Meet Inclusion Activist:
By Wura Obisesan on 24 May 2022
Q. Tell us about yourself, in particular what led to your interest in advancing equity and inclusion?
A. I am an HR specialist and run my own consultancy called Equilibrium Mediation Consulting. I’m also the managing partner of Synergy Solutions, where we design and develop our own equality, diversity and inclusion programmes.
During my time in HR I’ve come across situations where I sensed negativity towards people who looked like me, or people from Asian and other ethnic minorities. I read an article about the ethnicity pay gap in 2018 and at that point I didn’t have a clue about it. I felt upset that ethnic minorities were again being penalised; that they were discriminated against and not given the same pay as somebody who is white.
I saw a Guardian story showing that there’s a pay gap of £3.2 billion in the UK for Black, Asian and ethnic minority workers and it just pushed me even further in terms of championing the issue.
Q. What outcomes are you wanting to achieve and why do these need to happen?
A. We want the UK government to make the ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory, and for organisations to work towards closing the gap. The government has recently confirmed that it will not make ethnicity pay gap mandatory to report as it felt that it would put too much pressure on organisations.
But while the government focuses on businesses, my concern is for the people that the pay gap affects. Change needs to happen because the ethnicity pay gap is unfair treatment and I’ve said many times that being paid fairly is a human rights issue. Everyone’s got a right to be treated fairly and this means being paid fairly. In this current period of severe austerity those who are affected by this pay gap are going to lose out even more.
It is on the government, organisations and the community to ensure that immediate change happens. Unless we collectively say that we want the change, nothing’s going to happen. That’s why I’ve been encouraging people to support this campaign, because it is a message that needs to be heard and action needs to happen immediately.
Q. How is your work helping to achieve these outcomes above?
A. In 2019 I created a website called the Ethnicity Pay Gap Campaign, which is helpful to businesses because it brings together all the key information about the ethnicity pay gap, meaning organisations don’t need to scour various sites. The website contains key information that can support people to understand what’s going on and how they can make a difference and move forward. I also created Ethnicity Pay Gap Day which falls on 8th January each year, to encourage organisations and individuals to actively take part together to voice the need for change and to show what action they are taking.
Q. Who or what inspires you to do what you do and how do you keep focused and energised in challenging times?
A. What inspires me is the fact that it is a righteous cause, the right thing to do and I believe it is my purpose. I’m motivated to drive change because people are struggling with their mental and physical health as a result. A recent report on the impact of the ethnicity pay gap on Black women showed that Black women were over-represented in insecure jobs, meaning they suffer huge financial uncertainty and stress. It makes me happy to know that I’m doing something that needs to be done and it’s about trying to achieve the important change.
Q. How can individuals support your work?
A. You can support my campaign by searching for www.ethnicitypaygapcampaign.com and then clicking on the ‘support us’ tab. Supporters can buy T-shirts and there is a downloadable pledge. I am excited to say we have recently been nominated for a community organisation award at the National Diversity Awards. I have also been personally nominated as a role model for Race, Religion and Faith. That said, I hope the campaign gets more votes because I don’t want it to be about me.
The most important action is to make sure that everybody is galvanised about this campaign and make sure that action is taken. I am an advisory board member for Share Action and they are focusing on how organisations in the finance sector can improve their ethnicity pay gap. Individuals can also lobby their MP on the ethnicity pay gap campaign. The site itself is a source of great information on reporting and taking action, with ideas that will provide a good step forward in terms of understanding and supporting the campaign.
Q. How can employers specifically get involved?
A. Employers can invite me to come and present on this issue, or I can offer consultations to support their initiatives. I can also give organisations advice on what they can do to start their journey and guide them on the best approach.
Q. What next?
A. The desired outcome is to make ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory and for there not to be an ethnicity pay gap anymore. Also for organisations to not only report their pay gap, but to close it completely, that is my ambition. As I have commented in recent newspaper articles, I was not very happy with the UK government’s response to ethnic pay gap reporting. There has been a cross-party discussion on it by the Women and Equalities Committee that notes a “lack of will” to make reporting mandatory. But I’m not going to give up. I will continue to push for mandatory reporting and the complete eradication of the ethnicity pay gap, and press for action now not tomorrow.
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