Equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ and having difficult conversations and addressing many aspects around EDI were covered at a recent IOSH London Metropolitan Branch seminar.
“For more years than I can recall the ‘elephant in the Room’ has been avoided, but not anymore – we at IOSH’s London Metropolitan Branch were proud to present this unique event, where specialists and industry representatives provided their expert opinions and practical experience on a number of topics to improve understanding about equality, diversity and inclusion”, said Anne Isaacs, Chair of the IOSH London Metropolitan Branch.
A variety of topics were covered, such as ‘diversity on the front line’, ‘disability’, ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)’, ‘uncomfortable conversations’, ‘unconscious bias’ and looking at what are the ‘business benefits of driving diversity and inclusion’. As Health and Safety practitioners it is essential that we ensure not only our business but businesses we are involved with are aware and comfortable to talk about and deal with the elephant in the room.
The event was held in April at Informa’s offices in Blackfriars, London, with a great line up of speakers including Martyn Coyd OBE – Head of Health & Safety Construction at Mace, Louise Hosking – IOSH Vice President, Kizzy Augustin – Partner at Russell Cooke Solicitors, Yvonne Smyth – Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Hays Specialist Recruitment, Katie Kelleher – Crawler Crane Operator / AP at Tideway London, David Travers QC – Queens Counsel at Six Pump Court Chambers, Vivienne Aiyela – Non-Executive Director at The London Football Association Senior Cultural Diversity & Inclusion Consultant Change Agent and Gordon Menzies – Queens Counsel at Six Pump Court Chambers.
“The speakers came from a range of practical backgrounds and several of the speakers spoke with enthusiasm of their own professional journeys – it was clear to see that they all practiced what they preached,” continued Anne.
Martin Coyd, a proud Stonewall Diversity Champion amongst his many achievements, discussed issues around LGBT and mental health and wellbeing within the construction industry and the support he and the team were able to offer.
He said: “If we get people’s mental health and wellbeing in a good place, individually and collectively, we win in every way. People will enjoy coming to work, they will go home in a better frame of mind to come back to work. We will have less people off sick, they will be more proactive, and they will be more collaborative.”
Vivienne Aiyela presented on the topic of “Uncomfortable Conversations”, stating that, “leadership teams need to engage with employers in open conversation in key issues around race, gender, sexuality, disability, mental health – to drive greater understanding and appreciation of difference”. She talked about the need to be brave when having difficult conversations and creating a safe space to have those conversations.
Louise Hosking, IOSH Vice President, discussed her “POSH IDEA” – positive occupational safety and health for inclusivity, equality, diversity action – and addressed the issue around the business benefits as the gender pay gap is so massive. She said: “Business needs to put people first, 63% of women do not report sexual harassment at work, neither for 79% of men.”
Yvonne Smyth Hays outlined issues around having a diverse workforce and an inclusive workplace, stating that “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
Kizzy Augustin took the approach from her personal journey in her career “From LA Law to Bedford Row”, at first not noticing any differences until she had aspirations about her career and where she wanted to go next. Statistics outlined the disparity for women between entry level through to partnership, i.e how few women had reached partnership. Kizzy stated that, “D&I must be an integral part of your organisation to have any real effect”
Katie Kelleher inspired us with her experiences as a crawler crane driver – a woman in what was a man’s world. There were many obstacles that she outlined in her journey and she overcame them all. Now there are a few more female crane drivers, and I am sure in time to come there will be many more.
David Travers QC gave a great message surrounding the C word – ‘class’. It does not matter where you come from, individuals should not allow themselves to be victims; as long as you have the ability and capacity for work anything is possible.
Gordon Menzies reminded us of the disability discrimination and the Equality Act 2010 – highlighting direct and indirect discrimination and what reasonable adjustments employers must make to accommodate their employees.
Commenting on the event, one attendee said: “Martin Coyd was very inspirational, and Katie Kelleher gave a refreshing look at overcoming being in the minority group.”
“Fascinating and ground-breaking,” added another. “Certainly, made me think of ways I can introduce this topic to my clients and made me want to take action.”
Visit IOSH on Stand SH1440 at Safety & Health Expo, taking place at London’s ExCeL from 18-20 June.
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