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Equality, Diversity and Bias – why we need to constantly relook at our behaviours.

Posted March 7th, 2019

When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. – Unattributed.

It was an early evening in October 2015 and I was in a pub near Bournemouth, the only Englishman with half a dozen Scottish friends on a golfing weekend. England was hosting the Rugby World Cup and was in the process of being knocked out in the early group stage by Australia. It was the first time ever that the host nation had not got through to the knock out stage of the cup and the mood in the pub was sombre. Sombre that is, apart from the raucous, ecstatic, almost euphoric elation of six men clad in the full Australian colours – my six Scottish chums.

Their utter delight at any English failed pass, lost lineout or missed tackle was ten times greater than any delight they had exhibited at Scottish successes in their earlier match against South Africa. Their frenzied, blissful rapture was mixed with a visceral hatred for the team in white and I found it easier to slip away to my hotel at half time, rather than risk getting drawn into what looked like becoming an unpleasant disagreement between us. Back at the hotel I had time to dwell on the hatred some Scots seem to feel for the English. I had long thought that if I had worked for a fitted wardrobe company I would work in Scotland. My Scottish pals always wore the shirt of any country England happened to be playing against at the time – rugby or football. They must have had the largest wardrobes in the world. And yet I could never find out why they really felt like this. They could never give me a reason. In spite of them all living in England, mostly with English wives and all with children in English schools, this loathing seemed to be imbued in them from birth.

I was the first down to breakfast. I imagine I was the only one not suffering from copious celebratory pints. When the hungover six appeared I was questioned about where I had disappeared to the previous night. I explained that I had found their behaviour unpleasant and unacceptable, that rather than risking a confrontation which would mar the weekend’s golf I had decided to leave.

My friends were frankly amazed. They were merely being patriotic. What on earth could be wrong with that? I pointed out that Scotland hadn’t been playing. They weren’t supporting Scotland; they were revelling in seeing England being beaten. I didn’t think that was being patriotic, I found it racist. Without exception they were astounded at how I felt.

And the point of this story? Well, firstly it was unusual for me to be in the minority and to feel I was on the receiving end of some bias, but it also made me think about what my own prejudices are. I’m a middle class white English male living in England, so I’ve had it pretty easy on all counts. I’m part of the majority here racially, I’m one of the historically privileged by sex and I tick all the averages in most other areas too. For most of my life I hadn’t noticed any discrimination against me at all and actually that makes it harder for me to understand how being discriminated against feels. And if I find it harder to see how being discriminated against feels, I perhaps don’t feel the need to worry about bias or discrimination quite as much as I should.

There’s a reason for every bias or dislike or even hatred. Often not a very good reason, but they don’t spring up on their own. As an Englishman I don’t feel I’ve ever ‘conquered’ Scotland – for me we are all part of one great country. But for some Scots the English conquered them and trampled on their ancestors – and that dislike has been handed down from generation to generation. I don’t think that’s actually a good reason to hate the English today but it doesn’t make what they feel any less real. Nor does it make being on the receiving end of the vitriol any less unpleasant.

But that is an obvious ‘out in the open’ bias. What about all the little hidden ones we have closeted away in our subconscious? Our Unconscious Bias?

I’ll go first…

  • If I’m walking down a street at night and see a group of sixth formers in school blazers and ties walking towards me I don’t cross the road as I might if they were wearing Doc Martins and sleeves of tattoos.
  • I find myself calling Nick Robinson the ‘token male’ when he is the only man auditioned for the BBC Question Time host role, my bias assuming the Beeb must have had as many eligible men as women.
  • I wonder why all good economic news is ‘in spite of Brexit’ and all bad economic news is ‘because of Brexit’ whereas I know ‘Remainers’ believe the media is biased in favour of Brexit.

I could find more – but perhaps now it’s your turn! It’s very easy to unconsciously make judgements that are not really fair. And it’s easy to underestimate the effect some of our actions can have on other people. ‘It wouldn’t worry me, so why would it worry them?’ seems perfectly logical unless you happen to be ‘them’. There’s a lot of truth in the saying we should walk a mile in the other person’s shoes, it’s not easy but we really must try to understand where everyone is coming from.

From time to time we all need to have a refresher on these topics and on our personal way of thinking about them, and here at Trainer Bubble there are lots of useful and inexpensive courses to help you. From one hour courses to use as part of your meetings (or as stand-alone course) on ‘Unconscious Bias’ and on ‘Culture, Race and Religion’, through a half day course on the ‘2010 Equality Act’ to a full days course on ‘Diversity’ – recognising and valuing the differences.

Or why not use our E-learning course ‘Equality and Diversity’? This gives everyone the chance to re-look at the issue and refresh their thinking in the time and place that suits them best – and once you’ve bought it you can use it as often as you like.

I think our training courses are some of the best courses, and best value for money training courses you will find. But then again, I’m biased.

Article by Jon Cooper, Marketing Manager for Trainer Bubble.

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