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‘Glass cliff edge’ for minorities is ‘phenomenon’ to be ‘mindful of’ – DIFF

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  • 15/05/2024
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‘Glass cliff edge’ for minorities is ‘phenomenon’ to be ‘mindful of’ – DIFF
Minorities being "parachuted in" to "top positions" following a crisis, or the "glass cliff edge", is something that people should be aware of, as it could set back diversity and inclusion (D&I) progress, a Baroness has said.

Speaking at the Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum (DIFF) Lunch 2024, Baroness Hazarika of Coatbridge in the county of Lanarkshire (pictured), said that “representation does matter to all of us”.

She noted that while she was a Labour peer, she was “proud” when Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister and Humza Yousef took on the role of First Minister for Scotland. She also pointed at Vaughan Gething becoming the First Minister for Wales, the first Black person to do so.

“These milestones are really important, and that does matter, as for many of us, there weren’t that many role models. People can say that in a trite way, but it is really important for us and for our children if they see someone who looks like them doing something. It doesn’t have to be politics, it could be anything; it gives them a powerful subliminal message that this could be for them,” Hazarika noted.

She continued on to say that there had been “wave of diversity” in politics, but the circumstances in which people got their jobs were following a crisis, which she termed the “glass cliff edge”, where someone from a minority will be parachuted into the top of organisation, but it will be in a “moment of extreme chaos and crisis”.

“They are clinging on to that glass cliff edge in a very precarious position… What happens there is that they are a bit out of their depth… As it is an unusual situation for them to be there; they don’t have support networks or have [a] huge amount of experience.

“That is a phenomenon that we should look out for as people who are interested in D&I; beware that getting parachuted in to deal with the crisis and then tick off a diversity box, and then they will fail and go back to business as usual. That is something we must be mindful of,” Hazarika added.

 

We are ‘losing centre ground on discussions around D&I’

Hazarika said that there had been a “rush” to D&I in the past, with schemes, box-ticking, bringing in consultants and doing away-days, and then the “job will be done”, but there has now been a “backlash” against D&I policies, whether regarding racial equality, transgender rights or wokeness.

She said that there have been “extreme[s] on both sides who have pushed the agenda too far”, with those on the left becoming “censorious and almost too much”, which has led to a reaction from the right “where any discussion of anything progressive was wokeness gone mad”.

“Most people want society to improve and progress, they want their kids and grandkids to have better opportunities and not [live] in a society that has a lot of discrimination, but they don’t want to be told that they are a bigot, racist or transphobe or an evil person. We are losing that centre ground on discussions around D&I, and it is important to get that back,” she said.

Hazarika said that many people were “seeing D&I as box-ticking” and “too aggressive”, adding that some things had been done with the “best of intentions, but it has been really clumsy”.

She pointed to anti-racism training she had gone on that had been quite “divisive”, as it talked about people of colour versus white people, and it had become about “finger wagging”.

“We all want to change our power structures, but in my view you can’t go in and tear things down. You have to bring people with you, have to evolve things and do it in good faith. You are more likely to get lasting change, and you have to help talent rise in a genuine way, and you have to mentor people genuinely and offer that support,” Hazarika said.

 

Numbers are ‘important’ but ‘not the whole story’

Hazarika said looking at numbers was “important” and they would tell a story, but it was “not the whole story”, and it can turn into a “box-ticking exercise”.

“You need a critical mass of people who are there, who are well-supported, they have the right skills and right experience, but they have got that network as well,” she noted.

Hazarika said that, sometimes in organisations, for women, people of colour and other minorities, diversity was solely their responsibility and they were the “flagbearers of all diversity”.

“That is a lot, because we are not the same people… We do not have the same thoughts and feelings. We are not a homogenous group… We are multi-faceted people, and working on this stuff has to be a shared collective and endeavour, not down to a few random minority people who have all the pressure on them.”

She said that “great strides” had been made on diversity, but that society should never be complacent and there were key challenges from multiple areas.

 

To see the photo highlights of the annual DIFF Lunch, follow this link.

 

Members of DIFF shared their takeaways from the initiative at this year’s lunch, watch what they had to say here.

 

The Diversity and Inclusivity Finance Forum is a network that aims to discuss and promote key ideas and activities to create a more balanced and fair mortgage industry.

If you would like to become a member, please get in touch with iain.cartlidge@ae3media.co.uk for more details.

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