Every month, Forum for the Future’s UK/Europe team reflects on what change they are noticing in their work and in the world around them. We analyse these insights to gain a deeper understanding of what is really happening, and what this means for us. This month we chose to look at these changes through the lens of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). We discussed what EDI really means, and why it was and remains an important topic. In this article, we will share how city governance and public narratives relate to EDI, how diversity is showing up in sports, the significance of London Pride and its relationship with the media, and finally how workplace EDI efforts are falling short.
Before we delved into the ‘signals of change’ we had gathered, it was important to name what we needed to be aware of throughout the session and consider whilst analysing the shifts:
- Awareness of our individual and collective positionality
- The historical identity and actions of UK and Europe, our current perspectives and how these have been shaped, and the implications that this has
- The overall demography of the sustainability sector and why that is the case
- That we are all continually learning and need to support each other to develop our thinking
Key signals of change we found as a team, and our thoughts on what this might mean for the future included:
Cities governance, public narrative and the role of EDI
France’s stance on secularism and hard line on showing religious symbols in public roles recently progressed with a parent volunteer causing ‘uproar’ for wearing a burkha on a school trip. The city of Grenoble had threats to their funding following a landmark move allowing women to wear ‘burkinis’ in public pools.
The state’s position remains one that needs to ‘protect’ secularism, but Grenoble Mayor Eric Piolle believes that people are confusing where religion can be visible. The state stands by its stance, with Marine Le Pen opposing burkinis in an attempt to tackle “the submission of women”. However, the Muslim community’s very real threat to their physical identity from the state has shed a light on the dangerous hypocrisy. Here, it is the state who has forced them into a submissive existence – one where they are unable to wear burkinis or burkhas in public spaces.
Diversity in Sports
Sports like hiking and camping have not permeated to every community, with some noticing it lacking in diversity. Whilst this is a very specific example, it is a microcosm for wider society with people of colour being underrepresented in sports and often missing from certain spaces and places.
There have been a few organisations set up with the aim of tackling hiking’s demographic issue, such as ‘Boots and Beards’. They were set up to address the social need and “complex needs faced by the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic)community”.
Whilst initiatives such as this are heart-warming to see, they do not always address why the issue existed initially. Boots and Beards began to identify some social barriers that people might face, but this analysis has been limited to Scotland. In order to fully tackle the lack of diversity in sports, the definition needs to widen from ethnicity to social class, physical ability and much more whilst increasing the geographic scope from one area of the UK to the whole region.
Celebration of London Pride 2022
This year’s London Pride event saw over a million people attend, with many celebrating the growth of support since the original 1972 March. The stark difference was noted with 2022 seeing parties, great costumes and lots of fun – worlds away from when people risked arrest for being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Whilst we should definitely be celebrating how much more supportive the public narrative is, the UK/Europe team noticed that trans pride events were not reported as widely in the media. The recent London Trans Pride followed ‘London Pride’ and saw a turnout of 20,0000 people. The sheer difference in numbers may have been the reason for lack of motivation for coverage, but one has to ask if this was the only reason.
The media’s influence must be leveraged to continue to support positive shifts in attitudes and opinions towards LGBTQ+ people, in a way that embraces all aspects of the acronym.
Gender diversity in the workspace is addressed in the UK in many ways including schemes such as ‘Women in Tech’ or ‘Women in STEM’ which encourage women to enter male-dominated industries such as technology. Whilst these are mainly gender-focused, they also reinforce that there is a lack of non-voluntary uptake of particular roles by a diverse pool of people. The efforts can seem rather tokenistic, existing for the purposes of tick boxing and doing well at ‘EDI’. There is a troubling narrative here – that we should be proud that we are doing something not done before, as opposed to questioning why people have not existed in those spaces before.
Positive discrimination is a very real phenomenon and one that is there to help people, but in doing so does it ‘other’ certain demographics? And if so, what are the implications? The recent Forbes article emphasising diversity as positive because of the impact it can have on a company’s success was a clear example of this. Whilst it tries to paint a picture of the future, it is misguided in its attempt. Instead, a shift in a narrative is needed so that people are not ‘othered’ in an effort to include them.
So where do we go from here?
Reducing EDI to another buzzword loses the impact that it can have. Whilst businesses try to gain a competitive advantage through using the term, inequity persists. It can sometimes seem like EDI is a priority that we must consciously recognise, but how about viewing it as something that is intrinsically linked to everything? Much like people can sometimes be ‘othered’ and tokenised during EDI efforts such as ‘Women in Tech’, is the concept itself at risk of being othered? EDI must be understood as being part of a just and regenerative world, that goes beyond the three words included and instead supports building a future where people and the planet’s health are allowed to prosper in the long-term. There’s no denying our love for acronyms, but what would happen if we viewed the concept as a mere tool and entry point into discussions? If we want to create real change from within, perhaps this acronym remains a way in and nothing more.
Every month, our global teams gather to look for signals of change and engage in rapid generative scanning to bring you our glimpses of the future. What are the implications of these signals? What bigger trends are they pointing towards? What if these various signals of change interacted with each other? What would that lead to? We know climate change impacts will affect regions unfairly, so why not produce multiple futures catering to our various contexts – social, cultural, environmental, and more?
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