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Can someone help me articulate my discomfort with this? Inclusion and diversity training.

(41 Posts)
mcmooncup Wed 14-Aug-13 08:42:41

I am involved in a work project that ultimately has some good aims however there is a phrase that keeps bothering me.

They are talking about creating a better work culture where there is less sexism, racism and homophobia (hurray - great intentions), yet keep talking about the use of Inclusion training and diversity training.

My senses keep going off at these phrases - can you help me understand why.

I see it that what they are saying is that there is an organisation that is very male dominated and macho and that is the culture of this organisation. They 'want' to change this to meet "Diversity targets", yet they use phrases like 'inclusion" and "diversity". Don't these phrases somehow say, "we want to maintain the Status Quo (of the male dominated hugely misogynistic culture) and include other people in that who are not part of that culture (e.g. women, LGBT). Same with the phrase 'Diversity Training' - it assumes that the main culture is still blokey bloke misogyny and we might add a bit of diversity.

When rather what they should be saying is that they wish to change the status quo to change the misogyny. Is there a word for this? I see this approach of 'diversity and inclusion' as being a maintenance of the status quo, a bit of lip service to make the wimmin and gayz happy.......include them in our fun......."maybe not swear around the women, be respectful and all that".......

I may not be making much sense here.
The fundamental problem here is that I am working with a (high profile) organisation that is hugely sexist, racist, homophobic and they 'apparently' want to change - that remains to be seen right now. But the initial framing of how to do this as "diversity and inclusion training' seem to be coming from the very wrong angle.

Can you help me make sense of this at all? Are these phrases ok after all.
I can't find any research on this. And I am having an early morning head spin.

JacqueslePeacock Mon 16-Sep-13 23:47:17

And why were there girls in the group anyway? I can't really see how that sort of training would be appropriate for children. (I'm guessing not a lot of the session went in for some of the adults, either...)

TeiTetua Mon 16-Sep-13 19:26:08

Any dastardly female who believes men should be castrated at birth probably wouldn't have compunctions about giving them hats they don't like. Ruthless! Implacable! Cruel! That's feminists for you.

And if a man wants to wear a fascinator, he must of course be given the right to do so.

FloraFox Mon 16-Sep-13 18:25:09


Maybe she was forcing fascinators on them?

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FloraFox Mon 16-Sep-13 17:59:52

Buffy maybe it was the way she hatted the men in the room?

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FloraFox Mon 16-Sep-13 17:16:24

but the "men should be castrated at birth kind"

Did she say that in a work training session? That's odd.

Sinful1 Mon 16-Sep-13 14:51:15

Everyone should have the right to equality of opportunities, however opportunity of outcome is up to them and them.alone and shouldn't be artificially altered

Sinful1 Mon 16-Sep-13 14:43:27

Ours is called dignity at Work. It's not so much about hitting targets but avoiding being sued. In discrimination cases they don't Work on "innocent until proven guilty" they Work that the company has to prove there was no discrimination/harassment which is very hard and very expensive (hence lots of out of court settlements) so they just want everyone to stfu and not get them sued.

However or course did not go down well as the woman giving it was a full on man hatting feminist (ie not sensible equal rights and respect kind, but the "men should be castrated at birth kind") and all we learned was anything we say or do is sexist, and any promotion or job we get is purely because we are men and that we were chosen over a woman because of our gender. so noone took it seriously, not even the girls in the group. Shame might have been good without a nutter giving the speech

sashh Sat 17-Aug-13 10:34:18

Well read my earlier post to start.

Equal treatment means no wheelchair ramps/lifts, everyone has to cope with stairs.

Equal treatment would be giving ladies and gents toilets both the same number of urinals and toilets, or not seperating them at all.

Equal treatment means either no maternity leave for any one or maternity leave for people who have not had children.

Equal treatment means only one form of legal marriage, countries that do this normally have the secular marriage as the legal one so any church/synagogue/temple/gurdwara/mosque is not legal. There was a similar situation in the UK until the early 1990s where only register office and C of E weddings were legal. Other denominations either had to pay or a registrar to attend their wedding or have two ceremonies.

Giving people equal opportunities and recognising, and celebrating, their diversity is what equality is all about.

Say yo have a business that is open 24/7 365 days a year. It could be a factory or the NHS or a hotel.

Maybe your Muslim workers would prefer to work a night shift during Ramadan, there is no harm in asking them. In all probability some will, some won't and some will have no preference.

Many people will want to have Christmas day off, but if you are employing Orthodox Christians their Christmas day is in January, so ask if they would prefer to work 25th December and have a day or two off 6 and 7the January.

Your Muslim workers may also prefer to work 25/26 December and have time of for Eid.

You are clearly not treating all of your workers the same, but you are valuing their diversity and giving them equal opportunities to celebrate their own religious festivals.

OK so that only deals with religious holidays, but you get the idea.

JacqueslePeacock Fri 16-Aug-13 20:02:54

What then? I was thinking more of equality of opportunity, but that again is very difficult to ensure because of level-playing-field issues.

sashh Fri 16-Aug-13 15:51:13


Equality is not about equal treatment

JacqueslePeacock Thu 15-Aug-13 13:17:50

I think the problem with "equality" is, as KRITIQ pointed out upthread, that there isn't a level playing field, so guaranteeing equal treatment for all doesn't necessarily lead to equal outcomes.

sashh Thu 15-Aug-13 06:43:09

Well it should be equality and diversity.

I recently had a job interview and my 10 min lesson was about E and D or "How people are like fruit".

Looked at what made fruit fruit, and what made individual fruit different. How fruit can work as a team exploiting the advantages of different fruit a fruit pie.

That some people naturally prefer one fruit over others, and that's fine (there will always be people at work we get along better with) as long as the fruit is treated equally and given the same opportunities.

I did eventually come back to people and looking at Equality not being the same as treating everyone the same, but making equal opportunities for various people by allowing uniforms to reflect religious preferences, installing wheelchair lifts/ramps.

But I digress, they should be talking about equality not inclusion, inclusion implies that there is a major group and they are going to make a couple of allowances to let that small group join the bigger group, probably on the bigger group's terms.

Equality is about recognising differences, using them to your advantage as a team and giving people equal opportunities.

One good example of a male dominated world opening up to women is the fire service, most of the complaints before women were allowed to join were about women being smaller and not as strong.

But in reality it can be an advantage to be small if you need to crawl through a small space. If you need to get a child out of a collapsed building then having a couple of the bigger stronger members holding up a bean/ceiling (insert own image from TV) to stop further collapse and allowing the smaller member of the team to crawl through.


FairPhyllis Thu 15-Aug-13 03:05:01

I suppose it partly depends exactly what the 'targets' are, doesn't it? If it's about cynically hitting some (possibly ludicrously tiny) target then it's not addressing the root problem of genuine, heartfelt attitude change being needed from the vast majority of staff. It's just a PR exercise.

CMOTDibbler Wed 14-Aug-13 12:02:48

I think the point about being treated like I would like to be treated is not about doing things as I would, but rather that I would like to be treated respectfully, thinking about my preferences and challenges, and without prejudging me, and that I extend that to other people. Also, I try hard to never use words, gestures or anything else that would upset or offend people - and if I did so inadvertently would like to be told so I could modify my behaviour in the future - and would like the reverse to happen.

So, for instance, I appreciate it when someone sees that I have an upper limb disability and offers to carry my lunch tray without commenting further. I don't appreciate having my scars commented on, or intrusive help (ie, I'm coping fine doing something). Other people don't need their meat cutting up at a business dinner, but I would ensure that I try and provide appropriate assistance to others.

Keepithidden Wed 14-Aug-13 12:01:52

KRITIQ - Definitely a better answer. Although in the context of a one day course I suspect the resultant discussion would take up the majority of the time allowed!

I think globally we are actually slightly the majority.

The power is with the proles.

Not that I'm making any judgement on the oppressed majority I hasten to add! I'm sure the notoriety of the phrase is enough to defend my use...

lottiegarbanzo Wed 14-Aug-13 12:01:30

I wonder if what's needed isn't so much additional ideas about how things can be done as a reduction in existing ideas - stripping away of assumption. That means taking ideas about who or what is needed for a particular task and breaking them down to the essentials (skill x, y and z), rather than alighting on an image formed through familiarity and assumption.

It's the thing about people recruiting other people similar to themselves. Not just because that's what an 'x profession' looks like in their experience but because that's who they are comfortable working with and who they see as fitting in and representing the organisation well.

So rather than going from 'doctors are tall, white, mc men' to 'oh, we could also have a lady doctor', go back to what are the essential attributes of a doctor? - skills, training, experience - so how could that be personified? By anyone with those skills, training, experience.

Then how does the organisation adjust, to support and encourage the person who happens to have the best skills? That must be the harder bit. So the organisation has to change it's personality to encompass the people with the best skills, rather than recruiting not quite the best people, who fit its personality.

FreyaSnow Wed 14-Aug-13 11:43:12

The usual term for this used to be equality and diversity training. The equality element I thought referred to people being given opportunities and the diversity to placing an emphasis on people being different and requiring different treatment so that they can access those opportunities.

In answer to the point about treating people as you would like to be treated, obviously that doesn't work. I may want to stand up to use a particular device. A person in a wheelchair doesn't. The diversity element of the training is supposed to be about learning in more detail about the needs of diverse groups of people, because we don't always understand other people's needs due to either ignorance (nobody can have an enclyopaedic knowledge of every culture, every disability) or prejudice.

mcmooncup Wed 14-Aug-13 11:42:28

Ladybigtoes, thank you.
I know exactly what you mean. The actual content of the training is in someways the easy part.
It's the framing of the outcomes that I've not got right. I feel the language is so important here and still questioning this underlying assumption that there is a dominant group who allow inclusion and diversity.
Helping to talk it through....
Thank you all smile

JacqueslePeacock Wed 14-Aug-13 11:30:20

I would love to see a course called "getting rid of misogyny, racism, disablism [I added that one] and the old boys' network"!! grin That's the kind of straight-talking title I think these things should really have. But in the absence of that I think "diversity" is probably OK. After all, a macho workplace would probably be less macho - even without any other changes - if it were a lot more diverse. Diversity can only be a good thing, really.

I think the real problem here is that it may just be a load of window dressing, as KRITIQ points out - and that it's coming from the dominant group so representing their ideas of what should change more than those of any incoming/minority/ under-represented groups.

And yes - it does bloody well rankle for women to be a minority group!! I think globally we are actually slightly the majority.

lottiegarbanzo Wed 14-Aug-13 11:26:09

It sounds like your discomfort is with the company rather than those terms. They are the terms generally used for this sort of thing but how the training is delivered, with exactly what aim and scope is another question.

I do take your point that inclusion sounds like 'allowing others to conform' where what's needed is for the existing people to broaden their ideas of how things could be done - mind expansion.

purpleroses Wed 14-Aug-13 11:20:52

Well you could call it - "getting rid of misogyny, racism and the old boys network" couldn't you? But I think most organisations would prefer to use some fuzzy term like diversity and inclusion so as not to be so blunt about what is wrong with their organisation. I get your point about inclusion - it's not just about including others in the existing culture - it's about broadening and redefining that culture so that people who don't currently fit in, can do. But training on inclusion can include suggestions that social events don't always require hours that those with children can't make, revolve around drinking alcohol, etc - which do all make the environment more inclusive to a broader range of people.

Same with diversity it depends how they interpret it. Can be interpreted as a narrow tick box exercise simply trying to get a better proportion of women/non-whites on the payroll so they don't appear so white male dominated, or it can be about changing the workplace culture so that people become aware of their own prejudices and actively seek to respond more positively to those from different backgrounds. Also increasing people's knowledge and understanding of different traditions/religions/etc can only be a good thing.

My previous employer sent all staff on compulsory diversity and equality training - and whilst I had some concerns over exactly what they "taught" us - they were leagues ahead of my current employer, where these things are not on the agenda at all. Recently interviewed job candidates with my boss who was happily sitting there with the equal ops monitoring forms still attached to his copies of the application forms, passing judgement on the candidates' ages, sexuality and everything else shock. So do think that it's a good start to be seeing these as issues to be tackled.

tethersend Wed 14-Aug-13 11:20:31

I think it's the treating of over 50% of the population as a minority group which rankles.

mcmooncup Wed 14-Aug-13 11:13:06

KRITIQ thank you for your response.
Yes is the short answer to all of that!

We have a hardcore behavioural change, value challenging programme which is designed to develop the 6 key factors of integrity - we do a lot of work on this already and as you have said 'courage' is one of the factors. And stage 1 is for this to be exclusively done with the leaders of the organisation. If there is no buy in, the project will not go ahead for whatever the 'diversity training' ends up being called. We will not be the fall guys for providing lip service to ticking boxes so this organisation can say they have 'ticked the diversity box'.

I guess that is my point about the inclusion and diversity training...I suspect lip service because it, for me, comes from the wrong place. I suspect it is a "roll in the professionals desperate for a high profile project so we can answer the press". We are not prepared to do that because it won't work and it would breach all my values and our organisational values.

I do know they didn't expect this response when they commissioned the work to us, I think they expected gratefulness - but hey, as you say - ruffling feathers is the least of my worries.

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