Every workplace should be an open, positive and inclusive space for everyone to build their career, no matter their identity. Working at LGBT rights charity, Stonewall, gives Leon Jones exactly that sort of environment. But his career experiences haven’t always been so, having experienced racism first hand.
In Episode 9 of our THIS IS HOW podcast we spoke to Leon, who is Black and an IT delivery lead for Stonewall. Leon is responsible for all the IT systems, and implementing or recommending different services to improve productivity within a company.
And given how key Stonewall are for the community they support, that’s no small feat. Tech’s ever-evolving nature means that engineers must constantly stay up to date, and Leon explains how he tries to foster an environment that encourages learning, by offering others the support they need to feel comfortable enough to challenge themselves. His wealth of experience in the field means he would know better than most how important an attitude of proactivity, initiative and an endless want to learn is in the world of IT — in fact, it’s crucial.
But Leon also describes his direct experiences of facing racism in the industry. He offers anyone listening invaluable advice about what to take away from such instances: the perspective that a company that fails to accommodate you, isn’t a company that deserves your services in the first place.
In the fallout of the Black Lives Matter uprisings in 2020, industries have committed to addressing systemic issues of inequality — or, at least, superficially so. Now, at least from the outside, it can be hard to tell the difference between the ones walking the walk and the ones who are just all talk.
So doing research into a company to understand how much they value diversity is increasingly important. It takes work to figure out which companies are genuine in their sentiments. So here are some tips to help you uncover which of your potential employers champion diversity, and which are only doing lip service.
1. Look at the company’s employees
A look at the company’s website or a scroll through their LinkedIn employee page will give you an insight into how diverse and inclusive their workforce is. A key factor to consider is the diversity of those in the senior positions, as a company truly committed to inclusion will have a diverse range of people in the decision making seats.
2. Ask questions during your interview
The interview is not only a chance for the employer to find out about you, but an opportunity for you to find out about them. So don’t hesitate to enquire about how diverse their workforce are, and what they are doing to address and improve on any such issues.
3. Reach out to connections
If you have any friends or former colleagues connected with the employer, talk to them about their experience or perspective. In most industries there are also online forums that discuss things like a company’s working culture.
If you aren’t sure what a company committed to diversity looks like, look for places that have taken, or who will take specific, measurable actions to empower marginalised groups. An example is Accenture, who have partnered with MOBO to create MOBOLISE, a platform to connect Black talent with the best career opportunities, within the most forward-thinking organisations in the UK.
As they put it “we aim to connect our extensive ecosystem of UK clients and partners with the platform so they may engage, enrol and recruit from this talent pool, thereby strengthening our responsibility to the Black community and to help both parties overcome these key barriers.”
More than anything, as you get interviews and talk to potential employers, don’t ever feel that you should compromise for an opportunity. Companies should be committed to any action it takes to make their workplace a positive, equal environment, and they should value you as an individual. As Leon says, if they won’t, they don’t deserve to have you as an employee.
Feeling inspired? To hear more from Leon, an IT Delivery Lead at Stonewall, listen to his THIS IS HOW podcast now.