In losing, did we actually win?

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I know this feels like a strange title but please bear with me. In the aftermath of the post European Championship final racism we have seen the power of active allyship. People have been reporting individuals to aid police investigations, there has been widespread condemnation for the bigoted views that have been shared, a petition to permanently ban racists from football matches has reached over 1 million signatures and a defaced mural of Marcus Rashford in Withington has not only been repaired but covered in messages of support.

The messages of support are to be preserved on the Marcus Rashford mural (Source: PA Media)

Yesterday I was honoured to participate in a d&i leaders conversation about conscious inclusion with Chris MacRae and Anu Mandapati. In preparing for the session my mind was immediately drawn to how the nation has rallied in condemning the actions of the few who hurled abuse at Rashford, Sancho and Saka. This week’s blog is a blend of my notes from that session and reflections on what may be a watershed moment in the anti-racism movement in the UK.

  1. Words matter. Think about Inclusion (creating an environment that enables everyone to have access to resources and support) ahead of Diversity (the mix of people involved). Prioritise Equity (treating people differently to achieve an equality of outcome) rather than Equality (treating everyone the same). Using the England Team as an example we have a diverse team 8 of the 11 who started the final have a parent or grandparent who migrated to the UK but we have seen that they do not play in an inclusive environment.
  2. Actions matter. You have a choice when presented with discriminatory behaviour. Will you be a colluder joining in the actions or practice? Will you be a bystander standing by quietly while the abuse happens right in front of your eyes? Or will you be a challenger? Will you stand up for others? If you want to be a challenger but lack the confidence often the biggest hurdle is a fear of sparking confrontation. It is useful to have something pre prepared, maybe that you even practice in the mirror, so when you hear something that doesn’t sound right you can turn to that phrase to initiate a challenge. Your comment could be anything from “Sorry, but that’s out of order” to “What exactly do you mean by that?”. Remember it is not enough to think or believe I’m not racist, or homophobic, or ableist, or sexist. For starters it’s a flawed perception but principally if you are really serious about this you have to be actively anti.
  3. Invisible difference matters. Too often we focus on visible differences. The illustration below highlights how so much of our identity is invisible. Rashford is a case in point because while he is Black his major contribution over the past 12 months has been his exceptional lobbying on child poverty. He speaks eloquently and passionately from his own lived experience and has captured the attention, respect and support of a nation. However, if he had not been brave and open enough to share we would not know this about his background. It is important reminder that identity is broad, complex and often hidden.

4. Safe spaces matter. Sharing your lived experience, calling out discrimination and maintaining your dignity in the face of hostility are all significant drains on resilience. This level of emotional labour cannot be underestimated. It is therefore critical to create safe environments that enable under represented colleagues to share their experiences and speak truth to power. The optimum approach is to get these externally facilitated.

This feels like a moment. I was devastated when we lost the final. I was disgusted (but not surprised) by the fallout. But I have been energised by the public response, the support, the allyship and the conversations we are now starting to have. Tyrone Mings calling out the Home Secretary is my standout moment. Will this moment sprout wings and fly us to a new level? I don’t know but I am hopeful.

What’s coming home?

Before I get started this week I want to state that I am as deliriously excited as other England fans. My first memory of a major tournament was Mexico 86 – Gary Lineker scoring that hat trick against Poland with his bandaged hand and Diego Maradona dumping us out of the World Cup with his ‘hand of god’. Since then I’ve had the pain of Italia 90, heartache of Euro 96 and the despair of penalty shootouts (especially ’98 and ’04), Ronaldinho from the half way line and that Lampard ‘ghost goal’ in 2010. I am ecstactic the team have surpassed my wildest dreams and even if we don’t get over the line on Sunday I am grateful to them for making the ride go right the way to the end of the line. But what I value most about this team is their united stance against discrimination from taking the knee before matches to wearing a rainbow armband or laces during them.

Raheem Sterling & Kalvin Phillips take the knee before a pre tournament friendly at the Riverside Stadium. Photo: Sky

However, before a ball was kicked in anger at this tournament, there was anger, a lot of it and it was all aimed at our England team for their stance on racism. Our own supporters, many of whom I guess were probably bellowing out Three Lions on Wednesday night, were booing our team for their stance (see a mind boggling conversation with James O’Brien below). There was criticism from MPs with Tory Lee Anderson going as far as saying he would boycott the matches because players were taking the knee, he must be regretting that statement now. As the tournament has progressed some England fans have continued to boo the knee as well as the opposition’s national anthem. But all of this against an increasingly euphoric backdrop of fever pitch excitement, celebration and choruses of ‘it’s coming home’.

Which leads me to my question. What is coming home? Is it a trophy or could it be much more than that? Football is also known as the beautiful game and one of the most precious things about it is that it is a universal language that succeeded where esperanto failed. Sir Mo Farah recalls a story about when he came to Britain at the age of 8 (for the record he did not need to claim asylum as his father was a UK born citizen) that he could not speak much English but he integrated into primary school and made friends through playing football. In contrast, there are quite significant pockets of our nation that have criticised the national team for their anti-racism stance. Our supporters have consistently booed other national anthems and there is yet another fine on its way to the FA for the fans boorish efforts in the Danish match (which also included focussing a laser on Kasper Schmeichel’s face before Harry Kane’s penalty). Our newspapers have harangued our Black footballers, especially Raheem Sterling, who is often the focus of their ire (and ironically the best England player in this tournament), and this discriminatory practice emboldens racists and fuels social media harassment of players.

On the eve of the Euros, manager Gareth Southgate wrote an eloquent letter to out nation and I wonder when the competition is over whether this team can continue and amplify the conversation about inclusion that they have started? In his letter, Southgate writes

“Our players are role models. And, beyond the confines of the pitch, we must recognise the impact they can have on society. We must give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people. I have never believed that we should just stick to football.

This role modelling extends beyond matters of racism. In addition to taking the knee, we saw Harry Kane don a rainbow captain’s armband in the match against Germany in recognition of Pride month and Jordan Henderson score his first England goal in the quarter final against Ukraine whilst wearing rainbow laces. This is not just a football story but one about inclusion, solidarity and allyship. It disturbs me to read articles criticising the brave and positive steps taken by this team and their exemplary manager. The claim by Financial Times, commentator Gideon Rachman that the letter was ‘suspiciously well written’ smacks of an elitist view that being a successful footballer and being able to string together a coherent piece of prose are incompatible skill sets. The team has not been hijacked, they are a group of young men who believe as a nation we can be better, as a society we can be more inclusive and that treating people with fairness, decency and respect should be fundamental pillars of our culture.

As a fan I will be willing them on with every fibre of my being, but in my eyes they are already winners. I hope their true victory lies in helping us to heal as a nation and encouraging more people to think, act and behave differently. The Italian national anthem is an absolute belter, in my mind probably the best of all anthems. Here’s hoping it is fully respected by those fans lucky enough to be in the stadium and that come the weekend we will all witness a new bit of football history and the start of a new social era. #ImNotTired

Loaded language: Fragility

This week my second excursion into the powerful world of language and phrases. Once again I’ll be exploring a term or phrase that I think is misunderstood or wilfully misconstrued. So let’s talk about fragility and I’ll start with a definition.

fragility: the quality of being delicate or vulnerable

There is an irony in this definition as often those displaying fragility are not actually the vulnerable ones but the conversation, action or situation makes them perceive that they are in a vulnerable position. At its worst fragility, can be shrouded in gaslighting – but that’s a term for another day…

So what is fragility in the world of inclusion and what impact does it have? What I have seen is an individual or an under represented group raising concern about their experience or how they are being treated. Author Robin DiAngelo first coined the phrase ‘White Fragility’ in the title of her 2018 book. However, the fragility I see extends beyond matters of race and covers all under represented groups. This is how I see it show up.

  • It is in part a denial of someone’s lived experience
  • It is a defensive position that fails to, or refuses to, acknowledge how you may have benefited from existing social structures and hierarchies
  • A negative reaction to any strong terms that are used to describe that experience
  • A rejection of ownership of being complicit in the problem, leading to centering the feelings and emotions of the individual from the ‘majority’ group at the expense of the individual from the under represented group

I’ll give you an example. An employee goes to speak to their boss about their experience of racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism in the work place. The boss starts off with a couple of gaslighting blows: asking them questions such as are you sure that is what was intended? They then move on to say that the terms the employee is using to describe the event are potentially overinflating the problem “I’m not sure I would say that was racist” or “those are really strong terms to describe that”. Then comes the fragility gut punch “I’ve been trying really hard to improve things for the team here” or “I’ve introduced policies and processes and we’ve given everyone training” a defensive reaction that centres themselves as the innocent victim in all of this.

This is painful to hear when you’ve experienced trauma. It is hard enough to muster the courage to share but your overriding hope is that your experience will be acknowledged, you will feel heard and your manager / the organisation will take action. It is not ok to have to fight your corner. It is not ok to be compelled to explain that you did experience racism, sexism, ableism or homophobia. It is not ok to have argue that the training hasn’t gone far enough, the revised policies aren’t working or that the organisation has to work harder to embed meaningful sustainable change. And it is definitely not ok for the conversation to become centred on the manager’s emotions and not the employees.

If you are the manager or leader in this scenario I understand how daunting, nerve wracking and challenging leading for this work can be for you, especially if you have minimal lived experience that you can draw on. Humility and curiosity are your strengths here. Listen to understand, be open to reviewing or revising your interventions and be brave enough to take action to support your under represented colleagues. If you can tap into your fragility but use it as a warning system rather than a response mechanism it could aid your work to being a better ally and inclusive leader.

Managing the menopause: bringing organisations out in a hot flush

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with my wife to watch the Davina McCall programme on the menopause. It was a big eye opener for me and I became much more aware of so many things I hadn’t even considered. So I reached out to Pippa Blessett from Exceptional Zebra to write a guest blog for me and I am incredibly grateful that she responded to my call. I’ll not steal Pippa’s thunder but my biggest takeaway from this is that as well as being responsive to the current focus on menopause we must have a wider workplace conversation about hormonal health. When I then think about that through an intersectional lens I believe it is critical that we include and consider our trans colleagues as part of that work…

Anxiety, headaches, broken sleep – all symptoms of the menopause, but it seems these can also be common symptoms for employers and line managers who are responsible for staff without proper guidance on how to provide appropriate support during this time.

In May 2021, Davina McCall presented a programme on Channel 4 – Sex, Myths and the Menopause – which exposed the lack of basic information and support available to women in the UK. It also highlighted the significant impact the menopausal transition can have on short and long term physical and mental health.  We now realise, as a responsible employer,  there are significant implications, both in terms of providing the humanitarian and legal support required, but also to manage the impact on productivity, absenteeism, lost intellectual capital and staff churn.

The cost to business is potentially huge. 9/10 women who’ve experienced the menopause felt it had a negative effect on their working life, with 25% experiencing severe symptoms.  Couple this with the over-50s being the fastest growing group of workers in the UK, and ‘Houston, we’ve got a problem.’ 

It’s clear the menopause cannot be a silent topic in the workplace any longer. But if you’re an organisation without a designated HR function (or you have one but they don’t proactively support on this topic), where to begin? There are two clear areas that are keeping employers awake at night: firstly, the lack of information and how to start with this sensitive topic; and secondly, the notion that opening the dialogue somehow makes them more legally liable. 

In reality, I would argue that managing the menopause in the workplace is simply one part of developing a genuine culture of diversity and inclusivity.  If work is somewhere with a sense of trust, where challenging conversations of any kind can take place knowing that you will be listened to and supported, then a myriad of issues are included as part of a healthy, productive workplace.

Good news – employers do not have to be menopause experts.  HR Consultant Jackie Monk of Harwood HR Solutions explains, “Managers are not expected to be medical experts. However, they do have a duty of care towards any employees experiencing menopausal symptoms. It’s about listening, avoiding assumptions and asking what women need to support them. Managers can signpost support and may need to make reasonable adjustments to help support them.”  A menopause policy helps clarify the expectations on both parties, but it is also best viewed in a wider context of inclusivity. As Jackie says, “Having a policy isn’t a tick box exercise, it’s about saying ‘this is on our agenda and we are listening’.”

When it comes to providing practical support, it’s not necessarily complex or expensive.  There are lots of small ‘reasonable adjustments’ that can all make a big difference to managing challenging symptoms. For example, support café’s (virtual or in person), offering extra desk fans, seating near lavatories or a window, cotton/extra uniforms, added comfort breaks and flagging up issues with deadlines or workloads.  Information is essential for both employer and employee, and signposting to reliable resources can also help to open up those sensitive discussions.

Employers are also realising that the menopause discussion is much broader than perhaps initially thought, with wider health implications for internal as well as external relationships. 

Tina Brown, MD at CCM Group explains, “The menopause should really be part of a greater discussion around female hormonal health and how to support individuals whatever their challenges.  Pregnancy policies, for example, rarely cover sickness and fatigue or the mental health impact of miscarriage or postnatal depression.”

Whilst Paul Ince, MD at www.likemind.media sees the opportunities to take a supportive approach beyond internal staffing and out to external contacts, saying: “The average age of our clients is around mid 40’s, and I can now see that there have been occasions when a client was probably experiencing symptoms that I could have been more supportive of had I understood.  We work hard to create a workplace where people want to be, but there is an opportunity to build these values into our relationships externally too.” 

Instead of viewing managing the menopause in the workplace as just another headache, organisations that are alert that listen and respond have the advantage of being able to get ahead of the competition by viewing this as an opportunity to strengthening internal and external relationships.  With a focus on living company values, building a true culture of inclusivity and sharing relevant information, all organisations have the power to develop robust relationships that not only provide essential support but can have a positive impact on the bottom line too.

Pippa Blessett is a performance and leadership training specialist and Founder of www.exceptionalzebra.com. If you are interested in finding out more and work for an SME, Pippa runs more detailed workshops you can find out more here.

Howzat?!

Well the world of sport keeps on giving in terms of inclusion story lines. This week I had the option of the England Men’s national football team, ongoing booing of players taking the knee, Gareth Southgate’s open letter to the Nation and James O’Brien’s enthralling yet bizarre conversation with an England fan who fessed up to booing the national team at the Riverside Stadium before their match against Romania.

However, that blockbuster plot has been gazumped by the tale of Ollie Robinson, a bold response by the ECB, a series of historic tweets being revealed and the Secretary of State jumping in to say the reaction from the cricket governing body was “over the top”. I am on tenterhooks as to what happens next as the choice of suspending Robinson before an investigation was a relatively straightforward one despite impressive debut figures of 7-101 with the ball and 42 with the bat (for non cricket fans that is a great performance). With the likes of James Anderson (the world record holder for most Test wickets by a seam bowler), Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan (Vice Captain and Captain of the limited overs team) being brought into the frame the situation has changed.

A

The second test against New Zealand is now underway and time will tell how the ECB, captain Joe Root and Head Coach Chris Silverwood will deal with the revelations. Robinson has taken a short break from cricket but personally the most critical part of the story came in the shape of political comment on the situation. I do not believe any Government should be attempting to intervene on matters like this, let alone to suggest the ECB have over reacted, Let’s be clear it is to be commended that in the middle of this the ECB centred the feelings of those people who were the targets of Robinson’s tweets. His immediate contrition is a positive step but this could so easily have been dismissed and brushed under the carpet. Former England batsman Mark Ramprakash summed it up best when he reflected “I’ve heard people express sort of sympathy with Ollie Robinson, and say ‘hasn’t he shown a lot of character?’, but I haven’t heard enough about the victims or the people that these tweets are aimed at”.

However, my main point this week is the potential negative power of and perils of social media. Ramprakash’s point is important because comments like this can cause real harm. It has made me wonder if in my youth I have posted a comment or shared something that I would now regret. Whether I have caused harm and upset to others through my thoughtless actions. My lesson from the Robinson case is a personal one. To be mindful of what I say, write and share. Not because of the potential for it to come back to haunt me but because of the negative harm it can cause others. Being inclusive and making other people feel welcome requires conscious mindful practice. I hope this case serves as a wake up call to all of us. Comments like this are not banter they are one aspect of a wider damaging and pervasive culture. An environment built on micro aggressions – the impact of which is articulately explained by Melinda Epler in the video below.

And the winner is…?

From Tom Cruise handing back his Golden Globes to Sam Smith being excluded from the best artist categories at The Brits, it’s been an interesting week in the world of awards. Let’s start on the other side of the pond. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association organises the Golden Globe Awards and has come under fire for questionable financial practices and a lack of diversity. This has been brewing since the LA Times expose in February and has now gone into overdrive with Tom Cruise returning three of his awards and NBC stating they will not broadcast the 2022 ceremony the Globes may well be on their way out. Action has been taken by people with influence and though the financial irregularities and questionable practices are certainly major factors, it is ‘positive’ that the same attention is being placed on the questions of racism and sexism within the organisation. That this move from influential individuals comes now at a time of heightened focus on equity and inclusion in society is poignant. It feels like a major step forward in tackling systemic and institutional issues of inequality

Back to the UK then and interestingly The Brit Awards was being celebrated for its warm embrace of diversity and inclusion, particularly the collaboration between Olly Alexander and Elton John performing the Pet Shop Boys classic “It’s a Sin”.

However, there was a mixed picture on a gender front. It was a big night for female artists with Dua Lipa winning two awards and Little Mix remarkably becoming the first female act to win the Best British Group award. That said the decision to continue to have gendered awards in other categories meant that Sam Smith who is non-binary was excluded from the shortlist for solo artist. This is despite their album Love Goes performing extremely well in the charts and being eligible for Best Album.

‘Music for me has been about unification,’ said Sam Smith in a statement. Photograph: Madison Phipps/Getty Images for MTV

My reflections this week are twofold. There is enormous power in allies and individuals with influence using their position and status on behalf of others. Though I am sure that the reasons behind Cruise and others returning their Golden Globes is likely to be complex the impact that they have had is notable. The second is that we must stand in solidarity across all areas of difference and identity. So it whilst it is important to celebrate and be proud of moments of progress we saw at The Brits we must raise questions about all aspects of inclusion or we run the risk of creating an unhelpful hierarchy of identities. If we continue to push for everyone we’ll all be winners! #ImNotTired

Can I have a ‘T’ please Bob?

I look back on the 80’s with a lot of fondness. In our household growing up we were definitely fans of a gameshow and my childhood years were brimming with (what I hazily remember) as high quality entertainment. My second favourite show was Blockbusters – my first was Bullseye and I spent my formative years thinking that everyone dreamed of owning a speedboat. Back to Blockbusters and I still cannot fathom how two people needing to answer 5 questions was fair when compared to one person needing to answer 4… This week’s blog has a tenuous link to that quiz show and the polite chuckles that seeped out when a contestant seemingly asked for hot beverage (we saved the serious guffaws for when they requested a trip to the loo).

That is as light hearted as this week’s post will get as we turn to much more serious matters. The decision to grant the LGB Alliance charitable status has caused a stir. I feel out of my depth on this debate and hope that others will be able to share their own reflections on the situation. I can only go by what I have seen from organisations I respect like Stonewall.

I am concerned about the lack of understanding and support for the trans community. I feel there is a public debate being played out where people hold strong opinions or perspectives but have only heard one, incredibly biased side of the story. Elliot Page is playing his part but we need more voices, especially from high profile allies. I have been fortunate and blessed to have some open conversations with a small number of trans people and from those discussions have a greater appreciation of how challenging a place the world is for them and how actually small changes by me could make them feel a greater sense of being included.

The outpouring of concern and criticism from the LGBTQ+ community suggests that many see the award of charitable status to the Alliance as a negative and divisive move. The campaign against MP John Nicolson who questioned the decision fuels my concerns. My own inclusion perspective is that as minoritised audiences we have greater strength in numbers. We need to be mutual allies across all identities and I have always seen great strength, solidarity and efficacy within the unified LGBTQ+ community.

So this week is a solidarity post. A reaffirmation of my intention to stand with the trans community to do what I can to challenge hate, provide support and help open the minds of other people to be empathetic and understanding of trans colleagues, friends or family. I know I need to learn more, I am sure I can do more and I am committed to finding out what that could be. #ImNotTired

Remote control

As a child of the 1980s I have tried (unsuccessfully) to explain to my children that not so long ago if you wanted to change the TV channel you had to physically get off the sofa, walk over to the telly box and push a button (or carefully turn a dial to a precise position like a dodgy toaster). That we had the grand choice of 4 different channels, children’s TV was limited to specific times of day and if you missed something that was it – no catch up, no rewind and certainly no ability to instantly access every episode ever of your latest favourite show.

Do you remember these. I must admit to being absolute rubbish at dialling in the channel!

The invention of the remote control, hoofer doofer, TV wand or whatever name the might power stick has been given in your household was a revelation. The possessor of this mighty tool would reign supreme on the viewing habits of others. This week I have also realised, like the one ring of Sauron, it has the power to corrupt.

The growth of all of these viewing options has made it far too easy to escape the news and more importantly flick the channel over when something discomforting comes into view. I caught myself in a mindless act of doing just that this week. As the story of the Croydon Council housing scandal was playing out in front of me on a large screen in (not so glorious that day) high definition. I was shocked, horrified and disturbed to the point that I found myself absent mindedly reaching for the remote to turn to something more uplifting. Maybe this was a sign that my resilience was low. The sight of a mother and her two young children firstly having to live in outrageous conditions with black mould on the walls and condensation saturating the floors and then being shunted into a budget hotel with one room, no cooking facilities and no fridge left me numb.

What concerned me more was that my first reaction was to try and find something more uplifting, lighthearted or spirit raising to watch instead. Thankfully, I caught myself in the act, put down the remote and watched the report till the end. But then I flicked off the TV and sat in quiet contemplation what I had seen had made me angry. It also left me frustrated. What could I actually do to help address this type of situation that I know is clearly not a one off.

The ITV News report that grabbed my attention this week

This inequality is all around us. I need to learn more to be able to do more. Would welcome any reflections from any readers on the blog of what I can do in relation to any of this. My reflection this week is that inequality is all around us and it is easy, especially as our resilience dips to want to pull down the blinkers and gently mutter to ourselves as we stride past “nothing to see here”. I don’t want to become immune to harrowing news or be willing to blank it out. I’ve got a couple of weeks off over Easter – it’s time for a recharge… #ICantBeTired

The Parent Trap

Well like many thousands of other parents up and down the country our household has just managed to navigate the first full week of home school 2.0. First of all, hats off to the teachers at the schools our kids go to as this version, albeit more sapping on bandwidth, is distinctly better for my children than last year when we were all caught rather off guard.

Disney’s The Parent Trap

In many ways this echoes our organisational responses where we have been able to take our learning from 2020 lockdown and introduce / rekindle some of the practices we developed then. I must admit I have never known a working environment more forgiving and understanding of the challenges facing working parents than I have experienced over the past 12 months. I sincerely hope we keep in mind the adjustments we have all made to accommodate toddlers interrupting Zoom calls, the sounds of siblings arguing in the background and colleagues crashing out of virtual meetings whilst a teenager in the background fires up a next generation console.

However, there is a risk and a danger that we over compensate our focus on those individuals who are juggling multiple family balls. There is a wonderful film produced by Accenture titled Inclusion starts with I. Why I love this narrative is that explores both invisible and visible difference and highlights that inclusion extends far beyond protected characteristics. So whilst a video call with me may well give you audio and visual clues that I am juggling home schooling and work. With another colleague you may well not be aware of the mental health impacts lockdown is having on them, or the caring responsibilities (and associated pressures) they have for an elderly relative or vulnerable loved one at home or the financial difficulties that they could be facing.

Inclusion starts with I (Accenture)

There is also a line in the film that wonderfully highlights the potential imbalance we can introduce for those people without kids “it’s the strain of feeling that I am expected to do more, simply because I don’t have children”.

This lockdown is tougher for all of us. We are more tired and jaded than we were last Spring. The weather is bleaker, the mornings darker and the days shorter. Blue Monday is just a (rinse repeat) weekend away. It is a time when our levels of kindness need to be at their greatest but our own cups are running low or in many cases may well be empty. My urge this week is to avoid falling into the ‘Parent Trap’ of solely recognising or acknowledging any ‘obvious’ challenges people are facing. Let us try to be mindful of the wide variety of challenges any of us could be facing and be curious and supportive. Kindness is a simple act that is often underrated. Let’s try to ask at least one other person each day how they are doing and if there is anything we can do to help and support. It may feel like a small thing to do but it could make a big difference…

#ImNotTired are you?

‘Positive change’

This week the honesty of two individuals I greatly admire has been my inspiration. On Monday night I foolishly attempted to dual screen and it didn’t work. I was desperate to watch the Anton Ferdinand documentary but also wanted to see if my beloved West Ham could climb the Premier League table to 5th place. In the end ‘Football, Racism and Me’ won and I watched the Hammers highlights later on.

Last night I listened to Anton again, this time in discussion on TalkSport, and he repeatedly talked about wanting to move on and focus on ‘positive change’. I have an enormous amount of respect for him for his honesty, his humility and his vulnerability. It was brave, it was bold and it was emotional, especially the moment when he discussed watching the documentary with his seven year old son. I have shared my own lived experience in a small group and know how challenging and difficult that is to do, so for Anton to do it on this scale is inspirational. If you missed either I encourage you to watch / listen on catch up.

Anton Ferdinand, who by the way also scored one of the greatest goals I’ve ever seen for West Ham vs Fulham

Last week, I shared my own desire to boost my learning around trans awareness which brings us to the other person who has inspired me this week. Elliot Page, the brilliant actor from Inception and Umbrella Academy (yes I am a big fan), announced this week that he is transgender. The reaction to the statement wasn’t all great but the fact that he felt able and willing to share indicates on some level we are moving forward as a society.

The reason I highlight these two individuals is that I feel it is a neat and logical build on last week’s post. There are a number of key enablers for an inclusive society and feeling comfortable to be yourself and share your lived experience are two important factors. However, this must be backed by a commitment from others to listen, learn and support. So this week I am reaching out to ask you to share a key lesson you have learnt from someone else that has made them feel comfortable, welcome and a sense of belonging. A wonderful colleague of mine brought this quote to my attention this week from author and activist Sophie Williams “allyship is a constant process of actions not beliefs”. We will only achieve our aims when we choose to consistently and positively act in response to those who share their experience or their identity.

In the spirit of sharing here are three things I have learnt from listening to others:

LGBTQ+
It is all to easy to think about LGBTQ+ as an homogenous group and though there may be shared experience there is also significant difference for each group that those letters symbolise. Appreciate and value that difference and seek to boost your understanding of the wonderful rainbow of difference encapsulated by those five letters and single symbol.

#AskDon’tGrab
Don’t be tempted to lead, push, steer or guide a disabled person without asking first if they require any assistance. You may feel that you are being helpful but your actions will have the very opposite effect. As an bonus tip make sure if you are speaking to someone with hearing loss or who is deaf and they have a BSL interpreter with them. Speak to the person not their support worker.

Gaslighting
This is where you make a comment or say something that makes someone question their own lived experience, memory or perception of something. From a pyschology perspective this act is always damaging. Rather than question someone’s experience listen empathise and seek to understand the world from their perspective.

Please share your own personal reflections in the comments and hopefully we can get a conversation started.

There is so much more to learn and this will take some effort but #ImNotTired