Promoting equality and diversity in the workplace29 Aug 2018
At IOSH 2018, a panel debate will ask whether the safety and health profession is doing enough to tackle inequality and discrimination. IOSH Vice-President Louise Hosking, who will be among the panellists, takes a look at the topic
Organisations which promote equality and diversity (E&D) reap the benefits.
Proactive E&D policies encourage people with different approaches to collaborate more effectively with each other. It promotes information sharing and problem solving. It makes us all better communicators.
E&D enables organisations to find and retain the best talent. A diverse organisation is more likely to have a culture of fairness and a healthy work-life balance. Healthy organisations are more likely to be productive, which means increased profit margins.
Organisations are being increasingly asked about the diversity of project groups when they seek collaborations or tender for work. Stakeholders recognise diverse enterprises tend to be more flexible and able to respond to environmental change. The brightest talent are now more likely to look at these aspects before they begin a new position, as IOSH has highlighted in The Healthy Profit.
How well, then, does the safety and health profession promote E&D?
I am delighted to be part of a panel session at IOSH 2018 which will focus on this topic. We’ll examine if we, as a profession, are doing enough, what more can be done to create a level playing field at work, and highlight the impact unfair treatment can have on people’s health and wellbeing.
The issue was highlighted by IOSH earlier this year, when we published the findings of a study into workplace ill-treatment in Ireland. Of the 1,500 people surveyed, 43% said they had experienced ill-treatment, 37% said they had experienced unreasonable management and 31.3% said they had experienced incivility or disrespect. Physical violence had been experienced by 2.6% of respondents.
This is unacceptable and IOSH produced guidance, including a checklist tool, to assist employers and employees.
For IOSH as an employer and professional body, E&D is hugely important. The qualities described above are ones which are very important in our roles as OSH professionals, so it is right for IOSH to support members in being truly inclusive.
IOSH’s current E&D policy was ratified by its Council in September last year and covers all members, volunteers and staff.
True equality is not about taking opportunities away from one group to give them to another. It means having an equal voice, opportunities and rights. This isn’t easy. It’s possible for an organisation to aim for diversity but achieve the opposite. Employers must look constantly at their organisational make-up and keep it a mixing pot with the right amount of openness and inclusivity.
No one wants to be told what to do, or how to do it. Creating a diverse and equal culture comes from mutual respect and good management. A strong message can always be delivered with respect, kindness and positivity.
It’s essential for organisations to have a supportive, open culture and for people to know to whom they can talk when confronted with unacceptable behaviour. There must be a process to raise concerns in a non-threatening manner, free from reprisal. Organisations may need to examine themselves to ensure they have such processes. Without them, diversity cannot be achieved because people will leave before they are given the opportunity to make a difference.
The panel will be chaired by journalist and broadcaster Cathy Newman. As well as Louise, the other panellists will be:
- Derran Williams, Senior Health and Safety Advisor, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
- James Allan, Managing Director, Head of Corporate Banking FX – Barclays International
- Jenny Garrett, Trainer, Author, Speaker and Coach – Jenny Garrett Global
Add a Comment
- Louise I fully support E&D is the workplace and certainly in the OSH Profession. Fortunately I have not seen an absence of E&D in my part of the world. Notwithstanding, I believe one must be recognized for what they bring to the organization regardless of gender or other irrelevant attributes, as such promotions, positions etc should go to the best suited person for the role and we must guard against making the decision(s), with a bias to E&D.