Anyone who has attended a coworking conference may have scanned the room and noticed that there is little diversity in the audience. The same statistics are evident in many coworking spaces across Europe. It poses the question as to why this is the case… and simply put, very little is done to include the marginalised minorities.
Talking more about this on a recent ECA podcast is Kofi Oppong founder of Urban MBA. His focus is on the MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) sector, where they teach marginalised individuals from the age of 16 up life skills, entrepreneurial skills and business development. Through a pop culture teaching style using relative topics like sport and music, this skillset is transferred over six to 12 weeks.
Kofi is passionately involved with the coworking industry and is working towards fostering an inclusive environment with both the London Coworking Assembly and the European Coworking Assembly. He expresses how the MBE sector is lacking in the architecture scene, developing technological trendsetters and C-suite positions. The major reason these trends are occurring is because there is a fundamental gap in the education about black history in Europe. Without the history of these individuals, there is no opportunity for them to develop their identity in society. Or, for the greater society to acknowledge their role in the development of the country as they know it.
“Whatever you do, don’t run away, it will only make you look guilty” – is a conversation that a black father has to consider having with his young son around his friendship with a white boy. It is blatantly true that this could be their reality one day if the two of them get stopped by the police. How they choose to react at that point is a matter of life and death. Looking behind the hashtag #Billboardtoboardroom – the spotlight is shed on organisations who lobby for #blacklivesmatter. And, invariably the board of those companies are 90% white.
So, what lasting change does Kofi dream to see? A world where black education is embraced, access to finance is equal, and written policies in the workplace to benefit all. In order to reach the MBE sector, companies and coworking space need to acknowledge black history, company culture needs to be inclusive, and communication and imagery and needs to be aimed at a market that is diverse. Make the marginalised monitories feel welcome, get to know them and what resonates with them.
The time is now to create lasting change within communities, organisations and coworking spaces to build a truly diverse and inclusive future for generations to come. Education leads to knowledge, empowerment, understanding and lastly to peace.