Thursday, February 07, 2008

DIVERSITY NETWORK

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.

1 comment:

Jez said...

This is a theme I am most interested in. Diversity has a long history in the UK, not only has the UK had a South Asian presence for over 400 years, the local culture is rich with diversity long forgotten. Cornwall is but one example of a semi-autonomous culture, with its own distinct language, gastronomy, religious character and flag.

Whereas issues of diversity management were once dealt with by British custom, our defference to law (though positive in outlook) has had a number of negative consequences that perhaps could have been avoided.

Culture and diversity are fluid concepts, whereas the law in this context is rather too rigid. We should not step carefully through the minefield of legislation, but embrace the refreshing waters of diversity directly ourselves.