2016 was a hard year for the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion agenda. 2017 is the year we will see the impact of many decisions taken in the external environment which since 2016 have started to create noise, uncertainty and a division not only in the UK, but in the world.
Countries who were once pillars of excellence and examples of tolerance, may need to go back to basics and fight rights we now consider the norm of the human rights movement. The 9 protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act may actually need defending and more proactive actions to draw focus to challenges ahead.
However, where there are challenges there are also opportunities. Let’s take the Women’s March which was held worldwide on the 21st of January for example. This was a clear demonstration of unity across the world showing that maybe the world isn’t as divided as we thought. That maybe when human rights are on the line, people are willing to use their voice and be heard.
Organisations play a vital role in communities today. They are no longer just a microcosm in their own four walls. Organisations have a responsibility to be the example to the community and have a massive impact in the socio political world. From an internal perspective, diversity is key to organisational success. We need a variety of people with different backgrounds, diversity of thought and life experiences to deliver excellent results, create innovation and bring both products and services to life.
As individuals, groups and organisations face a new world challenge, I’ll leave you a few tips to turn the external world into opportunities, and a chance to create impact beyond the four walls of your organisation.
1. Watch your language. Use more inclusive language. For example “partner”, “they”, “people”, talk about acceptance, unity, and support.
2. Practice acceptance. No one wants to be tolerated; individuals want to be accepted for who they are. Allow people to be themselves at work and be yourself too.
3. Have an equality audit. Is there a massive pay gap in your organisation? If you look around the boardroom what is the ratio of women: men. Are there any openly LGBT+ role models? How diverse is your workforce?
4. Support employee networks and help them network between each other. Networks should focus on inclusion rather than being exclusive. Get each network learning from each other and sharing their experiences.
5. Create forums to let employees discuss external world issues and come up with ideas. Be part of the community and use employee voice to help drive changes in it.
6. Lastly, role model what you want the external world to look like, and show the world the success of inclusion and diversity of thought. Respect for others is always a value worth shouting about.