On Wednesday 28th October, the Hire Space Virtual Team kicked off Part 1 of EventLAB 2020 Online. This year was the first time this event was held online and focused on Sustainability, Workplace Culture & Leadership.
The final discussion of the morning discussed more inclusive hiring and training. Our expert panel comprised of Amrita Devaiah, External Affairs & Engagement at The Cabinet Office, Ashanti Bentil-Dhue, Co-Founder of Diversity Ally, Adil Ghani, Recruitment Consultant at The Ability People and Lizzy Eaton, Director at Oddity Events and Marketing.
Levelling out the playing field
It’s really important that when people come to an event, they’re not regularly reminded of their differences. It’s important that all individuals feel included and given the space to be heard. For Ashanti and Diversity Ally, it’s about providing ‘dignified access’ to an event, a role, or whatever it may be, this could be as simple as ensuring there is wheelchair access to your event or office building.
But authenticity is key - simply having a dedicated Inclusion Officer or the like and then doing nothing else is not enough. It shouldn’t be a tickbox exercise, it must be ingrained within the values of your organisation.
Practising inclusive hiring
At The Ability People, they use the ‘three E’s’ - first is Exposure: you need to be exposed to what you don’t already see or know about in order to adapt and change your processes to be more inclusive. The second is Education: providing training, workshops and other educational programmes to ensure your staff are informed as well as exposed. As a result of the first two, the final E is Empathy. This is important not to confuse with sympathy! Empathy is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes whilst also making the best decision, not giving the job because you feel sorry for someone.
Disability is often the toughest area within Diversity & Inclusion, as it’s perhaps not as ‘seen’ in day to day life, therefore Adil believes this should be tackled more and made more commonplace so that the unconscious bias of ‘seeing the disability before seeing the person’ doesn't sneak in.
Finally, Adil identifies the need for being open and honest without having prejudice or being discriminatory. All of these elements together will contribute to your overall authenticity and create a more inclusive environment.
De-bias the system
Ashanti informs us that the current workplace structure is not designed for anyone! We all possess different identities and these evolve throughout our life, so no one place is ever going to be perfect for everyone at all times. This means then that we need to start from scratch to de-bias the workplace and its systems, including the stakeholders which may contribute to the bias.
In doing so, it will become fairer for people who traditionally come up against invisible but pervasive challenges and barriers. A good example can be the use of language. A job advertisement including the words ‘aggressive’ and ‘competitive’ or using gender specific terms like ‘guru’ or ‘rockstar’ may inadvertently put a woman off applying for the job.
Equal opportunities in senior-level positions
Amrita believes it’s important to provide access to the right training, but that it also comes down to company culture. If the culture is one of acceptance and inclusion and giving people the space to learn and make mistakes, this allows people to feel accepted and feel that the organisation is investing in them. This makes people want to progress through the organisation to those senior positions and become integral to the company fabric long-term.
So, by providing access to the right training, helping people understand the barriers they might face and being mindful of the language used, this may encourage others to apply for jobs they might not have felt comfortable in applying for before.
Keeping the momentum
It’s important that organisations provide mandatory training for stakeholders which covers systemic inequality and inclusive leadership. Diversity and inclusion is often seen as negotiable, but in order for the values to be embedded in the way the company is run, this training must be undertaken so that there is accountability within the role and tangible goals and targets.
Adil adds that it’s really crucial to be transparent with feedback too - saying you want someone to show more leadership in meetings may not mean the same thing for everyone, and for individuals with autism for example, this may be an empty statement that they don’t know what to do with. Be clear and say what you mean.
Resources for training on Diversity & Inclusion
The Ability People is a great way for organisations to meet people, listen to their stories and gain more understanding. Diversity Ally’s resources, such as their podcast, is also a good place to start.
About The Speakers
Amrita Devaiah, External Affairs & Engagement, The Cabinet Office
Amrita is currently the Head of External Affairs and Engagement at the Cabinet Office. A fierce advocate for equality throughout her career, Am has developed and delivered national training for young people on unconscious bias and privilege and worked on embedding inclusive practices in events in organisations.
Ashanti Bentil-Dhue, Co-Founder, Diversity Ally
Co-Founder of Diversity Ally, Ashanti Bentil-Dhue is an experienced events entrepreneur, diversity expert, researcher and speaker. She heads up the team at EventMind, a virtual event production company based in London, UK. She’s also a co-founder of the global network, Black In Events. She spearheaded the only research in the UK exclusively focused on how organisations can invest in black millennial and generation Z women within the corporate structure.
Adil Ghani, Recruitment Consultant, The Ability People
Adil became a trustee for Panathlon Challenge and helped him pour his energy into supporting disabled children in sport. Adil has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, a rare combination of diseases which causes the deterioration of muscles over time. Adil’s insight and guidance have helped countless people across the country overcome challenges and reassess their capabilities. He is passionate about changing people’s perceptions of disability and brings every bit of his wisdom and energy to The Ability People.
Lizzy Eaton, Director, Oddity Events and Marketing
Lizzy is the founder and director of Oddity Events & Marketing. Oddity is an award winning start-up events agency which specialises in delivering events with personality to high-level audiences, like politicians, journalists and academics.
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