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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

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?