Over the past few months, I have spent time thinking more deeply about the Diversity and Inclusion problems that we face both as a business and a profession. Improving diversity was flagged as one of Erevena’s focuses internally for 2020, and like so many other things the Covid-19 pandemic slightly derailed our momentum around this key topic. Since then we have all been profoundly impacted by events in the USA and the Black Lives Matter movement, not only in the USA but across the world.
On a personal level, this has made me pause for thought, and to start thinking about the structural discrimination in our society and therefore our company. I write all of this, understanding that I’m coming from a position of male, white privilege. My progression in life has been unhindered by the colour of my skin or my gender.
My first step has been to start educating myself. I have read a number of books and listened to a number of podcasts from people who have lived with discrimination. It has been inspiring and uncomfortable in equal measure. I have realised that I have a huge amount still to learn and appreciate, but some things are already clear to me.
At Erevena, we have done our best (although not well enough) to create an environment that is both colour and gender blind. Since we didn’t really understand the problems we were trying to solve, we felt that this would be sufficient.
Colour/gender blindness means that we try and judge people on their characters rather than their characteristics. The problem with “blindness” is that it ignores the facts that people’s lives are profoundly affected by discrimination, this might often take the form of thoughtlessness rather than malice, but this doesn’t make it any better.
What I would like to commit to our staff, as well as our clients and the candidates, is that I will continue to educate myself and will start by listening carefully to people in the company whose lives are more difficult than my own due to structural discrimination. I’m 100% sure that I don’t have all the answers, and this isn’t something that I can fix on my own. We will work on this as a group and come up with a set of measures that allow us to get better at this. In the meantime, I would urge anyone who feels they need it to start educating themselves, it is not a comfortable process as you become aware of where you have made mistakes in the past.
One of the few things I have learned so far is that being defensive about these things makes it worse, so I’m trying to embrace the things that I have got wrong and learnt the lessons that they present us. I actively encourage all our team to do the same.