When I publish a post I like to make it punchy and not too long. The reason behind this lies in the fact that I have always believed that I was Dyslexic. I have never been tested but I have some of the traits outlined in the spectrum. One particular trait is the anxiety caused my reading long text. I suddenly get headaches and my eyes start to hurt. To cope with this I started out gliding through text skipping huge chunks of words out but always getting the meaning however as I became older my approach became more targeted. I use a fluent highlighter pen to go through the detail and only avoiding unnecessary words.
When I decided to write about Equality and Diversity I felt that my style of writing needed to change to fully incapsulate understanding which would mean increasing my word count. For those of you who are Dyslexic, please feel free to glide through my writing and pick out the words that most resonate with you.
The Equality Act 2010 was introduced to ensure that particular characteristics are protected such as; Age, Disability, Race, Marriage and Civil Partnership, Religion or Belief, Gender Reassignment, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Pregnancy and Maternity. Since this Act was implemented it was hoped that there would be a dramatic change in the way that organisations viewed those working within their organisation. More transparency, honesty and fairness would give rise to equal treatment. Although this has happened, the movement in my opinion is slight. Evidence based research shows we still have many rivers to cross.
Roger Klein Research Fellow Middlesex University Business School wrote an report called ‘Snowy White Peaks’ addressing the issue of BME treatment within the NHS and the lack of diversity at leadership level. This was written in March 2014. In 2016 NHS published a report (WRES) Workforce Race Equality Standard showing the experiences of BME and white staff. This showed a high level of bullying and harassment and lack of progression experienced amongst BME staff. This is a must read for anyone who would like to look at the realities of BME people in the workplace.
The Equal Opportunity Commission reported in November 2016 that almost half of 440,000 pregnant women in the UK experienced some form of disadvantage simple for being pregnant or taking maternity leave. It was also reported that 30,000 women had been forced out of their jobs. There have also been countless reports about the lack of women on boards I am sure I do not need to go through the statistics.
In 2014 the Guardian published an article identifying that 34% of LGBT individuals would not come out openly at work for fear of unfair treatment. Transgender people tend to suffer more discrimination at work and feel threatened in some cases. There have been notable cases such as the ‘gay cake’ row when a bakery refused to make a pro gay marriage cake.
On 3rd January 2017 BBC News reported on an incident when Anne Wafula Strike a Paralympian was unable to use the the disabled toilet on a train as there was a fault with the toilet provision. I mention this particular case because it highlights the lack of adjustments organisations are making to help those with disabilities. Without going into details I once had to insist that a senior member of an organisation interview a candidate who required reasonable adjustments. He gave me all the excuses under the sun not to see her, I however was firm and reminded him of his legal obligation, that was the end of that. She was hired in the end which was great but how many cases have not ended well?
We have a long way to go to improve the statistics above and change the headline to more positive ones which should reflect the positive changes that should be made at this time. There are organisations pursuing change through sifting through data analysis. data is only as good as the data given and the person inputting the data. As we know data can be manipulated and it is a cold solution without involvement of equality and diversity champions to translate that data into action. But what is the real measure that demonstrates success. Is it how many BME staff we have hired or promoted? Or is the fact that we have allowed an LGBT person to feel comfortable being themselves. I suggest that neither of these could be a true indicator.
Should we reject the division/partitioning of groups? My concern currently is that each group becomes a flavour of the year for organisations to say yes we have a programme for this area or we plan to have a programme. This then reduces the focus of other groups and less attention and money given to those groups left behind. I have seen job titles such as Head of People/People Director, these titles reflect an action I think should be taken. Lets start talking about people and their needs and treating employees equally when making decisions. Its not enough to create programmes for an individual group it should be for the organisations.
Organisations will now have to reflect on their own behaviours and really hold themselves to account for the breading of negative cultures. Tough questions will need to be asked of those at senior level equally tough measures will be required to be made operationally to ensure that bullying, harassment and all types of discrimination are eradicated by embedding the right organisational values into the company and creating appropriate process and procedures to match.
To embed Equality and Diversity where none exists requires organisational commitment which starts from the top and is cascaded down to the bottom. A culture of intolerance when coming to those who seek to damage the integrity of an organisation is required. Organisations should be driven by and concerned about ALL the people working for them and they should ensure that everyone is encourage to stay away from recruiting ‘people like them’ and embrace the reality of the difference in this world. A colleague of mine Dr. Terence Jackson once commented, we only have to look at nature to see that diversity is the key to life. Allowing everyone to play an equal part enhances the ability for growth.
If we do not see Champions of Equality and Diversity in organisations at every level, change will be prevented from flourishing. Do not let gatekeepers of the negative past stop your organisation from doing what is right. There is evidence that suggests that organisations will benefit financially from having a more inclusive organisation however if money is your motivator I think you have lost the importance of Equality and Diversity.
About the Author
Dianne Greyson is well known HR specialist with significant organisational experience haven worked for the public and private sector for over 20 years. She has provided written advice to enquiries relating to HR issues for Personnel Today and made a contribution to Demystifying Diversity a book written by Jiten Patel and Gamiel Yafai. Dianne is also a Board Member for Certitude, a charity that supports mental and learning disabilities.
Dianne regards herself as a Equality and Diversity Champion that seeks to improve the capabilities of organisations and make them into ‘People Champions’. She believes more effort should be made to reflect society and eradicate divisions and negative behaviours in organisation.