Industry specialists gathered for Sarah McKenna and 50:50 Future’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion event – a 90 minute session providing an overview on how to avoid tick-box narrative and embed inclusion holistically across an organisation.
Sarah was thrilled to welcome 55 attendees in total with delegates from a wide range of companies, from small startups to commercial heavyweights. Openreach, BT, The NHS, Tyneside Cinema, Northern Gas & Power, END. and Northumbria Police were just some of the amazing organisations occupying seats within the room with varying roles such as HR manager, ED&I lead, HR advisor, diversity & inclusion manager and head of talent.
The lovely ladies and Co-founders from 50:50 Future, Lyndsey Britton-Lee & Lynsey Harbottle, began their talk on Equality, Diversity & Inclusion by asserting the room as a ‘safe space’ and a ‘place for learning’. Everyone in attendance was there to further develop their perspectives and practices so it was absolutely crucial that they felt comfortable enough to share their concerns, raise any ‘taboo’ topics and ask questions freely.
To kick the session off a black and white picture of a house was presented on the screen with Lyndsey turning to guests and posing the question ‘what do you think of this image?’… The results were polarizing. Some delegates dreamt up warm, fuzzy thoughts of the house being some sort of ‘retreat’, a ‘place to escape’, or a ‘holiday home’ perhaps. Others conjured up thoughts of a ‘horror film’, or a ‘vision from a Netflix true crime documentary’. This simple task was 50:50 Future’s way of easing guests into the session with a very clever reminder that you can’t just assume everyone is going to think the same way you do, or read a situation in the same way you would. Open mindedness is key when it comes to understanding others.
During the next part of the session, the ladies ran through some fundamental topics covering the John Hopkins Diversity Wheel, the meaning of intersectionality, this year’s International Women’s Day theme – ‘Break The Bias’, as well as privilege and inclusion.
Lyndsey and Lynsey also highlighted why Equality, Diversity & Inclusion within the workplace is so imperative. When ED&I is present in the working environment, teams generally perform better, you get more engagement out of your staff, and productivity levels reach new highs. It’s been proven that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation.
E,D&I also allows companies to attract and retain diverse talent and reduce, or completely remove, bias across the hiring process. Implementation of E,D&I protects a company’s reputation and ensures they are doing everything they can to mitigate legal risks. 50:50 Future recommends that employees are given refresher sessions on The Equality Act 2010 to attain high standards in this area.
As the 90 minute session evolved it invited each of the delegates to enforce a new way of thinking, one free of pre-judgements or assumptions about others. Another practical task saw Lyndsey and Lynsey hand out random packs of stickers to each table, the attendees were asked to place these stickers on their bodies – from their neck down to their waist – and without speaking, group themselves with other people in the room. When the attendees were asked why they paired up with certain people, the feedback was exactly the same across the board… That person has a butterfly sticker, so do I, I’ll pick them – the lady next to me has placed her sticker on her shoulder, so have I, we’ll pair up. Do you see where this is going?
Each individual found themselves seeking commonalities. Of course, it’s human nature to look at others and try to find some sort of common ground, this may be something as superficial as being beach blondes, tuning into Love Island every night, veganism even. However, by grouping ourselves in this manner – subconsciously, or maybe consciously – it creates this ‘Us vs. Them’ narrative which can feel very exclusionary for those who don’t fit the bill.
50:50 Future’s sticker activity was hugely symbolic. The main takeaway for everyone in the room was to not fall into the trap of affinity bias; be sure to check yourself and ensure that you’re not just speaking to, or hiring people, based solely on the premise that they are similar to you. Naturally, potential candidates have to be a great cultural fit for the company in question, but that individual’s identity and unique traits should be respected and appreciated even when they’re different to what you’re used to.
HR specialists across the globe are responsible for hiring diverse talent, nurturing inclusive workplaces, and of course, dealing with ED&I claims, tribunals and grievances. HR professionals are also catalysts for inclusion and equipped to break down barriers within the workplace and this event really instilled how powerful that can be. Here’s what attendees had to say on Equality, Diversity & Inclusion for HR professionals – an event with Sarah McKenna & 50:50 Future…
‘One of the key takeaways from this event was to be careful of your unconscious bias, if you take on too many people like you you may be missing out on other ideas, ways of working, innovation etc. ED&I covers a very wide range of characteristics and we should be very mindful that we are not discriminating against any of those but allowing people to have a fair view and have a voice.’
‘It was great to hear from other companies about their E,D &I policy and processes. I also found Lyndsey and Lynsey engaging and thought provoking.’
‘Great session, really useful content!’
‘A reminder of just how valuable these events are!’
‘I took a lot from the networking, even from just chatting to others on the table. There were lots of ideas shared about how to approach E,D&I and subtle recommendations to start implementing it within the workplace.’
As Sarah’s first in-person event since covid, the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion session with 50:50 Future certainly could not have gone any better! Each delegate was eager to learn, soak up and share knowledge, and the overriding feeling was one of proactiveness.
These events are so important to Sarah. She loves catching up with like minded professionals and creating safe spaces for learning. If you would like to attend a Sarah McKenna HR event in the future, good news, because there are lots more in the pipeline! To be the first to hear about Sarah McKenna HR events, please sign up to the newsletter here.