Comfort zone

I have started many a session on inclusion with a picture of the concrete chair by Stefan Zwicky with the title ‘Are you sitting uncomfortably’… I am often told by people who I work with that they lack confidence to work to be more inclusive through fear of getting it wrong. Now I appreciate that there are some behaviours (e.g. #AskDontGrab) and language that must be avoided (we’ll explore these on the blog next week). However, beyond that your confidence will come in time and the majority of people will be grateful you are trying to be more inclusive.

‘Concrete Chair’ by Stefan Zwicky

However, the really important step is being willing to both acknowledge and step outside your comfort zone. If books are your thing, I would highly recommend ‘Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People’ by Banaji & Greenwald as an initial read. An important takeaway lesson is that how we view other people is heavily influenced by our experiences and the information we receive as we grow up. Rather than clumsily trying to explain this here, instead I will embed a short CBeebies film that will do a much better job…

You may be aware that last week, 13th – 19th November was Trans Awareness Week and this culminated on Friday 20th with Trans Awareness Day. As an inclusion professional I am comfortable admitting that this is the area where I feel the least amount of confidence and have the greatest amount of learning to do. My son has a child in his class who is non-binary and I feel that it is great that they feel able to declare and share this with classmates. We have a long way to go as a society and I often fret about the pronouns I use. It will take some adjustment but I am getting there and have now included them in my e-mail signature at work which has sparked a couple of other people to do the same. For me this feels like the start of my journey to become an effective trans ally.

The purpose of this week’s blog is to say it is ok to not feel confident. It is positive to acknowledge the gaps in your awareness, appreciation and understanding. If you are committed to a path of self improvement to become more inclusive in your behaviours and actions then more power to your elbow! However, in doing so it can be all to easy to be hypercritical of yourself and for that reason I encourage you to embrace this poem ‘Autobiography in Five Short Chapters’ by Portia Nelson from the wonderfully titled “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery”.

I would love to hear from you on your personal inclusion journeys and any films, clips, poems or books that have inspired your thinking and growth. Together we could build a wonderful library of resources and though it will take some effort #ImNotTired, are you?

No more splinters

Back in September, on Saturday 5th to be precise, Britain’s Got Talent screened a performance by the Diversity dance troupe. They performed a brand new routine inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Ashley Banjo, who was also judging the show, said the group “wanted to express how the events of this year have made us feel”. On Tuesday 8th September the BBC reported that OfCom had received just over 1000 complaints in relation to the performance. What happened next is really interesting. Press coverage picked up on the story and within a couple of weeks the number of complaints had risen to over 24,000 and ITV, to their credit, issued a statement in support of the group.

Now I am curious about the speed of that escalation, especially so long after the event. Was there a massive spike in YouTube views of the performance? Did enraged individuals descend in their thousands upon ITV Player to catch up on the show, confirm their suspicions that this was a disgraceful thing to put on prime time TV before carefully crafting their strongly written submission to the regulator? If they did, the prose of the complainants is clearly in need of a bit of sharpening as OfCom, quite rightly, chose to take no action.

Fast forward to November and we have seen in the past week:
– A shameful article about Marcus Rashford in the Daily Mail conflating his campaigning work with his wealth, presumably driven by a desire to highlight his crime of being a Black millionaire footballer with a conscience, (they seem to have no problem with David Beckham though!)
Barnardos harshly slated for daring to provide a support package for parents to talk to their children about white privilege, and
– Sainsbury’s lambasted for the outrage of showing an all Black family discussing Christmas dinner (Gravy Song)

As a child of the 1980’s I feel I could be forgiven for thinking I had been bundled into the DeLorean in the middle of the night and whisked back in time 30 odd years. So this blog is dedicated specifically to any Allies who are reading. You, the often silent majority, must help address this. It may seem a tad strident but I genuinely believe that if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

It is not for me to say what you should / shouldn’t do but I humbly ask you this. Every morning, as you stand in front of the mirror cleaning your teeth tell yourself “If I see anything today that I feel is racist I will take action”. Then, every night, as you stand in front of the mirror cleaning your teeth ask yourself “What have I done today to be anti-racist and could I have done more?” Your voice is more powerful than you think. Your actions carry more weight than you know. You can be the difference if you really want to be.

It will take some effort but #ImNotTired, are you?

Invisible

Just over 12 years ago I received a bit of a bombshell when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I say ‘bit’ because to be honest I knew the diagnosis was coming as I had recently lost all sensation from the neck down (that was not a particularly fun month). Accepting my condition was in truth the relatively easy part being able or willing to openly share with other people was much more challenging.

MS affects different people in different ways and for me this reflects a challenge inherent in our wider thinking about disability. Following my diagnosis, I became increasingly aware that as a nation we have a fixation on almost limiting our thoughts on disability to mobility. Despite this, we have failed to really address the barriers and limitations that we put in place for people with a mobility disability. At the same time, we fail to acknowledge the fact that disability is a much broader subject.

I have received unhelpful disapproving glares when compelled to use an accessible toilet. Felt ‘pressured’ into relinquishing my seat on public transport on days when I really needed a rest. Been scared to reveal my condition despite the fact it is under control and I am actually managing it rather well. I am conscious that much of this is internalised, but it stems from what I see and experience in the wider world. I actually carry certain perspectives as they were embedded in me before my diagnosis and shaking those off is really difficult. My biggest ongoing inner dialogue – “is it ok for me to use an accessible toilet”.

So how do we move forward? We need to have more open dialogue about disability. In my mind it is the way we have historically set things up that is the problem. In some ways I am pleased that the sunflower lanyard scheme is trying to help highlight that some of us may have ‘invisible’ disabilities but at the same time it is a bit depressing having to wear what equates to a giant badge publicly declaring there is more to me than meets the eye.

As an example of one thing we could change almost immediately. Why can’t job application forms state these are the adjustments we currently have in place as standard would any of these be of use to you and then go on to ask if there are any further or additional adjustments you would need? It’s a simple change but for me it reframes the conversation and suggests an organisation that wants me to perform at my best. I have seen some other organisations recently giving out the questions half an hour before the interview to enable a candidate to gather their thoughts and be their best self. As someone who occasionally struggles with ‘brain fog’ this would be an enormous help.

I would love to hear from others about positive steps you have seen or experienced. I am interested and curious to know what are the changes we could make to help you feel a greater sense of welcome and belonging? Please leave your reflections below, let’s keep them constructive and map out the positive shifts we could support to make meaningful and lasting change.

This will take some effort from all of us but #ImNotTired.

  1. Hey Tiger, by posting this you are taking positive action on this important issue – not one I’ve previously considered,…

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Looking up

The US Election is still rumbling on but for many of us there has been an acknowledgement that Biden/Harris have been successful and are the President and Vice President elect.

There is something incredibly important to me about looking up in an organisation, community or country and seeing yourself in those people in leadership positions. It gives me confidence that I have a valid stake and tells me that it is possible for me to succeed.

My daughter is now a big fan of Kamala Harris. She’s a pretty confident young lady anyway but seeing Harris win office has made her believe that anything is possible for her. I remember feeling something similar when Obama was elected President, and the reason for this inner glow was brought into sharp focus by the stark reality of the latest meme trend:

How it started / How it’s going

But though positive, that is really a story of two high profile successes and it is all happening thousands of miles away ‘over the pond’ . Here in the UK, there is a worrying lack of People of Colour in senior positions. This is something brought to life by the excellent Colour of Power Index produced by Green Park. As you scroll down through this list it very quickly and very visually illustrates the scale of challenge we face as a society if we are to redress this imbalance.

So where do we begin? I see three key steps and the first starts with me and the thousands of other Black and Brown folk doing great work.

  1. We must continue to knock on the door. Whether for senior job roles or positions as Trustees it is crucial that we have confidence in our capabilities and put our hat in the ring. We’ve got to be in it to win it. Let’s shrug off setbacks as things that just weren’t meant to be. Our resilience depends on it. But importantly when we do make it through, it is imperative that we do all we can to support others up the ladder. #POCImpact is doing great work on this and I applaud their efforts.
  2. If you consider yourself an ally there are some great things you can do. Firstly, encourage People of Colour in your networks to go for positions of seniority. Sometimes a nudge from someone else is enough. If a head hunter calls you and asks for recommendations think about the balance of names you are providing. If you are on a panel be mindful of any bias you may bring into the room and challenge yourself and fellow panel members on your choices. I have been on panels where there has been a greater willingness to take a punt on a White candidate than a Black or Brown applicant of the same (or even higher) calibre.
  3. For organisations now is your time! You are freed from the shackles of chasing after leaders with tried and tested experience because no-one has experience of managing an organisation in a post-COVID world. The old merry-go-round of predictable appointments can stop and there is a chance for you to consider a different approach. Actually, one thing we all know is going to be important for organisations as we move past coronavirus is that Equity, Diversity and Inclusion has never been higher on the agenda.

I would love to hear your reflections on this and any examples of brilliant recruitment practice, talent development and targeted mentoring / sponsorship activities that you have seen in the workplace. Who can we learn from? Who should we admire? How can we create a society that gives us our very own Barack and Kamala moments?

This will take some effort from all of us but #ImNotTired.

  1. Hey Tiger, by posting this you are taking positive action on this important issue – not one I’ve previously considered,…