When I was recently asked about ‘anti-trends’ and to think about what people shouldn’t do in 2020, ironically the first thing I thought about was two hashtags I had seen trending on Twitter in the preceding 24 hours. The first was #TransPregnancy and the second was #WhitePrivilege – both referenced by people in my network and both highly educational cis white females.
These hashtags are evidence of a changing world where barriers around gender and race should be crumbling – but too often the world of work (and the world of politics, but that’s a whole separate article) are not even close to keeping up with these changes.
Having been part of getting the #WomenInLearning movement off the ground last year, I’ve been shocked by some of the stories of sexism, exclusion and even harassment that I’ve now heard. Eye opening to say the least.
If you’re going to have any hope of keeping up with how the world is changing, you need to think about inclusion pretty much constantly.
As recently as late 2019, this story emerged about one of the world’s top accounting firms referring to women’s brains as pancakes and coaching their female staff on how to dress because apparently ‘sexuality scrambles the minds’ of the men around them…
I’ve also been surprised by the hostility that has arisen at times by including men in the #WomenInLearning movement. Because as much as the original evidence that sparked it all off was about women not reaching senior positions in L&D, this is all ultimately about inclusion.
And that is a message that cuts both ways. At one of the panel sessions we ran last year, one participant talked about her all female team, which on the surface should be an empowering story. But she said she felt they lacked ‘diversity of thought’ which is something that has stayed with me.
No team or organisation should be excluding people on the basis of their gender, skin colour, age, ability, health or socio-economic background. But this isn’t about creating an HR policy or a tick box exercise.
If you’re going to have any hope of keeping up with how the world is changing, you need to think about inclusion pretty much constantly. Start by taking a step back and looking around you and being conscious of your privilege. Then think about how you can proactively start to include the input of others into your work. And being proactive is the key. As my good friend Andrew Jacobs likes to say #itstartswithme - we all have a role to play here.
It’s a moral and financial ‘no-brainer’
If you’re doubtful (and for the record, I don’t believe this should be about profit but often that’s what it takes to get organisations to pay attention) read this from the World Economic Forum: ‘Business has the transformative power to change and contribute to a more open, diverse and inclusive society. We can only accomplish this by starting from within our organizations. Many of us know intuitively that diversity is good for business. The case for establishing a truly diverse workforce, at all organizational levels, grows more compelling each year. The moral argument is weighty enough, but the financial impact - as proven by multiple studies - makes this a no-brainer.’
P.S: If you haven’t listened to the Guilty Feminist podcast yet, or read Deborah Frances-White’s book of the same name then they’re both excellent places to start! And you can find out more about #WomenInLearning over on LinkedIn.