• June Sarpong stresses Black History Month should be integral to British history education.
  • Diversity involves numbers, but true inclusion creates belonging and equal-opportunity environments.
  • Organisations should integrate diversity into everyday practices and leverage unique perspectives.

In this throwback to the "PepTalk Weekly," hosted by Kenzie Benali, we revisit a compelling interview with June Sarpong, speaker, renowned broadcaster, author, and passionate diversity advocate. Originally aired during Black History Month, this episode offers a deep dive into the complexities of the diversity agenda, filled with June's valuable insights and practical advice.

Introduction and Background

June Sarpong's journey is nothing short of inspiring. As the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, she grew up in East London, a background that significantly shaped her worldview. June's career began at the tender age of 16 when she ventured into radio. Her talent and determination soon led her to work for major broadcasters like MTV and Channel 4. Beyond her broadcasting career, June authored the influential book "Diversify," which has become a cornerstone resource for organisations aiming to enhance their diversity and inclusion efforts.

Black History Month

June passionately argues that Black History Month should not be a standalone event but an integral part of British history. She emphasises the need to recognise the contributions of Black people to Britain, extending beyond the well-known Windrush generation. June stresses the importance of educating the public about the full spectrum of history, including the painful chapters of slavery and colonialism. "Black British history is British history," she asserts, underscoring the need for a more inclusive historical narrative.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

June offers a nuanced understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She explains that while diversity is about numbers, equity and inclusion create environments where people feel they belong and have equal opportunities. Drawing from her personal experiences, June recounts discrimination, such as being excluded from an MTV photo shoot despite her prominent role. These experiences highlight the gap between mere diversity and true inclusion.

Actionable Insights for Individuals and Organisations

June's advice is both empowering and practical. She encourages individuals to know their value and view their differences as assets. "Be yourself; everybody else is taken," she advises, urging people to lead with their unique perspectives rather than feeling the need to fit in. June also stresses the importance of collective action and the role of allies in addressing workplace issues. Her insights are a call to action for individuals to embrace their uniqueness and for organisations to foster inclusive environments.

For organisations striving to improve their diversity and inclusion efforts, June offers a clear roadmap:

1. Integrate Diversity into Everyday Practices

   - Educate Continuously: Incorporate the contributions and history of diverse groups into regular training and educational programs. For instance, Black History Month should be a starting point, not the only time diversity is highlighted.

   - Create Inclusive Cultures: Ensure the workplace culture is welcoming and inclusive. This involves celebrating diverse holidays, recognising various cultural contributions, and fostering an environment where everyone feels they belong.

2. Assess and Address Specific Issues

   - Conduct Audits: Regularly assess why the organisation isn't as diverse as desired. This could involve surveys, focus groups, and data analysis to understand the barriers to diversity.

   - Set Realistic Goals: Create actionable and realistic timelines for improvement. This includes diversifying hiring practices, ensuring inclusive cultures, and supporting career progression for diverse talent. For example, set specific targets for hiring from underrepresented groups and track progress over time.

3. Leverage Unique Perspectives and Collective Action

   - Value Differences: Encourage employees to see their differences as assets rather than liabilities. This can be done through mentorship programs, diversity training, and creating platforms for diverse voices to be heard.

   - Build Allies: Foster an environment where allies are encouraged to support diversity initiatives. This means educating all employees about the importance of diversity and how they can contribute to a more inclusive workplace. For example, start diversity working groups that include members from various departments to ensure a wide range of perspectives and support.

Personal Drive and Inspiration

June's drive is fueled by her love for her work and admiration for those who defy societal limitations. She emphasises the importance of enjoying the moment and not constantly hurrying to achieve the next goal. "Enjoy every moment... don't be in such a hurry because when you get there, if you haven't gotten used to enjoying the moment, you're going to be in a hurry for whatever the next thing is," she advises. This perspective is a reminder to find joy in the journey, not just the destination.

Audience Q&A

The session also featured a lively Q&A segment, where June addressed questions from the audience. She offered advice on starting diversity working groups, addressing diversity without offending people, and ensuring everyone benefits from diversity initiatives. June also shared personal experiences and emphasised the importance of not taking discrimination personally. "It's not personal... It's about what you represent and it's about a flaw in society's way of thinking," she said, providing a powerful perspective on dealing with discrimination.

June’s PepTalk OnDemand appearance was a masterclass in understanding and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her insights, drawn from personal experience and professional expertise, offer valuable lessons for individuals and organisations. As we continue to navigate the complexities of diversity, voices like June's are essential in guiding us towards a more inclusive and equitable future.

💡 Would you like to mark UK Black History Month 2024 with an expert speaker? Or explore a range of keynote speakers who specialise in diversity and inclusion. Let us know what you need, and we’ll find the perfect PepTalk expert for your organisation. Email us at hello@getapeptalk.com or send us a message via the chat. You can also call us on +44 (0)2038352929.

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