"Change is truly difficult and often denied, but then nothing good was ever designed to be easy" _ Abisogun OBE
The uncomfortable truth is being heralded as the new normal, but to what extent do or can we safely rely upon the judgement of our peers and industry leaders, to get it right for the BAME community?
In the current climate of change that has engulfed all areas of the globe and all sectors of society, at DiverseCity Surveyors ‘DCS’ we are quietly witnessing history in the making, within and across the surveying profession. A recent request from the editorial team at RICS, to write a piece, seen here; Economic Injustice is the flip side; was quickly followed up by a separate public affirmation, penned by Sean Tompkins, the RICS Global CEO. The clear commitment by Sean and his team, to listen and learn from DCS Members, of their multi-faceted and in many cases derogatory lived-experiences, whilst attempting to pursue ‘successful careers’ in both the UK and overseas, is a welcome expression of support. Getting comfortable, whilst being uncomfortable, genuinely appears to be accepted and on the table. It’s not up for negotiation either. Some would say, bravo RICS………… however, at DCS we maintain a quiet confidence recognising that even though systemic change is on the horizon; it’s been a long time coming, and whilst haste is not anticipated, patience and mutual respect / understanding, will be critically important.
Founder & Chairman, Bola Abisogun OBE, had this to say:
“There can be no doubt that we are witnessing a ‘perfect storm’ which should create the ‘perfect opportunity’ to establish, for the long term, the parameters to support an environment in which to conduct a ‘culturally competent’ conversation with our existing partners and newly established allies. Our members are on a continuous journey of self-discovery, which should yield sustainable fruits from their labour, but we have to be bold and seize those opportunities, as and when they present themselves. Knowledge of self, will be key to conversing and simultaneously educating our new and growing audience.”
Working with industry partners, UK Construction Week, Building People / UCEM New London Architecture and Constructing Excellence, Bola has been invited to share his own perspective and elsewhere, jointly participate in wider panel conversations, industry forums and several roundtables, where the common denominator and recent increase in demand for virtual [online] engagement, has literally gone through the roof; all since the unfortunate murder of George Perry Floyd Jr. Initially consumed by a fear of tokenism and corporate white-wash, we have come to realise that, the paradigm shift of sentiment towards black and brown professionals in the Surveying profession, may in many respects, have grown a new legitimacy.
In just five weeks since his unnecessary death, the world has seen the evolution of the George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act and the entire built environment profession [in the UK], has been awash with ‘ice-breaker’ conversation pieces, ranging from ‘why is it that there has been little if any change?’, through to ‘is there a new business case to demonstrate ethnic diversity?’. Building Magazine, has to their credit, produced [as of 03/07/20] another interesting perspective too, where they attempt to "lift the lid on discrimination in construction". Add to that, there were more recent revelations and corporate acknowledgments, such as that from behemoths like Lloyds of London and Green King, citing a commitment to promote diversity and remit reparations to BAME community groups for their intrinsic role in the well documented and abhorrent global slave trade. Many of these reference points are indicative of a ‘new chapter of honesty and ownership of historic behaviours’, but is compensation [in lieu of cultural change] enough? In truth, we need to develop a balanced, global platform for this conversation, in an attempt to ensure that everyone affected by the ongoing trauma and daily micro-aggressions, has a genuine outlet and opportunity to stand up and use their voice.
On this day ‘the 4th of July’, largely considered and cited as a ‘day of independence’, just how free do members of the BAME community feel ‘across the Surveying profession’? How confident are they in conveying what they mean and how should they begin to share what they want to say with their peers, line-managers, senior managers and other business owners? Of equal importance, are the leaders of the Surveying profession [both large and small firms], amidst their new found willingness to listen and commit to tangible, systemic change. As industry employers, it is worth remembering that people make the business and both mental-health and wellbeing should be at the nucleus of any successful approach to people management. Fundamentally, it is also worth noting that any imbalance towards personal growth, could effectively introduce insecurities that could potentially and quite successfully, bring a pretty decent career to an abrupt end. Lest we forget, the leaky pipe of retention, still has gaping holes.
In summary and as of this week, DiverseCity Surveyors, in partnership with Black Property Network, have begun to shape and deliver a new chapter of growth for RICS, along with the positive influence of RICS members. As with all things in the name of progress, and like anything else in life worth improving, we are taking a deep breath, a huge leap of faith and prepared to break a few eggs along the way. We have now drawn a line in the sands of progress and apologise, in advance, for any upset or latent discomfort caused.