Where are you on the EDI Journey?

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

The EDI journey is a long one, with several levels of maturity.  Each level of maturity requires a different type of intervention that will help organisations move on to the next level.

But how can you tell at which stage of the journey your organisation is?

Below we share some tell-tale signs to help you genuinely assess where you might be.

Stage 1: Don’t Get It! 

If you’re one of the few organisations out there who are still struggling to see the benefits of EDI, there will be lots of signs that indicate this.  For starters, you might still have an all-male, all white Board.  (You may have come across criticism of listed companies with these characteristics, particularly in EDI reports, such as the Hampton Alexander Review.)

Other indications are a complete lack of diversity representation on your website, both in pictures and/or words, no mention of diversity or inclusion in any of the company values, mission or vision. There might even be an occasional, sometimes public, statement by a C-Suite representative that indicates a lack of understanding of the benefits of EDI.

It’s fair to say that there are not many companies currently at this stage, but they do exist.

 

Stage 2: Window Dressing 

At this stage, a company understands the need for EDI, but hasn’t quite bought into its benefits.  So it puts on a show for stakeholders like clients and employees, to say the right things without actually believing in them.

Tell-tale signs include EDI-related announcements without any evidence of a genuine belief in them.  An example of this is a law firm that has vowed to do more about diversity and failed to list any female lawyers on its expert team for any high-profile project such as Brexit.

Look for conflicting messaging and actions to see whether your company might be at this stage of the EDI journey.

 

Stage 3: Let’s Fix It! 

Here, the focus is on equality.  We recognise that, socially speaking, it’s important to do the right thing and have a diverse representation in the business, one that reflects our society.

Indications that your company is at this point of the journey include statements made about society, equality and values.  There’s a focus on eradicating (or at least addressing) ‘ism’s’ such as sexism and racism.  There’s a hint of activism or politicking to the EDI declarations, and a desire to right a wrong.

While the desire to do the right thing is not misplaced, EDI initiatives that are motivated by it will be less successful.

 

Stage 4: Diversity as an Opportunity 

At this stage, there is active recognition and acknowledgement that EDI is the way of the world of business, that no business can succeed without fully embracing EDI values and actions.  This stage is manifested in narrative that aligns EDI efforts with an organisation’s purpose, mission and/or vision.   An example of this is Google, whose EDI statement acknowledges its business ambitions:

Stage 5: Building the Foundation 

At this stage, the leadership is doing a lot of work on understanding and personally engaging with the EDI journey of the company.  In teams and one-to-one sessions, leaders are working through their own biases, perceptions and understanding of the world; they challenge themselves and invite challenge from others; and they weave EDI into their conversations with their respective teams and team leaders.  Leaders are on the journey to becoming Inclusive Leaders by being cognisant of their own shortcomings and including EDI in everything they do.

 

Stage 6: Growing and Nurturing 

This stage is indicative of diversity targets that are realistic and address systemic biases.  Support teams are working on changing processes and models to mitigate biases that have crept in.  Managers and leaders are trained on inclusive behaviours, bias recognition and inclusion nudges.

 

Stage 7: Immersed and Fully Benefitting 

Only a handful of companies might find themselves at this stage.  These are organisations that have a tried and tested process of spotting and addressing bias in their systems, they have a leadership team that is well-versed in the characteristics of Inclusive Leadership, and they have succeeded in attracting and retaining a wide diversity of people at all levels.

Examples of companies in this stage may include Diageo, the 3i Group and Easyjet.

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I hope the explanation above helps you determine where your organisation is.  In  coming issues of our newsletter, we will be sharing relevant initiatives and interventions that help organisations to progress from one stage to the next.

That said, what’s most important is to remember is that there is no shame or blame for being at any of the early stages of the EDI journey.  The stages are merely a reflection of levels of maturity and every company will be on its own trajectory.  We’re all part of the same society, with different influences on how we evolve and how quickly we progress.

What is more important is to be honest with oneself and to genuinely embrace that stage, so that constructive steps to move ahead can be taken.

Only Vested Leaders Succeed

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

How would you like to be led through a transformation when your leader doesn’t appear to know how to get there, or even what the ultimate outcome should be?

This is what the EDI transformation feels like in many organisations these days. Our leaders are often reluctant to take on the responsibility of leading this change, even when they are personally on board with it.

The problem is that there’s naturally a direct correlation between a leader’s engagement with and understanding of the EDI transformation and the success of that process.

Let me share some examples to illustrate what I mean:

  1. A clearly articulated EDI ambition 

One of the companies we’ve been working with had been on the EDI transformation journey for years.  They had implemented lots of initiatives, celebrated milestone events like International Women’s and Men’s Days, had beautiful brochures about EDI’s importance to the organisation and had even instituted targets for the recruitment and promotion of women.

After years of heading in this direction, the CEO of the company realised that it’s impossible to achieve goals without understanding why and what those goals will actually do for the company.  This is when we got involved.

The CEO reached out and asked us to work with their executive team to articulate a clear EDI ambition for the company, one that felt like their own, that aligned with the company business mission and vision, and that people across the entire company could relate to.

In order to do this, we embarked on the exercise of understanding how much the executive team was actually vested in this transition, how much they understood what it needed to achieve and why it was necessary.  It is only after many individual conversations and a few workshops that we noticed a shift in how members of the executive teams viewed the EDI transformation and the reality of achieving it.

The team now understands what it takes to get there, what obstacles are likely to appear and how to tackle them. Now that the entire executive is vested and equipped with knowledge and understanding, they can productively lead their own respective teams with significant rates of success.

 

  1. Engaging personally 

Another Voice client had also been working on the EDI transformation for years, without much success. This company has an extensive in-house EDI team that has been launching and implementing a lot of great initiatives. This team managed to arouse lots of interest and motivation with many of the employees, but the stats were not shifting. This lack of visible progress and the consequential disillusionment became a hindrance to progress. When a frustrated senior director on the company’s executive team reached out to us, we suggested working with the leadership team to create the necessary momentum and motivation.

We are working with the senior leadership, as a team and with its individual team members.  We are working to create an understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and how personal understanding and engagement with the EDI transformation creates the leadership credibility with employees that’s needed to achieve cultural transformation.

We are working on answering difficult questions for the senior leaders and we will move on to do the same for their teams. Questions include:

  • How do we expand diversity when the numbers of diverse applicants are not available?  
  • If we promote women just because they’re women, isn’t that just positive discrimination?  
  • What’s the point of all this when the company itself isn’t consistent in its EDI approach?  

Once they understand the underlying assumptions and genuine reasons for the resistance they will encounter, these leaders will be able to address them, and convert scepticism into motivation.

  1. Overcoming resistance 

Another senior leadership team struggled to convey the importance of the company’s EDI transformation.  They simply didn’t have the right words to motivate and galvanise their people and therefore they succumbed to the loud voices objecting to the journey.

We worked with them on 3 things, as follows:

 i. Understanding where the loud voices came from. There is a small minority of the population – the so-called Laggards – who need more time than most of us to adopt change. Some never do. Yet this small part of the population (15-20%) are often the loudest voices objecting to the change.  Because of this, we tend to focus our efforts on this minority and forget about the other 80%+ of the population who could be poised to come along – and who need our guidance. This is an important understanding in EDI transformation: If we focus on the minority voices too much, we are more likely to derail our own efforts.  But if we simply give this part of the population the extra time they need, and focus our efforts on leading the remainder of the population through the transformation, the chances of success greatly increase.

ii. Building confidence in staying the course. Leading something when we have little faith in its success is difficult, especially if we don’t really know how to accomplish it. But by personally engaging with the EDI journey – i.e. going on it ourselves – we increase our confidence in achieving the transformation.  This confidence then shines through everything we say and do, and makes it much easier to gain wider support.

iii. Developing a vocabulary that builds momentum and support. Educating oneself on the important elements of EDI is something no leader can avoid anymore.  As in any other business transformation, confidence in leadership is derived from seeing and hearing that the leader knows what they’re talking about. Using the right vocabulary, simplifying concepts and being able to explain them are all part of building the requisite influence and credibility to successfully lead the EDI transition. It is therefore every leader’s responsibility to educate themselves in this regard.

 

In summary, those leaders who personally engage with the EDI transformation, making it a clear business mission and committing to it, are the ones who succeed in shifting the needle on culture change in their organisation.  After all, these leaders understand that the reason they’re doing this is to drive business success – and if that’s not enough motivation for leadership, what is?

 

The Landscape of EDI in 2023

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

I hope you have had a good break and that you are returning to work with resolve and vigour to make this year the year when you personally make a measurable contribution to the success of your organisation’s EDI efforts.   And, if you’d like us to, we will be by your side to help.

In fact, this year we will be focusing on the entire Diversity Roadmap Journey(SM).  Throughout the year we will be talking about each of the seven stages of the Journey, giving you insights, tips and ideas for how to progress from wherever your organisation currently is on this Journey to the next stage.

Each week, we will bring you content for each one of the seven stages from 3 different perspectives:

  1. leadership
  2. organisational development and process
  3. practical tips and suggestions.

Each month we will also share guest blogs, podcasts, videos and articles of interest.  In this way, if you do nothing else other than read our newsletter, you will have access to resources that will help you make good on your goals for your EDI strategy and plans.

To ensure we bring you the most relevant content each time, we would be most grateful if you could take a few minutes to answer the following 3 questions in our Mentimeter survey:

  1. What influence do you have in your organisation’s EDI strategy decisions?
  2. What type of EDI support would be most useful to you?
  3. What type of media do you find most accessible?

The survey provides some options for you to consider as well as an opportunity to provide your own input.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts as we begin to curate a year of content that’s relevant and helpful to your EDI ambitions.

A whistle-stop tour of 2022 in seven blogs

By Suzanne Bird

As we look back on a very exciting and busy year for Voice At The Table, we have been reflecting upon the wide range of topics we have covered in our weekly newsletters, and which ones have most caught our readers’ attention.

This year’s newsletters and blogs have taken our 8 Inclusive Behaviours(SM), designed to deliver the benefits of diversity through increased inclusion, as an over-arching theme. The Inclusive Behaviours include four Inclusion Behaviours that help us be more inclusive – Empathy, Listening, Mitigating Bias and Personal Values – and four Diversity Behaviours that help us invite difference – Humility & Vulnerability, Valuing  Difference, Use of Language and Speaking Out.

These Behaviours have provided a loose thematic framework for different pieces of writing, from personal stories to helpful tips and workplace case studies. To celebrate this variety, I would like to share with you the seven most-read newsletter blogs of 2022. I hope you enjoy revisiting them with us!

Getting Started

Mark Walley, CEO of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), kindly wrote a guest blog for our first newsletter of 2022. Rather appropriately, this was on the subject of Getting Started With Diversity And Inclusion and Mark shared his experience of starting to introduce more D&I awareness and inclusive behaviours into STEP’s workplace culture. They have pursued numerous initiatives including their innovative “Windows into Lives” posts on Teams. As Mark explained, ‘Here, colleagues share something about themselves; their beliefs, culture, community or a calendar day that others may not know so much about. It has been a great opportunity for colleagues to share and to learn. Through that there has been much greater understanding, appreciation and empathy.’

In January, Rina Goldenberg Lynch introduced our 8 Inclusive Behaviours(SM) in her blog, The Power of Inclusion. Rina described how ‘Each one of the 8 Behaviours is designed to help us improve in the way we connect with others – be it our colleagues, suppliers or customers.  Understanding the behaviours and improving in them increases our performance, engagement and connection with the world around us.’ To sum up the behaviour Empathy as an example, Rina quoted Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

The Impact of our Personal Values

Inge Woudstra contributed several very useful newsletters this year, often sharing ideas and tips to help break systemic bias and embed more inclusive practices in organisations. Reflecting on how the Inclusive Behaviour area of Personal Values can be applied to recruitment practices, Inge set out five practical ways in which an organisation can effectively attract candidates that reflect the company’s values and help it to benefit from increased diversity in its workforce. The tips are based on changes we have recommended to clients to reduce bias in the attraction process that, once implemented, have had real impact. You can read the article here: 5 Tips to Help You Attract Candidates for Diversity.

Still on the theme of Personal Values, Rina’s blog examining The Importance of Values was also very popular with readers. Rina wrote, ‘Company values can provide that sense of belonging by giving people certainty around the cultural framework of shared values.  Having shared values is key to any sense of community, within or outside the workplace.’

Mitigating Bias

While we were exploring Mitigating Bias and its impact as an Inclusive Behaviour,  Rina wrote a piece examining Common Biases Towards Women in the Workplace. This blog considered the damage these biases can inflict both on individual careers and on companies themselves, whilst making some simple suggestions on how to identify and tackle them.

I followed this up with a short blog that asked the question, Do We Really Need More #Breakthebias Campaigns? Although we have come a long way in recent decades, a quick look at recent news stories revealing lingering biases against women made it clear that – spoiler alert! – there is still a lot of work to do.

Speaking Out

Later in the year, we were exploring how we can all support inclusion by Speaking Out about bias and injustices at work. To give people the confidence to speak up when they witness inequality and a lack of inclusive practices, psychological safety is essential within teams. Inge’s popular blog on this topic, 7 Tips for Creating Safe Spaces for Speaking Out at Work, set out to help leaders develop an environment where people feel safe to share their thoughts and observations. Inge says, ‘These tips will help to ensure that people feel encouraged not only to share but also to disagree and be disagreed with, and know it’s okay to get it wrong.’ And if we can all do that, we know we are working in a safe space!

What’s Next?

We will continue to shape our weekly writings around a main theme in 2023, and this time we will use Voice At The Table’s Diversity Journey Roadmap©, so watch out for our first Roadmap blog in January!

7 Things Leaders Can Do to Become More Inclusive

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

I have been working with senior leaders quite a bit this year.  This is a change from previous years, one that I attribute to the fact that leaders are now more interested than ever in making a real difference to the level of Diversity and Inclusion in their organisations.  They are genuinely interested in creating a work environment that benefits from the great talent of those who are already there, as well as attract a level of diverse thinkers that will continue to enhance their teams’ performance and give them that elusive competitive advantage.

Voice At The Table tend to be engaged by leaders when the why becomes a how.  So, while we rarely need to make a big song and dance about the business case for Diversity and Inclusion these days, there is a level of acknowledgement that people don’t always know how to achieve Inclusion.  Of course, it takes more than a workshop, or even a few workshops, to make it happen.  That said, there are things that leaders can do almost immediately that will have a great impact on the level of inclusion and diversity in their teams.

Here are seven of them:

1. Create leadership and visibility opportunities for members of underrepresented groups.

Research shows that members of underrepresented groups tend to have fewer opportunities to shine.  By acknowledging this, a leader can address visibility to create additional opportunities to be seen.  For example, ask people to chair meetings as part of a rota.  Or ask those who might not usually be asked, to speak as part of a panel at an industry event, to speak in public or to give a presentation on a topic they’re familiar.  You might even nominate them for a sector award in order to improve their profile and create that all-important recognition.

2. Monitor and reduce interruptions in meetings and conversations.

Statistically speaking, women are interrupted three times more often than men – both by men and women!  The problem?  When someone is frequently interrupted, they become less motivated to contribute with their ideas and perspectives – and that’s the opposite of what we want to achieve as inclusive leaders.  How to address it?  Notice the pattern of interruptions and disrupt it by asking the interrupted person (once the interrupter is done speaking) to finish her or his thoughts.

3. Share stories with your team that communicate your fallibility, humility, and vulnerability.

People often mistake leaders for superhumans.  That makes it difficult for them to relate to leaders.  Moreover, identifying an unbridgeable gap between one’s abilities and those perceived of a leader contributes to imposter syndrome.  To avoid this, try sharing stories of when you’ve made mistakes, or talk about scenarios when you were less than perfect.  Share any experiences of feeling excluded – perhaps when living in a different culture or coming into a new school.  And then ask team members to share their stories and experiences.  This humility and vulnerability will not only create a stronger team bond, it will also encourage people to share significant, work-related information.

4. Take 5 minutes at meetings to talk about the benefits of Diversity and Inclusion to YOUR team.

This helps ensure that D&I is seen as the important business challenge that it is, and not something that we think about once in a while.  Try saying in your own words why and how it’s important to you as a leader, as well as to you as a person.  Encourage others in your team to do the same.

5. Ask team members to share what Inclusion means to them. 

I’ve learned that terminology means different things to different people.  Also, people don’t always think of D&I as something that happens on a daily basis.  By articulating what it means and what it looks like, it makes it easier for team members to understand how they can incorporate Inclusion into their daily work routines.

6. Appoint Bias and Appreciation Monitors.

Addressing bias and creating new inclusive habits is something best done in small, frequent steps.  Bias and Appreciation Monitors make this easier.  A Bias Monitor is a volunteer team member whose role it is to listen out for statements with built-in assumptions or stereotypes and watch out for biased behaviours.   As a Bias Monitor, when you hear or see a bias, you call attention to it, explaining what you have observed.  The one important rule about this is that the team must not argue with the observed behaviour.  The aim is to notice and acknowledge, not to explain it away.  Similarly, an Appreciation Monitor’s role is to notice inclusive behaviours and to point them out – within a similar structure.  In this way, it is easier to identify and encourage the types of behaviours we want more of, and the types of behaviours we want to minimise.

7. Check the potential impact of proposed decisions/changes on ALL stakeholder groups.

To make decisions or changes inclusive, develop a process or checklist addressing how that decision might impact people of different age groups, cultures, roles, etc.  In this way, decisions become more inclusive.  Once this practice become second nature (when we do this without the help of a checklist), we can be more certain that the services and solutions we provide to our clients will be well considered and more helpful.

Being more inclusive is not difficult.  What it does require is patience, perseverance and a little bit of courage.  A look in the mirror at a late stage in one’s career might not be a comfortable experience, but as leaders, we know that there is no end destination to learning – only a path that leads further and further.

 

5 Steps Towards Building Inclusion for Remote Teams

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

Last week, I was working with a team of leaders who tend to work remotely with their respective teams. In our workshop, they wanted to know how to maintain levels of engagement and foster a sense of inclusion given that they rarely see each other?

This is something that we have always found easier to do with informal interaction in the workplace –in the kitchens or by the watercoolers, impromptu coffees or beers after work, and general office chit-chat sparked by a weekend experience or a photo shared with another.  In other words, interacting face to face helped tremendously with the creation of team spirit, something that is more difficult to replicate when working remotely.

That’s not to say that there aren’t remote ways to maintain that team bond.  Many team leaders have already been doing that and there are lots of suggestions on how to do this best.

What I recommend, however, is to work with your team to find the way that works best for everyone – and this is what we did last week, as well.

Follow these five steps to come up with your tailored team approach to inclusion that is bound to work better than any general suggestions out there:

Together with your team…

1. List the things that you used to do (when everyone was in the office) to create engagement, motivation and team spirit.  Things like team bonding days, celebrating birthdays, bringing in food to share, informal conversations during lunch hour, etc.  Have a volunteer capture as many things as people can think of that made it easier for every team member to feel included and that they ‘belong’ to the team.

2. Now look at the completed list and cross out everything that you can no longer do as a result of remote working.  Things like sharing cakes or fruit with the team at the office or informal conversations around the watercooler, for example, will be the kinds of things that will be crossed off the list, as they require people to be in one place together.

3. The next step is to task the team (in small groups of 3 to 4) to come up with any and all ideas – no matter how obscure, expensive or unrealistic – that could replace the things that were crossed off in step 2.  The idea here is to cast as wide a net of creative ideas as possible.  For example, as a direct substitute for sharing food in the office, one could arrange for the delivery of cakes or fruit to each member of the team at home, to then share enjoy together during a virtual call, while chatting informally.  Or, as an alternative to the informal watercooler moments, an idea might be to create a ‘virtual watercooler’ that people can enter online during the day (just as they might check their Facebook or Twitter messages) to see who else happens to be there, and then pick up an informal short chat with them.  The aim is to create as long a list of initial ideas as possible, no matter how realistic they seem.  To get the creative juices to flow faster, give some examples first, such as the ones here.

4. Once you have a good long list of ideas, go through each one to see how realistic each one is.  For those that are more difficult, discuss what makes them difficult – Is it the cost?  The technology?  The time?  Once the obstacles are identified, ask the team to think of ways to address each specific obstacle.  For instance, in the example above of sending cakes/fruit to each person’s home, if cost is an obstacle, one way around it might be for each team member (who would like to participate) to pay a small amount into a kitty that goes towards a monthly virtual cake meet-up.  The organisation of this can be on a rotational basis.

5. Once you’ve come up with ‘replacement’ ideas for the kinds of things that you used to do when in the office and could now do remotely, challenge your team to come up with new ideas that will make it easier to feel a sense of belonging.  For instance, encourage team members to meet up for coffees once in a while.  As a team leader, you could also organise an informal gathering with everyone on a regular basis.  You can create opportunities for informal interactions – both online and in person – from virtual quizzes and murder mysteries to in-person escape room experiences and karaoke nights.

Creating a sense of inclusion and belonging does not follow one particular formula.  There are many ways in which we can show each other that we care, in which we can listen to each other and empathise.  The fact that life has made it more difficult for us to continue to do these things the way we used to do them should not mean we don’t try to do them at all.  Instead, look for new opportunities and create new and exciting ways and traditions to bring the human element into your teams to create the team spirit and sense of ease and belonging.  A team that feels a strong sense of belonging will be far more likely to feel engaged and motivated to perform.  And that, in my opinion, is a win-win situation.

What Gender Equality Can Do For Men

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

19th November was International Men’s Day – did you know?  If so, how did you mark it?

Here at Voice At The Table, we choose to look at it as yet another opportunity to bring the benefits of diversity and inclusion to people, particularly those who might feel aggrieved by it, side-lined, left behind.

Let’s face it, the fact that #feminism is aimed to liberate not just women but men, too (in fact, people of all genders), is not a new idea.  As the eloquent Gloria Steinem wrote in the Washington Post in 1970,  ‘We want to liberate men from [Society’s] inhuman roles as well’.

The piece that Steinem wrote in 1970 still resonates today.  Women are still facing as many societal restrictions as before, despite appearances to the contrary.  Take, for instance, the impact that the Covid pandemic had on working women, from which we have yet to recover.  Similarly, therefore, there have not been many changes to the role of men in society.  There is still an old-fashioned expectation that men must be tough, hide their emotions, and be aggressive and dominant.  One recent study shows that ‘58% of men surveyed thought society expected them to be emotionally strong, not show weakness and to be able to fix things.’

These societal expectations are in direct conflict with another dominant movement of men wanting to share responsibilities in the home and with their families, wanting to spend time on hobbies and endeavours that aren’t work related, and to hold more fulfilling (as opposed to financially motivated) positions at work.  Modern masculinity is about redefining the role of men.  Here are a few examples of men who have embraced modern masculinity:

  1. Sean the father
Sean is the founder of The Dad Gang, aiming to dispel the stereotype that black men are not as present in their children’s lives as white men.  In Sean’s opinion, fathers are ‘not just providers and protectors; we’re also nurturers and caregivers. We don’t have to be traditionally masculine – we can be homemakers.’  He goes on to say ‘I think masculinity is changing in a positive way. We’re a lot more in tune with self-care now and more people are realising that dads need a break.  The dad doesn’t always have to be the disciplinarian, either. We’re really starting to scratch the surface of what those different nuances are.’
  1. Chris the yoga instructor

Chris took to yoga as a necessity, to heal his many rugby injuries.  Through yoga, Chris arrived at the revelation that men don’t have to be the best at everything; it’s OK to simply enjoy the journey.  Yoga taught Chris to dispel negativity and not see oneself simply as either a success or a failure – something a lot of men tend to determine quickly.

Chris believes in balance.  ‘There’s nothing wrong with embracing masculinity. I’m still very much a man and I still have moments of aggression and bravado, but equally I have moments of softness and sensitivity. You don’t have to pick a side of the fence. There is no fence.’

  1. Elliott the cycling instructor

Elliott found courage to talk about opening up and about connection.  Despite appearing ‘manly’ (Elliott has a beard and speaks with a Northern accent), he has no trouble speaking openly about feelings.  Given that many men don’t feel comfortable to speak openly about feelings, Elliott thinks that men tend not to reach out for help – to professionals or their friends.  Elliott believes that men mistake showing emotions with weakness; being societally wired never to show weakness, many men hide their emotions, which can lead to serious mental health challenges.

Elliott believes that looking after yourself – physically and emotionally – is something every man should feel liberated to do.  Accepting who you are as a man – whatever preferences – makes you feel more confident, and that’s something he encourages in those around him.  ‘There’s no set definition of masculinity,’ Elliott adds.  Being comfortable in one’s own skin is what matters.

Modern masculinity is on the rise, and women’s ongoing demands to be given the opportunity to be themselves and be accepted as equals makes it easier for men to do the same.  ‘It’s about yin and yang, the balance of all things. Yin is female energy and yang is male energy, and the feminine lives within the masculine, and the masculine within the feminine.’

In reflecting upon another International Men’s Day, you may be able to draw parallels to the efforts of women to free themselves of labels and expectations.  If we embrace gender parity together, the chances are we will all benefit from it.

How celebrities use their privilege to speak out

By Inge Woudstra

We often notice something isn’t quite inclusive, but may feel it’s not the time or not our place to speak out about it. As discussed in a previous blog, it’s also not easy to speak up whilst preserving good relationships.  We may even think that our actions will not make a difference anyway; after all, what can one person do?

To show you that the actions of one person can certainly make a difference, this week we share with you a few notable examples.

Colin Kaepernick – protest against racial injustice 

Colin is the American football quarterback who first took the knee during the national anthem. In 2016, he remained seated during the playing of the national anthem prior to the game, whereas it’s customary to stand. It was his way to protest against racial injustice, police brutality, and oppression in his country. The following week, and throughout the season, Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem. His actions resulted in a wider protest movement with global impact, for instance drawing attention to racism during sports games in the UK.

His protests gained renewed attention in 2020 amid the George Floyd protests against police brutality. There was a personal cost to his actions, as many people denounced him for taking the knee and he no longer has a permanent contract with an NFL team, but he has had an incredible impact by raising these issues. One of the reasons he was so successful in drawing attention to his actions and their meaning is that other people joined him, starting with his teammate Eric Reid.  Sometimes you don’t have to be the one drawing initial attention to something; supporting someone else can be enough.

Soma Sara – anti-rape movement 

Soma is the founder of the anti-rape movement Everyone’s Invited. After watching a tv series on rape, Soma shared her personal experiences of rape culture in her UK school via Instagram. Rape culture is when attitudes, behaviours and beliefs have the effect of normalising and trivialising sexual violence. Within a week she had received and shared over 300 responses from people who could relate to her experiences or shared their own similar experiences. This prompted her to start Everyone’s Invited – a place where survivors of rape culture can share their stories anonymously. The site went viral and so far over 16,000 testimonies have been submitted, naming schools and universities. Schools responded, the police started an investigation, the government launched an investigation, the NSPCC set up a helpline, and Ofsted initiated a review into abuse in schools. The movement also inspired a support group initiative offering support to survivors. All this was achieved in less than 2 years.

Soma’s actions show that sometimes sharing your own experience can prompt others to do the same. When Soma received an overwhelming number of responses she didn’t shrink from this, but instead decided to take action and help survivors share. When speaking up we don’t have to have a political agenda; sharing in itself can be a powerful experience.

Fu Yuanhui – menstruation and sports performance

Fu is the Olympic swimmer from China who spoke up about her menstruation impacting her performance at the Olympics in 2016. It spurred a wider discussion about the impact of menstruation on exercise and sports and helped draw funding to further research. Until that point, research had been scant. Fu’s actions show that speaking out doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make a feminist statement or do something extraordinary. Sometimes, it’s just about openly sharing what is happening in your life, as Fu did.  Other recent examples of this include sportswomen such as Emma Radacanu and Naomi Osaka being open about their mental health.

 

 

Greta Thunberg – climate strike action 

Greta is an environmental activist who is known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action for climate change mitigation. Her influence and actions seem formidable. Yet her actions show we can start small. Greta started by convincing her parents to reduce their footprint. When she was 15, she started her school strike for climate by standing in front of the Swedish parliament with a sign. That resulted in a local school strike, global school strikes, an invite to address the UN, and now being a major influencer and receiving many awards including nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Ed Sheeran – digital detox  

In 2015, British singer Ed Sheeran posted to his fans on Facebook and Twitter that he would take a break from social media. A year later, a survey found that 51% people would consider a ‘digital detox’ after learning Ed’s reasons for doing so. Ed revealed that the constant pressure of responding to messages and emails took a toll on his mental health. Other celebrities followed, or shared that they never used social media. Many people were inspired to follow suit.

Ed was not the only celebrity announcing this publicly, and he wasn’t the inventor of the concept of digital detox, which goes to show we don’t have to be original, or the first one to act, in order to inspire others. Ed was famous, and we may not have that same reach, but any one of us is in a position to influence a family member, a friend, our work team, or the people in our organisation

These five examples show that each one of us, in our own way, can make a difference when we speak out. We hope these stories will inspire all of us to do something too: make a gesture, share our story, share something that usually would be considered private, or take a stand.

Next time, when you see something that isn’t inclusive, I hope you can remember that one person can make a difference, just as these five people did.