The Future of Equality
Updated: Jul 28
On 13 July 2020, over 300 equality practitioners and activists gathered to take part in the online launch of the Equality Republic.
Every Republic needs sheriffs – people who will uphold the law. Well, the Equality Republic is no different. Our sheriffs are the following expert practitioners:
Dr Doyin Atewologun (Director, Delta Alpha Psi, Leadership & Inclusion Consulting)
Carol Campayne (The Diversity Practice)
Dr Richard Hillier (Evaluation Lead at Coventry University)
Roger Kline (Research Fellow at Middlesex University Business School)
Joy Warmington MBE (brap CEO)
WHAT PRACTICES SHOULD BE OUTLAWED IN THE EQUALITY REPUBLIC?
We asked our sheriffs what practices they would consign to Room 101. Here are some suggestions.
relying solely on bog-standard ‘diversity’ training (‘there’s limited evidence of its impact’)
token BME members on disciplinary (and recruitment) panels (‘organisations with poor processes think having a BME person will somehow change that. They should be thinking about why BME people are disproportionately up against these panels in the first place’)
positive action – but only when it’s an alternative to tackling institutional problems (‘it’s a sticking plaster, not a cure’)
award ceremonies (‘the system is too congratulatory of failure. Awards should only be given for impact. Too many are given for one-off projects’)
EDI roles without power (‘first, it’s ridiculous large organisations expect one person to be responsible for all their EDI functions. Second, too few EDI leads actually have any power. They’re often seen as junior members of staff with limited influence’)
giving responsibility for equality to people who don’t have the skills and understanding to make a change (‘too much work on equality is process-focused. Process isn’t impact. Having a passion for EDI is not enough: people working on this have to know this. They have to know what works)
leaders without vision (‘leadership is key. If you can’t demonstrate that you’ve made change on this agenda, make way for someone who can’)
WHAT SHOULD BE THE FOUNDING PRINCIPLES OF THE EQUALITY REPUBLIC?
Panellists and participants had an honest discussion about why they think progress on equality issues has been limited. It’s an honest debate because we recognise our role, as equality practitioners, in failing on some of these issues. But not anymore. Here’s where we will make a stand.
1. EQUALITY IS A PRIORITY
This simply isn’t true for most organisations. At the time of founding (June 2020), we’re seeing BME people pay the highest price possible for inequality – higher mortality rates in the face of Covid-19. Yes, organisations are facing a range of pressing issues. But when a house is burning, you pay attention to it.
2. INCLUSION, NOT REPRESENTATION
There’s a difference. An organisation (or team, board, department…) can be superficially ‘diverse’ but not inclusive to people with different views, ideas, ways of living.
3. CHANGE HAS TO BE TRANSFORMATIONAL
This means recognising process stuff is of limited value. Having an equalities strategy is not an achievement. Promising to conduct equality impact assessments is not an achievement. Delivering training is not an achievement. Data showing staff and communities are receiving more equitable outcomes is what we value.
4. NO TO THE DEFICIT MODEL
Certain people – Black people, women, disabled people – are taught that they are a problem. That they need to be developed, mentored, coached, or trained. We believe in fixing systems, not people. In this respect, organisations shouldn’t wait for individuals to raise concerns about discrimination before they act. They should create an inclusive culture head on. We don’t rely on courageous individuals to raise issues around health and safety – why wait for them to raise concerns around discrimination?
5. EQUALITY IS A SOURCE OF IMPROVEMENT
This is different to articulating the business case for equality (while that may be important, we firmly believe action on this agenda should be motivated by the moral case). But it’s clear that organisations that treat equality as a source of improvement, rather than a matter of compliance, do much better. Better in terms of the services they deliver. And better in terms of the workplace they create.
6. FOLLOW THE EVIDENCE, NOT THE HERD
We need to stop doing things just because other people are. We understand there are pressing reasons why this is an attractive option: the pull of the new, a fear of missing out, or – perhaps most importantly – feeling pressure to do something, even if we’re not sure what. But there’s no point treading water. It’s important to recognise, too, that this isn’t an excuse to pause activity and gather more data. Evidence can take many forms – academic research, professional expertise, individuals’ experiences, and organisational data to name just four. We will use this information to innovate, agitate, and change.
7. WE WILL DREAM OF EXCELLENCE
It’s a duty to believe that better is possible.
You can read the full launch report here.
And catch up on the session here: