To mark Black History Month in the United Kingdom, Association for Project Management (APM), spoke with members and professionals from the black community to hear their thoughts and opinions on relevant issues within the project profession.
In this article, Yetunde Adeshile ChPP – a member of APM's Board of Trustees and a borough councillor in Basildon, Essex – explains why celebrating past and current success stories is so important for inspiring future generations of project professionals.
“I'm passionate about Black History Month. It's one of the most powerful months we have in the UK. The month presents a great opportunity for organisations to show that they're diverse, want to be diverse or that they have a strategy to close diversity gaps.
“We need ambition from both sides; from those creating strategies and from those doing the work to deliver them. Employers need to have that drive to increase diversity, but people from ethnic minority backgrounds need to take those opportunities. Sometimes, that's just about having the encouragement to go for it.
“Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people, I feel, need more encouragement to get on their professional journey. Even when it comes to rising in the workplace, some people think they can't progress any higher because of their BAME background.
“If you're seeking to take your next step, don't wait for people to ask you to advance. Go and grab it by training yourself, working hard and presenting yourself as a professional always. People who manage you won't create your pathway. You have to create your own.
“Some people may feel kept down by their company, but opportunities for training and development are there. I know racism is out there in the world, but before attributing things to racism there has to be a good reason to do so. I've never felt that I haven't got something I've asked for at work because of the colour of my skin. If you ask for something and it's turned down, ask why?
“Overcoming those perceptions – especially when they're engrained – is a challenge.
“It's important to showcase successes from the BAME community because that will raise awareness of those stories and hopefully inspire others to reach those heights. It's important for people to see people like themselves in places where they want to be. That shows diversity and opportunity.
“In Basildon, where I'm a borough councillor, we make a real effort to do that and we're proud to be able to do so. Personally, when I became a Chartered Project Professional (ChPP), that story went all over social media. I've since noticed that a lot of people I know have started to go for chartership in their own fields. I'm sure there are other drivers, but seeing someone you know achieve a milestone like that is a powerful motivator.
“My message to the black community in the project profession is to use your story to inspire others to create their own story. It doesn't matter what sector you're in. It's all about managing projects.
“And for employers, if you have a member of staff from a BAME background who's a rising star, showcase their success. It will inspire others in your organisation to rise.
“The theme of Black History Month this year is 'Proud to Be'. I'm proud to be a Chartered Project Professional and APM Board of Trustees member. I challenge BAME project professionals to reach the level of this profession they feel proud to be at.”