Like many companies we made a pledge last July to make diversity and inclusion a priority. For us this came down to six areas. Two were immediate priorities - reviewing the language of our skills library, and writing new anti-racism advocacy skills. Three were ideas that would follow from the first review. The sixth related to hiring.
It’s time for an update on how we've done. I'm going to give us a B-
We've commissioned a review of our content, and implemented the findings. We have also made some progress on hiring. But other things haven't progressed in the way that we'd have liked yet.
How did we go about it? What have we learned? And why did it take so long?!
We began by addressing the biggest need: our hundreds-strong library of content that teams use to build their frameworks.
We commissioned diversity and inclusion consultant Edleen John to review our content library for inherently biased language. Edleen’s review revealed that while our content as a whole wasn’t inherently biased, there were words and phrases that could be improved to be more inclusive.
Some of these changes that we've fixed in our library seem obvious in hindsight.
Using phrases like 'Under you' and 'superiors' is not great for making everyone feel welcome. Junior/senior colleagues is far better. Likewise we’ve been talking about development areas rather than weaknesses for a long time, and that should have been reflected in our content.
Some that were highlighted we questioned why we were using then anyway and can be attributable to personal bias towards using english sayings (did we need to be talking about signing from hymn sheets, or sixth senses)?
Some changes we’d never have thought about.
'At pace/fast' feels like common business language but this can be disability exclusionary. A better replacement? Effectively and efficiently. And isn’t that all that we want anyway? Also Edleen suggested that 'shipping something' is exclusionary on an ethnicity basis, better to 'release', 'distribute' or 'deliver' it.
We’ve included the full list of areas we’ve changed at the bottom of this blog. Edleen was clear that context is important, and there are always exceptions.
Our biggest takeaway? We couldn’t have done this by ourselves. We’ll get better at it, but are grateful to Edleen for giving us a much needed push on our way.
And why did it take nine months?
Nothing simple is ever easy. We had a major product blocker to making changes to our content. We had to push through a product change around skills ownership, and it got sticky. I might write a more detailed blog post another time, but it was a good day when the Jira ticket PROD-822 moved to complete!
What now? We need to implement stages 2-5 of our pledge. We haven't forgotten about these important things that we want to achieve, and we will complete them.
And hiring. Finding good people is hard. But so far we’ve managed to get from 0 - 40% female for our permanent staff. 50:50 is our goal and we’re working hard to get there. We have work to do on our hiring of POC, but we continue to focus on it with a low anxiety hiring process and by implementing the Rooney Rule to ensure we're always interviewing under-represented people at every stage of our process.
Diversity and inclusion round 1 done. Our work is only just starting.
Summary of Progression content review findings
Thanks to Edleen for helping with this. It was a fascinating process and taught us a lot.
Key: Words to Avoid (On what basis) – Suggested Alternatives
- Uncomplaining (Gender) - Accepting of
- Weaknesses (Gender) – Development areas
- Unglamorous (Gender) - Mundane
- Nebulous (SEB) – Ill-defined/Unclear
- Assimilate (Ethnicity) – Adapt/ Incorporate yourself
- Master (Ethnicity) – Experienced/Seasoned/Skilful/Competent
- Policing (SEB/Ethnicity) – Managing/Protecting/Defending
- Elegant (Gender) – Simple
- Fight (Multiple) – Challenge/Strive/Confront
- Arguments (Multiple) – Perspectives/Views/Reasons/Explanations
- From above (Multiple) – Seniors/Managers/ Senior team members
- Subordinates (Multiple) – Juniors/Direct Reports/ Junior colleagues/Junior team members
- Sixth Sense (Religion) – Intuition/Gut Instinct
- Superiors (Multiple) - Senior team members/ Senior colleagues
- Rituals (Religion) – Processes/Acts/Habits/Practices
- Below you (Multiple) – Juniors/Direct Reports/ Junior colleagues/Junior team members
- Above you (Multiple) – Seniors/Managers/ Senior team members
- Under you (Multiple) – Juniors/Direct Reports/ Junior colleagues/Junior team members
- Shipping (Ethnicity) – Releasing/Distributing/Delivering
- Vagaries (SEB) – Unpredictable occurrences/Erratic occurrences
- Hymn (Religion) – In the context you’ve used it, you can say sheet music.
- Folks (SEB) – Specialists/People
- At pace/ fast (Disability) – Effectively and efficiently
- Hold a number of unknowns around a project in your head (Disability) – Is the “in your head” piece necessary?