Letters

This week’s letters

Diversity and equality should never be tackled separately

Stephen Overell argues in ‘Painting over the cracks’ (Off message 30 March)
that, not only are equality and diversity different, but that equality is the
one that counts.

He points out that Johanna Fullerton and I somehow ‘had it in for equal
opportunities’, and that equality for the six groups covered by
anti-discrimination law is sufficient to do away with such a vague, and even
counter-productive notion as diversity.

We would argue that any form of discrimination is bad and does not just
affect people within the groups covered by anti-discrimination laws. To create
an environment where people feel valued and treated on merit, regardless of
legalities, remains the challenge – and the key reason why diversity is so
important.

We agree with his argument that the need for a diverse workforce to reflect
the customer base is flawed. Indeed, it reinforces the anti-diversity argument,
ie, if you have an all-white customer base, then you will only need a white
workforce.

Our ideas about equality are exactly the same as our ideas about diversity.
We do not make the distinction between them that Overell does. They are one and
the same. Consequently, you cannot have cracks appearing between them.

Overell has taken one argument, representing the customer base, and used
that as the only argument for diversity. Picking on a weak, flawed argument
does not discredit the overall case.

Binna Kandola
Occupational psychologist and diversity specialist, Pearn Kandola

Diversity is not the new-wave equality

In Stephen Overell’s article ‘Painting over the cracks’ (Off message, 30
March) he seems to think that equality and diversity are competing against each
other. He is right to say they are not they same thing, but diversity is not
the ‘new improved’ form of equality.

"Neither equality nor respect for difference (diversity) is a
sufficient value in itself. The two must be held together, mutually challenging
and supportive". This quote from Multi-Ethnic Britain by the Runnymede
Trust sums up how I feel organisations should view equality and diversity. Equality
and diversity are cogs that help to turn the wheel of economic inclusion.
Diversity ‘fine tunes’ equality and allows the recognition of the individual
within the given group.

Kandola and Fullerton’s Managing the Mosaic says diversity is:

– not about reducing standards (‘dumbing down’)

– not about removing prejudices, but about recognising that we have
prejudice(s) and question them before we act

– not a distraction from more important business issues

– not about ‘positive discrimination’, but taking positive action

– not just about language and ‘political correctness’.

Overell may believe that equality is the one that counts – mainly because it
is covered by legislation and ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’, and
perhaps also because he doesn’t want the headache of dealing with difference.
But most people acknowledge that diversity, in whatever form, is difficult to
synthesise and, as such, achieving consensus (assuming this is an objective)
will be difficult to reach.

Kwabena A Osayande
Equality and diversity manager, Advantage West Midlands

Ann Summers exec stunned by ad-rage

I was surprised at some of the responses you received to our advertisement
(Recruitment advertising section, 20 April).

I was surprised for two reasons: first, this is the first time we have
received any negative comments in response to an advertisement. We generally
get an extremely positive response from applicants, who, in more than 85 per
cent of cases, are women.

And second, I would have thought that if there was a group of people that
would understand the need to express a brand persona in its advertising, it
would be HR professionals.

Ann Summers, for those who don’t really know, is a highly successful
‘fashion and passion’ retailer with 116 high-street stores. As a retailer, it
has done more than any other in empowering women to feel confident about their
sexuality.

Ann Summers is also a business run for women by women. We have a female
chief executive – the only one to hold such a role in the country – and we have
a female managing director. So we are really the last company that would be
sexist in anything that we do.

But we have clearly upset a large number of people with our advertisement.
We apologise unreservedly – to both of them.

Gary Burgham
Group HR executive, Ann Summers

Surrey CC changes set to save £26m

The recent news item about Surrey’s e-service achievement was certainly
welcomed. But I feel it is important to emphasise that it is one part of a
major change programme to transform the county council into a modern leader of
local democracy.

HR is involved in all aspects of the programme, helping to support
employees, managers and the organisation as a whole during this significant
time as new technologies, tools, systems and ways of working are introduced.
These changes will not only help to improve service access for residents, but
will also help employees to work more flexibly.

New technology and mobile working means that more than 8,000 employees can
now access Surrey’s systems and network from any council office. Nearly 1,000
can work from home, and a mixed-menu approach combining flexible hours,
hot-desking, mobile working and homeworking is helping to deliver the best fit
for job, team, service and personal needs. Combined with proposals to modernise
the county council’s offices, our proposals will help to save £26m long-term.

Graham White
Head of HR, Surrey County Council

M&S needs to focus on the bigger picture

Ian Wilder’s explanation of the value of corporate social responsibility
(CSR) and the importance of HR’s role within it (Letters, 13 April) echoes the
comment from the head of CSR at Marks & Spencer on the front page of a
recent edition of Personnel Today.

Perhaps business people in general would be puzzled as to why a company such
as M&S should have been so interested in CSR as to shed a sizeable number
of its workforce and still be under-performing so badly. How has CSR benefited
the retailer?

As for Wilder’s Ministry of Defence, perhaps it should keep its eye on the
big ball in play before diverting its efforts to what are, I am sure, very
worthy causes. Then we may have helicopters that can fly in the clouds, and
enough battle armour for our soldiers.

Denis W Barnard
Director, HRmeansbusiness

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