Equalities issues often make news
Equalities issues should matter not only to politicians. I have written before that institutional racism and similar problems could affect your business. Now the equalities minister has said that we need to move the emphasis away from BAME and LGBT issues. She says there are wider inequalities in society. This has angered many people who feel the new agenda may mean that the government intends to ignore their concerns just when they thought they were getting somewhere.
Are equalities issues wider than we often think?
Prejudice and discrimination do not apply only to certain issues. Some people treat you as wrong or inferior if you are in any way different. Of course, some are more discriminating than that and pick on particular groups. Ageism exists, certainly regarding employment and some say in the publishing world. A lot of people have stereotyped views about different regions: Scots are mean, Irish are stupid, Westcountrymen are slow, Scousers and Cockneys are dishonest and so on. Some posh people look down on anyone with any regional accent, whilst some working-class people (remember them?) dislike anyone who seems a bit educated or better-off than them.
Are equalities issues all about accents, apart from colour?
Accents are a simple giveaway as to your origins, If your colour is the first thing people notice, your voice is the second. Employers, among others, may have other sources of information, like where you went to school or university, if any. They might also draw inferences from anything they hear about your sports, hobbies or interests. All these things amount to stereotyping. Even if there is any basis in fact for any assumptions, they are at best generalisations. The individual in question might be the exception. It is far better to develop your opinion about someone as you get to know them and not to jump to conclusions. Some rich people are quite nice.
So do I want to see the concept of equalities issues widened?
I mean what I said above. Beware of stereotypes and treat all people fairly. However, the issues which have got all the publicity have got it for a reason. The hostility some people show to BAME or LGBT people is generally more extreme than that produced by any other prejudice. Then there’s prejudice against women. Some men can’t accept women in authority, whilst others get really upset if a woman asserts herself in any way. They must think women were there for our convenience rather than as citizens themselves. Not many of us get hate mail or physical abuse because of our accents or age. But it does happen.
What’s this about equalities issues got to do with you?
Obviously, you won’t want to deprive your business of the talent of a candidate for employment or promotion on the wrong basis. Women, black people, gays, all have a lot to offer. Why ignore it? But it goes beyond that! The kind of thinking, or lack of it, that allows prejudice to thrive, that accepts stereotypes. is the kind that jumps to conclusions and reaches out for easy answers. Do you want to run your business like that? Do you want to encourage that kind of attitude? Perhaps it’s time you had a good look at the culture within your business.
Where to start?
Perhaps one of my books can help. They are not about equalities issues but they encourage a scientific approach to management, especially risk management and the application of statistics. And they are short, simple and cheap. What more do you want? If you read them over Christmas you could make a New Year resolution to apply some of the ideas. Why not?