Exploring and discussing the issue of race and ethnicity is not an easy task. In fact, it is quite difficult to speak about it open and honestly. This blog will touch upon what I believe are the perspectives of junior employees, who might see, hear or experience something concerning race and ethnicity that they know is not quite right or feel like they want to express an opinion or thought that is related to race and ethnicity, but do not feel confident in doing so for fear of an adverse reaction.
I do believe that junior employees will have an internal battle with themselves and my opinion is that they will ask themselves "Do I disrupt to (potentially not) progress?"
Do I speak up if something is wrong?
I am a trainee lawyer and without even considering the issue of race, I know that it can be extremely hard to confidently approach a senior member of staff, partner or otherwise about a work related matter. I am sure at one point, everyone reading this will have been that keen and eager junior who is nervous by any interaction with someone more senior.
However, bring the issue of race back into the equation and the fear, anxiety and nervousness is completely heightened and, in my opinion, if that person was to hear or see something that was inappropriate or express an opposite view, they may not raise or challenge the point. They will think that if they raise it, they will be going against the grain. Against their superior. And, quite frankly, raising a very uncomfortable topic like race to people who may not know how it feels to be different.
Do I worry that my career will be effected?
Their thoughts will then spiral to think, 'will it hinder my chances of getting ahead if I raise this? Will the whole organisation turn on me for raising this?' It sounds extremely farfetched, but I have no doubt in my mind that their thoughts will spiral. The outcome of these spiralling thoughts would be that the junior employee would not speak up for potential fear of the consequences.
Do I hide who I am?
It can be tough in an environment and a profession where the race balance is unequal and you start second guessing why. I don’t think that it is uncommon to have thoughts like 'do I just hide my race by not bringing it up, not speaking about it and just try to be like the peers around me and hopefully it won't be noticed that I am different?' I can certainly say this is something I have done. Although this is starting to change.
It is such a sensitive issue that even whilst writing this, I have asked myself why I am doing this. Why am I talking about the uncomfortable? Every thought previously described has been spiralling in my mind. However, what I think everybody is learning, and what I have learnt in the last few months, is that talking about this issue is so very important.
My advice to anyone who sees, hears or experiences anything that they feel uncomfortable about or wants to express an opinion or thought on race, is to speak out. It does not necessarily need to be raised to HR or a senior colleague – you can raise it to anyone you feel comfortable in doing so.
I want to end on a positive note by thanking DWF for giving me the platform to talk about this uncomfortable topic. I hope that whoever reads this realises the importance of speaking up – and I don’t limit that just to the topic of race.