Inclusion, Equity and Diversity

Happy New Year! Can we still say that on the 14th January? I hope so.

If you missed us last week you missed a treat. Go on tell them… anyway it’s good to have you back and it’s good to be sharing our thoughts for what we think 2020 may hold.

What is reflecting the zeitgeist? Come to think of it what is the zeitgeist? Well it’s literally the German for time and spirit as you know 😊 but the dictionary definition is “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time”.

So, in terms of business and people in business, what is the defining mood of our particular time?

Last week we mentioned how conversations have started to shift to talk more about: the environment and global concerns.

  • How life-long learning both in and out of work is essential.
  • How diversity, equity and inclusion has become more than just a fad but a non-negotiable with forward thinking companies across the globe.
  • Physical and mental health is thankfully now in the mainstream too and is now a vital consideration for both employers and employees.

About three years ago, two unconnected but similarly thoughtful clients and friends suggested we should look at Unconscious Bias. It was at that point that we were introduced to the wonderful book Blind Spot by Mazharin Banaji and Antony Greenwald.

The brilliant sub-heading or subtitle of the book is ‘The hidden biases of good people’ and it set us off a’ thinking.

Obviously, we all think we are good people and to a greater or lesser extent we all demonstrate that ‘goodness’ all the time through our actions, opinions and even personal thoughts. But what if we weren’t quite as equitable and fair-minded as we thought. Well, read the book.. follow some of the practices… take a Harvard IAT test.. and you will find for yourself just how ‘enlightened’ and ‘good’ you are.

And please be assured that this is not meant as a gauntlet thrown down by the blameless, faultless, guilt free perfect beings at Purple Monster.

On the contrary, looking into this work has thrown up our own doubts, biases, micro inequities and highlighted times when we have neglected to be as inclusive as we should.

In a way that is the very point of considering this subject in the first place. Because of our history, geography and upbringing we have been broadly brought up in a time where inequities have existed in the workplace and where a ‘traditional’ look at the world is the norm.

It is a constant challenge to ourselves and to everyone to ‘check our privilege’ and consciously take time to consider a new and more diverse approach.

1. Ensure all panels, speakers, contributors have diverse backgrounds and thinking

So we thought that we should take the same approach to planning meetings and conferences and apply this lens to looking at the way we shape our designs.

We are very fortunate to work with some very forward thinking and high calibre people. The two clients and friends that we mentioned earlier are examples of this.

One is a senior executive with a very large multinational company who has chosen to follow a D&I agenda fully and encouraged us to do the same.

The other is a life force, also performing a vital role in a global company. Open minded, thoughtful, kind and the sort of teacher who we know we will be talking about as an influence on our lives for years to come.

They come from very different backgrounds, are based in different locations and are scrupulously fair when planning events. They are ideal candidates to be on panels and to be strong contributors when running sessions at conferences and meetings. Yet we have seen them both take a back-seat approach to this and, in the interest of creating sessions that are more inclusive, instead encourage others to be the ones upfront.

Consider these questions when planning whose voice is upfront at your conference.

  • Have you consciously considered who should be on your panel?
  • Do you operate a fair pay policy for speakers?
  • Are all speakers getting paid in accordance with their experience?
  • Do your speakers have a fair gender split?
  • Are various levels of the organisation represented?
  • Are you hearing from your suppliers, partners and customers?
  • Is the ethnicity of your speaker group representative of your workforce and supplier base?

There is nothing that represents retrograde thinking in a company or organisation like a panel that is ‘male, pale and stale’.

We don’t want to offend anyone by using that phrase but we do ask you to consider what is meant by it and what a panel looks like when it is populated by only one homogenous group of people.

There is so much more that can be learned from people with differing views, backgrounds and perspectives. And if you plan speakers and experts in advance, then you will avoid any last minute rush for someone to ‘balance it out’.

2. Be mindful about designing sessions that include everyone

Many years ago we ran a session that required people to consider their sporting achievements at school or since.

At the end of the session one of the participants approached us and said that the question was very hard for her to answer as she was in a wheelchair and had little access to sport when she was growing up.

It was an example of not thinking in an inclusive way about the impact of our questions. We hadn’t meant to exclude her but because of our own unconscious sloppy thinking we had done.

Thankfully in the time that has elapsed, participation for people with mobility issues has increased enormously and we hope there is a greater understanding for people who have both visible and invisible impairments. Our questions have altered as a result.

Consider the less than obvious:

  • How far are the distances between sessions?
  • Is there good access for people with mobility issues?
  • Is the lighting in your room conducive to running a productive session?
  • Does the music really need to be that loud?
  • Are icebreaker sessions considerate of the introverted?
  • Ask people confidentially, during the conference, what adjustments would help make them able to contribute fully

3. Food is important

Ask any conference organiser to show you their excel spreadsheet of the different dietary requirements and your mind will boggle at the differences that people require when planning their diet.

Some people have religious observances that need to be respected, some people have serious allergies, others have made dietary choices that mean that certain foods are excluded.

Whatever the reasons there are many things that have to be considered when planning the food and beverages at any meeting or conference.
Consider these possibilities?

  • Before booking your venue, really check with them how flexible their dietary offer is
  • Ask the venue to provide fresh fruit as well as other more traditional sweet snacks
  • Ensure there is always plenty of water on offer
  • Consider the impact of a ‘heavy’ lunch on afternoon sessions
  • Respect people’s choices around diet
  • Here we have provided just 3 examples of ways in which we can make our meetings and conferences more thoughtful but there will be hundreds more examples which we’d be very happy for you to share with us.

Please tweet us with ways in which you believe we can be more inclusive when planning our meetings. @purplemonsteruk

Starting with our investigations into our own biases and then continuing to make some of our decisions more conscious means that our meetings and conferences can all be a little more thoughtful and hopefully inclusive in 2020 and beyond.

Do you want to make your 2020 events more conscious and mindful whilst not compromising on the engagement, fun and impact?

Download our updated planning canvas or get in touch with the Monster team to help you!