Refusing to work in all-white teams

Leonie Mills

Fresh out of university I decided that I didn’t want to work for an organisation where I would be the only black person on the team or in the whole company. After experiencing life as a minority in a northern university, I was excited to get back to London and experience the diversity that I had grown up around. While we cannot generalise and stereotype all white workplaces, the experiences of university really opened my eyes to the reality of being ‘the only one in the room’ a shock to my system coming from a culturally diverse bubble in inner London. From people asking to touch my hair to being egged on the streets, my tolerance had been tested and my patience had been depleted.

Unfortunately for me, I began to realise that the diversity that was on the streets of London was very much not reflected in the corporate workplace.  It became ever so clear that working in a white team or organisation was not only likely but somehow inventible, regardless of how big or small the company was. 

The first job I secured after months of searching was an internship for a business consultancy that specialised in gender diversity. Before I applying I looked at the website and saw once again an all-white team staring back at me. Yet their company boasted about diversity and even consulted other companies on how to better their diversity, specifically gender. While I agreed with the ethos, as someone who has championed and represented women causes throughout my university career, it wasn’t lost on me as to how often gender diversity is coded to mean white women. 

The main reason as to why I even considered this place is because of where I saw the job advert, Creative Access. Creative Access is a charity organisation that exclusively sources role for POC young people trying to enter into the creative industry/roles. Which meant that, if a company had posted a job there, they had recognised they had a lack of ethnic and cultural diversity and were committed to making a change. So despite what their website was displaying, I assumed their intentions were committed to diversity. Fortunately for me this was the case and they continued to hire and further diversify their team. 

While personal interactions may have included the occasional microaggressions, their commitment to diversity and inclusion was widely felt and known throughout the business. 

It is not lost on me that I may have missed out on some great workplaces and was put off by their team webpage, nonetheless, it is not outlandish to expect representation in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Representation is the bare minimum and I was fortunate enough to have a positive experience at my place of work. However, I know this is not the case for all and realise that a lot of these everyday experiences, both good and bad are not conceptualised in diversity and inclusion metrics or discussions. 

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