Breaking with tradition: the gender conversation among young people

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

It used to be the case that younger people (those between 16 and 29) were more comfortable with emerging societal developments than older people.  Not so, it seems, in the case of today’s younger generation, at least about gender equality.  According to new research from King’s College London, there is a clear divide emerging in the views of younger people on the subject of gender.  The research shows that a consistent minority of 1/5 to 1/3 of men believe that it’s tougher to be a man than a woman right now, that feminism caused more harm than good, and that Andrew Tate raises important points about threats to male identity.  This is in stark contrast to the views of women – both younger and older – who believe it is tougher to be a woman today and that this will remain to be the case for the next 20 or so years.

We also read about other backlash against efforts to improve Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), from anti-EDI legislation in the US to business decisions to cut back EDI efforts based on this backlash.

And the question we want the answer to is: why is this happening?

In my opinion, there are at least two strong reasons for this: (1) lack of understanding of one’s privilege and (2) strong activism.


John Amaechi explains privilege


1. Privilege is blind 

The problem with privilege, i.e. the absence of artificial barriers, is that those who have it don’t see it.  It never occurs to people with privilege that they have it until someone else points out that they do not.  So if, for years, no-one comments on your stellar career trajectory, your ability to connect with influential people, on how you speak and what you say, on your physical appearance, on the tone of your voice, etc. and then all of a sudden all you appear to hear is how someone else should be given a leg up, maybe it feels like ‘they’ are trying to take something away from you, rather than (in reality) add something that’s been missing from ‘their’ lives.

In fact, one might say that the biggest privilege one can have is not to have to think about privilege.  As this article in Psychology Today beautifully shows, if we don’t know we are privileged, we don’t have to think about how this invisible understanding of our position in society helps us progress while standing in the way of others. Put this way, we might even say that society has rolled out the red carpet for some of us, while others jostle on the wonky sidewalk for a glance at it.

Sometimes, those jostling on the wonky sidewalk don’t quite understand their own situation. They too want to get onto the red carpet, but they say they have to ‘earn’ their right to be there, fully believing that this is how it’s done. I sometimes hear people from underrepresented backgrounds say that they don’t want a promotion unless it’s strictly on merit.  It’s only when I point out the huge underlying – often untrue – assumption that those who already received that promotion (or similar progression opportunities) got it on their own merit, that the penny drops. Of course, we know from countless studies and examples that people prefer to hire, promote or progress those who look and seem more like them; merit rarely makes a difference, although we like to believe that it does.

If our work environments were meritocracies, we’d have a more balanced representation of Diversity at every layer and grouping of our organisations.

So, back to those aggrieved young men. Could it be that, because they are unaware of the lack of artificial barriers in their way, that when existing artificial barriers are removed from another group, it feels like someone is getting something for free, while they are not?

I think it’s normal to feel like the world is conspiring against you if you’re unaware of the privilege you have. It can indeed feel like you’re the victim, you’re the one who’s being asked to sacrifice. But if we could see equity as the pulling down of artificial barriers for everyone, including some of those young men, maybe it would make it easier for us to get behind the idea of equity.

2. Giving minority the upper hand 

Those who have been particularly disadvantaged, discriminated against and denied equal rights for a long time feel particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity that society has provided to redress these injustices.  It’s no surprise then that there is vigour, sometimes even anger,  in some (perhaps many) of their EDI policies, stances and demarcations. But it comes at a price. Some people are reacting negatively to this vigour to redress injustices. Recent articles in The Times report people being made feel stupid for saying the ‘wrong’ thing, and of preaching and lecturing across email communications and new pronoun policies.  People also are divided on the need for local  governments and museums to atone for historic actions that are being judged by today’s moral compass.

When everything you have ever known suddenly seems wrong, it makes us feel bad about ourselves, and that’s something that human nature is designed to counteract, push back on.  In a way, it’s a form of negativity bias, a bias that makes us perceive the negative as a stronger motivator than the positive.  We see the negative in others’ attempts to level the playing field (i.e. EDI efforts) as a criticism of who we are and resist.  Instead of seeing the intention to equalise, we feel attacked and lash out.

Pushback is part of every story of change.  We will inevitably move a bit backwards before we continue to move forwards. Many stories of progress – including iconic ones like the Industrial Revolution – evidence this tendency.

We need to give people time to adjust and listen to their concerns. So, when we at Voice At The Table speak about Inclusion, we mean all voices, including those that appear to detract from the trajectory of travel. We don’t point fingers or blame people for not knowing how to express themselves more inclusively. We understand that all voices have the right to be heard.  We don’t have to agree with them, no.  But we also don’t have to persuade them.  We just need to explain our perspective (with examples) and understand that change travels at different paces for different people.  Some people might take longer to understand and come along and, indeed, a small portion of the population may never come along.  And, that too is OK.  This is the beauty of Diversity – we don’t all have to have the same view of the world.  Once we’re able to accept this, we will truly have made a huge leap forward.

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Fake It ‘Til You Make It


A Word About EDI Support

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

You may have noticed our new hashtag #ChangingBehavioursShiftingMindsets and might have asked yourself, what does this mean?  Surely, to change how we behave we need to see things differently first?

Mindsets are beliefs, and changing our beliefs is quite the tall order.  Of course, if you do the hard work and manage to change your mindset first, then your behaviour will also change.

But here’s the thing: we can also ‘persuade’ our minds to think differently simply by changing what we do, i.e. by changing how we behave.

Think of the ‘Fake it ’til you make it’ slogan adopted by many women around a decade ago.  The idea was that, if you lacked the confidence to speak up in a meeting or walk into a room like you’re running it and you did it anyway, you would soon get used to behaving this way and your confidence would increase as a result, because you started believing that you could do it.  And there is psychological evidence that this is in fact how our mind works.

There are many different ways to think about this, but the fact remains:  we can in fact shift the way we think or feel about things by intentionally changing our behaviour first.

Here’s an example of when we do this more naturally, without thinking about how it works:  Remember the time when you didn’t think you could speak in public, or run, or sing, or dance the salsa?  Then you gave yourself a chance to learn by doing it, step by step.  Slowly, you started improving, started doing it more naturally (more habitually) and, little by little, you started thinking of yourself as a good public speaker, a runner, a person who sings or dances the salsa (or all of the above). So by doing something that seemed totally unnatural at first, you slowly shifted the outlook on your abilities about it.

If this works in other areas of our lives, can we also change the way we think about certain groups of people by changing how we treat them?

In my experience, we certainly can.  In fact, I have done it myself!  One example is when, a long time ago, I worked with a colleague who (for some unarticulated reason) I didn’t rate!  The colleague noticed my attitude and pulled me up on it by saying to me, ‘I sometimes feel like you don’t think I can do this well.’  And they were right,  I did think that.  From then on, I intentionally gave them stretch opportunities and didn’t jump in to ‘rescue’ them when I thought I would do a better job.  What happened surprised me and taught me all at once:  the person proved to me that they had a lot to contribute, that they were clever and creative, and that I had no rational reason whatsoever to doubt their abilities. In other words, my perception of their inability was based on an unconscious bias of mine.

I have checked my behaviour in other similar subsequent situations, pulled back and allowed people to step forward and succeed on their own merit. Every time, I was pleasantly surprised by what the other person was able to do.  Since then, my mindset has shifted dramatically; I recognise that my way is not the only way, and that there is richness and reward in letting others do things their way, even when I might initially think they are not yet ‘ready’ or ‘experienced’ or ‘capable’ enough.

If you would like to try shifting your behaviours so you can enjoy the benefit of an updated mindset, here are a few suggestions to try:

  • When you catch yourself thinking, ‘This person has nothing to contribute to this conversation’ because they haven’t said much at the meeting, change your behaviour.  Try asking them, ‘What are your thoughts on this topic?’ and giving them space to think and respond.
  • When you’re mentoring a young person and thinking they can learn a lot from you, ask yourself what you can learn from them.  Ask them, ‘How are things going for you?’,  ‘What are you learning/enjoying/excelling at?’, ‘What opportunities or challenges have you noticed or taken up?’ or ‘What would you differently if you were the boss?’
  • When you’re thinking, ‘My boss knows nothing about this area of expertise, how on earth are they going to lead the team?’, treat them as if they were an expert (perhaps as a people leader rather than a subject matter), and lend a hand as and when necessary to update them or supply any necessary insights.

Of course, to change our behaviour we must first become aware of the current beliefs and mindset that are leading us astray and precluding us from doing things differently.  Becoming aware of our beliefs and assumptions might require some help from a good friend, a colleague, or from your trusted EDI coach and partner, Voice At The Table. And then you can start changing your behaviour in order to shift your own mindset.

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Three Popular Window Dressing Initiatives Disguised As Impactful EDI Interventions 

A Word About EDI Support

A Word About EDI Support

By Inge Woudstra

Hi, I’m Inge Woudstra. In addition to being one of Voice At The Table’s principal Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) consultants, I have recently taken on the role of Client Engagement Lead.

In this capacity, I’d like to ask you a few questions:
  • Is your organisation committed to creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace?
  • What are its EDI aims this year?
  • Do you understand what they mean, and what it would be like if they were achieved?
If these questions aren’t easy for you to answer, don’t worry; you won’t be alone.  The EDI Journey can be overwhelming, especially at the start, and it’s a long and winding road, but we have used our years of experience to make a clear plan.  Our EDI Journey Roadmap© (see below) clarifies the key stages and milestones that organisations pass through as they strive for greater Inclusion.

Using this simple tool, along with more detailed work such as our Inclusion Diagnostic© process, we can help you identify where your company is right now.  This is important, because where you currently are on the EDI Journey affects what we recommend you do first.


The Right Solutions at the Right Time
We support organisations across all phases of the EDI Journey, and where we begin always depends on where your organisation already is.  It is important that any training, coaching or consultancy undertaken is suitable for the seniority of participants and appropriate for the EDI progress that’s already been made within the organisation.

As you can see above, you might begin your journey with nobody really ‘getting’ EDI or seeing the point of seeking greater Inclusion, but in the final stages of the journey there will be clear EDI aims and measures that have been cascaded throughout the company.  Once you reach the final milestones on your EDI Journey, everyone will be benefiting from the increased Diversity – and greater diversity of thinking – brought by improved Equity and Inclusion.


Getting There
That’s the ideal position then, but how do we get there?  Organisational change of this type and magnitude requires a shift in mindset. We have found that this can be brought about, developing more inclusive behaviours throughout a company’s leadership, teams, meetings and processes.

We now use an interactive/clickable version of our EDI Journey Roadmap© on our website, where you can identify where you are and what intervention might be most impactful at each stage and for every level of staff and leader.  As an example, in the early stages of the journey, we often work with senior leaders to help them set their EDI Ambition, conducting Diversity Data Assessments and other analytical approaches that can help focus EDI efforts into a clear EDI Strategy and Action Plan. Importantly, however, we also offer training and support for HR or hiring managers, employee network groups and emerging leaders, often beginning with developing Inclusive Behaviours and mitigating bias.

So, what we offer depends on where the organisation currently is on the EDI Journey Roadmap© and who we are brought in to support.  You can see the breadth of services we can offer, from training and talks to long-term consultancy, on our What We Do page. We can provide the level of support that best fits your ambition, current position and budget.  If you’d like to talk to us about where you are and what might help you most to move forward, please do get in touch.


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In The Name of EDI

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

At the beginning of March, we encouraged each other to “Inspire Inclusion” for International Women’s Day.  To us, Inclusion is inspired, or successfully created, when people are able to contribute with their very finest thinking, without limitation or restriction.  When they don’t have to spend emotional energy on worrying how what they say might be (mis)interpreted and know that the only way their thoughts and ideas will be received is with encouragement and support.  As a result, they can dig deep into their experience and cast a wide net for ideas in order to contribute with their freshest thinking.

It’s been said on many occasions that Voice At The Table is known for its inclusive approach (amongst other things).  So, this has got me thinking: What is it that we do as a matter of course that makes people say this?

This is what I have observed in our interactions with others:

Five things we do that create Inclusion 

1. We listen before we speak. 

It sounds like such a cliché to say this.  The fact remains, very few of us can do it well.  Listening to hear the person, not just to wait for our turn to speak. Listening to understand and encourage further thinking, not to agree or disagree with the point they’ve made.  Listening to allow a person to go where they need to go in their thinking, not to rush ahead and finish their sentence for them.  This kind of listening requires discipline.  And it’s incredibly difficult to do. It is a leadership skill in scarce supply – the ultimate challenge!  It’s so much easier to think that sharing our experience is more valuable to others than what they might have to say.

Listening ranges from everyday superficial listening – the kind of listening you and I do all the time – to active listening (where we look out for things that aren’t said), to generative listening (the kind of attentive listening that generates the finest thinking in the speaker), to extreme listening.   Do you have the skills to listen at all these levels?  It’s something we are working on with clients all the time.

2. We are comfortable with vulnerability.  

Being vulnerable is scary.  We might come across as foolish, unknowing, inexperienced or weak.  Who wants that?  And yet, being comfortable with vulnerability is in fact a strength.  It invites more meaningful insights and builds trust.  When a person feels safe being vulnerable, they are laying their trust in another to hold that vulnerability.  They trust that they won’t be judged, and that frees up emotional energy.

We honour people by not judging them.  By showing that we are not better than they are, we are maybe just a few steps ahead on the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) journey. We create a space where people don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about their unconscious bias. We understand that leaders may not have needed to focus on becoming an inclusive leader or creating diverse and inclusive teams in the past.  We know that, if we manage to make people feel safe being vulnerable, we have managed to open their minds and prepare them for a mindset shift.

3. We call out biases in a safe and friendly way.  We all have them!  

Those who feel safe and have the courage to be vulnerable with us generally also want to learn about their biases.  By understanding that all brains are biased, we can begin to identify and mitigate the biases that create the biggest obstacles to creating Diversity in the workplace.  We work together to uncover the seemingly benign everyday statements that hide underlying judgments and assumptions; statements that might limit a person’s progress or make them feel unwelcomed or unvalued.   Together we explain, discuss and find ways to recognise and address circumstances in which these statements and behaviours might arise.  In this way, we increase the levels of self-awareness to understand when one might say something innocently meant and yet cutting; we develop strong antennae that help people predict when something they might say may land clumsily at the feet of another (we call this empathy).  In this way, disrupting biased behaviours and practices at work becomes a more achievable, realistic target.

4. We think before we speak (most of the time). 

Of course, we don’t always know the right thing to say, and we have all put our foot in it from time to time.  That’s understandable and to be expected.  All we ask – and practise ourselves – is that we think before we speak.  A short pause to consider how what one might say might be received goes a long way to limit embarrassment and prevent potentially undoing the progress that’s being made towards Inclusion.  This is particularly true for those of us who are leaders. Leaders cast long shadows – and a whisper by a leader is heard as a shout. Leaders therefore have even more of a responsibility to think before they speak.  If only someone shared this advice with some of the more prominent global figures who irresponsibly utter the most thoughtless and harmful things out loud.

5. We notice when we judge or assume.  

It might be impossible to never judge or make assumptions, but we can develop a habit of noticing when we do this and ask ourselves: So what?  How does what we assume about another matter?  And once we’ve learned to do this, it is impossible to unlearn.  We hear and see judgments and assumptions everywhere – how we look at someone with ink all over their body, how someone else goes out of their way to be polite and respectful to one person and doesn’t even look at the face of another who is judged to be less trustworthy, how people assume things about us based entirely on societal prejudices and expectations.  We also know that we can’t change what others do, but we can change how we behave, so we can be a bit more forgiving, not jump to conclusions, and overcome erroneous first impressions by giving people a chance.  That is what we do.

Inspiring Inclusion isn’t as easy as it seems.  It requires a whole set of different behaviours, an outlook on life and an attitude that sees others for their positive contributions rather than seeing them as being in competition with us for a scarce resource.  It’s a way of being rather than an action here and there – and that requires practice.  Bit by bit, step by step.  And once you’ve acquired a few of these new habits, start passing them on.  Then you can honestly say that you too know how to inspire Inclusion.

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Leading the EDI Transition

Being EDI-Minded: The Quickest Path from A to B

The Long Road to Full Gender Parity

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

I’m sure you’re aware that Friday 8 March, was International Women’s Day (IWD).  This week, we dedicate this newsletter to those working towards gender parity, the modern-day purpose of celebrating IWD.

Although, since women make up about 50% of the world’s population, one might wonder why we need to celebrate it at all. Alas, if we didn’t need to address Inclusion, Voice At The Table wouldn’t need to exist.  And perversely, we wish we didn’t have to be here.  But given that  it will take another 130 or so years before we reach gender parity, our future as an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) consultancy looks rather safe.

Closing the Gap
And yet, the writing on the wall is clear. An article in the Guardian just last week reiterated that ‘No country in the world affords women the same opportunities as men in the workforce, according to a new report from the World Bank, which found the global gender gap was far wider than previously thought. Closing the gap could raise global gross domestic product by more than 20%, said the report.’

And the World Economic Forum also observes that,

‘Gender equality continues to be one of the greatest human rights challenges, despite evidence outlining how it will improve the economy, society and protect the future of the planet.’

For these reasons and many more, this newsletter is dedicated to all women and men who are doing their part in fighting not just for justice and parity, but also for everyone to finally realise that holding back half the population doesn’t ultimately benefit anyone.

Women to Watch
The World Economic Forum celebrates IWD by featuring 10 female trailblazers who are working to improve our world.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to three of those remarkable women who are forging a better future for all.

Arancha González Laya
Arancha is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs in Spain and the current Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs.  As one of the founders of SheTrades, Arancha empowers women to engage in global trade and investment.  Established in 2015 with the International Trade Commission, SheTrades provides access to key knowledge, resources and networks, amongst many other things.

Xiye Bastida
At the age of 21, Xiye uses her voice to fight for climate change.  She founded Re-Earth and, as a member of the Otomi-Toltec Indigenous community, speaks eloquently about learning from previous generations to tackle the challenges of the future.  In this short TED talk, Xiye explains her stance.

Reshma Saujani
Reshma founded Girls Who Code and Moms First, and in late 2023 she launched, a chatbot that helps New Yorkers apply for state aid to support them taking leave to care for their new baby or if compassionate leave is required.  By making it easier for people to apply and receive the benefits they are entitled to and that help them put food on the table in times of need, helps close the poverty gap, especially for women.

Read more about gender equality and the various challenges and successful initiatives around the world that aim to address them here.  And as you read, I invite you to think about one small way you could act – in your office, your local community, indeed even at home – to level the playing field for women.

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5 Ways to Drive Diversity Beyond Gender

Taking Diversity Beyond Gender: The Necessary Mindset Shift

5 Ways to Drive Diversity Beyond Gender

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

As we prepared to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, I was reminded of the insights shared by our panel discussing how to take Diversity beyond gender.  Because, although we’re celebrating women on IWD, one of the key themes this year (and in many ways every other year too) is how to Inspire Inclusion.  And that’s not a conversation that’s relevant to women only.  It’s easy for us to forget that gender is only one way to segment who we are.  But if we focus on the person as a whole, we’re much more likely to get Diversity right.

Inspired by the discussions in our conference panel, Taking Diversity Beyond Gender – The necessary mindset shift, here are 5 things to bear in mind:

1. When it comes to women, we’re not finished yet. When we talk about moving beyond gender, the driver is often EDI fatigue rather than because we’ve achieved what we set out to achieve.   The reality is, if we don’t continue to pay attention to attracting and retaining more women, we’re likely to fall behind.  Metrics do still matter, although they may have shifted from the percentage of women in the company to the percentage of women at the top.

2. Women aren’t just one thing.   The other thing that’s easy to forget is that, when we’re aiming to hire/promote/retain more women, we’re also hiring/promoting/retaining other diverse groups.  While women make up approximately 50% of the world’s population, they also make up some of the other minority groups, depending on their ethnicity, sexuality, level of ability, age and so on.  So, although we might measure how successful we are in improving our gender figures, we should remember that our success also covers other under-representations.  As one of our speakers said, when she thinks of her own identity, she thinks of herself as being Black first, then she thinks of herself as being a woman.

3. Measuring gender Diversity is a way of measuring Inclusion.  The conversation around how to take Diversity beyond gender inevitably focuses on Inclusion: How do we create a culture in which everyone feels valued?  And how successful are we in creating this culture? It can be particularly difficult to measure levels of improvements for smaller underrepresented groups.   But one way we can measure this is by measuring our impact on improving gender-based metrics.  If, for instance, more women can move up through the organisation and fewer leave at a certain level, the implemented changes that have caused this improvement are also likely to improve Inclusion for other underrepresented groups.  This means we can apply what we already know works to develop a successful intersectional approach that improves Diversity beyond gender alone.

4. Improve Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Empathy and you improve Inclusion.  Our panellists agreed that some of the key leadership characteristics defining today’s Inclusive Leader are EQ and empathy.  EQ is important so that we can feel comfortable being more vulnerable in the workplace.  Being more vulnerable strengthens our empathy muscle by allowing us to share and in this way then invite others to share their journey.  This helps us recognise and mitigate bias and understand the impact of microaggressions.

5. Best Practice. It can be tempting to look for a region in the world that is leading the conversation on EDI, and this was one of the questions raised by a delegate at our conference.  When it comes to Diversity, is the UK ahead of other countries?  What about the US, where this topic seems to be sitting in one of the two ends of the spectrum:  on one hand, EDI with an activist purpose, and on the other hand, EDI being seen as a distraction from everything else that’s more important. And what about countries in Asia and beyond?

We heard that Australia’s approach to disability is forward-thinking, with a focus on empowering and enabling rather than ‘rescuing’, but what about the other areas?  And how do we reconcile this conversation from a global perspective with countries in which some of the elements are literally punishable by law?  As there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to EDI, the conversation around focusing on gender becomes even more important, even if it’s just about developing some norms and practices that we know work for one Diversity group and trialling them with others.

Whatever conversations you’ll be having around IWD, the most important part is to have them.  Engage as many minds in this topic as possible and continue to emphasise their importance until people around you are prepared to take some positive action.  And remember, small changes in behaviour lead to big mindset shifts.

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Taking Diversity Beyond Gender: The Necessary Mindset Shift


7 Ways to Ensure Your Employee Network is A Success


7 ways to ensure your employee network is a success

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

At our conference last month, we learned from our speakers about the continuing importance of employee networks. It can, however, be a struggle to sustain the initial levels of engagement and motivation that accompany the launch of a network.  So how do we demonstrate the need for a network and continue to motivate volunteers to commit their precious time to the running of a network?  In other words, what is the secret to the success of the employee network?

Here are 7 things that our panellists agreed add to the success of an employee network:

1. Executive sponsorship is important.  It’s important to make sure networks are aligned with the strategy at the top, and senior sponsors can ensure that this is visible at the executive level.  It’s also essential to have strong allies who can facilitate strategic collaborations with HR and the Board/the CEO, and even external organisations, e.g., vendors or clients.
2. Invest and be inclusive.  Don’t let the network be one person’s passion project; networks need to be inclusive.  Have at least one network (for instance an environmental network) that is for everyone!  Budget is also important, whether for events or for internal activism, such as making the office a paper-free zone or adopting a feng shui approach to common spaces.
3. Visibility throughout the firm and cross-collaboration between networks can help with success.   Bringing together all the employee network volunteers once in a while is a powerful acknowledgment of the value they add.
4. Raising awareness of the purpose of the network is a good reminder of what it’s there for.  Any creative ways to bring attention to networks and  draw people in to find out more can also boost understanding of what they’re about and help reduce bias.
5. Reward volunteers for giving up their time for free.  Allow them to record what they do as part of their professional goals, including goals towards greater Inclusion.  Also, allow volunteers to leverage executive sponsorship, as it can be an incentive to get to know senior leaders through the network they support.  Many networks also have links to external organisations, and in this way they can create opportunities beyond the office.
6. Agree a network charter to make everything clear, including the purpose of the network, its remit, opportunities and collaborations.  The charter can also set out terms of reference and engagement with departments such as HR, and clearly set out the value that the network brings to the organisation and its business.
7. Celebrate successes and make them very visible throughout the organisation.  Show other potential volunteers and members what the network has accomplished and how it has added value to the people of the organisation as well as the business.

Employee networks are still as important now as they were 10 years ago, but how they achieve success has changed over the years.  What have you seen that adds to the success of your employee networks?

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10 Bitesize learnings from our conference

ERGS and Staff Networks: Looking back and gazing forward

10 bitesize learnings from our conference

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

At our conference in February 2024, we gathered together 120 committed people who believe that we all have a part to play in driving Diversity over the next decade.

Our panel discussions were lively, honest and thought-provoking, and we all learnt a great deal from each other.  We are grateful to the panellists, our moderators and the other EDI advocates in the room, who brought a range of challenging and productive questions to the discussions.

When it comes to progressing EDI, here are 10 learning points from the conference:

1. Employee Networks are still important.  Their focus has shifted from being purely support and event-driven to facilitation of EDI strategy and collaborating with EDI leaders to achieve impactful results.

2. Make the extraordinary more ordinary.  It’s valuable to acknowledge great achievements by members of underrepresented groups.  But what we need even more is to see what we think of as ‘unusual’ to be part of the norm. Two men holding hands, a person in a wheelchair shopping alongside ourselves, female leaders being referred to simply as ‘leaders’. When we’re able to see the unusual as usual is when we will get closer to true Inclusion.

3. Allies are key, especially those with the power to influence. Male leaders, for instance, as executive sponsors or advocates, when they lead by example and speak up when others might not.

4. There is still a divergence between what leaders think is important and what employees think is important, as often evidenced in pulse surveys and similar metrics.

5. Listening and empathy remain the top leadership skills evading many leaders. This makes it more difficult for these leaders to be truly inclusive and, in this way, to create psychological safety in their teams.

6. Although intersectionality is an important aspect of Diversity, we also need to understand that people have a hierarchy of their own identities. For instance, many Black women see themselves as Black first, then as women. Another example is people with disabilities who are also members of the LGBTQIA+ community might be perceived first as a person with disabilities but they would describe themselves for example as gay before disabled.

7. Because we know that diverse voices lead to better results, it’s important to create structured ways for people from underrepresented groups to progress. In this way, their voice can be more impactful.

8. Ask yourself: as an organisation, is this the best we can do?  And take the conversation from there. It is remarkable how motivating it can be to put yourself to the test of what’s possible and needed.

9. Anything that’s truly good requires hard work. When it comes to EDI, we need to be reminded of this when we’re asked to do things that are not easy. “It’s tough, but we’ll get there!”

10. Having four or five generations in the workplace is a gift. We just need to understand how to take advantage of it.

Does any of the above speak to you?  Or, if you were there on the day, was there anything else that made a big impact on you?  Please take a moment to share with us – we would love to hear your insights.

Suggested Reading

Leading the EDI Transition

Bridging the Generation Gap: How to make the most of everyone’s experience