It was early September when Jonathan Sorrell told me that, as an executive search firm, Sainty, Hird & Partners would not be able to join the 100 Black Interns programme as he kindly pointed out: “you’re not an investment manager”. "But", he went on, “how many black headhunters do you know? I only know Michael (Barrington-Hibbert– a co-founder of 10000 Black Interns); that’s about it”. And in the silence that followed, it was clear what needed to be done. Fast forward. ‘Executive Search and Recruitment’ is now one of the first of many industries participating in the expanded 10000 Black Interns programme. Companies are signing up apace from all sectors. Register at www.10000blackinterns.com.
What makes 10000BlackInterns different? What sets it apart from the many and various pledges, movements, initiatives and commitments – not least this year, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder – that highlight the need for change? In my opinion, there are two points of differentiation. First, the programme is clearly defined and rooted in pragmatism. There’s no emotion or hyperbole. It’s not about demanding change; it’s about effecting it. There’s more heat than light. The cost (mainly time and effort) to benefit (immeasurable?) ratio is compelling. And, worth noting too, the programme does not pretend to be some sort of panacea. It’s simply another piece in a very big puzzle.
Second, it takes a long view. 10000BlackInterns is a five year programme (surely it will last longer). In a world of impatience and protest – we want change and we want it now! 10000BlackInterns acknowledges that, like it or not, change will take time; but it’s time well-spent. Lasting change needs strong roots. Too much (or, worse, exclusive) focus on the length and difficulty of the journey ahead, rather than the next steps – and indeed those already taken – can be dispiriting and counter-productive. The easier option is always to complain, in an armchair.
And, worth noting too, the programme does not pretend to be some sort of panacea. It’s simply another piece in a very big puzzle.
There are, however, positive signs. For example, I recently attended, along with 1500 others, LGIM’s talk about black Black History Month virtual event, hosted by Dawid Konotey-Ahulu (another co-founder of the programme). At the start, a poll of ethnicity revealed attendees were 42% black and 42%white. There was then a question, asking how we all felt about the state of ethnic diversity in our respective industries. Choices included “indifferent”, “sad” and “exhausted”. But – wait for it – “optimistic” (the only positive option) won comfortably, with 40% (ahead of “exhausted” with 30%). Dawid seemed momentarily wrong-footed, not expecting such buoyancy.
Yes, it’s natural (and we need) to highlight what’s wrong in order to put it right; but let’s also occasionally take time to accentuate (even celebrate!) positive steps. 10000BlackInterns is one such step– perhaps even a stride – on a long journey. Over its five year course, it will have a positive and material impact not only on corporate cultures and the lives of10,000 young people; but also – and this surely is key – on those who look to them as role models. School children, sixteen year olds wondering whether to stay in education and, not least, their parents will see cause and effect not on TV, in newspapers, or in the faces of exceptional but anomalous Black leaders. It will instead be at home.
REGISTER YOUR COMPANY at www.10000blackinterns.com.
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