Citizenship Manager Herbert Smith Freehills
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Black History Month: Four ways to invest in the next generation

If we really want to see more diversity among leadership teams, we need to heavily invest in today’s young people. This Black History Month, Honey Sanusi, Citizenship Manager at Herbert Smith Freehills, explores four ways you can join a community of investors who are seeking a fairer future.

15th Oct 2020
Citizenship Manager Herbert Smith Freehills
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School children
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To form a community, there has to be a common characteristic. It could be absolutely anything. Some social commentators suggest it might be the area that a set of people live in, the sentiment people feel about something that dominates their personal or professional lives, mutual values or simply the fact that a particular group of people like cake!

Communities, as HR professionals may be quick to agree, are simple to identify. But what is far less well understood – and therefore worthy of better understanding – is investment.

When we think of the term investment, we tend to think about real estate, bonds, pensions and the stock market. Investments of this nature are incredibly important, however, I strongly believe that supporting and nurturing the next generation is one of the most important investments any of us could ever make.

Whatever you do to invest in the younger generation, I’d encourage you to collaborate with others so you can bring your different perspectives and resources together. 

We all have a tribe

We are all products of investment. Our parents and wider family have invested in us. Our friends, colleagues, mentors, sponsors and many others have also taken the time to invest in us. I can confidently say that investment has made a huge difference to my personal and professional development. There is a wonderful tribe of people who have encouraged, challenged and supported me – that community has shaped me into the woman I am today.

This is one of the reasons why I believe we should all make more effort to be part of the community that supports bright young people. It isn’t just the responsibility of HR practitioners – but the onus is on those in the people profession to galvanise others into action

The only black person taking a seat at the table

When I started my career, I realised that I was often the only black person in the boardroom. I want to see more black men and women thriving in the city.

Like me, many individuals and organisations would like to improve ethnic diversity at all levels across a number of different sectors. Sadly, we’re only likely to see progress on this front if investment is a key element of a multi-faceted action plan. 

So how can you invest? 

1. Become a mentor

Begin by trying to mentor at least one person for a minimum of six months. There are a number of mentoring programmes available for you to support. The Social Mobility Foundation, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, The Mayor’s Fund for London, The Brokerage and many other organisations provide support to numerous young people across the country. Your next mentee might be on their books! It’s certainly worth exploring how you – and your organisation – can help.

2. Inspire school children

You could also make contact with your old school and/or a school in your local area. Most would welcome a career insight or skills session to inspire the students.

Perhaps you could encourage teams to run workshops – a great way of creating a multiple investment, rather than a single individual.

3. Offer work experience

Working with others across your organisation to deliver a work experience programme is another option. Many young people will not have an opportunity to learn more about your area of expertise unless you give them access.

Mentoring and workshops are great ways to help students start their journeys – work placements take things to the next level because the young people get a chance to have a taste of working life.

4. Become a school governor 

Think about the situation we are in right now. Schools are looking for support in many ways to help children whose education has been disrupted by the pandemic.

So why not consider becoming a school governor? They play a vital role in the school system and becoming one is a wonderful way to get involved, invest in the next generation and give back to your local community whilst developing your professional skills in a different capacity.

Governors for Schools could help you to start your journey as a school governor. They will match your skill set to a school or college in need, so you can be sure you’re having a positive impact and making a difference to the next generation.

Diversity hub

Joining the investment cycle

Whatever you do to invest in the younger generation, I’d encourage you to collaborate with others so you can bring your different perspectives and resources together to make even more impact. 

Once you identify what role you can play, a few years from now, when you read the Future Leaders lists, I’m confident that you’ll be proud of the return on your investment!

Those you have invested in will be sure to continue the cycle and my hope is that through these efforts we will make many different sectors much more diverse in the not-too-distant future.

 

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