Guest Blog — Johanne Penney on Post 2020: Are Businesses Authentically Adopting a Valued Culture Around Equality & Diversity and Translating That into Recruitment & Investment Patterns?

The PepTalk Co.
4 min readMay 20, 2021


As the Founder & CEO of ‘Amp Up Your Voice’ a progressive anti-racism Equality & Diversity consultancy, I partner with modern companies and organisations helping them to drive real change for an equal and inclusive work environment, to elevate their brand and be part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

However, this notably is not an easy journey, and it has become quite apparent that real change is moving at a glacial pace. But what exactly needs to happen to ensure that the playing field is levelled up and equity is the normality for Black and Ethnically Diverse individuals and groups?

As we all understand now, 2020 raised awareness amongst the rest of the world to comprehend what issues people of colour have been experiencing for years. The murder of George Floyd shone a light on inequity in all avenues of life, including the magnitude of institutional and structural systemic racism.

It clearly demonstrated that within the workplace, opportunities for decent jobs and the lack of leadership positions, alongside the ethnicity pay gap have huge disparities which negatively affect Black and Ethnically Diverse individuals and groups. Black women hit the glass ceiling particularly hard in terms of intersectionality and the statistics are there to prove the situation is not only dire, but it is getting worse — as the Guardian reported in February this year ‘Boardroom diversity report shows drop to zero for first time since 2014’ confirming that the FTSE 100 firms have no Black executives in top three roles!

Which leaves us to ponder on where that leaves us in 2021? Industry wide it is recognised as a call to action. And businesses need to follow the expert lead as, post 2020, the nuance in this narrative is balancing the continual theoretical education and translating that to practical tangible changes and how to be successful in doing so. With the overall objective of equity — ‘being the fair distribution of power, opportunity, and access across an organisation’.

So, what can businesses really do to ensure that they are on the right journey to ensure Black and Ethnically Diverse voices are authentically being heard and listened too. Across business, how to ensure tangible change and positive action in terms of recruiting, promoting, protecting, and investing in Black and Ethnically Diverse individuals. Are you guaranteeing those with the right skills, knowledge and experience are put into senior positions and roles they can fulfil?

This really is about building awareness, changing to a valued culture around equality & diversity, and translating that into recruitment & investment patterns and processes within your business. Clearly businesses simply having equality & diversity training is not enough to shift the dial and this tick box approach, trialled over many years, needs to change if equity is to be truly institutionalised.

We recognise that there is no quick fix, the current situation is the result of years of systemic racism manifesting in the workplace and it will therefore take years to deconstruct. But undertaking a journey of self-reflection, challenging existing perceptions, recognising, and understanding one’s own biases is the right individual and collective path to take.

And collectively, from the beginning, leadership teams need to be ‘all in’ on this journey and clearly leading by example, otherwise it simply won’t work. Genuinely owning areas for improvement and having authentic visible commitment will demonstrate you as role model, for the kind of culture and behaviours you want the rest of your workforce to emulate.

Perhaps beginning with reflection on the demographic of one’s own Leadership team and whether it is representative of a diverse workplace. If your Board is majority white and/or male things are not going to authentically change within the organisation. We know that representative is imperative and without accurate representation the policies and processes you create and deliver will be skewed to the needs of people who look and are like you!

However, it’s imperative to recognise that this is not a ‘one size fits all’ and many businesses are at vastly different stages in their journey. Each should adopt an individual needs assessment to identify what gaps, knowledge and practical steps are needed and are most relevant to them. A strategic approach is the one that will give you the most wins and successes.

To be a successful, modern, and progressive businesses it is essential that you act with conviction. The current conversation on equality and diversity and the speed to which it is accelerating and changing is crucial and for a business to survive in this new climate they must understand that this is not a static space. It is a continual educational journey and one of self-improvement — and it is fiercely vital businesses embark on this journey, so as not to be left behind. Are you going to be a business that will?

Johanne is a professional trainer, facilitator, speaker, mentor and writer. If you would like to know more on how you can practically achieve the above, please book Johanne for an inspirational talk via the PepTalk platform here

To find out more about Johanne you can also visit



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