A phenomenal amount of blood, sweat and tears have gone into establishing
diversity and equality schemes across the UK. The effort, investment and
commitment among many public and private employers have been impressive in such
a short space of time.
But what difference has it made to progressing towards more diverse and
equitable workplaces? Judging by the latest damning Commission for Racial
Equality report, it has had little impact on the police, with more than 90 per
cent of their race-equality schemes failing to meet minimum legal requirements.
The private sector is also grappling with the practicalities. There has been
a plethora of creative initiatives, but achieving culture shifts and
mainstreaming diversity and equality into organisational structures is proving
a hard nut to crack.
There’s been success in getting business leaders to authorise and sponsor
activity, but we still have a long way to go in getting line managers to
reinforce and own it. Chucking diversity training at the problem may have been
the response by certain less than committed constabularies, but it is quite
obviously not the answer.
Industry chiefs understandably want to know how much transformation has
occurred down the line on race and equality because the development money they
have put in isn’t instantly recognisable on the ground.
For the police, improvements have not been substantial in the past five
years since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, and good intentions haven’t been
matched by sufficient action. In the private sector, the big challenge is
building diversity and equality strategies into business plans and performance
measures, and then assessing the impact on organisational results.
Line managers, as always, are the key to embedding new behaviours into the
wiring and plumbing of an organisation. They often want to respond positively
to diversity and equality, but need help in addressing it properly with the
right skills. Some are disadvantaged twice over when they are led by senior
management teams who are at best neutral about it, and at worst, see it as a
load of nonsense.
‘Stealth racism’ is emerging as a new term to describe those who are
prejudiced, but know how to hide it and avoid breaking the law. Clearly, we’re
entering a new tough phase in tackling racism. Zero tolerance is the only
sensible response if the Race Relations Act is to mean anything at all.
By Jane King, editor