Be the Change: Religious Inclusion and Role Models with Mo Alamgir

Tramshed Tech member Mo Alamgir has been flying the flag for more inclusive, faith based recruitment for over 15 years. As well him being our opening speaker at Be The Change: Religion, we put a few questions to him so he could spread his insight some more.

After a short break, we are happy to report that Be The Change, our flagship change making event series, is back for 2021. Each month we get some expert speakers to tackle the big issues facing underrepresented communities in the workplace. 

It is easy to think that there is little overlap between faith and business, and as such, most businesses don’t ever consider the need for faith based inclusion. This month we had three inspiring speakers to make us think differently. First up was Mo Alamgir, head of Interfaith and Engagement with the Muslim Council of Wales. Mo is quite a familiar face with us, having been part of the Tramshed Tech community for a few years now, and Mo is also at the top of his game as the MD of JEM Recruitment Consultancy. Mo has been championing diverse recruitment for 15 years now, so we were lucky to get him to share his expertise with the Be The Change community.

Hi Mo, thanks for joining us, you’re clearly a fan of the Be The Change series as we’ve managed to convince you to come on twice. Why do you think series such as this one matter? 

The black civil rights movement in America had really momentum when the wider society got involved and similarly when marginalised and underrepresented groups raise these issues, it is usually not heard as much as when an external institution/organisation picks up the mantle just like the “Be the Change” series has.

It's refreshing to see!

You speak a lot about your own experiences of entering the jobs market. Now in some ways you sounded quite lucky that your first employer wanted to accommodate you, but in other ways it sounds like they might not have been that prepared. Do you think that there is an issue when people start a new job that they don’t want to rock the boat or feel that they are putting their employer out? If yes, what is the best way for both employers and employees to overcome this issue? 

This is the biggest issue with religion in the workplace - employees are naturally going to be shy, not wanting to stick out during their probation period. Religion is a private matter anyway so a lot of people prefer not to want to raise it as a “thing” especially if it is just one person, they could become isolated or feel embarrassed. So the onus really goes to the employer and what type of environment and culture they want to create in the workplace. Obviously every employer will say we want to be inclusive, embracing all our differences in a positive way but the actual question is what are they doing to accommodate this?

We are not talking about a Muslim prayer space but how about a multi-faith and reflection room? That's encompassing.

A religious calendar so staff know when it's diwali, lent, passover, ramadan, summer solstice and so on! Then to highlight it, it will improve religious literacy, furthermore organisations do not work in silos so their staff or customer or supplier or stakeholder in the business could be celebrating a festival and how amazing would it be if in their day to day interaction they are wished a happy….

In your talk you mention first entering the jobs market 15 years ago. In that time, how have attitudes changed towards accommodating people from different faiths and backgrounds? 

There is a lot more acceptance of multiculturalism, faith and differences and there is a lot more general knowledge of faith. Ramadan was alien to my first employer where as generally most people will be aware of it but a lot more work needs to be done to make it as normalised as Christmas or Easter. 

You discuss the obvious need for more BAME role models. You also discuss what sounds like a vicious cycle, where BAME individuals don’t see themselves represented in workforces, making them less incentivised to apply to positions, making it harder for organisations to hire those individuals. How do organisations break these cycles? 

Good question - we need employers to take proactive steps and actively hire senior professionals from BAME backgrounds. Just stop for a second and reflect on how they hire and what they are doing to ensure their jobs are being reached by the wider community and are removing the barriers to entry?

Here is an example - take the top 10 employers across all sectors/industries in Wales and look at their leadership team. It will be white men, mostly! There are some serious steps being taken to make it more gender representative but people from BAME backgrounds will be almost, if not nonexistent. 

So either those companies are saying there are no people in Wales from BAME backgrounds that are suitably qualified and experienced which is total bullshit and in my opinion possibly even racist or there is something seriously and fundamentally wrong with their recruitment practices. I think it is the latter because I know Wales has amazing talent from the BAME community who are denied opportunities, who hit glass ceilings or simply walk out of the corporate world and set up their own businesses because they are fed up of being undervalued because of their colour of skin!

Thank you very much for joining us this month Mo. I’m sure that this won’t be the last time we see you on Be The Change. 

Watch the full event here:

Be the Change will be back on the 2nd March with a focus on Age. Keep an eye out for more details on the next Be The Change, which will be released very soon.

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