engage magazine issue 005 \\\'07 - Page 23

INTERVIEW 23 Sandra Kerr is Director of the Race for Opportunity campaign, a post she has held for the past 3 years. engage secured an interview with Ms Kerr to find out more about the woman leading the campaign, its achievements, and the challenges ahead. he Race for Opportunity (RfO) a Business in the Community campaign initiative, is a growing network of private and public sector organisations working across the UK to promote the business case for race diversity and inclusion. The campaign was established twelve years ago with the help and commitment of a small group of business leaders who represented some of the largest and most successful companies in the UK. Membership has since grown to nearly 200 organisations. engage wanted to know whether the campaign had really Sandra Kerr T Race legislation has been in place in the UK for over 40 years. The first Race Relations Act was passed in 1965 making racial discrimination unlawful in public places but it wasn’t until 1976 that discrimination became illegal in the workplace and in the provision of goods and services. engage asked whether these acts had been effective and had attitudes to race changed. “I think having legislation in place has had some impact and influence as a deterrent to some, however some of the current data that outlines the inequalities that still exist on racial grounds across most of the provisions in the act suggest that legislation alone is not the answer. To change the culture of an organisation, there has to be a will from senior leaders in organisations to go beyond mere legislation and to actually recognise and value difference, and look at the advantages and opportunities to increase innovation and creativity that could be gained through embracing people and their difference.” Until recently, it was the responsibility of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) to review race legislation and be the statutory body to tackle racial To change the culture of an organisation, there has to be a will from senior leaders in organisations to go beyond mere legislation and to actually recognise and value difference........ made any progress on race. “I would say yes, in that it has the commitment of 180 organisations, some of the biggest businesses and institutions that exist. These are organisations who not only say they want race equality and inclusion in their firm but have, for the past six years committed to benchmarking - not just to tick boxes but to publicly demonstrate through measurable activities and reporting that they are making progress on the race agenda both in the workplace and in their local communities. We also have some very senior business leaders who give their time and commitment to sit on the RfO board and set the strategic direction of the campaign. So, there is a forum and it has been successfully running in this format since its conception.” said Sandra. discrimination. This has been replaced with the all encompassing Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) which came into place 1st October. Alongside race, gender and disability this new body takes responsibility for new laws on age, religion or belief and sexual orientation, and for the first time, provides institutional support for human rights. Many critics are concerned that less emphasis will be placed on ‘race’ issues, quoting the age old adage - ‘jack of all trades master of none’. Would RfO now have a more critical role to play on race? Sandra confirmed there was a role to play. “There is a need for more research and information on what the best organisation’s are doing, or need to do, in order to grow diverse talent to senior leadership ...look at the advantages and opportunities to increase innovation and creativity that could be gained through embracing people and their difference. ISSUE FIVE 2007 engage | uk