Equality and Diversity (E&D)

Officially I am on a “learning break”, unofficially I am still researching and trying to keep busy. So I signed up for an online E&D course then have developed some material to share with our apprentices when I return to work. I thought I’d also share with you some of what I have learnt.

So what is equality and diversity?

  • Equality is the state of being equal in status, rights and opportunities
  • Diversity is the state or quality of being different or varied

Therefore: Equality is about ensuring everybody has an equal opportunity, and is not treated differently or discriminated against because of their characteristics. Diversity is about taking account of the differences between people and groups of people, and placing a positive value on those differences.

Diversity and inclusion is first and foremost a legal requirement.  The Equality Act 2010 was introduced to incorporate and update previous discrimination legislation to ensure consistency on what employers and employees need to do to make their workplace a fair environment for all (ACAS).

The Equality Act 2010 consolidates:

  • Equal Pay Act 1970
  • The Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • The Race Relations Act 1976
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • The employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
  • The Equality Act 2006 Part 2
  • The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

The Equality Act 2010:

  • Updates and amends existing law
  • Creates a new single equality duty on public bodies
  • Extend the scope for positive action with new provisions for positive discrimination
  • Supports equal pay between men and women by banning secrecy laws
  • Introduces compulsory pay reporting
  • Embellishes new definition of discrimination

You are protected under the Equality Act 2010 from these types of discrimination:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation

The Act covers 6 distinct types of discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination is the legal term that applies if you treat someone less favourably than someone else has been treated (or would be treated) because the person belongs to one of the protected groups.
  • Indirect discrimination is when there’s a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone in the same way, but it has a worse effect on some people than others. The Equality Act says it puts you at a particular disadvantage.
  • Associative Discrimination refers to discrimination based on an individual’s association with another person belonging to a relevant protected group.
  • Perceptive Discrimination refers to discrimination based on a perception that an individual is a member of a relevant protected group.
  • Harassment is when someone behaves in a way which offends you or makes you feel distressed or intimidated. This could be abusive comments or jokes, graffiti or insulting gestures.
  • Victimisation is when someone treats you badly or subjects you to a detriment because you complain about discrimination or help someone who has been the victim of discrimination.

Diversity in the workplace is the difference that diverse groups bring to the workplace, such as age, gender and nationality.  Diversity in the workplace will require each of us to recognise the difference that diverse groups bring to the workplace. This may mean significantly reducing bias and prejudices against one particular group.  One challenge, therefore, is to accept diverse groups of people by addressing different lifestyles, family needs and work styles.

Inclusion has become increasingly important to businesses that have come under pressure from staff, customers and stakeholders to demonstrate they are genuinely committed to the concept Equality & Diversity.  The CIPD points out that inclusion is “conceptually distinct” from diversity, defining it as how an employee experiences their workplace, as opposed to the differences represented within an organisation.

In the CIPD report “Diversity and inclusion in the workplace”, they suggest that promoting and supporting diversity in the workplace is an important aspect of people management and valuing everyone in the organisation as an individual.  But to reap the benefits of a diverse workplace it’s vital to have an inclusive environment where everyone feels able to participate and achieve their potential. 

As in the working environment, promoting equality and diversity in education is equally essential for both teachers and students. The aim is to create a classroom environment where all students can thrive together and understand that individual characteristics make people unique and not ‘different’ in a negative way.  High Speed Training explains that equality and diversity, or multiculturalism, is the idea of promoting and accepting the differences between people.

The Washington University (St. Louis) stated that inclusive teaching and learning practices are instrumental in creating and maintaining a learning environment in which all participants are fully engaged and respected, and in which all participants are open to ideas, perspectives, and ways of thinking that are distinct from their own. 

Inclusive teaching posits cultural diversity, or differences related to identity and experience, as crucial to learning. The practice of inclusive teaching involves consciously working to foster learning across differences, for example by acknowledging and challenging biases and stereotypes that can impede understanding and undermine a student’s sense of belonging to the discipline or institution. The practice of inclusive teaching also involves keeping accessibility and transparency in mind when designing courses and assignments, as well as being aware of power differences within the classroom and of psycho-social factors that can affect learning.

Geoff Petty suggests that teacher’s role, and that of government, is to reduce the inequalities.  He states that there are many factors that contribute to inequality such as racism and prejudice.  Petty stated that all students must feel that they positively and equally valued and accepted and that their efforts to learn are recognised, and judged without bias.  It is not enough that they are tolerated.  They must feel that they are fully and equally accepted and valued by you, and the establishment in which you work. 

John Hattie (2009) summarises the art of teaching thus: “…the act of teaching reaches its epitome of success after the lesson has been structured, after the content has been delivered, and after the classroom has been organised. The art of teaching, and its major successes, relate to “what happens next” – the manner in which the teacher reacts to how the student interprets, accommodates, rejects and/or reinvents the content and skills, how the student relates and applies the content to other tasks, and how the student reacts in light of success and failure apropos the content and methods that the teacher taught.”.

Equality and Diversity UK suggest that by making changes to learning sessions you would:

  • engage learners by showing how what you are teaching can be applied to solve real life problems
  • help them develop personal and social skills that will be useful to them in the workplace and in social situations
  • make it easier for students to learn and keep up in class
  • reduce tension and help learner to get on better with each other
  • improve learner outcomes
  • demonstrate to Ofsted inspectors that you promote equality and diversity through teaching and learning

They go on to say that there are many good reasons for building equality and inclusion into design, planning and delivery of teaching and learning, and strong moral, legal and business cases can be made to support the idea.

Inclusive teaching and learning means enabling all learners, regardless of their gender, gender identity, culture, race, religions, age, beliefs, to access the learning environment, information resources and to fully participate in learning activities that have been designed with them in mind.

Inclusive teaching and learning is about weaving equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) for all your course design, planning and delivery.  It values the diversity of all learners and aims to draw on their skills, knowledge, experiences and understanding to enhance the learning experience.

So how do you ensure your teaching sessions are inclusive and diverse?

Examine your assumptions – It is very common for instructors to assume that student share their own background, but this is not necessarily so. Do you find yourself addressing students as if they all share your religion, sexual orientation, or economic class?

Learn and use students’ names – Even in large classes, you can start with a few names and build up. At the very least, let students know you are making an effort to do so.

Model inclusive language – For instance, avoid using masculine pronouns for both males and females. When you use American idioms, explain them for the benefit of non-native English speakers.

Use multiple and diverse examples – Multiple examples increase the likelihood of students relating to at least one of them. Take care to include examples that speak to both sexes and that work across cultures.

Establish ground rules for interaction – This will assure that other students are also being inclusive and respectful. In order to generate maximal buy-in into the ground rules, you can involve the students in the process of establishing them. You will still need to enforce the ground rules and correct students for the occasional non-inclusive or disrespectful comment.

Examine your curriculum – Are certain perspectives systematically not represented in your course materials (e.g., a course on family focusing only on traditional families, or a course on public policy ignoring race issues)?  Neglecting some issues implies a value judgment (Hooks 1994), which can alienate certain groups of students.

Strive to be fair – Especiallyin courses with multiple sections and TAs, it is crucial to be perceived as fair, both in grading and in implementing course policies. Perceptions of unfairness can induce feelings of learned helplessness (Peterson et al., 1995), which are highly demotivating for students.

Be mindful of low ability cues – In their efforts to help students, some instructors inadvertently send mixed messages (e.g., “Sure, I’ll be happy to help you with this, I know girls have trouble with math”). These cues encourage attributions focused on permanent, uncontrollable causes, which diminish students’ self-efficacy. Instead, it is more productive to focus on controllable causes, such as effort.

Provide accommodations for students with disabilities – Instructors are required by law to provide reasonable accommodations to students with documented disabilities.

Don’t ask people to speak for an entire group – Students of underrepresented identities often report either feeling invisible in class, or sticking out like a sore thumb as the token member. This experience is heightened when they are addressed as spokespeople for their whole group, and can have implications on performance (Lord & Saenz, 1985).

Practice inclusive classroom behaviours – Of course we as educators are not out to intentionally exclude anybody from the educational experience. However, many researchers report small unconscious behaviours – “microaggressions” – that certain student groups experience repeatedly. For instance, women report that instructors tend to interrupt them more often than men, ignore them more often, call on them less often, ask them more recall questions and less analytical questions, acknowledge their contributions less, and build on their answers less (Hall, 1982).  These microaggressions add up and have a highly discouraging effect on those students.

As I start to prepare training material to deliver within my workplace, I have had huge consideration for my own unconscious bias and views.  We all have preconceived judgements on situations and people which comes from our own experiences and upbringing.

A stereotype is a widely held, but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing:

  • a generalisation:
  • based on limited or false information
  • based on faulty judgement
  • can be positive or negative

We should identify and confront our own definition of fairness, our unconscious bias and the events and circumstances that have shaped our values. Working in Human Resources teaches humility and acceptance.  You walk into situations assuming from what you see that that you know what the outcome is going to be.  Be it an interview or a formal hearing.  You initially base your decision on what a person looks like, what they are wearing, if they are on time or how similar people have behaved previously.  If a person hasn’t made an effort to dress smartly you are already unconsciously turned off from the meeting and it can be difficult to turn around.  Over the years I’ve learned to count to ten (in my head) and deliver the meeting successfully. 

Over the years I’ve become more aware of my body language and how that can cause the other person to behave negatively or positively.  Life experience is a great teacher and being able to see and understand your own behaviours is important to help you present yourself and your training sessions to be more professional and inclusive manner. 

This leads me to my final few words.  Recently a colleague sadly passed away.  I’ve had a lot of conversations with this gent over the years and felt I knew him, not as friend, but maybe more that the average manager.  I take pride in talking to our employees and helping them with life and work issues.  However during the funeral, it was apparent that I didn’t really know him.  He liked his music but I didn’t know he was in a band, he was married, but I didn’t know they had two grown up sons and grandchildren, he worked as a FLT driver but had owned his own music store.  My point being is we don’t really know the people you are working / learning with – the things that interest them, the things they believe in, the things going on in their lives and what they have been through – therefore any conversations, training material and policies we develop and deliver should cover the unknown, not just what we assume we know.  We could all be inadvertently discriminative and un-inclusive without realising, just by not knowing. 

As per one of my previous blogs, Nick Shackleton-Jones (psychologist and writer) states that “challenges create learning”.  My challenge now is to know more about the people I am working with and the people I will be delivering training material to, to ensure it can be enjoyable, relatable, diverse, inclusive and not discriminative.

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