Ep. 23: Learning the Language of Diversity


8 min read

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S?: Welcome to the Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon. Future-proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.


Toby Mildon: Hello there, and welcome to this episode of the Inclusive Growth Show. I'm Toby Mildon, and in this episode, I'm joined by a fabulous guest, Joanne Lockwood. Joanne is a specialist in inclusion and belonging, and she's got her own podcast as well, Inclusion Bites, which is available on all of the major podcast platforms. I'd like to say that her podcast is not as good as mine, but it probably is as good as mine. Joanne welcome to the show.


Joanne Lockwood: Hi Toby, it's an astute pleasure, thank you for inviting me on.


Toby Mildon: Brilliant, it's great to have you on here. So Joanne, what's... You're a specialist in diversity and inclusion and belonging. What does diversity and inclusion and belonging mean to you? 


Joanne Lockwood: I always start by saying that we should avoid lumping those together, because too often we have D&I, and people think about diversity and inclusion like they're Tom and Jerry, hand-in hand. What we need to think about is diversity is one element, inclusion, another element, and then belonging is yet another element.


Joanne Lockwood: And I'm a great believer in that when organizations start looking at this journey to whatever their journey is, whatever their why of D&I is. They start by thinking about their own values and mission and strategy, and identifying who they are as an organization. They quite often talk about their brand in terms of their products, but how often do they think about their brand in terms of their employee attraction, their employee retention, how people feel working with them and talking about it? So this is where I... That's my fundamental.


Joanne Lockwood: And I think when the employer has this alignment of their vision, values, passion, the language, with the people that work there, that's when you feel this sense of belonging. And this sense of belonging motivates you, it wants you to thrive, you feel this alignment with the values of the organization, and that's where most people wanna be. They wanna work with an employer and an organization that values them, and they value working for.


Joanne Lockwood: And I always feel that from belonging, that sense of inclusion comes in, because you're given a voice, you feel included, you're engaged, valued for who you are, and then the output of that is, diversity thrives. So rather than... Most people look at this hygiene, diversity compliance, we're trying to hire more women, hire more people with disabilities, we're trying to hire more Black people.


Joanne Lockwood: They all forget that the culture, the mission, the values in the organization have to be right first, otherwise you're just hiring people into a toxic environment. So for me, diversity, inclusion, and belonging, they're all separate but inter-linked. And I say belonging is the starting point and where you wanna aim, and diversity should follow.


Toby Mildon: Yeah, because organization's go on a journey, don't they? Because I often find that at the beginning of the journey, they could be blissfully unaware that there are any issues around diversity and inclusion. You know, their business is doing well, there doesn't seem to be any concerns, but sometimes then there's a tipping point, and that can be positive or negative.


Toby Mildon: So on the negative side, it could be an employee putting in a tribunal that's related to a particular protective characteristic. Or it could be positive, like the chief executive goes along to a conference and realises there, how important diversity and inclusion is.


Toby Mildon: But then organizations tend to focus on diversity first, which feels like it's a bit of a kind of numbers game, it's like, "Well, how many women do we have in the business? And at what level of the organization? How many people from an ethnic minority backgrounds?" But then they move on to more of a conversation around inclusion. Is that something that you've seen happen? 


Joanne Lockwood: I started to see a lot of people talking about diversity. "We need more diverse hires, we need to focus on diversity." And, what is a diverse person? I keep asking people, "You talk about diversity hiring, diversity people, diverse person. What is a diverse person?" When is a woman a diverse person? Given that half the population, give or take, are women. Women aren't diverse. The phrase I want to use is "under-represented", we're under-represented in this organization.


Joanne Lockwood: So women are under-represented, people of color, Black people, people with disabilities, people with autism, whatever that may be, they are under-represented. So what we're looking to try and do is increase representation of different people. So, I think that the key thing is, I think language is just as important, I think we're gonna talk about language in a minute.


Joanne Lockwood: But language about how we talk about things is important because people start to focus on diversity as the nirvana, you know? As you said, we can end up tokenizing if we're not careful. And what we want to do is understand why it's important to us as a business to have a gender balance. And we can quote Mackenzie. We can do this.


Joanne Lockwood: But fundamentally, if half the population are male, half the population are female, then it makes sense to have female representation in terms of product design, in terms of customer service, in terms of looking at innovation, in terms of looking at opportunities that a man may not see. And also bringing some EQ and some soft skills into the workplace that may not exist in a gender imbalanced environment.


Joanne Lockwood: So this is when we talk about these power diversity. But often, when C-Suite senior managers are looking at this, they're looking at the number and the kind of the metric of the why behind it. It's almost like they've learned that diversity is good, but they haven't understood why it's good, and then try... And they don't know how to leverage that, that competitive advantage or that strength, and that's where people walk out.


Toby Mildon: Yeah, because organizations, they should be like a mirror of society. If half the population is female and half the population is male, why is a business not reflecting that? And it reminds me of a... There's a really great film out there called, Gender Decoded, and I remember that there's a part of the film where they talk about the number of women that were injured by airbags when they were first created in the '60s.


Toby Mildon: And they couldn't understand why more women were being injured by airbags than men, but it was because the airbag was developed by an all-male engineering team, so they had this bias for creating airbags with the male frame in mind. And more women were being injured by airbags than men, so it makes for a better product.


Joanne Lockwood: Men are heavier, so therefore, you needed a more powerful airbag for the male torso, and women just their size and stature tend to sit closer to the steering wheel because their legs on average are shorter. Plus they have soft tissue in different places, and their fat distribution is more weighted around their lower half, and so they tend to submerge or submarine under the seatbelts, because there's a lot of mass in the seat.


Joanne Lockwood: Whereas men, they have a high density of mass in the torso, which tends to lean into the cross-chest belt. And so, the whole design of the restraining system is biased around male design. And there's other studies, and as you probably know, there's a study about Aspirin.


Joanne Lockwood: About, if you're susceptible to having a heart attack, taking a half an Aspirin a day can alleviate heart symptoms, but that was biased around male test patients. And there's actually no evidence to support the fact that women benefit at all from taking Aspirin, whereas men do.


Joanne Lockwood: So these are just little examples where our test group, no one has actually sat back and said, "Who is the test group? Why are they made up? What's the data we'll be getting out? What do we know from this?" All we know is that men are okay, and women haven't been thought about.


Toby Mildon: Yeah. I mean, it's incredibly fascinating, and we could probably do a whole podcast episode on this alone, but what I'd like to move on and talk to you about is some of the work that you do, and the specializing that you do around gender diversity. What should businesses be aware of right now? 


Toby Mildon: You know, the contemporary stuff and the organizational stuff that they need to be thinking about, particularly given the current context that we find ourselves in. So we're recording this episode in the pandemic, the pandemic is throwing up loads of stuff around diversity and inclusion, but from the work that you do, what do businesses need to be aware of? 


Joanne Lockwood: I think the first fundamental thing is to recognize that the actual lived experience and the life experience of men and women is often different. There's often a societal and personal imbalance between the roles of women and the roles of men, and this is not being a sexist, this is not stereotyping.


Joanne Lockwood: This is just often, women take more responsibility for childcare, often women take more responsibility for the home, economic admin, running the home. And men often take more responsibility for work and earning and traditional male roles. And whilst we're in the 21st century and we've come a long way, those gender imbalances still exist. Not everywhere, but in a good proportion.


Joanne Lockwood: And what we have to recognize is, in COVID and this lockdown situation, women are disproportionate disadvantaged in the home, where they live in a family, because they not only have to conform their work environment, their work task and be a great employee or a great business leader, they also have to be a great home leader and a parent and home educator.


Joanne Lockwood: And whilst it's true many men join in with this, and again, I'm not... All the great fathers out there and great parents out there who are male, you're doing a fantastic job and I'm not trying to decry what you do. But often, if a child falls over and grazes their knee, that they run to mum. The child wants help, their first reaction is go to mum.


Joanne Lockwood: And so whilst there may be a gender balance in the responsibilities in the home, mum tends to be the primary person, or the female parent tends to be the primary person the child will go to. And that can have a huge knock on. And then we think about things like domestic violent, and again, I appreciate that men are victims of, or targets to domestic violence as well.


Joanne Lockwood: But disproportionally, women are living in toxic relationships. So the home life, without generalizing, is, tends to be a lot trickier for women. And employers need to recognize that that gender imbalance in the COVID situation is something they need... So they can't treat all employees the same, they have to be very person-centric.


Joanne Lockwood: But also we have to also recognize that male suicide and male mental health is also a struggle, and that being a man is not easy either. So there are whole other factors here. And if you spread that into maybe LGBTQ, same for diversity, gender diversity, that the stress of maybe being in isolation, the stress of living with a toxic... In a toxic home life environment, the stress of not being able to go out and be you and be your authentic self with your chosen family, rather than your home family, is also a big pressure.


Joanne Lockwood: So there's a huge amount of things to think about there, and I'd say to employers, it's not just a case of thinking about difference between men and women, between White people and Black people, it's about thinking about people as individuals. Thinking about their intersections, thinking about their needs, thinking about the stresses they have of being them, and dealing with it on a very personal level.


Toby Mildon: I like the word that you used about being person-centric. I used to work in experience and design before I got into diversity and inclusion, and we talked about taking a human-centered design approach when we were designing our digital products and services. So how can businesses be more person-centric? How can they avoid having that kind of blanket approach that so many businesses do take when they're designing diversity and inclusion interventions or programs? 


Joanne Lockwood: For sure, for sure, yeah. And I've developed the phraseology through working with healthcare, working with the healthcare professionals in NHS, and other private sectors. That, person-centric design, for me, is a fundamental part of diversity and inclusion initiatives.


Joanne Lockwood: And yes, if you're a huge organization, you can't be person-centric to the minutiae, but you always have to think about the person at the end of the policy and the impact that a decision or a voice, a language, or a statement may make to someone who doesn't think or react in the same way you do.


Toby Mildon: So I want us to talk about language now, because you work with organizations to help them become trans-positive organizations, and we've previously talked about language. And what you've said in the past to me has really resonated with me as somebody with a disability.


Toby Mildon: People are sometimes afraid of saying the wrong thing or causing offence, so they either make daft mistakes. I've had people patting me on my head before. If ever you do that, I will bark back at you, by the way. Or they avoid talking to me or avoid the situation altogether, which means that we end up with inaction, nothing happening. So, what's your thoughts around language and what's good language, bad language? [chuckle] When do you... I don't know, that kind of thing.


Joanne Lockwood: I think, we all have to recognize that language evolves. Language which was great language or common language, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago, is not great language today. I mean, the word "spastic", it was a very acceptable language. There was a Spastic Society. It meant something.


Joanne Lockwood: It was only when the language was turned into pejorative phraseology, it became a negative, that it falls out fashion. And again, the word "handicap" was a very commonly used word, and now we've turned that around. And you apply that language to the same language in my own country, we've used the word "transvestite", we've used the word "transsexual", we've used language that was contemporary.


Joanne Lockwood: But language evolved because the connotations and they became pejorative. And what we need to do is escape those words and define new language that was owned by the community. So, "queer" is another great word. I know many people that hear the word "queer" and it strikes shivers down them. They've been the target of... You had that word being used against them.


Joanne Lockwood: But now, you know, look at the younger generation. Being queer, gender queer, queer community, identifying as, "I'm queer," as an identity, and it's being reclaimed. And we can look at that word and other characteristics in the disability community, in the race and faith communities, where they've owned the slur and turned it into an identity.


Joanne Lockwood: So I think, language, you need to have some cultural sensitivity and some EQ. So yeah, both the CQ and EQ, to kinda understand the context in how you speak, the person with whom you're communicating with. And I always talk about being accountable. So, if I say something, I need to be accountable for my voice.


Joanne Lockwood: And it's not just about my intent, it's about my impact. "I didn't intend to hurt you, but the impact was I did." And then I'll have to own that and say, "Well, I'm sorry. How could I do that better next time?" So, I always have a lot of time for people who own their language, who own their impact, who own their own footprint and who they are.


Joanne Lockwood: What I find very hard is when people push it back. The classic, "It was a mistake." "It," is kind of like pushing it away. It. Who made the mistake? Oh, you've made the mistake but you're not owning that, you're pushing it away, your "It." So, own it, be accountable, be vulnerable, apologize, move on and don't do it again.


Joanne Lockwood: That's important, but yeah... Well, I've mentioned two words earlier, "transvestite", "transsexual". People still identify with those terms, but we've moved on. "Cross-dressing" is an acceptable term now for somebody who was previously called a transvestite, and "transsexual", people who are trans generally don't use that word, because a general identity is an identity, it's above the shoulders.


Joanne Lockwood: Whereas, transsexual, the implication is it's below the waist. And that's the kind of nuance and difference that we gotta kind of be sensitive to and... But ask. If someone is not sure how to greet you, they say, "Toby, is it okay if I shake your hand?" And you say, "I'd rather you didn't. I'd rather you shook this hand instead."


Joanne Lockwood: "Toby, would you prefer me to crouch down to speak to you? Or would you rather if I stood up and leant over you?" And you say, "Well, actually, if you pull up a chair, that's best for me." And so it's actually reaching out to the person you're trying to communicate with. And being person-centric is saying, "How is this gonna work best for you? I'll meet you halfway and we can work on it together."


Toby Mildon: It's interesting, 'cause even in the disability community, we... One of the biggest debates is whether we say, "disabled people" or "persons with disability". And there's arguments on both side of the fence, and some people are like staunch person first language, where they say, "No, I'm a person with the disability. I'm not a disabled person because that's kind of putting the condition or the medical need first."


Toby Mildon: Whereas, my preference is, I'm a disabled person, when I introduce myself to people. Part of that is laziness, if I'm honest. It's fewer words. But it's just something I've grown used to. It's just something I'm quite happy with. But I think actually people just need to ask, "What language do you like to use, how do you like to self-identify?"


Joanne Lockwood: Well, I'm... Because I'm not... I don't identify within the disability community as such, I tend to say both phrases, and I tend to say a "disabled person or a person with a disability", in a phrase to be inclusive of both identities. And then explain why I've said that, because I know some that are passionate about that.


Joanne Lockwood: It's almost like the Gulliver's Travels, "Which end of the egg do you open? Is it the pointy end or is it the round end?", sort of thing. And you have to be culturally sensitive to the needs of the community you're talking to. And there's big D-deaf and the small d-deaf, isn't there? And there's various different languages you're gonna learn.


Joanne Lockwood: And if you're listening to this podcast, and this is blowing your mind and you're getting really confused about it, welcome to our club. This is kind of... Even when you're in the D&I space, it's not that easy. But as I say, it's about emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence, where you have the tools in your tool set, in your own personality, to better navigate these waters with respect, with curiosity, but understanding your impact and what that impact could do to somebody.


Toby Mildon: Yeah. I'm glad you raised that, because both you and I work in the diversity and inclusion space, or the industry, and there are times when I get it wrong. Even when we were planning this recording together, I felt at times I was stuttering through our conversation because I wasn't sure what the right language to use was. I didn't wanna cause offence. And I think I said something like, "transgender issues", and it's not an issue as such, it's a... But we...


Joanne Lockwood: It's an issue to you, but it's not to me, you're making it my issue, sort of thing. Yeah.


Toby Mildon: Yeah. But I think we both have the skills to navigate through that, and I have that open mind really. So, what does... This is the Inclusive Growth Show, but what does inclusive growth mean to you in the work that you do with your clients? 


Joanne Lockwood: I suppose, I don't necessarily use that phrase actively in my vocabulary. So I'm thinking, what does it mean to me hearing you ask me that question? So I describe the D&I, whatever it is, as a journey. There is no endpoint. And I also describe it as an infinite journey, we're never gonna get to the end of this.


Joanne Lockwood: And what we should do is, if we so often look over our shoulder, see how far we come, not just judge it by how far we've got to go. So we can look back and say, "We have achieved a lot, we still got more to do." So I say inclusive growth maybe, is plotting your course on that journey, and for me it's about trajectory and velocity, picking a destination, making sure that it's navigable, you've got the resources, you've got the fuel, you've got all the resources you need to achieve that navigation.


Joanne Lockwood: And find a velocity and pace that is sustainable. There's no point in going hell for leather into a destination, then realizing when you get there, you've overshot, or the world's changed under your feet on the way and you haven't noticed. So it's about trajectory and velocity, knowing where you're starting and where you wanna go and how you wanna get there.


Toby Mildon: That's brilliant, I love it. Thanks, Jo. And before we go, how does the person listening to this interview get in touch with you, if they want to talk to you further about your work? Or you've got a great Trans Allies handbook that you give out to people. So how can they get in touch with you? 


Joanne Lockwood: I will suggest to people that they start with LinkedIn. So if you connect me on LinkedIn, if you search for Joanne Lockwood or Jo Lockwood, that's a great place to start. Connection request, you don't need to put a message in there, but if you do, say, "Hello Jo, I heard you on Toby's podcast and can I have a copy of your Trans Allies handbook?" And I'll send you a copy or I will send you the link.


Joanne Lockwood: You can also visit my website, which is seechangehappen.co.uk, that's S-E-E-changehappen.co.uk, and do subscribe to my podcast, which is Inclusion Bites. If you search for that in Google, it's the podcast with the bright red toy teeth and a little emoji it looks a bit like me on top.


Joanne Lockwood: And I also have a newsletter which comes out every Thursday morning at 7:30 in the morning, and I give you something to listen to, something to read, something to watch. Just a little bite-size thing for the weekend, so you can take it away and maybe have a browse instead of the Sunday paper. But all of those methods have got a great way of getting in contact with me and keeping in touch.


Toby Mildon: Excellent. Thanks, Jo. Thank you for joining me on this episode of the Inclusive Growth Show, I have really enjoyed our conversation. And thank you for tuning into this episode with Jo and myself. If you do want to get in touch with Jo, please do so. With the ways that she outlined earlier.


Toby Mildon: If you have enjoyed our conversation and you know a colleague, a family or friend that would be interested in this episode, please do share it with them. Until then, please do tune in for the next episode. I look forward to seeing you then. Thanks very much.


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S?: Thank you for listening to the Inclusive Growth show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website at mildon.co.uk.