What’s this network for? In a multicultural society, it’s important to us that we promote a multicultural workforce – and that’s the role played by our Embrace Network. The group aims to spur everyone to create a welcoming and vibrant workplace; one where we value equality for everyone. Together, we promote the importance of recruiting people from diverse backgrounds, inclusive of race, ethnicity, nationality and faith. Most importantly, we want to support that new talent to stay in the business and to move into senior positions.
Under the umbrella of the Embrace Network, you’ll find multiple different sub-groups, all aiming to cover various aspects of multicultural society. That includes our Black Professionals Forum, our Asian Professionals Forum, and three faith forums for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They each run their own calendar to highlight cultural events, and Embrace also runs some events as a wider network.
Who’s part of this network? People tend to jump to the conclusion that you need to be part of a particular cultural group to join a particular forum – that you need to be Asian to join the Asian Professionals Forum, for instance – but in reality, that isn’t the case at all. We’re keen to have anyone and everyone join us: the more people who engage, learn, and raise awareness, the better.
Right now in the UK alone, there are around 2000 members spread across each of our forums. Our biggest aim at the moment is to expand that, looking particularly to move beyond the London office and create more opportunities for our colleagues at regional level.
How does this network help? Each sub-group within the Embrace network runs its own events to raise awareness and get everyone involved in experiencing each other’s culture. If we’re in the run up to a particular cultural moment or event – whether it’s Divali, Ramadan or Black History Month – then the sub-groups will run talks, events and festivals that involve everyone across the bank.
To give you an example of that, our most recent Black History Month included a broad series of events, appealing to a wide range of interests and subject areas. Our CEO, Jes Staley, spoke on the importance of multiculturalism in the workplace, but we also had fashion events, visits from prominent entrepreneurs, and huge teams of volunteers involved in making it all happen.
More broadly, our whole network will get involved to mark big occasions. Take World Cultural Day as an example. Every year, we work as a whole team with our Embrace colleagues in the Americas and in Asia to run multiple events for a global impact. It’s an exciting time to join us in pushing our agenda worldwide, challenging the status quo.
The network is also useful for our colleagues in the mentoring it provides. We offer a real variety of opportunities to find new and inspiring role models, whether it’s through our formal mentoring programme or through panel and speaker events. Our people are enthusiastic about providing their support in any way they can, so it’s common for attendees to approach a speaker or an event organiser who’s particularly inspired them, and in doing that, find a new mentor within the business.
Between those mentoring opportunities, the events we run, and the multicultural approach we promote, it’s not surprising that colleagues within the Embrace network find huge benefit to their membership. We’ve seen so many success stories – colleagues who’ve found new promotions, who’ve transitioned to new roles, and who’ve found meaningful mentoring from even the most senior colleagues.
We’re now seen as diversity leaders outside our bank too: we’ve won multiple awards for the work we do, with clients reaching out to us for advice on how to create their own networks.
How can I be part of the network as an apprentice? If you’re worried that you won’t fit in around us as an apprentice, all you need to do is come along to an event. You don’t have to join anything yet, or sign up for anything. Just come along to an event when you start at Barclays. You’ll meet the colleagues in the room, and see the energy, the diversity and the passion we have at our events. When you do, you’ll know there’s plenty of room here for you, whatever your race, ethnicity, nationality or faith.
Like all our networks, the Embrace network is run entirely by volunteers, so your involvement doesn’t have to stop at attending events (although there’s no problem if that’s all you have time for). If you want to be part of helping us push for a multicultural society, we need all kinds of help – and it doesn’t have to be anything to do with your day job either. You could be an apprentice in Group Finance, but try your hand at helping us with marketing our next event, or helping to draft our newsletter.
We’ve taken on an increasingly important role in the last few years, so what’s great about this network is that it’s growing. As an apprentice, you can grow with it.
Nazreen Visram, Co-Chair, Embrace
If you do decide to help organise events with us, we do have to say that the time commitment is bigger. Alongside your studies and your work, it’s going to be a challenge – but if you can handle it, then it’s well worth doing. You’ll find yourself volunteering alongside senior professionals from across departments. You’ll find mutual interests in a relaxed, fun environment – all with role models you might otherwise never meet. You’ll develop your soft skills, build your network, find potential mentors, and get to understand the way our business works – all of which, of course, will support your apprenticeship too.