Black senior members of the asset management industry have urged colleagues and employers to start unpacking the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) acronym, place more emphasis on race equality in their diversity & inclusion policies and to be more active in standing against workplace and societal racism, warning that "every single one of us is either part of the solution or part of the problem".
An unavoidable reflection
Bev Shah, founder of City Hive, said the #IAM campaign - which so far has been used 45,624 times on LinkedIn alone since its launch - "has held up a mirror that none of us can look away from".
"We have had to accept the painful truth that this is the real lived experience of our friends, neighbours and colleagues and that we may have been complicit in allowing it to happen because we have chosen to keep our heads turned away," she said.
Onuekwusi said it is a continuation from the themes explored in their #TalkAboutBlack campaign that they launched three years ago, which aims to address the "four kinks in the hosepipe" to improve black representation in the asset management industry: pipeline, which is addressing the socio-economic inequality many UK-born black people experience; entry, which focuses on ensuring better education and more black role models in the industry; career progression, whereby black employees typically end up in support functions as opposed to senior management roles; and breaking the taboo, thereby making people more comfortable with discussing issues of race in a similar way to how gender is discussed.
"Since the #IAM campaign, we have had a lot of people who wouldn't have usually spoken up coming out and talking about it - that has been a big positive and a particularly big help in terms of breaking down the taboo," Onuekwusi said.
"This is why I respect everybody that has held something up on social media because it shows they are willing to be vulnerable. I think that is really important in order to be able to have this discussion at all."
Marisa Hall, co-head of the Thinking Ahead Institute at Willis Towers Watson, said the #IAM campaign also helps to create a stronger sense of identity among the black community in the asset management industry.
"The campaign means everything," she said. "I know that sounds quite a grand statement, but seeing so many people across so many different ethnicities coming together and saying, I am human. I am an ally. I am an advocate - it is fundamental."
"I am from Trinidad, but my maiden name was McDonald. I never thought about the link between your origin and your surname - I was called McDonald because my ancestors were on a slave plantation - so sometimes you can feel as though you have lost an aspect of your identity and this campaign helps to restore that."