When it comes to valuing equality and diversity, there are a number of myths.
1.“Equality legislation is all about ‘policing’ our thoughts and feelings.”
2. Diversity is not about me; it is all about ‘minority groups’
Whilst it’s true that legislation covers the following ‘protected characteristics’; diversity is about respecting and responding to the needs of everyone, whether we are part of the ‘protected characteristics’ groups or not.
Legislation states that is it illegal to behave in ways that discriminate against anyone who has one of the above ‘protected characteristics.’
However, valuing diversity is about much more than this. It is about celebrating the fact that we are all different (e.g. our education, skills and experience; our hopes, expectations and needs etc.). Valuing diversity is about respecting the myriad of ways in which we are different to one another, whilst celebrating what we have in common.
Within our workplaces we bring many types of diversity, such as preferred learning and communication styles, skills and talents, etc. An effective workplace builds upon and capitalises on these differences to bring out the best in everyone.
3.“I’m not prejudiced; I never, ever discriminate”
Most of us like to think that we don’t hold prejudices, that we “treat everyone the same”. Indeed, the Equality Act 2010 goes some way to explaining that there can be many forms of prejudice, such as: direct discrimination; indirect discrimination; harassment and victimisation.
However, the truth of the matter is that beneath ‘prejudice’ there are a number of factors. If we think about it, prejudice is merely about pre-judging someone.
Our brains are “hard-wired” to do this. Neuroscience tells us that (when we were cavewomen and cavemen), our ‘primitive’ brains sought out those with whom we had something in common (and felt safe) and avoided those who appeared to be different in any way (i.e. a potential danger).
As a result, all these years later in 2016, we fall into the same behaviours of interpreting other’s behaviour; stereotyping, and developing ‘in-groups’ and ‘out-groups’ even though we don’t like to admit to doing so. We’ll be exploring what these terms really mean in more detail in part 2 of this blog, but for now let’s expel the myths about what valuing equality and diversity means.
If, in the workplace, we are able to recognise that the differences between individuals don’t need to hold us back, we can create a great environment for a diverse range of people to work.
Mike is a trainer and consultant who is passionate about releasing potential through learning and development. He specialises in training topics as diverse as: communication and personal effectiveness; leadership and management; diversity and health and social care. He uses a range of interactive training techniques which are built upon adult learning principles, brain-friendly and accelerated learning.