Black History Month Q&A with Head of People, Andrea
For Black History Month we have been shining the spotlight on our wonderful black colleagues, volunteers, and clients, so we caught up with Andrea, Head of People at Inspire North.
Please can you tell us about your role and a short summary of your career at Inspire North?
I started my HR career in Community Links 9 years ago as the HR Officer, moving to the HR Manager as the organisation grew. When Community Links joined with Foundation in 2018 to form Inspire North, I was successful in obtaining the Head of People role. Within this current role, I provide leadership and direction to the People and Payroll teams, using my HR expertise to offer advice and guidance. It’s the values that Community Links and Inspire North live every day which make me love my job.
I am enormously proud of my career achievements, especially the HR specialism, as this is something that I enjoyed studying at university. I tend to introduce myself to new colleagues as a member of the HR/People team because, for me, what I do and doing it to the best of my abilities is of utmost importance. Externally though, I shout that job title loud and proud 😊 – there are very few black people at a senior level in the world of HR.
How much does representation at work matter?
Representation is especially important to organisations such as ours, as we provide services to a diverse community. If our aim is to deliver inclusive quality services to our clients, we need to understand them. To fulfill our vision, members of diverse communities need to see ‘a mirror image’ of themselves when accessing services and employment, otherwise the label ‘white liberal do gooders’ springs to mind.
Growing up for me was predominately ‘white’ – my neighbourhood, school, uni, church, music, dance, etc., so being a minority in most settings is my reality and not a surprise. However just because overt racism wasn’t happening to me, it didn’t mean it wasn’t ‘real’.
My working life (29 years) has been in the not for profit/ 3rd sector. These sectors actively seek out black people to join their organisations, but there will always be more work to be done in developing inclusive teams. In the past year, two people who joined my team said they were surprised and amazed when they knew they would be working for a black woman – they were from an ethnic minority! One stated they had never had or known a black manager in 10 years of working. That to me is disappointing as it shows the activism of the 80s and 90’s has not made an impact in all areas of employment.
What does the quote ‘If you can see it, you can be it’ mean to you?
It’s an easy statement to make and I do think the more you see people like you in varied roles you know the door can be opened for you, but there lies the challenge – ‘can be’ versus ‘is’.
Did you have diverse role models in the workplace when you were getting to your senior position? If no, how different would it have been if you had?
I determine my role models based on the qualities they display rather than their work roles. My family experiences include many career professionals, so I have always been encouraged to work towards personal goals. Growing up, we were grounded with the well-known phrases of ‘you can be whatever you want to be but just remember you are going to have to work three times as hard as your white friends’ and ‘never forget it’s the first impression that counts’. This is ingrained in me and therefore as an adult is an unconscious action.
What would you like to say to young black people coming into the workplace now?
The world is your oyster. You can be what you want to be, but remember, and I am really sorry to have to say this, ‘you are going to have to have to work three times as hard as your white friends and first impressions count’. Why? Because we still live in an institutionally racist society.
At Inspire North, we encourage diversity within our teams – to learn about our current vacancies, visit: https://www.inspirenorth.co.uk/careers/