Hello PPMA members and friends

It’s hard to believe that #PPMAHR23 is next week and the final post in our ‘taster’ series from some our our speakers has been written by Yasmin Sheikh who is the founder of Diverse Matters, a company which seeks the promotion of the values of Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity in organisations. In her session Yasmin will talk about what diversity and inclusion means and how we can recruit and retain diverse talent. She will also share her own experiences as a wheelchair user when returning to work.

What is Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)

When you see or hear the words “diversity” and “inclusion”, what words, images or feelings come to mind?

Many people may approach this topic thinking that diversity and inclusion is just about minority groups – age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity. These groups are protected under equality legislation (“the protected characteristics.”).

However, the line of thinking around D&I needs to be in the context of a very practical and functional concept that steers away from the ‘protected characteristics’ approach entirely.

This isn’t because protected characteristics aren’t important – they are. There is a lot of work to do for these groups but because sometimes we need to see D&I as something that is more foundational.

To do that, we need to start with some clarity around the terms homogeny, diversity and inclusion. We will explore this more at the PPMA conference in April using a practical example.

Homogeny– everything being the same, and diversity – things being different – can manifest in different ways in the workplace.

Diversity is the presence of difference; whereas inclusion is access to different brilliance. Inclusive cultures are high-performance cultures – they are places where people are able to be themselves, without fear of mockery or marginalization. Being able to talk about yourself at work isn’t a “nice to have” – it’s essential to create an environment where people can safely disclose their insights, experiences, and concerns. If our colleagues fear what might happen if they expose their identity, it stops them from sharing their brilliance with us.

Especially now since the pandemic we have showed our humanity and the ability to show vulnerability and empathic leadership has been critical.

In short, the identity of our workforce is more important than ever. People are no longer just job titles, but individuals. This provides us with the opportunity to create authentic, high performing teams, rather than groups of elite individuals who work alongside one another.

 When you have inclusion, people can say what they see. There is a wealth of evidence available that demonstrates the performance advantages of inclusive environments, and in order to achieve those, we have to understand that diversity cannot exist in a vacuum, and that inclusion is the ultimate goal.

My story

My interest in this topic developed when after an injury in 2008, I became a full- time wheelchair user and therefore had a visible difference. Some of the barriers I experience are physical – lack of access to buildings but a lot of the time the barriers are more subtle than that – a soft bigotry of low expectation, the assumptions others have about your abilities, structural or organisational barriers. Pre-pandemic, the most requested and refused reasonable adjustment for disabled legal professionals was home working and flexible working. It is now a mainstream concern. (Legally Disabled? http://legallydisabled.com).

Some of the exclusion that people experience is not intentional. Before I was a wheelchair user people used to ask me “what do you do?”. Now they ask me “do you work?”. There’s no malice but a lower expectation and some of these biases can play out in the workplace.

Our brains take short cuts so we don’t have to wade through a lots of information but sometimes this may mean we screen out talented people who are not like us to progress at work because biases may affect our decision making and judgment.

Intent v Impact

It’s not about our intention, it’s about the impact of our behaviour.

We can sometimes become so defensive of our own view of ourselves as good, well-intentioned people, that we completely overlook the harm we are causing. By refusing to engage in that introspection, we end up protecting the status quo and getting in the way of positive change.

But part of being a teammate is reframing our focus from what we meant, to what we actually did. Inclusive teams respectfully put aside their own discomfort to speak openly about the impact of their words and behaviours. They highly value taking the time to reflect and focus on the impact we have and not the intent – because intent doesn’t offer any protection to those around us.

 The 4Bs

At the conference we will examine the 4Bs on how to lead a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Business – is there senior buy-in from leadership on the business case for having a diverse and inclusive workforce?

Bias – how do we seek to remove biases and barriers for people during their career so that we recruit and retain the best talent.

Behaviour – how can we be an ally to our colleagues and call out non-inclusive behaviour?

Belonging – do people feel psychologically safe to share who they are, their ideas, experiences and challenges at work?

Yasmin’s keynote session is on Wednesday 26th April 16:30 – 17:15 and if you haven’t yet booked your place, then we still have day delegate tickets available – find out more: www.ppma.org.uk/ppma-conference-202

We look forward to seeing you all in Birmingham next week.