“The best way to spread any kind of word is to have dedicated volunteers like myself who are passionate about change.”
Sharon Salmon is co-chair of Cultural Fusion, Network Rail’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employee network aimed at recognising the benefits of a diverse workforce. She believes personal and shared experiences can help foster a more open and inclusive working environment.
Diversity and inclusion lead to fresh ideas, particularly when people feel comfortable challenging the status quo. Examples of Network Rail’s efforts include its target to increase the proportion of its female workforce to 20 percent by 2020.
Sharon, a commercial analyst at Network Rail, joined Cultural Fusion, which says it is “embracing differences to make a difference,” having felt a need to effect positive change at the organisation.
She said: “This was an opportunity to have my voice heard and be supported by the business in doing that.”
Cultural Fusion is celebrating Black History Month, which this year centres on the “many inspiring women since the Windrush whose commitment to society and future generations has proved invaluable to the UK”.
Black History Month aims to promote and celebrate black contributions to British society and foster an understanding of black history in general. Cultural Fusion members are marking it with a string of talks and cultural events, including a panel discussion co-hosted by National Grid in Leamington Spa. Cultural Fusion is also launching a local branch in York this month.
Five years of progress
Cultural Fusion is one of six employee networks at Network Rail. It began with just two members in 2013 and has grown to a membership of about 540.
It’s an important part of Network Rail’s diversity strategy, helping it reach about 40,000 employees across Britain. Sharon said Cultural Fusion aimed to help “create an organisation that fully embraces diversity and equality in which everyone feels valued and feels the opportunity to excel without limitations”.
It’s making headway, working alongside Loraine Martins (pictured right), Network Rail’s director of diversity and inclusion, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours lists 2012, for her work at the Olympic Deliver Authority. At the ODA she led the equality, inclusion, employment and skills during the development, design and construction of the Olympic Park and venues and facilities for London 2012.
“The BAME Network is for everyone who wants to join and you do not have to be from a BAME background to join. The power of coming together really helps us to create a community and help support each other.” – Sharon Salmon, Cultural Fusion co-chair
One of Cultural Fusion’s objectives is to improve discussions surrounding promotion, retention and career progression, particularly regarding the representation of BAME employees.
In July last year, it marked its five-year anniversary with a leadership meeting that included a presentation from guest speaker Olive Essien, a barrister from The Crown Persecution Service (CPS). Olive worked with the Metropolitan Police on institutionalised racism surrounding the Stephen Lawrence murder case. During her presentation she spoke of her role as chair of the CPS Black & Minority Ethnic network.
The next generation
Cultural Fusion has worked closely with the HR teams to support improvements to the talent schemes, ensuring they appeal to all young people, regardless of ethnicity, race, or social background.
By actively putting members forward to partake in interview panels and selection centres, the network can demonstrate its commitment to a fair, and unbiased recruitment process.