With a background of – let’s face it – privilege, I’m here with my hands up, ready to acknowledge the gaps in my knowledge, the areas where I have an unspoken advantage, and to learn how I can be a better ally to people. Let’s talk about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
I attended Barclays inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) summit and awards the other week, organised by Sidney Wager, and it’s completely changed my perspective and my understanding of privilege.
Why all this chat about privilege? Fair point. It’s about fostering awareness around advantage, and enabling us to challenge norms that might work against underrepresented groups, which is a huge step towards a more diverse and inclusive culture.
First thing’s first, I didn’t know the difference between equality and equity, and if you happen to not know either, it’s pretty simple.
Equality happens where each individual or group of people are provided with the same resources or opportunities; everyone gets the same treatment. This would be great if everyone came from the same place…
Equity, on the other hand, recognises that we’re all different; that every one of us comes from different backgrounds and circumstances. So rather than giving everyone the same resources, equity allocates the exact resources or opportunities necessary to reach the same outcome. In other words, everyone gets the treatment tailored specifically to their needs to achieve the same results. Lovely.
I’m here to say I would love to do more work around the subject of DEI. But let’s get something else out of the way first…
After everything I’ve learnt at the conference, I feel like I can openly state that I am in a position of privilege. I am probably middle class, definitely white and what some refer to as CisHet. And it’s time to consider: actually, have I really experienced enough in my life to be able to say that I am inclusive of all of the different groups and everybody’s point of view? Now I can acknowledge, I’m definitely not.
It’s interesting that as a woman, who in the past has certainly experienced sexism and misogyny in the workplace, it’s not lost on me that I’ve built a business full of women (and strong and empowered women at that).
I haven’t done it on purpose. But there’s got to be a reason for it. It also goes to show our unconscious bias for groups that are the same as us. Which is all the more reason to take action on DEI and cultivate spaces where everyone feels like their voice can be heard.
What it means for my business
At TMP The Mortgage People, I’m proud to say that we have quite a diverse workforce, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re providing the resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome for those individuals. Or to put it another way: we may strive for equality at TMP, but are we really doing our part to foster equity?
Plus, just because we employ people from different backgrounds and circumstances, doesn’t mean that we’re listening to them, and if we’re not asking them questions, how do we know how to be inclusive?
It’s a very subjective feeling this sense of inclusivity and belonging. Something that may help one person feel like they belong, mightn’t be the same for another person.
With this in mind, I’m keen to start the conversation. I’m taking note of my shortcomings and saying that I’d like help to work out the questions I’m not asking. With the privileged background I come from, and privileged position I’m in as a business owner, I want to know how I can make a difference to people, especially those that I employ.
It’s also important to note that the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability. Because making an effort to foster diversity, equity and inclusivity helps people to do their best work and makes them want to stay at their place of work!
Using inclusive language
As a (again, quite possibly) middle class, white person I’m trying to further understand the privilege that I hold. I don’t wholly right now, but I would love to be more inclusive and act on that difference between equity and equality. I want to understand how we can make a difference for different people.
Something that can certainly be addressed more readily is using inclusive language.
It’s the unspoken and sometimes unknown impact that can be made, by all of us, just by making a small change or asking a different question.
For example, I’m guilty of referring to my staff as “guys,” and upon reflection, that’s not inclusive language. During the conference, I felt as though I officially ‘got over myself,’ and truly acknowledged that any resistance to change is completely unnecessary. I was the type of person who would push back with an excuse like, ‘I didn’t mean it in an offensive way, so why do I need to use different language?’ Turns out, that’s not the hill to die on.
And in fact, such a small change can make a really meaningful impact on others. So why not!?
Efforts aren’t always ‘seen.’ But if we collectively make a little bit more of an effort to watch the things that we say, hopefully that will make all the difference in helping someone feel more valued, comfortable and safe.
Doing our bit
Over at TMP The Mortgage People we’re really working on our DEI at the minute.
TMP is all about company culture, all about people, and all about being amazingly helpful. That said, I’ve realised I don’t have all the answers. I thought of myself as an inclusive person, but it turns out I’ve still got more to learn. I’m looking forward to working on it.
When all’s said and done, it’s a process, it’s a journey and there’s lots to get on with!