The Ethnicity Affinity Group has been brought together to help create a workplace where ethnicity and differences are a positive thing. Primarily, the Group do this with two-way communication on all topics with all colleagues in an open, honest and positive way
The group’s purpose is to create and embed a workplace where ethnic diversity is celebrated, encouraged and championed to motivate colleagues. So the team have identified four key focus areas where they feel they can make the most impact.
- Raising Awareness :
- Create and sustain an internal community that operates as a positive space to share views with affiliated colleagues.
- Educate colleagues – including senior leadership – through events communications and other channels
- Awareness, amplification and celebration of ethnic touch points across the Banking Group.
Provide direction to the business on any ethnicity related developments and campaigns
Provide a safe space for colleagues to be connected and supported, and to process and discuss experiences
- Career Progress:
- Support the recruitment, retention and development of more ethnically diverse candidates and colleagues across the Banking Group.
- Help Vanquis Banking Group to recruit underrepresented individuals and develop a talent pipeline
- Social impact:
- Promote and support the Banking Group in broader community engagement related to ethnicity.
“I chose to lead the Ethnicity Affinity group because I wanted to make a difference for our colleagues as well as customers. I have the ability to shape our culture where our diverse workforce feels included in every way, and to help create an environment that colleagues and customers can be proud of.
Internally, one of our group’s aims is to influence leaders and colleagues in overcoming unconscious bias. Diverse and inclusive thinking opens us to recruit a greater range of talent and ideas, and equally allows Vanquis Banking Group to support colleagues with greater access to opportunities and more career mobility.”
“I want to play an integral part in helping Vanquis Banking Group design, build and develop our diversity and inclusion culture - our futures shall be diverse by nature and I really want my children and future generations to have equal opportunities in a more fair society.
I think it’s important that we create opportunities to remove unconscious bias and contributing to this group is one way I can play my part - Together let us raise awareness and make the unconscious conscious.”
Celebrating Lunar New Year!
Lunar New Year follows the Chinese Lunar calendar to mark the first new moon, with celebrations lasting days or even weeks. The date varies each year but usually takes place in January or February. In 2022, Lunar New Year starts on 1 February with celebrations and traditions carried through to 15 February. Celebrated most prominently in China, the holiday is most known as Chinese New Year.
As well as educating colleagues across the business as to the importance and purpose of Lunar New Year, some members of our Ethnicity Affinity Group are sharing how they celebrate:
Eric says: I always associate Lunar New Year with red packets, and enjoying delicious food. The big event often reminds me of my younger days helping my mother make and sell celebratory cookies. Pineapple tarts are the most symbolic cookie during the Lunar New Year in Southeast Asia and was always my mother’s main strength. I have yet to attempt due to the laborious process.
Since living in the UK, I reminisce the good old days by learning to make cookies typically found during the lunar new year in Malaysia. Whilst enjoy making them, I also enjoy sharing them with my neighbors, friends, and colleagues* (pre-pandemic days). Here are a few I enjoy.
Peanut cookies can be found all year round! It’s pretty calorific but it melts in your mouth and you will never think of the calories! Best served with a cup of tea or coffee.
Almond cookies are similar to peanut cookies but with almonds of course!
Bahulu is commonly found in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei. This is the equivalent of the French madeleine. Bahulu comes in different shapes, ranging from animals (fish, prawn, rooster) to fruit shapes and flowers. This is my favourite to make as it only involves 3 ingredients – sugar, flour, and eggs. All in the same ratio.
German cookies or Dragon cookies were popular in the 1990s. Similar recipe as the German cookies and is often seen in dragon shape but I made my own marble version as I’m worried my dragon end up looking like a snake or worms!
Kuih Loyang is also known as Rosette or Honeycomb are a real treat! They are ultra-thin, super crispy and have a coconut fragrant smell. They are deep-fried cookies that can be found in Scandinavia, India, the Netherlands and a few of the Mediterranean countries. A special brass mould is used to obtain the flowery shape.
To help raise awareness across PFG, the Ethnicity Affinity Group prepare communications and activities which celebrate ethnic touch points. For example, the team are currently working on how they might engage our colleagues throughout National Inclusion Week in September and think about what stories they might want to share, or conversations they might want to amplify during Black History month in October.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD) is observed annually on 21 March, serving as a moment to reflect on inherent structures of power and to redouble efforts to eradicate all forms of racial discrimination
Across the Group, we celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity every day.
On this day, the Be Yourself Ethnicity Affinity Group brought awareness to this significant historical event, featuring remarks from our South African colleagues, and explaining to colleagues how they could show their support to #FightRacism.
What is IDERD and why is it important?
On 21 March 1960, 69 people were killed by police at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa. These laws, instituted under British rule and modelled after similar laws instituted against Indigenous people in Canada, served to limit the movement of Black people, people of colour, and Indigenous people in Africa. While such overt racial discrimination may feel like ancient history, recent world events remind us that we still have a long way to go to challenge racial discrimination.
In South Africa, the democratic government declared 21st March Human Rights Day to commemorate and honour those who fought for the liberation and the rights enjoyed today. It is also a public holiday to remind South Africans about the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for the attainment of democracy in South Africa. The commemoration provides the country with an opportunity to reflect on progress made in the promotion and protection of human rights.
The South African Constitution is hailed as one of the most progressive in the world. The Constitution is the ultimate protector of Human Rights, which were previously denied to the majority of people under Apartheid. South Africans commemorate Human Rights Day to reinforce the commitment to the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
These rights include:
1. Equality – everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
2. Human dignity – everyone has inherent dignity and have their dignity respected and protected.
3. Freedom of movement and residence – everyone has a right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country.
4. Language and culture – everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice.
5. Life - everyone has the right to live.
To show some of the positive changes and negative encounters South Africans still face, our colleagues in South Africa share their experiences:
"People have evolved & are open to engage with any race when it comes to work or even public areas."
"A customer asked to speak to someone from the UK, Cheryl promises to assist & handle the matter for the customer. Customer started using foul language whilst also saying we need to go back to our country."
"[People] of colour have more opportunities and are free to go anywhere they want compared in Apartheid when they were restricted."
"Here in South Africa, we still have a population with high unemployed black and coloured communities."
"[Racism] isn’t completely gone. We have certainly made positive strides towards a better future where people of different races can work together in successful companies."
"A Black petrol attendant was racially discriminated against due to the fact that it was perceived that he only assisted fellow Black people. This obviously was not the case."
"Female colleague was approached a “white” lady to ask a question, [but was mistaken for asking] for money, which made her feel discriminated against."
For colleagues in South Africa who are celebrating Human Rights Month throughout March, it’s a reminder that everyone has the responsibility to uphold a culture of human rights and to shape the country’s future, whether it’s using their influence within the workplace or community, at school, or with our partners and children. Outside of South Africa, we can support by learning from this story, spreading the word and find ways to get involved in making positive change.
The Ethnicity Group asked colleagues to show their solidarity by updating their Microsoft Teams background to help raise awareness.
For the day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, the Group shared an article which inspired a lot of positive conversation and sharing, internally:
Cultural diversity is the existence of different cultural or ethnic groups within society. Learning about other cultures can help to broaden our understanding of others in our communities. It also helps eliminate biases about those who are different due to religion, ethnicity, language, nationality, and other characteristics.
According to the UN, three quarters of the world’s major conflicts are due to culture clashes. Therefore, bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability, and development.
First declared by the UN in 2002, World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is commemorated on 21st May, providing an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity, recognising culture’s contribution to sustainable development – one that the UN refers to as a ‘driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life’. You can learn more about this day and about cultural diversity here.
Fostering multiculturalism is not only positive in terms of contributing to global peace, stability, and development - it can also benefit organisations such as ours. Studies have shown that multicultural teams are more creative than homogenous teams, especially those with more diverse attitudes and values towards culture.
The senior leadership team within PFG particularly acknowledge the positives of sharing unique perspectives and experiences, not just for innovating at work but for team members to become more well-rounded, as exhibited by the huge strides being made by the PFG Be Yourself diversity and inclusion community.
The Ethnicity Affinity Group exists to create a workplace where ethnic and cultural differences are celebrated. To bring this to life, members of the Ethnicity Affinity Group encouraged all of us to learn something about another culture and to think about how cultural diversity brings us together by sharing some of their favourite culturally specific dishes. They invited colleagues you to share theirs, by visiting the Ethnicity Affinity Group Social Intranet pages to share their favourite cultural dish and why.
Sol’s favourite dish: Akara – a delicious main course
Akara (savoury Nigerian pancakes). If I was stranded on a desert island but had one limitless food supply/option it'd be this. Just the right mix of spice and savoury, super-efficient as can be served / eaten hot or cold too. So much cultural cohesion comes from shared experiences, like many, I have fond memories of what the communal serving of this food evokes. I know how to make it too, so at some stage, we can have a real-life world food day. My Mum's are better though, so maybe we'll enlist her!
Jenn’s favourite dish: Tang Yuan - A dessert to finish
Tang Yuan can be described as sweet dumplings, and they’re very easy to make. The outer ‘wrapper’ is made of glutinous rice flour so the texture is sticky soft, and the filling can be a simple sweet black sesame paste, red bean, or peanut – all of which are popular choices. Then, it’s boiled and steeped in a lightly sweet soup made of ginger and brown sugar and eaten together. The filling and combinations will vary depending on the region of China you’re from, or what your family raised you on.