According to Inclusive Employers, as of the end of June 2023, UK communities will have had the opportunity to celebrate around 100 different inclusion days, periods and events. LGBT+ History Month, Race Equality Week, International Women’s Day, Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Ramadan, Gypsy Roma and Traveller Month and World Autism Day are just a select few, with many more to come over the rest of the calendar year.
Having so many celebration and awareness events is testament to the diversity of our communities, as well as to the need for ongoing learning and unlearning, but organisationally, they can pose a problem. There are so many, so how do we as institutions mark them all? How do we choose which to mark? How do we pick the right ones to mark?
There’s no right way to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of our communities, so to avoid the institutional headaches these questions can pose, consider this instead – why not ditch the calendar?
Pick your own path
This isn’t an article advocating for ditching the recognition of equality, diversity and inclusion efforts altogether; rather, it’s the opposite. When we only recognise EDI topics on specific days, or during set periods, it can come across as tokenistic, lacklustre, and look like the institution is doing the bare minimum.
Our people are our biggest assets, and diversity brings huge benefits to our communities – so why restrict our celebration to a rigid calendar?
Okay, sounds great – but how?
There are lots of ways to acknowledge and celebrate diversity outside of national and international schedules, and we’ve collected some tips for you below:
- Empower your staff and student networks. Providing executive sponsors, funding, and administrative support for your institutional groups to lead the agenda, but not be burdened by doing so, can lead to ongoing events for your community.
- Embed EDI in your day-to-day. Ensure policies and procedures across both professional services and academic departments have equality statements, mandate diverse panels for university events, convert the annual EDI report into quarterly briefings, read statements at the start of committee meetings – the opportunities are endless!
- Talk to all of your people. EDI isn’t just important for departments that support academic endeavours, so consider how projects, estates, and central administration teams could bring EDI into their usual processes. Make sure that alongside any planned events, you regularly discuss all the things your institution does – any of the things on this list are worth communicating regularly.
- And lastly – consider celebrating some scheduled events! While we’ve advocated other methods, your EDI committee could select a number of events to mark across the academic year and change this annually to align with institutional priorities. This avoids some celebrations becoming ‘business as usual’ and can cover more topics over the years.
Rob Drury is a consultant for Halpin, working across People & Culture and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI). Find out more about our People & Culture services here.