By Charlotte Hogg, Co-founder of TheEntrepreneursWorkout
The England U21 team saw victory over Serbia on Tuesday after a 1-0 score at the final whistle, but the following scenes were shocking and violent, fuelled by racist attacks from international players who had been selected to represent Serbia in the Euro 2013 qualifying match.
The team faced chants from the onset of the game, provoked and perturbed throughout the match and found that the hostile environment finally ended in objects being launched across the pitch and violent behaviour from players, coaches and football officials.
Whilst the incident has caused concern for UFEA and outrage across the UK, it raises the question, does racism really still exist in 2012? It is alarming to think, that in the year we have brought the World to London for the Olympic Games and in the week young leaders from over 190 countries are meeting in Pittsburgh for the annual One Young World conference, that this sort of behaviour can still be witnessed.
Whilst for many, it feels like the working world, and society as a whole has progressed significantly in the last 10 years, it has made me think, is racism in the workplace still a problem?
Legally, we are protected against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the workplace, in education, as a consumer, when buying or renting property and as a member of private club or association. In the workplace we are all entitled to equal rights, opportunities and treatment when it comes to dismissal, our employment terms and conditions, our pay and benefits, our promotion and transfer opportunities, our training, our recruitment process and redundancy policy.
In reality though, change can be slow and whilst the changes in the law can regulate behaviour it can’t change attitudes, opinions and the schemas that subconsciously affect our decision making and the choices we make regarding relationships and opportunities. There are still alarming facts around the racial balance of the workforce, from unemployment rates, which are higher for ethnic minorities through to the boardroom balance which is still in the favour of white males.
The decision, ultimately for employers is, how much are you prepared to take in your workforce? It is likely that racism won’t be fully eradicated until everyone embraces a zero tolerance approach. It is undeniable that at times racist remarks can occur when banter gets out of control and what is acceptable to some members of society will be deemed as harassment and victimisation by others.
When you are working in a small business, or indeed alone, it is sometimes challenging to remember that everyone is different, with varying levels of acceptance and understanding. What may be simply a joke or gesture from one person, could be deeply insulting or even bullying to another. The challenge, for many entrepreneurs is that they become their brand and as such, they are constantly open to judgement and everything they say is open to misinterpretation or judgement.
Relativity of scale is a challenge for many businesses and business owners. Similar, discrimination of all sorts can face the same problem. The behaviour we saw in Siberia has caused uproar and outrage in a World that actively encourages multicultural societies and international working. At a small scale, this behaviour may go unnoticed by most but to the person on the receiving end could be just as much of an issue as we witnessed last night and certainly be worthy of a red card.
It is important for you, as an entrepreneur or a business owner, to understand what you, and those around you, are prepared to accept considering the consequences this may have and what it can mean to the future of your business or your career.
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