10 Years of Inclusion – what we’ve learnt

In May 2021, we celebrated 10 Years of Inclusion and 10 years since the beginning of Inclusive Employers. Over three weeks we looked at the past, present and future of inclusion with a series of special events. Here Lindsay Lerigo, our Inclusive Employers Standard Programme Manager, and co-organiser of our 10 Years of Inclusion celebrations reflects on the highlights of the week and what the future holds for inclusion.

Last week we rounded off our three weeks of events highlighting our 10th birthday and what a three weeks it was! Each week we focused on the past present and future of inclusion, across 7 events we were joined by over 750 guests from 240 different organisations, members and non-members.

A shift in focus for inclusion

Our recent 10 Years of Inclusion survey told us that for 81% of organisations ten years ago Inclusion and Diversity was non-existent or minimal. Progress since then has been significant (although not fast paced!) and the increase in our members year-on-year demonstrates more organisations are taking workplace inclusion seriously.

During the events we heard from our members that there has been a shift in focus within organisations. The strands that were on the radar 10 years ago – sex, disability and race – are still there now but the scope is much wider. Sexual orientation, gender identity and mental health are now much higher up the priority list. More importantly, organisations have a much better understanding of intersectionality and are starting to shift the focus purely from strand specific activity to a more holistic view of inclusion and belonging.

The founders of workplace inclusion

For anyone who hasn’t listened yet please check out our ’10 Years of Inclusion’ podcast episode. For me personally this was a really humbling listen. Hearing from Richard McKenna, Rupert Moyne and Claire Williams, our Directors and Founders. For me they are the trailblazers, the Storme DeLarverie or Marsha P Johnson’s of workplace inclusion! For anyone working in an inclusion and diversity role it can sometimes feel like a lonely place, exposed to some of the worst examples of humanity on a daily basis. Listening to this episode of ‘Talking inclusion with…’ was a reminder about why your roles are so important and the impact workplace inclusion can have on peoples lives.

Inclusion in 2021

Our Reality of Inclusion in 2021 panel event took an honest view of things right now and some of the key challenges:

  • Keeping white, cis, straight men engaged;
  • Making sure anti-racism activity remains action focused;
  • Ensuring trans colleagues are safe and supported; and
  • The impact of Covid-19, particularly on mental health.

The anniversary of the murder of George Floyd fell during the ‘present’ themed week. As an organisation we are committed to anti-racism all of the time, but the murder of George Floyd was significant, and we couldn’t let the date pass without highlighting this. We hosted three anti-racism events during this period. Two of these events focused on some of the amazing work our members have been doing to take real anti-racist action. There has been a real focus on moving from being reactive to proactive, understanding privilege and the power to influence, and becoming anti-racist. At Inclusive Employers we are busy working on our anti-racism toolkit and really look forward to being able to share this with you soon – we will be launching it during National Inclusion Week 2021.

The overall messages during the 10 Years of Inclusion weeks were clear: there has been progress, but it is slow and there is more to do, always, as individuals and organisations.

I personally have recently received my copy of Layla F Saad’s, Me and White Supremacy which will be the first book I will be working through and discussing as part of a group. I am looking forward to the discussions we will have, I expect to be challenged and I expect to be uncomfortable. I think we can all grow and be better if we allow ourselves to be uncomfortable, understand why and learn from that. Why not consider setting up a similar reading group in your organisation or group of friends/family?

The future is inclusive

I was overwhelmed by the feeling of positivity for the future of inclusion that came from people throughout the three weeks. In the wake of the last 12 months it would be easy to assume people just feel exhausted, fed up, angry, and I am sure they do feel those things, but they feel hope too. Hope that in the next 10 years this landscape will look different, that the sometimes passive approach of the last ten years has been replaced by action, that actually there will be less need for organisations like Inclusive Employers. I can tell you, it is a conflicting feeling to hope that you will one day be redundant!

All there is to say now is a massive thank you to all of our members, from those that have been with us from the start, those who have just joined us and all those in between. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you. Thanks for challenging us daily and trusting us to work with you to make your organisations more inclusive, here’s to the next ten years!

You can find out more about the results from our 10 Years of Inclusion survey in our infographic. If you’re not booked onto one of our informative and action-focused webinars in the coming weeks please do check out our events schedule and book your place – we hope to see you soon.