E&D – what does it mean?

‘Equality and Diversity’ is a phrase trainers hear a lot, in terms of both training content (in some cases) or a requirement from clients or associates; e.g. for assessment centres or interviews where all participating scorers need to have undergone an up to date E&D certification to participate.

This is of course quite right, and entirely reasonable. Fairness and parity are at the heart of workplace values, and opportunities. I put together some teaching on this recently, which caused me to think more deeply about the meaning. At a surface level appreciating the importance of ‘E&D’ is easy to take for granted. That is to say we all think “yes of course I know what that means and I’m not a person who would ever actively discriminate….”, which in most cases is likely true, but how deeply do we think about what that means? I myself have been past-times guilty of being asked to complete an online E&D exercise ahead of a new assessment and thought things like ‘this will be the same as the other 10 I’ve done’, or approaching it as something of a tick box exercise.

E&D requirements – whether part of a course content or something required of you to demonstrate – actually provide an opportunity to dig deeper, and merit a far more considered approach. I re-thought this recently and reflected beyond the more known and publicised categories of the Equality Act (gender, sexuality, religion, race, age and so forth) to think about the more subtle unconscious biases we all (as humans) have as a result of our own experiences, culture, role models etc. We can, for example, be drawn to people who seem to share our values or interests. We can judge a current situation based on a past experience we’ve had. Which of us hasn’t been in a public place and made a judgement in our own head about someone else’s behaviour that isn’t directly related to their gender, age or ethnicity, but relates to something else, such as the very overweight individual ordering ‘super-size’, the mother who reprimands a child instead of facilitating the problem, etc? That sense that we’d have ‘been better than that’….. We all have our prejudices. It’s a questions of managing them to give everyone a fair chance, and avoiding pre-conceptions, without knowing the full context. That’s not the same as condoning poor or unsafe behaviour. It’s recognising that our own beliefs can easily carry into assumptions.

Also, I found myself musing that equality and diversity are terms frequently paired together, but actually they have rather different meanings. This is a very surface thought about a much more sophisticated and complex issue, but as a thought equality implies sameness, while diversity implies difference. Treating everyone equally while accounting flexibly for, and valuing, uniqueness and individuality, needs reconciliation. I won’t solve it in this canal-side musing, beyond the concept of parity of opportunity, but would invite those of you involved in any training where E&D is relevant to think on it….

Have a lovely Summer. Connie