What are the steps that small business owners can take to ensure equality and inclusivity?

The tragic death of George Floyd, and the consecutive rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has catapulted new and necessary discussion regarding racism and discrimination in all areas of society, leaving many people wondering what they can do to help. At the forefront of social media, hundreds of people have provided extensive information, with significant, accessible, and constructive recommendations concerning how people can support the movement, which has proven to be insightful to people all around the world. The advance of this difficult, yet essential discussion has led us at Morgan Branding to also take part in the discourse, and question what we, as a small business, can do to tackle not only racism but all levels of discrimination in business.

Discrimination

The Equality Act 2010[1] declares that discrimination in the workplace is illegal in the UK, meaning you cannot be treated differently because of your ‘protected characteristics’[2]including gender, race or disability. However, discrimination may not always be deliberate, often going unnoticed by spectators as they unwittingly overlook the consequences it may have for others. In the workplace, discrimination comes in various forms, such a direct discrimination, whereby a person is actively treated differently due to their protected characteristics. Alternatively, it may be that rules and guidelines of the workplace tend to affect some people adversely in comparison to others who don’t possess the same characteristics, for example rules that don’t consider inherent differences between people, putting one group at a clear advantage.

Inequality

Despite years of progressive effort, issues of inequality in business prevail. Recent reports have disturbingly shown that ‘Millennials from BAME backgrounds were 58 per cent more likely to be unemployed than their White counterparts’[1], and that men, on average, earn a higher annual salary in almost every sector in the UK, even those that are predominantly female such as public relations. In order for a firm to promote equality, regardless of the size they must

  1. Provide equal pay and benefits for equal roles
  2. Show equal consideration for needs
  3. Promote equal opportunities for progression and promotion

“What makes implicit prejudice so persistent is that it is rooted in fundamental mechanics of thought. Early on, we learn to associate things that commonly go together and expect them to inevitably coexist: thunder and rain for instance, or gray hair and old age. Unfortunately this kind of functional associations can blind us in those instances when the reality is deeper than the one perceived.”[4]

What are the steps that small business owners can take to ensure equality and inclusivity?

  • The Taylor Review states that “the best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations within the organisation”. This means that employers should actively work to identify issues of inequality in their firm and report progress regularly.
  • In a diverse team, people of all genders, races and disabilities should be involved in decision making that will directly impact the whole team. Various studies have shown the negative impact of androcentric and ethnocentric decision making and beta biases (when the differences between groups of people are not considered. This differentiation is important in subject studies where specific differences between people exist meaning that some may be at a disadvantage as their needs may go unacknowledged)
  • Employers should make use of the growing bodies of research and advice about inclusivity, diversity, and equality, particularly with a focus on educating themselves on issues they may not be familiar with or have faced themselves.
  • In larger firms with more staff, particularly in geographic areas that are typically diverse, issues surrounding diversity and equality are often more prominent. Therefore, opportunities for minority groups and women alone should be promoted, in order to proportion the degree of opportunity for those who are systemically disfavoured.
  • Employers should involve staff in consultation with regards to equality and discrimination, proactively considering recommendations and advice suggested to support staff.
  • Challenge those who display prejudice views. As Desmond Tutu famously worded it- “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”- stand up and speak out, even if these views have no direct impact on you. Amongst this includes efforts to stop supporting organisations that promote hatred, whether that be personally in your spending or via business through the means of suppliers or clients.
  • Encourage your team to employ their own research about systemic racism and sexism, particularly in the workforce, taking time to consider their inherent privileges and what they can do to support those who don’t have the same.

How we can make a difference

As a small team operating in Warrington, we are aware of the lack of diversity within the team and amongst our clients and are consciously concerning ourselves with the issue. The director Callum Morgan has spoken about the matter exclaiming “this isn’t a problem that can be fixed overnight” but is dedicated to “give people opportunities” regardless of their colour, gender or socioeconomic background. As a result, he plans to diversify the young groups within the community that he speaks to about business, in hope of expanding opportunities for more people, making it clear that “opportunities and success aren’t just reserved for white men”.

What we can do to help you:

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