21 May is the UN World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development and today we hear from Raj Jones, diversity & inclusion manager for Sodexo UK & Ireland.

raj JonesOneSodexo is Sodexo's Culture & Origins taskforce and one of the five dimensions of our global D&I strategy.  Raj is based in London and a member of our ethnicity focus area.

What’s your role in OneSodexo? 
I am a member of the working group for the ethnicity focus area.
How long have you been involved in OneSodexo? 
I  have been involved for about a year now
What motivated you to get involved in this topic? 
As an ‘ethnic minority’ myself I have always had a personal interest and experience of the prejudice, racism and discrimination this community can encounter. 

I was born and raised in the UK, however my parents were brought up in India and relocated to the UK to have an arranged marriage. They held true to their traditional values and ways of life. I grew up in an area with little diversity so I was very much caught between my parents’ ‘traditional ways’ and my own desire to have the freedom of ‘western ways’ that my friends enjoyed, like going to parties and wearing the latest fashion. 

The concept of being able to ‘bring your whole self to work’ is one that I can really relate to. Growing up I was sometimes embarrassed about how my parents did things differently. Now I recognise that it is an important part of my culture and heritage that I am proud of it. Diversity is a real strength and we all have a role to play in ensuring everyone feels included.
How does your ’day job’ support your role with OneSodexo? 
As part of my role as Diversity & Inclusion Manager for the UK and Ireland, work on ethnicity and race is one of my areas of focus. Being part of OneSodexo  is a fantastic opportunity for me to be able to share my knowledge and experiences from the UK and Ireland and likewise learn from the experiences of other regions and work collaboratively on this agenda to facilitate positive change. 

Can you share an experience that has marked you during your professional life, in relation to the topic of cultures & origins? 
There have been many experiences such as the terrorist bombings in London in 2005 which had a marked impact on how minorities were viewed and treated. 

However, I think what we are seeing now with coronavirus and how ethnic minorities are being impacted is really bringing the issue to the forefront. 

Following concern about the disproportionate number of people from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds who have died or have been severely affected by the virus, the government has launched an urgent review.

I also think we are starting to see an appreciation for the BAME community that we have never had before, given the large numbers that are working in front line roles such as in hospitals and on our transport systems. 

You clap for me now is a wonderful poem that really sums it up.

There’s also another great poem from George the Poet.

What did you learn from this experience?    
For me, it’s firstly how can we support our own colleagues during this time. I have been working with our Origins employee resource group and wellbeing team to ensure colleagues know where to go for support and that we have the necessary resources in-place for them.

It’s also how we support the business for when we return to the ‘new normal’ so that we don’t undo all the good work we have done to date. We remain committed to increasing the representation of local minorities at all levels of the organisation. 
Do you have an example to share of the work you are doing with OneSodexo to build a more inclusive workplace?  
One of my big areas of focus is supporting our people to be more comfortable with having conversations about race and ethnicity within their teams. We have produced a toolkit for managers to help with this and we are also looking to run some developmental sessions to support these conversations.
What are your goals for the year ahead for the topic of local minorities?  
I have a lot of goals. My first one is to continue to help our people be more comfortable talking about this topic, and to help our leaders understand what they can be doing to support the development of our BAME colleagues.

Another key priority will be to look at what could be some of the potential barriers to ethnic minorities progressing through the organisation and what we could do to support with this. This could include reverse mentoring programmes, development of career paths and expanding the activities of our employee resource group.

Another big area of work we are looking at is the preparation for ethnicity pay reporting. This is due to become legislation in the UK in the next few years and we would like to be able to publish sooner if we are in a position to do so.  A key part of this is to ensure we have accurate data about the demographics of our workforce so we will be looking to conduct an employee census over the course of the following year. 
If you could pick one inspiring person to join you at a dinner party, who would it be? (The person could be historic or contemporary, someone you have met or not) 
Michelle Obama, she is so inspiring.

Which three words would you use to sum up Sodexo as a company? 
Vast, compassionate and rewarding.

What would your advice be to others in supporting the inclusion of local minorities in their region? 
Recognise your privilege and use it to help others. And don’t dismiss the lived experiences of others just because it may be something you haven’t experienced yourself.

May 21, 2020

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