Business West and the Chamber of Commerce – it’s not just for white middle aged men in grey suits
As part of the City Office, Business West was given the challenge to play a part in reducing barriers for BAME businesses to access its services. The challenge was picked up by the West of England Initiative is a business leadership team which sits at the heart of Business West which enables the business community to positively influence the way our area is shaped, managed and developed. Our aim is to create an economically and culturally prosperous region, devoid of inequality and poverty.
As an organization, we recognise that diversity is an asset to the businesses within the city. Our citizens have a massive global reach – this is exemplified with there being 91 languages spoken across the city – that’s potentially links to 91 countries for international trade. To enable different communities to connect and build networks we helped set up 91 Ways To Build a Global City.
Whilst there are signs that the BAME run businesses are thriving in the city with Stapleton Road being recently compared to Narborough Road in Leicester, the UKs most culturally diverse road, sadly it remains to be an incredibly divided city. Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity reported that ethnic minorities in Bristol experience greater disadvantage than in England and Wales as a whole in education and employment and this is particularly so for Black African people. Their study concluded that the situation for BME employees was not favourable sighting that work place culture in the city is not a neutral space and can embody ‘systemic institutional, social and cultural racism’. This result in BME staff either having to adapt their behaviour in order to fit the cultural expectation of the employer or be excluded from opportunities.
To shake the notion that business events are just for a particular demographic group we have decided to deliver Business West events and services to more diverse parts of the city. Today we ran our Export 4 Growth workshop at the Barton Hill Settlement.
Barton Hill is located within the Lawrence Hill Ward in Bristol, it is one of the most ethnically diverse parts of Bristol with 55% of the population identifying themselves as being Black or from a Minority Ethnic Group according to 2011 Census.
The sold out workshop was delivered by Emilie Calhaem and Angela Maynard-Smith who are International Trade Advisors on the Export for Growth service delivered by Business West. Over the course of lunch delegates commented on how they enjoyed the workshop, found the venue to be accessible and how many of them would like to access more Business West services.
Running events in more diverse parts of the city is just one approach that we have taken. We have also been working with a range of BAME business networks including: Bristol BME Voice, Pakistani Association, Black South West Network to learn how we can best work together and encourage our respective members to connect and do business with one and other. Last year we took part in an Inclusive Not Exclusive roundtable with Baroness Mc Gregor-Smith. In the summer we ran a networking event at Engine Shed and in December we followed it up with a meeting at City Hall. We also supported a BAME survey undertaken by the Local Enterprise Partnership which is due to be published soon.
The BAME community is growing from 8.8% of the population in 2001 to 30% in 2051, it is important that young people are therefore given opportunities and are encouraged to succeed in business. We are therefore encouraging our members to engage with schemes like Babbasa and #StreettoBoardroom.
The divisions that exist in this city is a source of embarrassment, but there are huge economic and social opportunities available should we create the conditions for BAME businesses to prosper and those from BAME communities to thrive in the world of work. Whilst it is still early days, it is promising that the business groups and community groups are coming together to address these issues and overcome barriers.
For more information on the Initiative click here.
For more information on Business West: www.businesswest.co.uk.
For more information on Export for Growth: www.export4growth.co.uk.