18 March 2021
Following the Black Lives Matter protests last year, Adebimpe Makinde, Senior Consultant at Capita Government Services, co-founded Capita’s Black Employee Network, a group for black people across Capita to network and be involved in initiatives that seek to elevate the voices of black people in the business.
The network campaigned for Capita to publish its ethnicity figure in its annual report and this will be released on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Last May, George Floyd, was killed in police custody. His death sparked major protests in Minneapolis and around the world. Adebimpe Makinde’s line manager asked how she was feeling about the issues that had happened at work one day. “My line manager, himself black, started having a conversation with me about this and together we started reaching out to other black people in the Government Services division and we ended up holding a weekly catch up meeting to check in on our welfare and wellbeing,” explains Adebimpe.
It quickly became apparent to Adebimpe that the group needed to become more than a weekly meeting. “Somehow, I was at the forefront of creating this network and putting the building blocks in place for us to do more.” says Adebimpe. “Personally, everything that was happening in America wasn’t really on my radar. My brother was actually shot and killed in America, so I tried not to get involved because it takes me back to what happened to him, but the fact that we continue to lose people makes this a never ending issue. After keeping things bottled up for a long time, I could see then that if I didn’t speak out, things would never change. That’s what pushed me to do my bit – I wanted to say I’d tried rather than sit back and continue to grieve inside. I had nothing to lose, after all.”
Seeing is believing
As the Black Employee Network began to grow, so too did the group’s objectives. First, the network is about improving the morale of black employees at Capita. “Following those initial conversations and catch ups, it was clear that morale was low,” says Adebimpe. “And to improve the morale we needed to increase the diversity of recruitment in the business. Networking is absolutely key because if you’re not embedded in the company, you can’t progress or find those opportunities and we knew that not all black colleagues were good at networking, so one of our objectives was to improve this.”
In fact, Adebimpe made a much more far reaching impact here than she could imagine when the network came up with the idea for a Mutual Mentoring Programme, designed to bring together colleagues from ethnic diverse backgrounds and managers who seek to better understand the daily issues faced by our diverse colleagues. A mentoring relationship where both parties act as mentor and mentee, the programme recognises that there’s something to learn from each other. Lasting for a minimum of 12 months, the pair will be given a topic pack each month to start conversations. “We actually pitched this to the Managing Director Andy Start and after running a pilot in Government Services, the programme has now been rolled out across the whole of Capita, which is incredible.” This ties into the other network objectives, including developing employee’s confidence and knowledge, as well as their ability to upskill and find opportunities. “And seeing is believing,” adds Adebimpe. “There are no black people in the leadership team at Capita and that needs to change, as it currently simply reinforces that there’s a ceiling, so we’re looking forward to the day that we see representation of everyone at the top.”
Solutions for change
With 70 registered members and 17 allied members across leadership levels, Adebimpe has organised several events this year to raise awareness of the Black Employee Network. In March, for International Women’s Day, the network launched a three part series of black women at Capita talking about who inspires them and how this inspiration led to them becoming who they are. “We want to put a really positive spin on everything we do,” says Adebimpe, “because we don’t want to antagonise people, but show solutions to make a change.”
Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Black Employee Network campaigned for the ethnicity figure at Capita to be included in the company’s annual reports, so alongside the reports on gender, this year the ethnicity figures will be there too. “We want to shout about the wonderful achievements Capita is making in this space and encourage people to give their data so that we can continue to improve the company”, says Adebimpe.
“There’s a feeling generally that black people are good at the bottom – they can be security guards, customer service advisors or receptionists, but they’re not good enough to lead. That’s why it’s so important to show what Capita is doing in this space” – continues Adebimpe. “The world is becoming increasingly global and if you want to be competitive you need to take advantages of the resources available to you. Likewise, if you’re providing services for a diverse market or audience, it’s natural that you’ll show off that you are diverse as a company. Becoming a more diverse and inclusive employer is a win-win for employees and employers – both sides see huge benefits.”