Agenda: Equality and diversity - more than ticking the box

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diversityGemma Middleton argues that equality and diversity issues are too important to be left to tick-the-box-style training, but how can organisations best ensure that employees are treated fairly and without prejudice?

In a time when society aspires to see past physical differences such as race, gender and disabilities, the sad truth is that discrimination is still all too evident.

To ensure that every working person within the UK receives their human right of being treated fairly, it is a requirement that all organisations make employees aware of diversity, how this is done is entirely up to the organisation.

Photo of Gemma Middleton"Since the discrimination laws came into place, the UK has really only stumbled forward in the process of improving the distribution of equality, whilst awareness levels have dramatically increased, the action to actually irradicate offending behaviour is lagging."

Many large organisations use equality and diversity (E&D) training, which is rightly or wrongly, often seen as a ‘tick in the box’ exercise by employees. The benefits of a diverse and equal workforce are widely known, highly publicised and, in truth, common sense. Yet many organisations still face allegations of discrimination. The high-profile Tarique Ghaffur case, where the Metropolitan Police has been reported for alleged discrimination, is one example. So is providing E&D training enough when tackling diversity issues?

While providing training in E&D heightens peoples’ knowledge, understanding and general awareness, some businesses leave it there and do not back it up with the full organisational support needed to create an open and fully inclusive culture.

This is where successful, diverse organisations differ from those with equality issues as their HR departments use their influence and resources to promote, regulate and evaluate diversity, as just going through the motions has never addressed serious problems.

Since the discrimination laws came into place, the UK has really only stumbled forward in the process of improving the distribution of equality, whilst awareness levels have dramatically increased, the action to actually irradicate offending behaviour is lagging.

A prime example is highlighted in a survey published by the Chartered Management Institute and CEIRE, which found that generally women will have to wait 187 years to beat men’s wages (a fact that leaves me exceptionally annoyed and reaching for the biscuit tin).

So where does this leave us in answering the question we started with; whose responsibility is equality and diversity? In my opinion, HR has a fundamental role in promoting E&D within an organisation, while training plays an important part in facilitating this process. However, ultimately everyone is responsible as we should treat others as we wish to be treated.

Gemma Middleton is a communications specialist at Righttrack Consultancy. For more information about Righttrack go to: www.righttrackconsultancy.co.uk

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