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White senior leaders: 12 practical things you can do this week to create a supportive culture for your Black/BAME colleagues

Plenty of great advice has already been shared on Twitter on how to be a good white ally. Alongside this, below are 12 practical things you can do as senior white leaders/managers in the next week to create a culture in your organisation that supports Black/BAME colleagues and implements racial equity and justice (and this will benefit other disadvantaged groups and everyone else too). I first shared this on Twitter.

Before I list them I would like to highlight the following:

  • Stop looking to your Black or BAME colleagues to fix the problem. It’s your problem. You have to do the work [@Claragt]. If you don’t have the expertise to lead it, call in Black/BAME executive coaches, trainers or inclusion leads. For example, @Muna_Abdi_Phd conducts anti-racism training, and a further detailed list of training providers is provided here. @simonchaplin recommends @NicolaRollock and @KGuilaine — and says: expect them to push hard, we need it.
  • Issues of diversity & inclusion should not be seen as a side/specialist interest project. They should be embedded within the service/organisational structure not an after thought [@Ms_Reeny]. An effective way to force change is to ensure organisations have to do this as part of their KPIs & mission [@Zehra_Zaidi].
  • If you do get BAME staff to do some of this work, pay BAME staff for their extra commitment (s) to this work! [@Ms_Reeny]

12 practical things to do this week

1. Reach out personally to Black/BAME people under your leadership (that means individual emails or DMs, not mass/group emails). Show them your solidarity, acknowledge the injustice, and that you know you and the organisation need to do more. Ask them how they are doing and if they need some time out. If they want to talk, listen to them.

2. If you’ve seen good work from a Black/BAME colleague or contractor, go out of your way to give them credit and promote them. For example, name check them in senior meetings, email their management group, and use LinkedIn to give them a recommendation. Because of structural racism which unfairly disadvantages them, this is something you can practically do to help counteract that.

3. Have zero tolerance for bullying, microaggressions and any form of racismMake this clear in emails & meetings to everyone under your leadership. Tell them and everyone that your door is open all the time, and you are there to support and listen.

4. Regardless of how senior you are, have a 1–2–1 chat every 3–6 months with everyone under your leadership to ask how they are doing, how their work load is and whether they are facing any bullying etc. Look out for red flags.

5. Create an anonymous survey (on google forms for example) that people can use to raise concerns with you, including racism, bullying, microaggressions etc. Add the link to the survey to your email signature.

6. Ensure your HR department has an anonymous way for your employees to ask questions, raise concerns about racism, bullying etc and get good support.

7. Ensure your HR intranet site has names, pictures, location and direct emails of people working in HR who are there to support your employees if they are facing bullying, racism etc. Ensure people in HR are diverse & trained to provide support about racism and bullying etc.

8. Provide a space/network for people from Black/BAME backgrounds, and give them explicit permission and TIME to take part in it. Ensure the network is well supported and funded.

9. If your organisation already has a BAME/black network, check and ensure this is headed and led by someone from the BAME community and the person is voted in by the network, rather than a White director/champion.

10. Ask HR to mandate anti-racism training, and ensure the anti-racism training is developed and led by someone Black or from a BAME background. Unconscious bias/DEI is not enough and can actually increase bias and structural inequality. We need to be focusing on anti-racist approaches because they are systemic. Read more here and here. Before you organise it, read this piece too.

11. And finally read this book and educate yourself about white privilege: Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World by Layla Saad (in stock here). Or any other books/films on this list.

12. Make your next team meeting about white privilege and racial inequity and injustice. Share what you learnt from from the book you read (#11) or watch a film/documentary together (a useful list of UK based documentaries is here).

Practical things to do after this week

These are some things to do after this week. Some of these were very kindly shared by Black/BAME people on Twitter, after I shared the above (I will update this as more suggestions come in).

1. To re-iterate, make anti-racism training mandatory. Many white people do not truly understand the concept of structural racism and privilege. It’s taken me YEARS of studying these theories to get to my current understanding. We need companies investing in this education. So that when people are faced with microaggressions and instances of injustice, they can recognize it. And have the tools/language to feel justified and comfortable standing up and saying something about it. And know where they can go in their org to get something done about it. [@gilliancmacd]. Unconscious bias/DEI is not enough and can actually increase bias. Before you organise it, read this piece too.

2. Instigate a full review of your recruitment processes. Do the work to reach and attract the great BAME candidates who aren’t in your networks. Plan for the fact that this process might take longer and cost more money. A whole other guide is needed on this topic. [@leannecoker]. Erika [@quidditch424] makes an important point on this: I sincerely hope that these institutions don’t rush to hire a black woman without making sure that the company had worked to address the larger problems. Otherwise it’s just a glass cliff situation. Is higher management gonna support her? Have her back with employees don’t respect her authority? Give her the tools and resources need to build a truly diverse and inclusive staff?

3. Create a mentorship programme connecting Black/People of Colour (PoC) leaders to PoC staff in your organisation. If you don’t have PoC leaders, first ask yourselves why? And secondly, arrange for them to be mentored by external PoC leaders. Black/BAME people need Black/BAME people to mentor them, not White people (to understand why this, read this thread by @TatianaTMac). Ensure this mentorship is sponsored by white leaders.

4. Start an anti-racism book club that discusses white privilege, the inequity and injustices, and the daily hardships, racism and micro-aggression faced by people of colour. Do not expect people from Black/BAME background to lead this or attend. You lead it.

5. Do your diversity and inclusion leader/champions include people who are Black/BAME? If not, why not?

6. @SimonChaplin suggests reverse mentoring if done the right way (with lots of support and safeguard around staff taking part — this is key!) may be a powerful way of understanding lived experience in your organisation. I’m not sure how well this works or could work. I would suggest consulting with Black/PoC first, before initiating such an initiative.

7. Seek out experiences of people of colour who have faced injustice in the workplace. For example: the image below was shared on Twitter a few days ago and many Black/BAME women have shared that they can directly relate to it and some have bravely shared their stories alongside it. Read some of their stories here, reach out to them where appropriate to ask them about their experience, and share this image with people in your organisation too:

8. If you’ve been invited to give a talk at an event/conference, ask them how many of the speakers are Black. This is an email template you can use to ask that question. If they refuse to get Black or people of colour on the panel, consider withdrawing from the event. We need to put a stop to #allwhitepanels, all white speakers, all white committees and all white edited volumes.

9. Ask yourself: where am I on this model below? If you are stuck in the learning zone, time to put more effort in and become truly anti-racist:

Anti-racist resources

If you have any other suggestions, please add them below, or message/DM me @drsalmapatel, and I’ll add them on. #BlackLivesMatter

Published in healthy teams


  1. Balwinder Kaur Balwinder Kaur

    Hi Dr Salma Patel – great article- would like to chat with you re: attending and presenting the above and wider anti racist model within our Trust and wider Integrated Care System.

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