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Reflecting on Black History Month


Faraz Tasnim

IT Commercial Director

Quilter is committed to understanding, educating and breaking down the barriers that exist for our colleagues.  Through creating the time and space to share stories, experiences, cultures, heritage and perspectives we can create a more inclusive culture. 

During the month of October, colleagues throughout our business have been sharing their stories in celebration of Black History Month.  As the executive sponsor of our Cultural Diversity Group, I am incredibly proud of the contributions that our colleagues have made, but also of the way that Quilter as an organisation has engaged with Black History Month this year.

We’ve had TV, film and book recommendations to spark conversation; sprawling personal histories which span warrior women to Windrush; and we have created opportunities in which colleagues can ask members of our Cultural Diversity group any questions that perhaps they have previously felt uncomfortable asking. These sessions included questions around cultural appropriation, history and what language to use.

It really has been an incredible month.   

Black History Month 2020 has shown that as an organisation we are curious, and we are seeking to understand.  I share the sentiment expressed by our CEO Paul Feeney when he said, “we are finally talking, we are finally now having the conversation”.  We will continue to celebrate diversity in all its forms, and as an organisation we become richer when we share our stories and perspectives.

To round up the month, colleagues Diana Christie, Letetia King, Lyn Spencer and Wayne Tucker came together with Quilter CEO Paul Feeney to discuss Black History Month in more detail.

It was an opportunity to not only reflect on the importance of the month, but also the chance to discuss content shared by colleagues and speak about Black experience more widely in the UK in 2020.  The fact that these were our colleagues at Quilter – people that I work along-side every day sharing their experiences and perspectives - made their messages ever more powerful for me.

At Quilter we truly do recognise that what makes us all unique should be celebrated.  This is emphasised by Paul who said:

“I want to thank all our Black colleagues who have used their voice and told their story. There is a responsibility on all of us to seek to understand. Black history needs to be understood, respected and valued.  Maya Angelo once said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. It is on all of us to create an environment in which we all feel accepted, in which we can all be ourselves.

We are building an inclusive and diverse culture at Quilter.  We have more work to do but if we focus on how we treat each other and how we make each other feel, we will get there. I know that it will be the thing above all else that will make us succeed.”

This work doesn’t stop on 31 October.  In many ways it is the beginning. I look forward to continuing to play my part in building a more inclusive Quilter – in breaking down the barriers that exist by bringing colleagues together and seeking to understand each other and celebrating what makes us unique.

Key takeaways from the session

  • Racism continues to exist in the UK. Racism in the UK may look different to the way it looks within the U.S. – we don’t have police brutality for example on anything like the same scale – but just because you haven’t personally experienced racism it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.  Lyn compared it to Covid-19 “just because you may not have had it, it doesn’t mean that it’s not there”
  • Our colleagues are proud and of their culture and heritage and feel responsibility to continue to educate and pass-down the stories of their history. Black History Month being celebrated and recognised at Quilter shows them that the company cares, that black colleagues are seen, valued, heard and celebrated.
  • 2020 has been such an incredibly important year for our black colleagues.  Di described it as the year that she “learnt who [her] real friends are” describing how the events of 2020 have led many people who she trusted, confided in and thought of as friends to show their “true colours” in terms of where they stand on racial inclusion, and the heart break that has comes with that. 
  • Wayne sharing that being black in the UK has meant being made aware that you are different, having a glass ceiling in respect of your career goals and aspirations, and being told by your parents every day that you have twice as work as everyone else has shown me again how important the work that we are doing is.

Why is it important that businesses celebrate Black History Month? (8 mins)