Frank conversations about race and colour

October’s Black History Month meant a lot to me because my mum’s from Jamaica and my dad was born in Barbados. I was born and bred in London, so it’s always been interesting for me to learn about my history and culture. I think that Rosa Parks was the first Black person from history whose story had an impact on me – learning about her raised my awareness and made me think about inclusion. I wanted to make sure that people have equal opportunities and feel appreciated regardless of colour or race. That really resonated with me.

Cheryl Read, Dimensions Locality Manager

There are so many stories that have had an impact on me. I find Harriet Tubman inspiring, for her work ending slavery and her bravery. I’d also choose some films: To Sir With Love (1967) starring Sidney Poitier, and Imitation of Life (1959). In To Sir With Love, Sidney Poitier plays a teacher taking a job in tough London school and working hard to support the children and earning their respect, with such strength and resilience against bias.

Being part of the reverse mentoring scheme at Dimensions – where colleagues from a black or minority ethnic background help senior leaders gain new perspectives on issues of race and colour – has been interesting. It felt really good to be able to open up challenging conversations without anyone feeling that they’ll be judged badly. Of course, the first aim of the scheme is to support the mentee and the organisation to have an inclusive culture –but also for me, I feel more able to have open and frank conversations, because I feel I’ll really be heard and it will be taken as constructive feedback. I feel that my experience is valued.

I’d describe reverse mentoring as ‘supported conversations’. We want the mentees to feel less afraid to ask ‘difficult’ questions and to feel confident discussing issues like race. A colleague was trying to describe someone to me recently, and they were stuttering a bit because they didn’t feel confident describing the person as black. I had to say – that is okay!

I enjoyed sharing my story and experiences with my mentee, finding where our experiences have been similar as well as different.