‘Inclusive employer’ is buzzword phrase, it’s everywhere: in the news, online, shortlists, longlists and awards. All this, but what does it actually mean? It seems awfully simple to be considered an ‘inclusive employer’ at the moment, with many organisations earning this title by simply putting up posters around their establishment or workplace and occasionally delivering fifteen minute training sessions to employees on being ‘equal and diverse’. The truth is, within businesses and organisations, both large and small, it is incredibly rare to find an entire collective of individuals, all of who abide by an inclusive framework. I’ve worked within businesses and organisations which are labelled ‘inclusive’, ‘diverse’ and ‘equal’. I’ve found that these businesses and organisations are all doing one thing very wrong: using buzzwords for effect without really pausing to consider the actions which should be taken on their part in order to live up to these words. It’s a bit like putting ‘written and verbal communication skills’ on your CV without knowing basic formal email styles or telephone manner: it’s easy to use the buzzwords in the first instance but if you’re unable to translate them into tangible action then they’re just words.
Here’s a few key points which so-called ‘inclusive employers’ are missing:
Employers should recognise and practise intersectional inclusivity. For example, trans and or non-binary individuals require gender neutral bathrooms, at the same time, disabled individuals require accessible bathrooms. Often there is only one option of a single, disabled access/all gender bathroom. Read this brilliant article on this issue here. Instead, employers must recognise that there is an intersectional inclusivity issue here and they must begin to provide both, accessible bathrooms and gender neutral bathrooms.
Employers should recognise that it isn’t simply the company/organisation as a whole which should strive for inclusive behaviour, but the individuals within that organisation on their own, singular level. Employers must then take responsibility for inclusive behaviour practise in a more tangible way than 15-minute ‘equality training’. When individuals feel that it isn’t their singular responsibility to promote equality and diversity they feel separated from their responsibility and, subsequently, their actions. I’ve noticed that, even in workplaces which are considered ‘inclusive’, the harsh reality of transphobic and homophobic individuals broadcasting their viewpoints or making ‘jokes’ is overwhelming for those of us who are told that our workplaces are safe and inclusive.
My experience of ‘inclusive employers’:
I’ve worked within a few organisations/businesses which have claimed to be inclusive. In one of these settings, I had to listen to senior staff use homophobic and transphobic slurs on a daily basis, often targeted in conversations about specific people or specific ‘kinds of people’. For one of my jobs, I wore a gendered uniform. Note to employers: gendered uniforms imply all kinds of things and are a deliberate tactic to undermine female staff in a customer-facing environment while completely excluding trans and or non-binary people. In another role I had to sit and listen while other staff members mocked gender marker alterations and name changes in a room which had a Stonewall poster on the wall.
My final point on inclusive employers is this: All employers should be inclusive employers. The fact that employers get a nice little certificate or a space on an award list for doing the minimum required for LGBTQIAP+, BME and disabled people is ridiculous. Tell me your experience of employment and inclusive employers by writing a comment below- bonus points if you’ve experienced a really great employer!- AB
featured image not owned by me, no copyright infringement intended