March is Women’s History Month, and we focused a great deal of our reading and learning around this important occasion to celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture and society. Tragically, March was also the month that Sarah Everard was kidnapped and murdered – raising a national and global conversation about what it means to be a woman today, the ongoing safety issues women face, how we can be better allies and make our streets safer – in London and around the world. In addition to the below article on the recent tragedy, we recommend reviewing this editorial from The Guardian on the ongoing violence against women. You can also donate to UN Women UK, who are working to make sure that all public spaces in the UK are safe and inclusive for everyone.
March 2021 also marked the year anniversary of when the UK went into lockdown due to COVID-19. It’s been recognised that the coronavirus pandemic has hit some communities harder than others. When we look at the social, economic, and environmental factors, we see clear differences in how people are being affected, particularly Black and South Asian ethic groups. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. In addition to this, a 2020 study from the UK Biobank found that Black people are four times more likely to require hospital admission for COVID-19 compared to White people. The reason is due to differences in the communities’ wealth, health, education and living arrangements. With these findings, it shines an important spotlight on the need for racial equality, where we see every person as having equal rights, respect, and dignity. We recommend reading this article from The Conversation, which goes into more depth on why Black and Asian people are at greater risk of coronavirus.
Please see below for some of the DE&I content that we read and discussed in March.
WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
Sarah Everard's journey from Clapham Common to Brixton had taken her through some of the capital's most populated, brightly lit, and well-walked parts. Hundreds of people – many of them young women – tread those pavements every day and consider the streets in and around them home. This article from the BBC highlights stories about women’s experiences walking the streets of London and the lengths they go to so that they feel safe.
As the workforce gets older, ageism is also becoming more of an issue. Statistics from charity Age UK show that ageism is the most common type of discrimination in Europe – and it is women who are bearing the brunt of it. It is believed that if you get older, especially as a woman, that your value diminishes, as our society praises youth.
The nature of the criticism against Meghan Markle may fall into a well-trodden pattern that is frequently used as a tactic to undermine Black women. Meghan is far from the first woman with Black heritage to be accused of being a bully. In January this year, Love Island star Yewande Biala had to defend herself against claims of bullying from white co-star Lucie Donlan. In June 2020, Sugababes star Keisha Buchanan released a video explaining the trauma she experienced at being portrayed as a ‘bully’ and an ‘angry Black woman’ during her time in the girl band. Studies show that this archaic stereotype is still used today to characterise Black women as aggressive, ill tempered, illogical, overbearing, and ignorant ‘without provocation’ – and that it has been used to discredit Black women’s emotions since slavery.
Gay conversion therapy is the attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, through a range of methods, from prayer to sexual abuse. Reporter Minnie Stephenson investigates the distressing and painful practices members of the LGBT community are put through, and how, at its heart, this so-called therapy exploits the emotions of many LGBT people. The UK has pledged to ban gay conversion therapy, but 1,000 days after they made this promise, it’s still legal. When asked about the issue, the PM's spokesperson said the government is "considering both legislative and non-legislative options" to "end" conversion therapy.
Sound of Metal is a 2019 American drama film starring Riz Ahmed as a metal drummer who loses his hearing. Most Deaf people don’t view their deafness as a disability or as a problem that should be fixed. For many of them, it’s a natural part of a cultural experience that they share with friends, both Deaf and hearing. Sound of Metal has been resoundingly successful among critics and hearing audiences, but its impact on the Deaf and hard of hearing (D/HoH) community has been overlooked. Touching as the film may be for hearing audiences, the response from the D/HoH community is varied, but largely negative. Sound of Metal is just another reminder that they haven’t been allowed to tell their own stories.
We welcome you to share this blog post and any thoughts or learnings with your wider community. Thank you for participating in our ongoing education, and we’ll share our next post in the series in May.
To learn more about Allison+Partners DE&I work in the UK, please check out our recent blog post, “Building a diverse and inclusive workplace” by Partner and Managing Director, Jim Selman.