2021 Conference Q&A
Below you will find responses to a selection of questions that were asked during our 2021 conference.
A special thank you to all panellists who took the time to answer the questions.
Liz Johnson (she/her)
Co-Founder of The Ability People
What can companies do to provide a safe workplace for all employees where there is no fear of backlash for challenging the status-quo?
“This is a great question and often one of the biggest challenges for organisations. It is important to remember that employees are used to initiatives and legislation being in place that might increase attention or awareness but often do little to positively impact the lived experience. This is why it is vital that organisations demonstrate the steps they are taking, engage their employee base and make subtle changes that enable authentic inclusion. The impact that this has is that the experience feels genuine, individuals don’t feel like they are being used as an example and they can choose if/when to disclose any information without fear of it singling them out. Examples of some things that an organisation can do that deliver a very clear message without it seeming insincere are having flexible start and finish times, gender neutral toilets, a variety of work space options.”
Lots of the discussion is about large companies and structures. Do speakers think that creating inclusive cultures is easier or harder in small companies?
“I think it is often easier for smaller companies to create inclusive cultures and environments more efficiently because there is generally less bureaucracy involved and often more direct relationships/interaction between individuals meaning that there’s a bit more of a human connection and it takes less time for communications to occur and changes to be implemented. The key is ensuring that you get the correct service provider or partner for your circumstances whatever size the organisation is because creating an inclusive culture is fundamental to optimising experiences and maximising performance. Examples of some things that an organisation can do that deliver a very clear message without it seeming insincere are having flexible start and finish times, gender neutral toilets, a variety of work space options.”
Mark Fletcher (he/him)
CEO of Manchester Pride
What does conscious inclusion look and feel like compared to exclusion? What are some examples that would help employers?
“When we want to build conscious inclusion in our businesses, organisations and lives, it is important that we focus our efforts on the causes of exclusion.
When we include members of marginalised communities into our already existing structures, we can sometimes inadvertently create microcosms of oppression. For example, you might hire more people of colour, but if they all occupy entry-level positions, while only white and male employees occupy managerial and leadership positions, all you have done is recreate historic systems of racialised domination.
While diversity hiring is, of course, positive, conscious inclusion should engage with your business/ organisation’s institutional structures as well. This includes, for example, policies that specifically and directly meet the needs of marginalised communities, accessible onboarding procedures, and networking and supplier strategies that intentionally promote and advocate for greater access to opportunities for everyone.
To learn more about how you can make your business or organisation more inclusive, please go to: https://allequalscharter.com “
Have you got any advice on setting up underrepresented employee networks?
“First and foremost, employee networks for marginalised communities must be empowering. This means that they need to be structured in a way that members of these network groups can all equally feel heard, and that their thoughts, opinions and plans are listened to and valued by your senior leadership team. Furthermore, members should be allowed the time to attend these groups, and should not be penalised for taking time away from their regular duties to complete tasks for these groups. In order to attract members, these groups should be promoted openly to your entire staff team, and everyone, no matter their identity, should be made aware of their existence. Be careful inviting specific people to join a network group as they may feel tokenized and stereotyped by the invitation. Instead, make sure everyone is aware of the opportunity, and then allow members to join as and when they want to. Groups should be run democratically, and group members should be empowered to make their own decisions about the nature, aims and direction of the group, with no micromanaging from non-member, senior staff. To learn more about how you can start employee network groups for your marginalised employees, please go to: https://allequalscharter.com “