We chatted to Tolu Falade, chair of bp’s Positively Ethnic Network (bpPEN), to find out more about the employee resource group and its involvement in promoting Black History Month this year. The theme of 2023’s Black History Month (BHM) was ‘Celebrating our Sisters’, dedicated to honouring the achievement of black women. We speak to Tolu Falade about the work he and bpPEN have put into marking these “too often… forgotten heroines”.
Tell us about bpPEN
bpPEN has over 1,000 members and exists to re-imagine a workplace where people from all ethnicities are valued for their differences and the invaluable contributions they bring. Our mission is to champion greater representation, inclusion and advancement of our ethnic minority workforce because we strongly believe this will make bp a much more competitive and attractive place to work.
What support does bpPEN offer its members?
The network aims to create better engagement and makes sure our members can bring their whole selves to work because they feel seen, connected and supported.
We do this through supporting recruitment, tailored career development and mentoring, building a community through internal engagement events and supporting bp’s entities towards theirplans to deliver against bp’s framework for action.
We also focus on our allies and create opportunities to empower them to advocate for underrepresented minority groups.
What do you love most about your role in bpPEN?
The opportunity to chair the network has enabled me to connect with all sorts of amazing colleagues across the globe.
I have realised that what I’m most excited about is the potential that people have, and the great things that can be accomplished when you bring them together towards a common purpose.
It’s been extremely rewarding to see how bpPEN has grown over the last two years – especially around how we’ve partnered with the business – and the increased engagement across the company, especially among our most senior leaders.
bpPEN has also been instrumental in promoting bp’s progress externally, leading to us being nominated as a 2022 top 10 outstanding employer for ethnicity.
I am humbled to have played a key role in this growth and recognition, and I’m sure there is more to come.
How did bp celebrate BHM?
The theme of this year’s BHM was ‘Celebrating our Sisters’ and I love that it was dedicated to honouring the achievement of black women who are too often the forgotten heroines. We had over 80 volunteers who were part of the steering committee this year. This diverse group has been instrumental in delivering a fantastic month of activities. We had great feedback over the course of the month from employees who participated in our events, including book clubs, insightful listening lounges, café takeovers, panel discussions, BHM-related quizzes and even a South African Choir performance at the Sunbury office.
How does bp encourage discussion about the significance of BHM and its relevance in the workplace?
At bp, there is the right culture for open and honest conversation about race to take place. We launched our listening lounges last year to provide a safe space for conversations around topics that are important to the black community. This included the black experience in the UK, allyship, overcoming limiting beliefs, the importance of representation, and black hair, to name a few. We’ve had over 500 employees attend these sessions and they have provided an important forum for these conversations.
What’s bp’s long term commitment to promoting DE&I beyond the month?
bp’s long term commitment to promoting DE&I aligns with mine – that we must do everything we possibly can to develop the full range of talent the world has to offer, because the talent is more evenly distributed than the opportunity at the moment. We already have the conviction that our belief of ‘playing to win’ in this disrupted world means we want access to the best talent. If we continue to get this right, we will continue to be competitive as a business. But, more importantly, be a place where people like myself would love to come and work.