Equality? Diversity? Inclusion?

Organisations use a bewildering variety of names for their monitoring questions and many show that they really don’t know what data they are collecting and why. Examples found:

  • Diversity monitoring form
  • Equal opportunities and recruitment monitoring
  • Diversity details
  • Equality and diversity monitoring
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Recruitment Diversity Monitoring
  • Equal Ops

It’s helpful to give some definitions to the terms equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Equality

At its core, equality means fairness: ensuring that individuals, or groups of individuals, are not unlawfully treated less favourably because of their protected characteristics.

Diversity

Diversity is about recognising difference. It’s acknowledging the benefit of having a range of perspectives in an organisation’s operations and decision-making and taking steps to aid that diversity.

Inclusion

Inclusion is where people’s differences are valued and used to enable everyone to thrive in that organisation. An inclusive organisation is one in which everyone feels that they belong without having to conform, that their contribution matters and they are able to perform to their full potential, no matter their background, identity or circumstances.

Unintended consequences

This website deals with the equality aspect because therein lie the legal obligations organisations have to not unlawfully discriminate and where we have seen detrimental impacts on women in particular.

An organisation can be diverse if it wants to be; an organisation can be inclusive if it so desires — these are both admirable qualities. But care needs to be taken to monitor and ensure that steps taken towards diversity and inclusion don’t have unintended consequences on the equality rights of others. This could be unintended indirect discrimination that could affect a different group within the organisation.

A topical example could be the provision of mixed-sex toilets (sometimes misnamed as ‘gender-neutral’). This may sound like a good move to make some staff, pupils, etc feel included, but it could have serious and unintended consequences particularly for women in the organisation who can’t (perhaps for religious reasons) or don’t wish to (for reasons of dignity and safety) attend to personal or intimate bodily needs in the presence of men. Unless proper and full account is taken of these consequences, an organisation might seem to become more inclusive, but potentially fail in their duties towards those who share a protected characteristic.