Why “BAME” Makes Me Feel Isolated

If you have read one of my previous blogs called “How To Become A Junior Software Engineer In 100 Days”, you would know that I’m currently working in my first tech role and have been doing so for the past 10 weeks. I’m enjoying what I do and slowly, but surely, am gaining more confidence through coding.

My short journey into tech has allowed me to cross paths with so many people from all over the UK and the world as they venture into their journeys of learning to code and joining the tech industry. I was also shortlisted for the UK’s first Women In Software Power List which is such an honour; to be considered a Rising Star in the Software Industry is such an incredible thing to me.

A group of young black girls creating with robotics
A group of young black girls creating with robotics (UK Black Tech)


Despite all of these amazing moments, there’s another issue that I have encountered. I am the only black person in my office and I believe the black woman in a building of 600 people. Despite coming to work every day and being grateful to be here, I still feel alone. It’s difficult writing this because I am surrounded by great people, I’m learning from people with many years of experience in technology and I have never been made to feel like my skin colour was an issue in the workplace however I feel isolated because I am the only one. There is no-one that looks like me.

Curiosity got the best of me so I decided to look into diversity reports from organisations across the UK, I found that they weren’t any which was mind-blowing to me. The “trendy” conversation right now is gender diversity which is important, don’t get me wrong! I am also a woman and I got my first job in tech through an initiative that was exclusively for women and non-binaries wanting to work in tech but ethnic diversity is an issue that also needs tackling; not just in conversation but through action.

I’m a black woman in tech.. not a ‘BAME’ woman.

For those who don’t know what BAME is, BAME stands for “Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic”. In summary, it was a term conjured up in the 1970s to refer to people that were not white. There’s a lot more to the story that just my definition but here’s a story to give you more information about it. If you were to ask organisations in the UK to reveal their BAME stats, it would probably look like there is not an ethnic diversity issue. Why? Because it shows the representation of “us” and “them” on paper. To put it bluntly, when I say “us” and “them”, I mean white people and people of colour.

I find it difficult to comprehend how to have a conversation about ethnic diversity in any organisation or having a workforce that looks like the modern world but still create isolation by using the term “BAME”. As my little brothers would say, “Make it make sense!” The US have become comfortable with acknowledging an individual by their skin colour as Google does with their annual diversity reports so why is the UK so backwards on this?

When organisations started revealing their stats on gender diversity a few years back, every company across the western world were embarrassed by it but as you well know, “The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.” So let’s fix it!


#DiversityReportWish

A group of people with their hands up towards the sunset
Put your hands up if you agree


I want to make a wish. I wish that every company with UK offices, in technology or involved in technology, would release a REAL diversity report just as Google, Apple, Facebook and other tech organisations in the USA have been doing since 2014. I wish that they would share the real representation of different ethnic groups in your their organisations and that they wouldn’t categorise us all as the same.

I’m wishing for this because I want to see better representation in all working levels from junior to senior. I want to see an black CTO for a UK company, a black Senior Manager etc but we can’t change without being vocal about it.

The question now is, which organisation in the UK will be the first to do this? I hope my wish gets granted.

I’m sure if you are reading this, you want to know the answers too, right? Maybe you want to know the stats of a company you’ve always wanted to work for or one you are currently for, share this with them! Tweet, tag, share, talk about it and let’s get the real information. From being open and honest is how changes can be made.

Just to say….

Whether Diversity Reports get released or not, I will continue to use my platform and my voice to bring awareness to the need for more people to consider learning to code. I will also use my platform to share the importance of black people in technology. I am just one voice but I will use it proudly.

Take on the challenge and let’s bring more ethnic diversity into tech and work towards improving diversity on all levels without prioritising one over the other.

By

Jennifer Opal

May 20, 2019

Back to top