The topic of diversity and inclusion has been on the radar of many businesses and organisations for quite some time - catapulted after the tragic events of George Floyd’s death which lead to the Black Lives Matter movement. This made the world take a step back and look at the way they’re treating others and people began taking steps to create more diverse and inclusive environments than ever.

A recent survey by People Management found that only a third of Black women feel valued at work!

Though there is so much that needs to be done to right all the wrongs that have taken place against people of colour, different races, religions and abilities, one step we can all take to make a difference is to stand up for what is right and create safe environments for everyone. 

Businesses should be leading by example to create diverse and inclusive spaces that make everyone feel welcome, included, respected, and ultimately safe - whether that be physically or psychologically. 

This is such an important topic and it is vital that everyone takes steps to achieve racial, gender, and disability parity in the workplace. A group of experts took to the stage at Ideas Fest 2022 to discuss how we can create safer spaces in our workplace, and how you can be an ally in your office to create better environments. 

To start the conversation the group highlighted the importance of your diversity plans being more than just Lip Service! Lip Service is to publicly support or approve of something, while actually taking no action to produce it. It is vital that businesses that are claiming to support diversity and inclusion must be working proactively to make sure this is true. 

Dani Wallace, motivational speaker and founder of I am the Queen Bee said, “Often there’s a disparity in where the responsibility lies when it comes to creating safe spaces. It should be down to the management to create the environment, but as individuals, we all hold the responsibility to maintain it.” 

Abi Adamson, Founder & DEI Director of The Diversity Partnership said, ”When we talk about psychological safety, it means whoever you are, wherever you come from, and what you’re doing, you have the right to and should feel safe in every environment. The discrepancy in this lies where businesses have policies in place, yet people aren’t being held accountable when they’re going against these policies. Diversity needs to be more than a tick-box exercise and lip service around this topic needs to end.” 

Emma Kay, founder of WalkSafe agreed saying, “Too often people will shout about what they want to do to create these safe spaces, but don’t actually want to pay for the things and take the time for the things they need to do to achieve this outcome. We all need to be more sincere when we talk about safe spaces.

“We also need to be more authentic and look at what we’re doing all year round, not just being diverse when it’s Pride Month or Black History Month.” 

So, how can businesses do more to truly create these safe spaces? 

Emma said, “Ultimately it comes down to a lack of understanding. The corporate sector for example knows they have a duty of care for all of their staff, but they don’t know where to start and understand why. 

“A lot of people don’t even know who to go to at work if they feel unsafe, and others feel that if they do they won’t be heard and understood.”

Explaining the importance of taking complaints seriously in the workplace, Abi said, “We need to start believing people when they say something is happening. We all have different experiences in the workplace, and everyone is entitled to feel a certain way. If I come to you and say someone has said something discriminatory believe me! When we start believing people we can solve these situations sooner.”

Jamie Klingler founder of Creative Influence Alliance said “If you’re making a point to recruit diverse people, then why are you not doing the right things to keep them, and make them feel safe? You’re wasting everyone’s time and money.”

Adding to this point the group went on to discuss how allyship in the workplace is the key to creating safe places - from employees, and management. 

Dani said, “We need allyship in the workplace, so if someone is being discriminated against or bullied, there will be people who can stand up and defend them, when the victim may feel like they can’t.” 

Emma agreed, “By speaking out on behalf of other people you can make people feel more comfortable and safe to come forward about their own feelings.” 

“Nobody knows everything - but together we know a lot. Knowledge is power, it’s a cliche I know, but its so important,” added Abi.  

And how can businesses set the foundation for a safe, diverse environment? 

“It’s all about the induction programme! When the only black person starts, it may make you uncomfortable to do, but it’s important to check if they’re happy and feeling safe. It’s all about the environment. For example, if you’re going to the pub every Friday with the team, but you have Muslim employees, you’re singling them out and not being considerate of their safe spaces. It’s these things that all businesses need to be aware of,” said Jamie. 

Adding to this Abi said, “Hire inclusively. Make sure that you’ve covered everything, ask basic questions and find out what potential employees need to make them feel safe - and ask them what they expect from a business. Ask them questions that allow them to know that you care and they will thrive.” 

“Physical spaces are also important to consider,’ said Emma.  

“For example, quiet spaces will help people’s mental health at work or having gender-neutral toilets could make people feel comfortable etc.”

It’s important to take a step back and look at every part of your business model and look at it from the perspective of everyone in your workplace. Are you allowing everyone to thrive?  

Interested in hearing more talks about things that matter, from experts who care? 

Get your tickets for Ideas Fest 2023, where we will be bringing inspiring thought leaders together to discuss current, relevant and fascinating topics that will leave you with the skills to take your business and your mind to the next level.