Creating an inclusive culture at Welsh Water

22 February 2021

The human race has faced a lot of new challenges in the past twelve months. And some age-old challenges have been highlighted too; in particular, racism.

Welsh Water’s BAME+ Network is an embodiment of action, change and collaboration. The network was established by individual colleagues to create a safe place for BAME colleagues and allies to come together, discuss important issues, and shape an inclusivity strategy. It has grown rapidly to more than 30 members since it was founded last year and has been successful in raising its profile both within Welsh Water and beyond.

To mark the UK’s first Race Equality Week, Co-chair of the network, Commercial Analyst, Nkechi Allen-Dawson, was recently invited to join a panel discussion hosted by HS2 alongside 5 other panellists from the newly formed Race Cross Sector Collaboration Group. The six-strong panel looked at the trends in the construction, utilities and rail sectors and discussed what actions equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) leads can take to help their organisations become more racially inclusive. As a result, four core themes were explored, with the potential to make a real impact in eradicating race inequality from the wider industry.

Here’s what Nkechi has to say:

“It’s our belief that diversity needs to be on the agenda at every level, in every industry. Welsh Water’s BAME+ network exists to open up conversations and create a safe place for discussions about positive change. Employees can voice important issues or simply discuss how best to manage barriers at work.

“Embedding BAME representation across the business is also crucial for us, and we’re working with internal teams in Education and Recruitment to push forward some exciting initiatives like professional development plans, reverse mentoring schemes, and outreach programmes.

“We also want to establish a network of BAME+ Champions across the company; a group of colleagues that others can confidentially approach to discuss things like reporting microaggressions or discrimination. By delivering these kinds of initiatives, we will make Welsh Water an even more inclusive place to work.

“Ultimately, we’d like to challenge as many organisations as possible to make sustained change to their inclusion policies. That’s why it was so fantastic to join the recent panel discussion about how people and organisations can help develop conversations about race equality more broadly.

“What it comes down to is this; Racial Equity is a humanitarian issue. We all need to be kind, transparent, and accountable. Management must trust employees with responsibility and opportunity. Employees must trust not only one another, but also trust that management has their best interests at heart. Customers and partners must trust in a company, its people, and its products and services.”

Contact Centre Team Leader, Omolara Cordle, is another founding member of the BAME+ Network. She added: “Something I think is really important is the fact that the Welsh Water network was started by a group of individuals united in the belief there was more that could be done to raise awareness of the issues facing BAME+ colleagues.

“It just goes to show that anyone – no matter their seniority or role - can make a meaningful difference. Change belongs to us all and everyone should feel empowered to take action. The BAME+ committee is a living, breathing example of this and I’m looking forward to seeing our plans put in action for the benefit of our colleagues and Welsh Water employees of the future!”