversity and inclusion and sought to engage Black employees and stakeholders to create meaningful, lasting change.

EHI CEO Chrissy Taylor issued a personal message to all employees and launched a listening campaign in the US to engage directly with African-American employees, learn about their experiences and ask how they could be better supported by Enterprise.

This led to important and difficult conversations and the determination to do more to support colleagues from a minority background across the business.

Kalifa Hickinson, European Corporate Communications Manager & Embrace Co-Chair

Kalifa Hickinson, European Corporate Communications Manager & Embrace Co-Chair

UK MD Khaled Shahbo convened a committee - Embrace - to address the challenges faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic employees within the workplace.

He invited Kalifa Hickinson, EU Corporate Communications Manager, to be Co-Chair and help define the committee’s agenda.

“We know that we need to do more,” Kalifa said. “We decided to follow the lead of our CEO and US colleagues and begin with listening sessions to help us better understand the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic employees within our organisation.”

“We have done 10 listening sessions so far, engaging colleagues from every UK region and division of the business along with their General Managers. We are now devising a strategy for how we improve our work environment for ethnic minority colleagues, ” she continued.

"It’s important to keep asking questions and not to be afraid to say the wrong thing"

One comment from an employee suggested even more could be done internally to celebrate Black History Month to provide a platform to celebrate the work of the Black community in the UK and at Enterprise.

“Ash and I immediately got to work on developing a national Black History Month campaign that would not only showcase pioneers from the Black community, but also our very own Enterprise colleagues as well as explore important topics around race,” Kalifa said.

“As the end of National Inclusion Week overlapped with the beginning of Black History Month, we kicked off our month-long campaign with a video message from Khaled followed by a number of colleagues sharing when they feel included,” said Ash Ahmad, Talent Development Specialist and a member of Embrace.

Ash Ahmad, Talent Development Specialist & Embrace committee member

Ash Ahmad, Talent Development Specialist & Embrace committee member

Throughout the month, the pair shared thought-provoking and informative content via Enterprise’s internal mobile app, Pulse. 

Enterprise leaders showcased influential Black people who have broken barriers in British society such as Olive Morris, Earl Cameron and Margaret Busby.

The campaign also explored important topics such as white privilege, being not racist versus being anti-racist, and the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The video explaining ‘what is white privilege?’ achieved high levels of engagement and revealed that colleagues had a genuine interest in learning more about how they could be better allies.

"The positive reception to Black History Month at Enterprise has resulted in a decision to continue the campaign"

Employee Q&As were by far the most popular and even led to some colleagues making meaningful connections with leaders in their division.

“A great example was a profile of an employee who wanted to be a financial controller for a day,” Ash said. “The financial controller of that Group commented under the post and said he would arrange a day when the employee could shadow his role. It’s a great example of how this campaign has helped unite Enterprise and develop careers.”

The positive reception to Black History Month at Enterprise has resulted in a decision to extend the campaign.

“We will continue to share valuable content relating to ethnic diversity. We’ve shared many resources including reading lists, videos and podcasts in an effort to help our colleagues learn more,” Kalifa said.

One of the biggest outtakes from the listening sessions has been the need for education. Although this is something the committee has taken on board, self-education is also important.

“It’s up to each individual to educate themselves,” said Ash. “It’s important to keep asking questions and not to be afraid to say the wrong thing. We hope this campaign has made it easier to explore important topics around race and foster much needed dialogue among teams,” Ash added.

“Black History Month is just one month of the year. There’s so much more we wish we could have covered, but it was a great start to some powerful conversations,” Kalifa concluded.

Employees can catch up on all of the Enterprise Black History Month content on Pulse.

Should a colleague wish to provide feedback, report racist behaviour or ask questions with complete anonymity, there are ‘safe spaces’ where they can do this. 

The Enterprise ethics hotline is available on the start-up page of the company server. Employees can either get in touch by filling in an online form or by phone. All the information is confidential and anonymous.

Employees can also email the Embrace committee directly at embrace@ehi.com.

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