#NationalInclusionWeek –Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in the Workplace, How are you Performing?

It is hard not to notice globally the topic of race and gender taking centre stage due to recent political  decisions in Europe, the UK and of course the US.  The impact of the politics has and continues to affect professional and work environment e.g. the uncertainty around #brexit and research, job mobility between the EU and the UK, #Charlottesville and the after-effects  etc.

What might have gone unnoticed, was that last week was #NationalInclusionWeek in the UK. This is an annual campaign to raise awareness of the importance of inclusion in the workplace and the benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce to business growth.

What is #Inclusivity and why is this important?

“Inclusion” in itself as a term is self-explanatory and is “about making sure that people feel valued, respected, listened to and able to challenge. It’s about recognising and valuing the differences we each bring to the workplace and creating an environment where everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources and can contribute to the organisations success.”

Sounds easy doesn’t it? That should be the minimum expectation in any workplace however the reality is different. In all aspects of professional engagement: workplace, research and governance etc. there are several identified barriers to inclusion (NIHR)

  • Cultural and institutional barriers
  • Attitudes and beliefs
  • Emotional and psychological barriers
  • Issues of mental capacity
  • Financial barriers

In the educational sector, inclusion is also a key problem with some barriers more deep-rooted e.g.

  • Physical barriers and accessibility still remains a major barrier in the UK and beyond. Students with learning and physical disability are less likely to access education and resources due to unavailable ramps, doors and well trained personnel.
  • Curricula is a key barrier to inclusion as closed or region-centric curricula does not cater for students from diverse background. In the UK, the National Union of Students (NUS) has started a campaign “Why is my curriculum white?”  aimed at challenging what had been identified as a non-diverse curriculum as a means of shining a light at the lack of diversity in education in the UK.

Overcoming the barriers of inclusivity is undoubtedly not a straight-forward process however there are suggestions to how to achieve this. The NIHR paper on diversity and inclusion in research highlighted three key ways that these barriers can be overcome through:

  • Organisational policies and procedures
  • Flexible ways of working
  • Innovative ways of working

Are there benefits to inclusion?

The evidence suggests that inclusivity and diversity are important in developing a richer culture in the workplace and very important, organisational growth. A recent report by the worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey & Company in 2015 showed that companies in the top quartile with gender diversity were 15% more likely to have financial returns above the industry means and where the ethnic and racial diversity were in the top quartile, the figures were around 35%.

Other benefits of inclusion include

  • Diversity of thought
  • Wider reach and wider network
  • More innovation

For more about the benefits, see the Forbes article here

Personal views

In the years I have been actively involved with the issue of diversity and now inclusivity, I have found that this conversation is often viewed through many lenses and it is important to engage with these different viewpoints however what should not be lost is that diversity/inclusion/equity for all should be a human right for all and the ethos of any good organisation should embody that.

Here are some lessons I have learned that might be of benefit for organisations interested in supporting and developing a diverse and inclusive workforce

  • Inclusion cannot be achieved without “Intentional” initiatives and thorough policy review. A lot of organisations attempt to address diversity without evaluating the impact of historical policies on promoting exclusion.
  • Inclusion, diversity, equity is not about deficit. It is about “It is about valuing all individuals, giving equal access and opportunity to all and removing discrimination and other barriers to involvement.” keystoinclusion.co.uk
  • The message of inclusion needs to start early e. children and young people need to be taught to embrace, welcome and respect the views of others and the abilities of the “different” others. In organisations or departments where diversity is lacking issues such as bullying, harassment and gang-mentality in the workplace are very likely.
  • One of the surprising threats to inclusion and diversity is fear! You are more likely to exclude others when you have “doubts”, feeling of “uncertainty”, questions about whether others will “fit in”. To achieve inclusion, organisations need to have bold and emotionally strong leaders.
  • Finally, leadership is an important drive of inclusion. Leaders need to understand the value and importance of inclusivity and to be champions of inclusion and diversity as it is very difficult to achieve without that.

A recent example of a leader using his platform to engage the conversation and promote the discourse was seen last week when Lt General Jay Silveria superintendent of the Air Force Academy addressed 4,000 air force cadets saying “What I wanted the cadets to see…I wanted them to see all of them as an institution protecting these values…I wanted to have a direct conversation with them about the power of diversity, about the power of our make-up. …we need those diverse ideas and that’s the message I wanted them to hear”.

The video of his address has gone viral and whilst the army operates differently from other organisations, the speech/initiative by gen Silveria has not gone unnoticed and shows there is mileage in taking a stand as a leader and it is possible for leaders to lead from the front on the issues of diversity and inclusion.

Is your employer  inclusive or diverse, or are you a new employer interested in developing a diverse workforce, you might find this simple checklist useful. See full article here

Simple checklist for inclusivity
http://diversityintheworkplace.ca

To my knowledge, the #NationalInclusionWeek went almost unnoticed across many organisations in the UK. Did your organisation celebrate or put on an event last week to celebrate inclusion? Do share with us! To find out about organisations who are participating in this campaign, see the link here

You can also read

 Hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you would like to discuss any aspects of this article or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com. 

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About the writer – Emmanuel is an academic, scientist and regular blogger. He has a PhD in Microbiology and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). He is actively involved in supporting, developing diversity initiatives at organisational level and is keen to support local, national and global initiatives to encourage inclusivity.  For more about Emmanuel, visit the about us page here.

 

 

Navigating a #Career as a Makeup Artist – Lessons Learned

It’s near spring and this year has been busy so far but we are very pleased to be back with our readers. In this article, Christelle Pellecuer, expert make-up artist with tremendous experience and high many high profile clients and events across the UK shares her experience as a make-up artist and lessons she learnt along the way 

Did you know? –  In 2015 alone, the beauty industry generated $56.2 billion in the United States, with hair and skincare growing very fast and projected to generate revenues of near $11 billion by 2018.

Christelle was born in Madagascar, raised in South of France and now lives in the UK. Christelle has been working as a makeup artist specialised in the fashion and editorial since 2010. Christelle has worked on many different aspects of the fashion industry including music videos, TV shows, magazine shoots, product launch and fashion shows. Her work has been published in several magazines for example The Resident, a South West London magazine.

#MyUniStory – The Dilemma of an African International Student

11669993-collection-of-african-flags-with-continent-stock-vectorRecently the APH met up with two vibrant individuals Brian and Belinda, recent graduates from a higher education institution in the UK. They are both passionate about supporting issues around global health and about Africa. In their two part opinion piece, they share their experiences as African students  as well as of interning in Africa (Part II). Enjoy reading and do share your opinions in the comments section.

Many Africans can only “dream” of the opportunity to pursue  quality training overseas at  Ivy league and Russel Group Universities of this world. Institutions to which the local education system that has nurtured our knowledge and skills through years of learning, contribute to the almost blind belief that there is no better source for top quality education and I dare say, developed intellect. It doesn’t help that our African education systems have hardly changed for decades, left behind by colonial masters whose teachings of everything from the alphabet to our understanding of African borders in geography and scientific discoveries of Alexander Fleming we still cling to. An archaic system that still equates learning with memory and teaches the partition of Africa, the prairies of Canada, and for some of us, a grid by grid map of New York City.

So they ‘fall in love in the lab’ and they ‘cry’, so what? – lending a voice to the conversation about women in Science

Picture1In the past week there has been an outcry about the place of women in science following the comments by Nobel Prize winner, Professor Tim Hunt suggesting the need for sexually segregated labs as women in labs are a distraction because they ‘fall in love’ and ‘cry’ when their work is criticised. His comments raised furore, with both men and women – in science and other disciplines.Sadly, this is not the first denigrative assertion to be made about female professionals, particularly within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Sadder still, it probably will not be the last.

A friend of ours – a non-scientist – heard about these comments and posted articles on Facebook about the legendary late Marie Curie (1867-1934), the first woman to win a Nobel prize and the only woman to have won it twice. She was famous for her work on radioactivity and in 2009 was  voted the most inspirational woman in science. We now have Marie Curie research fellowships which have provided both men and women excellent opportunities to carry out research that have contributed to the development of the science. Aside from Marie Curie,  there have been many other female scientists who have made outstanding contributions to their fields such as Mary Somerville, Dorothy Hodgkin, Rosalind Franklin, Alice Roberts and Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

Amidst the furore which engulfed the science pages of many newspapers and editorials in the last week, there is a lighter yet important point to consider in this conversation.  Many people do meet their spouses or partners at their places of study or work – this is not unique to the sciences. Does it really matter? We know a lot of ‘research couples’, when you spend so much time in the lab or in a work environment, you can get to know your colleagues on a much more intimate level. As long as you remain professional, ‘falling in love’ does not need be a bad thing.  Thus, the suggestion that it is a distraction is really far from the truth. `Falling in love’ in the laboratory environment is not a distraction but rather should be seen as a blessing in disguise as many scientists would not have a hope in Pluto to find partners and spouses because of the demands of the research or science. Perhaps we need to celebrate science unions widely so that it is accepted! Perhaps!!

As for the comments on crying!!!  The thought of the alternative to crying makes crying possibly a much milder reaction to criticism. Until you learn to deal with it, most of us – male and female alike – do not respond well to criticism. In all disciplines, criticism abounds but we must use it as a tool for growth. There have been scientists, men included, who have resorted to far worse actions following criticisms of their publications, retractions of their publications or failure to get certain grants. For anyone who keeps up with the ‘going ons’ in their field, you will be very conversant with these. Should we now applaud violent reactions or in some cases suicidal tendencies following criticism because crying is for want of a better word, intolerable?

At least they cry, come back and try again to succeed which is the basis of research. Who knows! The Marie Curie’s, Rosalind Franklin’s and Sally Davies’s of this world shed a tear or many in the early days of their scientific journeys to the point where they achieved global status but do we remember them for ‘falling in love in the lab’ or ‘crying’? Of course not, thus, the comments should be given the response it deserves, NOTHING!! Whilst we generally lambast the comments alluded to Prof Hunt let’s silently applaud him for saying what he thinks in the open for us all to tackle a much bigger problem of stereotyping and marginalisation of women in the scientific and technical careers.

Women have immensely contributed to science and in my opinion, whilst every scientist is not a woman, every woman is a scientist after all women perceive, experience, plan, execute, and manage biological change better than any male scientist. (Open for debate!!).

In future posts we will address the real world issues surrounding gender, race and disability in different career disciplines.

Disclaimer – If after reading this you find yourself falling in love with someone in your lab or feeling the rightful need to cry when your work faces criticism, please do not hold us responsible, but come back and share your wonderful stories.