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Event Report: Diversity and Inclusion: Challenging the Stereotype

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On 18 September 2019 in Plymouth, attendees were given three powerful speakers with a common theme: that diversity and inclusion is not something to be feared or avoided but should be accepted. Each speaker gave personal accounts of how they had encountered challenges in their various careers and had overcome them.

Some of the challenges arose through gender, others through not being recognised as being neurodiverse. In each case, it was necessary to identify the particular strengths that they possessed and use them to their best advantage.

Different requirements were necessary in different countries as there was rarely a ‘one size fits all’ approach. There were also different preconceptions noted when moving from the retail sector to the construction industry.  When diversity was introduced, it was met with some resistance in some areas, but that solutions were developed.

It was stated that some 7.5 million people in the UK have some degree of neurodiversity and whilst in some areas neurodiversity is seen negatively, in others some businesses actively recruit such people, recognising the particular talents they have. With adaptive technology being subsidised by the DWP, tangible benefits are able to be identified.

All speakers spoke of their early experience of encountering diversity and inclusion issues and areas included age, gender, cultural heritage and language. With a multinational footprint, it was necessary to be aware of differences in culture to avoid unwittingly causing offence or misunderstanding a customer’s requirement - the need was stressed not to make assumptions.

In addition, a benefit had been found in flexible working; this allowed customers in different time zones to be accommodated whilst staff were able to achieve a (personal) work-life balance.

In all cases, the fundamentals of project management remained the same, although the application may vary to some extent.

The event concluded with some key lessons:

  • Make the environment fit the individual
  • Embrace diversity and share ideas
  • Work with the Equality Act, not in spite of it
  • Ensure that objectives are carefully worded to minimise/ avoid gender or cultural connotations which may alienate some stakeholders (decoders can be useful here).

The speakers were thanked for their stimulating and thought provoking presentations.

Julian Harris
SWWE branch committee member


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