Shereen Daniels, Founder and Managing Director of HR rewired, and Vice Chair of the Black Business Association for London’s Chamber of Commerce & Industry, spoke with Treasury Today Group ahead of her breakthrough conference focused on advancing racial equity on 23rd September 2021.
Founder and Managing Director
The story behind HR rewired goes back to two years ago when Shereen created the consultancy, having spent the previous 20 years in senior roles within corporate human resources. Although her firm was in its infancy, the events of 25th May 2020 compelled Shereen to change up a gear and move HR rewired from a generalist HR shop into the specialist territory of racial equity consulting.
In response to the viral social media footage from the fateful day that George Floyd was murdered, Shereen posted in-depth videos on her LinkedIn page that cover a spectrum of insights as to how systemic racism pervades our society. Spanning 100 days, the impact of these videos saw Shereen become one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices for 2020, attracting the interest of both Forbes and the BBC. However, what started out as a means to give awareness gathered momentum as CEOs, HR Leads and Executive Board members across a variety of industries began to respond to her posts, asking for advice and structural support in dismantling racism within their companies. In Shereen’s own words, ‘Not only were they worried about saying and doing the wrong thing, but they also wanted to know what their leadership role should be. They didn’t want to just hire more black people because they didn’t think this would solve the issue. They wanted to know how they could make changes that would be sustainable rather than performative and tokenistic.’
Shereen is known for a no holds barred approach, combined with empathy for individuals and organisations advancing racial equity. She says, ‘The impactful work, the stuff creating transformative change is hard, it requires the type of introspection that will reconfigure the world beyond what you thought you knew it to be. Put it this way. When you are in a meeting or walking around your organisation, how often do you ask yourself: Why does this organisation work so well for white people? And the answer isn’t we employed the best person for the job because this means that people who look like you are just better. Meritocracy is an elusive fantasy. You need to dig deep into your organisation’s process and belief systems to uncover the truth.’
There are no shortcuts to transformative change when it comes to racial equity, Shereen explains, which is why she feels so many companies get it wrong and can end up with tokenistic approaches. She elaborates, ‘As race is so visual, it’s possible to be seen to be doing something by hiring more black people. You can have the most ethnically representative business in the world, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have an issue with racism. Representation is about output. A very visual output. It is easily constructed through a tokenistic approach that rather than analysing the inputs that founded your organisation’s racist processes and systems, paints a veneer of transformative change. However, such action is fear driven, built on nothing more than a need to mitigate corporate risk. And it doesn’t work, as the systems underneath remain as entwined with systemic racism as they were before you employed (a few) more black people.’
The misconceptions between organisational tokenism and true transformative change, and of course how your organisation can work towards the latter, will be a significant highlight of Shereen’s conference on 23rd September. Although, with guest spots by the likes of René Carayol MBE and Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, the day will present enlightening perspectives from an array of inspirational and motivating thought leaders. Shereen elaborates on her hopes for the day and what she envisages attendees can get out of it:
‘It will be a virtual space, for a day, that is dedicated to the experiences of black colleagues in the workplace, particularly within HR and people on the periphery. Yes, it will be a place for leaning into the tough conversations that need to be had to advance racial equity in organisations, for analysing the issues and discussing ways forward, but I also hope it will be a celebration that impacts people positively, that the inspirational line up galvanises attendees with the spirit that dismantling racism creates a better working environment for all. And Trevor Nelson is performing, so to be honest, why would you not want to attend!’
Speaking of attendance, Shereen explained, ‘Anyone who cares and wants to be part of the solution should plug in, and different people will get different things from the day. If your organisation is not quite where it needs to be in advancing racial equity, this conference is for you. If you are experiencing racial harassment in the workplace, this conference is for you. If you’re a thought leader in your organisation and you’re looking towards ‘what next’ on your company’s journey, then we’ve got you covered. In all instances, the conference has been set out to deliver hope and inspiration from like-minded individuals at different stages in their own journey. It’s going to be quite a day. So even if you feel lonely in that you’re one of the few people that do care about anti-racism in your organisation, this conference will give you the impetus to realise you’re not on your own.’
The Advancing Racial Equity conference on 23rd September 2021 is one not to miss. Find out more about what’s going on and who’s speaking through https://www.advancing-racial-equity.com. For further information about what Shereen and her team can do for your organisation, contact her through: firstname.lastname@example.org