Monday, February 18, 2008


Experts on Diversity will meet at the Nehru Centre in London on 20th February to discuss the challenges of diversity in the British workplace. It is a widely accepted fact that despite the great population diversity, seniority in British companies and public bodies is far from diverse and poses a huge challenge.

Diverse Ethics Ltd is organising the event and its founder and Chief Executive Dr. Atul Shah has written a widely acclaimed book on this very subject entitled ‘Celebrating Diversity – How to live, enjoy and benefit from Great Coloured Britain’. Panelists for the discussion include Lynne Sedgmore CBE of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership, Margaret Sentamu, Head of Diversity at Odgers, Ray and Bernstein, Mr. Satish Kanabar, Area Corporate Director, Barclays – West London, and Jeremy Brown from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

The debate promises to cover the huge positive possibilities offered by Diversity and the creative and talent pool that it offers modern Britain. Sources of resistance such as ignorance, territorialism, fear and closed-mindedness will be addressed. Dr. Atul Shah explained: ‘ The Law in this country has created huge opportunities for minorities to receive equal treatment in British workplaces. The challenge is to open up the middle and ensure that the ladder to the top is not controlled or dominated by one race or sex, and people with different identities are allowed to climb without changing their colour or beliefs.’ Diverse Ethics specialises in providing exactly this type of training and advice to UK employers.

Saturday, February 16, 2008



Are you surprised? This is an industry which is very image conscious - but it is also dominated by media. To me this shows that the media industry - especially the control of it - is white. And then others try to 'fit in' and give them what they will print. The undertones must be that somehow black or coloured people dont sell clothes or designer wear - they 'dis'colour it. This shows the huge amount of hidden prejudice in modern society.

On the surface this seems such a paradox - an image conscious industry would want a variety of palate and colour to sell and promote itself. Perhaps it is driven by insecurity and people are desperately trying to aim for the mass market and fit in. What is really fascinating is that slowly but surely, Indian fashion is going global and creeping in on the Western design giants producing highly creative material which is already selling very well. And we all know what happens when India aspires to go global - it achieves it. I have at home a magazine called 'Asian Woman' - it is absolutely beautiful in the clothes and variety of contemporary fashion and is available from WHSmith and major booksellers. Ethnics will have to create their own media to reach the market, but this is much harder to penetrate and requires investment and determination.

Also, I firmly believe Indian culture has always been universal in its wisdom and appeal and very inclusive. So it has the right 'software' to produce global designs. Western fashion and media powerhouses - watch out, otherwise the rug will be pulled under your eyes.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Under UK anti-discrimination legislation, Universities are now actively setting up departments to ensure there is compliance with the law in all respects. Legislation covers employment practices, student enrolment and services offered by Universities. This is a huge task and one which will evolve over the years.

Whilst the law is driving action, it is important not to lose sight of the fundamental principles of equality and to promote these. As centres of education, Universities are a prime site for building community cohesion in Britain. They bring a range of minorities together who are young and keen to learn. They attract students from all over the world and create networks which may last long after the students leave the campus. Also academics are a key to a healthy learning community and their subjects and research should also embrace equality in its truest sense.

My current reading of it is that the attention at present is focused on legal compliance. This involves employee training - so that all are aware of the law and how to behave. Another new aspect is equality impact assessment - an audit required for public institutions.

These are the equality principles I recommend:

1. All students are respected and treated equally, irrespective of race, disability, age, sexuality or belief.

2. Subjects taught should endeavour to embrace equality and research should also encourage alternative cultural and philosophical perspectives. For example, modern materialistic and utilitarian economics is one way of looking at the economy, not the only way. There are many alternative economic systems and students should be exposed to this at an early stage.

3. Academic recruitment and promotion should be open and not biased to any one culture or method of research. There are serious issues about this in British Universities. The top management often tend to male and monocultural. We urgently need Vice Chancellors who are non-white.

4. Overseas students should be warmly welcomed when they first arrive on campus. The University and perhaps also Town should have a welcome party with food - something which is so common in foreign cultures where visitors are received with great warmth and hospitality. It must not be forgotten that they are a vital source of revenue for Universities and the local economy.

5. Differing identities should not be suppressed - but instead allowed to prevail provided they adhere to UK law. They should also be encouraged to engage and dialogue with one another. In particular, students born and raised in the UK should be positively encouraged to engage more widely.

6. Academics should be encouraged to break from their often mono-cultural ghettos. This will lead to all sources of wisdom being studied and debated, and also referees and editors of journals should give voice to minority voices.

These are my suggestions - here is a great opportunity to take the world into a positive peaceful mode as many students may become leaders in various fields in future years. And they will always thank Britain for this grounding in many different ways.

I await your comments on this.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


On Monday 4th February, Abu Bundu-Kamara of Pearson hosted a network of Diversity champions at the Pearson HQ in London. Rachel Krys of Employers Forum on Age was a speaker and we then had a discussion on the subject of workplace diversity. Many points emerged from this:
- A lot of organisations are trying to brush diversity under the carpet and hope it will somehow go away.
- The area is complex and multi-faceted and legislation is causing a lot of tension, and often the response is legalistic rather than seizing Diversity as a positive opportunity. Very few organisations are even in that horizon at all.
- Ethnic and Minority networks in large organisations are having variable impact.
- Diversity cases can be complex, costly and very embarassing for big organisations. The British Airways case of the employee wearing a cross was cited as an example of this by Rachel Krys.
- HR seems to dominate the Diversity space and this is often the problem as they are administrative and technical in their outlook. Heads of Diversity themselves tend to be female and monocultural.
- It is difficult not to offend anyone - everyone has some prejudice or another. We need to except this and also move beyond the politeness of superficial respect.
- Organisations are not holistic - they still think in terms of separate boxes.
- Faith in the workplace is another very emotive issue and organisations are afraid about how to address it and what to do about it.

In all, it was a very open discussion and covered a range of issues - a wonderful initiative. The next discussion will happen shortly and anyone interested should contact Abu.