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Building Our Own Table: Richard Etienne
Meet the founder of Black Introvert Week UK
Did you know that there was a celebration of Black introverts? Until recently, neither did I. It was a discovery I was delighted to make, especially as there’s a neat intersection between this newsletter and the Introvert Sisters podcast, which I co-host with my sister Lisa. Black Introvert Week UK (yes, there’s a US one too) is coming up soon, so it seemed a good time to learn more. Please meet the founder of Black Introvert Week UK, Richard Etienne.
Richard, Tell me briefly about your background prior to founding Black Introvert Week UK.
I have been working in marketing and communications nearly all of my career. My first appointment was MySpace (remember them) where I wrote and produced films for its Black music blog ‘The Hook Up’. Since then I’ve had the blessing of managing the content for the Cabinet Office, Buckingham Palace and Downing Street as Prime Minister Theresa May’s official videographer and social media writer. I’ve also flexed my entrepreneurial muscle in clothing, music, wrote and produced a film, The iD Project - My Dominica Story, that won Best Documentary award at the 2019 British Urban Film Festival and was entered in global film festivals.
One reason I particularly enjoy this business sector, and the challenges that go along with it, is the opportunity to connect with audiences from all demographics and orchestrate global conversation. It's this connection with people and driving forward positive change that led me to creating the Black Introvert Week initiative in the UK and start a personal branding coaching business. I also host the Guardian Masterclass series sessions 'Self-promotion for introverts' and 'How to succeed as an introvert professional'.
Give me the elevator pitch for Black Introvert Week UK.
Black Introvert Week UK is a new initiative to help Britain’s Black introverts reach their full potential in life.
And in more detail?
Black Introvert Week UK was launched to support teachers and employers to better understand how to recognise and nurture the talents of Black introverts and give voice to this most misunderstood community. We want to:
Support teachers and employers on recognising and nurturing the talents of Black introverts
Raise awareness of the value that Black introverts bring
Give a voice to Black introverts about their experiences at work and when they were at school
What inequity were you trying to redress/address, and why is this important?
One in three Britons are introverts, yet research shows it’s extroverts at the front of the queue for pay rises and promotions. The implications for Black introverts – a minority within a minority – are clear with Black employees occupying just 1.5 per cent of top management roles in the UK private sector according to 2020 research.
How’s it going? What has the response been?
In the opening weeks of the inaugural 2021 campaign, overall reach on social media was more than 307,500 which was an impressive start to the Black Introvert Week UK initiative. Many Black introverts reached out via comments on social media and via emails to share their gratitude and excitement of finding their 'tribe' and learning that their experiences were not in isolation. 2022 has seen a team expansion from two to six individuals, including Black Introvert Week US founder, Jeri Bingham, joining as a consultant. We've now set up a community interest company and several reputable brands and charities in the diversity and inclusion space have come forward to offer support. We're hoping to surpass the engagement figures enjoyed in 2021.
What’s next for Black Introvert Week UK?
This year we will be publishing a range of guides and articles as well as launching a survey to establish how or even if introvert pupils are supported in school - that matters because these are the formative years, helping young people build the confidence that they will take into the workplace.
In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?
Speaking as a British citizen, where I am labelled an ethnic minority: As we become a more 'Global Britain', my vision for the future is that the increase of interracial families, greater Black presence at the top of business, education and government will mean an increased understanding and respect for race and the differences that unite us.
Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to add?
Your readers can help with this - we want to hear about the experiences of Black introverts who felt misunderstood in the workplace. Visit our official website to complete the anonymous survey. On the Thursday of Black Introvert Week UK, October 27th, we are hosting an online panel discussion - free tickets available on Eventbrite - with amazing writers and campaigners on both sides of Atlantic to ask why Britain lags behind the US in recognising personality diversity. Reserve your ticket from https://www.eventbrite.com/e/black-introvert-week-uk-2022-panel-discussion-tickets-379457225777
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