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Diversity, stop burying your head! 85

Here in the London, UK Diversity was once a hot topic, probably because an English street dance troupe called Diversity won Britain’s Got Talent in 2009.

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We ooohed and ahhhed at their talent and slick moves and going on to win several more awards and featured on different TV and theatre shows, even dance in front of The Queen of England.

Diversity in the workplace is still a struggle for many organisations.

Many won’t admit it, pushing it under the carpet and only allowing it to rear its head when they have been exposed for discrimination in a much publicised Employment Tribunal. Most recently a female banker won £3.2million from her former employers the London branch of Sberbank CIB after being driven to mental breakdown by bullying colleagues. More details can be found here.

Diversity, not just about gender

I have been an advocate for Diversity for many years ever since I can remember, my childhood is the impact factor here as I grew up in a diverse family and was travelling the world with my parents at 6 months old and I still continue to do so. Where ever one turns, either the news, social media or any form of public information outlet, gender diversity is a hot potatoe. It’s about time too, however women come in all different shapes, colours, and nationalities too and these issues tend to be forgotten too.

Yes, we punch the air, raise a glass when we hear about women on boards or getting jobs that once they would never dreamt about even applying for several years ago. However, there is still a shortage of ethnic and even disabled women getting top positions on this boards or having a place at the senior management table.

Karen Blackett is the first black female CEO of MediaCom, one of the UK’s biggest media-buying and planning agencies (clients include Shell, BSkyB and Audi). She is also the only senior black woman in the ad industry. A very talented women indeed, but has never been asked sit on a board of a FTSE 100-listed firm. Like me, she has been asked to about being a non executive director for social enterprises and housing associations.

Olympic poster girl subject to race discrimination, yes its true!

Surely not, but yes a Topgun police officer took the Metropolitan Police to an employment tribunal race discrimination and won. This case really touched me because I have been working with the Metropolitan Police on race and diversity for several years and including the Armed Response department which Ms Howard is linked too. I can tell you first hand that the organisation has changed and continuous to address race diversity throughout. However with 50,000 staff it is easy for the behaviour of a minority to slip through the net leading to negative issues and press.

London and diversity

London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, people flock here like migrating birds and where I have lost count the different languages are spoken. It is a vibrant bustling city. Like most countries we had our share of economic recession, but given the recent numbers of people in work published last week (perhaps that’s because there is a general election and the current government wants everything to look rosy, or I am just being cynical?). Business is booming in the capital. Yet many people are still struggling to get the jobs they have worked hard for. Not everyone wants to be a junior member of staff for their entire working life. People do have ambitious and dreams, why not, without them where would the world be!

Why do organisations discriminate?

This is a very interesting question. Many of the good organisations have diversity training for their staff, have diversity statements on their website and even on their recruitment material yet discrimination still occurs. For change to happen diversity training is just a start, I believe it comes from the top down culture. Standards and examples are set by the CEO and senior managers. Some CEO’s have been publicly vocal to embrace diversity in their organisations but change cannot be driven by one person alone. The senior management team sign up to it but actions speak louder than words! They lead by example.

Damage to organisations brand

Yep, surely not! But it does happen. Earlier this year, February 2015, there was an incident on the Paris Metro when Chelsea FC supporters were filmed stopping a black man from getting on the train and singing racists songs. The person who filmed it, uploaded it to social media and the incident went viral, all over the world for everyone to see! The incident made international headline news, Al Jazeera, the international new channel featured the story. The Chelsea supporters were named including a Director of a Human Rights charity and another who worked for management consultancy firm in the London. The business world is now international, with clients and prospective clients from all over the world, an incident like this can get people thinking twice about doing business associated with discriminatory behaviour.

Unconscious bias

Addressing unconscious bias is the key to change. People recruit in their own image, not all but many! And this is a big issue. Until organisations start addressing unconscious bias instead of just focusing on targets things will change. Yes targets are good but if the culture of the organisation is not ‘people friendly’ and just a tick box exercise is done to recruit, all that money and man hours (of short listing, interviews, inductions, training) you have spent on recruitment the person will just leave your organisations. Believe me, they will share their experiences with others! Just something to think about.

What’s next for the diversity agenda?

Addressing diversity will be an ongoing issue, but progress is being made. Maybe not as fast as myself and others would like but it is happening. This month, April 2015, The Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Dyke reiterated his call for a version of the ‘Rooney rule’ to boost diversity among coaches and managers in England. Under the rule, clubs must interview a black or ethnic minority (BAME) candidate for each head coach or manager role.

Discrimination is a huge issue to tackle and when you have experienced any form discrimination it can leave you scared and not trusting that things will ever change.

I do believe in “Being the Change you want to see”, not just words but action – Diversity, stop burying your head! Join me for the 2015 Diversity webinar with New To HR.

(c) New To HR.

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With a passion for people, Vivienne helps transform and supports business growth - a real change agent. Co-Founder of First Stop HR, truly understand that SME’s are only as strong as its people and the importance of putting people at the centre of your business. We are CIPD qualified and ACAS Certified Discipline and Grievance Investigator and have a wealth of experience in HR, Finance and Business.

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