Taking steps forward so that we all feel equal

Barbara has worked at Sense for over 15 years. Through her job, she’s been able to connect with many people from different cultures and backgrounds. Hearing their stories and ambitions, Barbara’s helped to shape support and opportunities for the ethnic minority staff at Sense.

Sense is an organisation with lots of different cultures. Everyone has their own reference points and identity. It’s good for us to learn about each other’s culture, especially during Black History Month. But it’s not just about reflecting on the past. It doesn’t matter what culture you came from; it matters that we’re all here now, as people who are trying to make the world a better place.

I joined Sense in 2007 to support staff to learn and train for new qualifications so they can progress their careers. Today, my roles include apprenticeship coordinator; workplace coach; and co-chair of the Ethnic Minority Network.

In these roles, I can help look out for and create awareness of potential racial barriers and concerns in the workplace, and signpost staff to additional resources that’ll support them.

Finding ways to feel connected and understood

There are many people from ethnic minorities that work at Sense, and with a background in adult care, we relate to each other naturally. When I share my story with the people I mentor, it does open things up. Being black, we identify with each other’s challenges.

Over the last few years, Sense has set up equality and diversity networks to help foster an inclusive culture. There was a renewed focus on this during following the Black Lives Matter movement.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, I went to an organisation-wide meeting to discuss barriers in the workplace. I was on furlough during that time – but I’m not used to sitting still! So, I took up the task of reaching out to ethnic minority staff across Sense services to get their stories. I was able to pass these insights on so that we, as an organisation, could review and work through any concerns.

With the Ethnic Minority Network fully established, we now have a safe place for staff to share their experiences, thoughts and ideas with people who’ll understand. Together, we can develop solutions to address any barriers experienced by staff across the organisation.

As the network grows and becomes better known, more people will get involved and it can only get better. We have internal champions across the organisation now, to get everyone connected.

You have as much right as anybody

Sometimes, my job is to empower people to make change happen for themselves, supporting them to adjust their mindsets. I might say, “Don’t give up, you have as much right as anybody.” As a workplace coach, I’m in a position to give them suggestions on what they can do to improve their professional and personal development.

I’m still learning new things myself as, according to the author Andy Kirkpatrick, “Every day is a school day.” That’s how I tell my story. Just because we’re no longer in school, doesn’t mean that we stop learning. And I think this gives people encouragement to believe that if they try it, they can do it.

No one should think they can’t ever get to the next step forward.

Find out more about Black History Month at Sense.