What’s the Diverse in Diversity?

Consciously Doing EDI

We have been seeing a growing trend of organisations and institutions doing work in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) arena. In fact there have been many iterations of this three letter triptych, to reflect this current movement happening within the workplace. From Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I), Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) or in the reverse Inclusion and Diversity (I&D), to Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DI&A) or as it is used in the US, (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion (DEAI), no matter the iteration or wordplay, each are implicated in and through the other, working towards inclusivity or as we suggest, a better understanding and acknowledgment of the operations of difference.

To illustrate the impact of this critical moment, on last weekend’s Match of the Day aired on the BBC, (1) we hear the commentator informing us, that the reason behind football players taking the knee over the weekend, after the customary weekly act had been relegated to key matches, was to highlight the Premierships campaign “no to racism.” Further in his announcement, he then says it is to highlight “the ongoing commitment to tackling discrimination and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.” (2) Similarly, we also saw in the international friendly between England’s Lionesses and the US team, players on both sides taking the knee in solidarity with women in the US National Women’s Soccer game, after a damning report exposed abuse and misconduct in the league. Players on both sides not only held a banner which wrote “Protect the Players”, but in addition wore teal armbands to support the victims of abuse.

Whilst both acts of solidarity stand in their own merit, both instances however illustrate how our understandings of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), the version we use within this article, can become conflated with other agendas or lost in translation. In these instances, the sign of taking the knee has not only been removed from its original meaning as an anti-racist statement, but now been used as a general descriptor of EDI work and to tackle sexism, respectively. One of the dangers we highlight in this article then, is that EDI becomes synonymous with only addressing racial inequality or rather becomes reduced to describing race.

A good example of EDI in action was illustrated in 2018 conference to accompany the book launch of Inclusion and Intersectionality in Visual Arts Education (3) held at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), where a disabled audience member spoke up about the lack of diversity and awareness of intersectionality, when talking about diversity issues. For her, when speaking about diversity, gender and race were talked about to death, however she felt that as a society we were a long way away from getting that same kind of urgency in regards to disability. As one of the contributors to the book and speaker at the event, I was in agreement with her because people tend to speak and see the world from their positions first, from their positionality, so that until we get more diversity, a range of values and bodies of difference in key positions and spaces, we will keep on replicating the same old diversity debates and continuously be perplexed as to why there is slow progress towards inclusivity. Inclusion agendas, as arts advisor and consultant Kate Hatton addresses in Towards an Inclusive Arts Education, ‘are always measurable in terms of what can be delivered to those who are excluded.’ (4). Remember, equality of opportunity is about giving people the same access to opportunities, whereas equity is about being fair in every situation, where the context must be acknowledged.

Diverse vs the non-diverse

So what’s the diverse in diversity?

Back in 2019 the cultural and film critic Clive Nwonka wrote in the Guardian, The arts were supposed to champion diversity. What went wrong? In it he reflects on Arts Council England’s (ACE) annual report on diversity, which revealed “a sector despite the rhetoric, still steeped in inequality.” (5) At the time the report was written, it showed that there was little to no improvement when it came to Art’s organisations in England improving the diversity of their leaders and workers in their workforce. In particular it highlighted that there was slow progress in the representation of black and minority ethnic employees in these positions and similarly, if not slightly worse, there was barely any progress for those with disabilities, which reiterates the earlier point made by the audience member with a disability.

Two key points, Nwonka raises which are important to this article, the first is that when people or organisations are seen to do diversity work, often, it seems like tick boxing exercises. He highlights organisations working towards the business case, however one of the ideas that the article is suggesting, is that you can’t use a business case to deal with people, to deal with staff well-being and engagement. People are not just data, although collecting data and being able to interpret data ethically and correctly are important.

Secondly, he then points out to organisations or people following suit, not because they think it’s the right thing to do, but because they have to do it, in order to hit targets for the business case for example. “Diversity policy has always seemed to be driven by semi-coercion rather than social commitment.” The old adage perhaps rings true here used by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the famous British writer and feminist, and the author of Frankenstein (1818) when she writes in the notes of Chapter 5 of her 1792 treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, “convince a man against his will, he’s of the same opinion still.” (6) In other words trying to convert the unconverted is futile, they may appear to agree on the surface but underneath, they are still of an opposing opinion and the more and more you try and get them to see from your perspective, unless they genuinely can do so, it will only push them further and further away. An example of this playing out in the workplace is where an employee will do what needs to be done, and speak to being inclusive, yet their actions will be incongruent. Therefore, learning how to reach the unreachable’s is as important as preaching to those already converted. How do you bring everyone on board?

Another interesting point to raise, which is not necessarily the focus of Nwonka’s article, is how the word “diverse” of late, seems to be used in a reductive way. In a linked article (7), English arts bodies slow to become more diverse, report shows (2019), the term is being used when describing the types of leaders that organisations had either recruited or wanted to see, in lead positions. They are referred to as “diverse leaders”, but who is classed as such or rather, how are we contextualising the word diverse? Are we talking about diverse by proxy of identity and if so, which identities fall into the bracket of being diverse? Within the article the reference to diverse leaders was being made after speaking about the rising number of Black and minority ethnic people being appointed to leadership positions, although the article does speak to the lack of representation in relation to disability? More often than not however, we are seeing what appears to be Freudian slippages where diverse or diversity equates to simply speaking about racial difference and even within that, it appears to be very binary.

Therefore, if there is a common misconception over what is classed as diverse, then what constitutes the non-diverse? These conversations hark back to the universalising of whiteness as the norm, that which goes as the unsaid. According to the cultural studies thinker John Storey, by not being seen as raced, white people become the human race:

As such, whiteness is an incredibly powerful cultural construct (not, as we have noted, biologically determined). It is against this norm that all others are invited to define themselves. We might note that white people are seldom articulated as ‘white’, they are just ‘are’. In news stories, if somebody is white they are invariably not identified as such in text. Model. Writer. Director. As opposed to Black model. Black writer. Black director. White people eat food. Theirs is not ‘ethnic food’. They wear clothes. Theirs is not ethnic fashion…. By not being “raced”, they become the human race.’ (Storey, 2009) (8)

And here lies the connection with using the term diverse, where Black and ethnic minorities and all marginalised under-represented groups are to diverse, as whiteness and hetero-normative culture is to the non-diverse.

Or from another perspective, perhaps the diverse which is being spoken about, refers to those who think in alternative ways, or as with most of these discussions, what they fail to speak more of, is on the impact of and performative nature of class in the workplace. Perhaps the diverse leaders reference the class dynamics and inequalities that we see, when we look at the current class backgrounds of those who govern the country.

Take for example the study carried out by LSE back in 2021 on meritocracy, Deflecting Privilege: Class Identity and the Intergenerational Self (9). According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, 47% of Britons in middle-class professional and managerial jobs identify as working class. Even more curiously, a quarter of people in such jobs who come from middle-class backgrounds, in the sense that their parents did professional work, also identified as working class. The study showed that people were too frightened or didn’t want to talk about their upbringing and their privilege and therefore illustrated the performative nature of the workplace:

“In our report, we argue that these intergenerational understandings of class origin should be read as having a performative dimension; they deflect attention away from the structural privileges these individuals enjoy, both in their own eyes but also among those they communicate their origin stories to in everyday life. At the same time, by framing their lives as an upward struggle against the odds, these interviewees misrepresent their subsequent life outcomes as more worthy, more deserving and more meritorious”.

When we talk about inclusivity then, are we taking into consideration these ideas of class and how it is implicated within these discussions. Whilst not listed as a protected characteristic, the impact of such inequalities related to class, can be felt, experienced and amplified within the workplace, depending on which side of the divide one sits on. As we see with the study, one cannot assume that one is from a particular class or not, however the workplace in itself, perpetuates a certain way of being, a code of conduct that caters to what is classed as “professional” and thereby what is classed as “proper”, or in other words, as this article suggests, the non-diverse.

4 Things to ask yourself

1. What is the context of the area you are looking into. What is the gap? If you have a cohort where all of its members are those with disabilities, those that make that group diverse? The question should then be, how do you bring difference into that team?

2. Learn to reach the unreachable’s – Are you speaking to key stakeholders and if so, how have you come to identify them as such? What of those who are not ready or don’t want to be at the table? How do you bring everyone not just onboard but along?

3. The pipeline – This is a long game, not a short game. For sustainable impact, we need to engage with the grassroots and plant the seeds, whilst simultaneously wait for the harvest. Work not just within our organisations but collaborate and partner with others in the life cycle of your EDI journey. For example, in our work with Trustee’s and governance boards, in demystifying their role, we learnt that more often than not, those in governance roles were given votes of confidence to do such roles by others. If this didn’t happen, like that of accumulative advantage, many of us, would not dare to progress into such positions. Therefore, plant the seeds and encourage those around you, especially if you are in positions of power where you can make a difference and give opportunities to others.

4. We often speak about increasing the visibility of representation of minority groups, but could we also ask to increase the representation of the non-visible? By this we mean, what about recruiting on the premise of the ability to touch one another, not in a physical sense, but rather connecting on an emotional deeper level. Connecting through character, kind rather than kin? As Martin Luther King Jnr best put it, “how often are our lives characterized by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds.” (10) Further he says, we must go beyond physical differences, those of racial difference, and rather enlist consciences, character. How then would the landscape of EDI change and our workforces when we work from a place of deeper awareness?



1) Match of the Day, BBC One [Aired 2022/23: 08/10/2022]
2) Ibid
3) Hatton, K Inclusion and Intersectionality in Visual Arts Education. Trentham Books: UCL IOE Press.
4) Hatton, K. (ed.) (2015) Towards an Inclusive Arts Education. London: Institute of Education Press; Trentham Books.
5) Clive, N (2019) The arts were supposed to champion diversity. What went wrong? Guardian Online. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/15/arts-diversity-arts-council-england-inequality
6) Shelley, M (1818) A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
7) Brown, M (2019) English arts bodies slow to become more diverse, report shows. Guardian Online. https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2019/feb/12/english-arts-bodies-slow-to-become-more-diverse-report-shows
8) Storey, J (2009) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture (5th Edition). Essex: Pearson Education
9) Friedman, S, O’Brien, D & McDonald, I (2021) “Deflecting Privilege: Class Identity and the Intergenerational Self”. Volume 55 Issue 4, British Sociological Association.
10) King, M (2010) Strength to Love. (Gift Edition) 1517 Media; Fortress Press Gift edition


Spotlight – The Connection at St Martin’s

For this month’s spotlight, we feature The Connection at St Martin’s (CSTM), a long-standing homelessness charity in the heart of London, who work with people who are rough sleeping to move away and stay off the streets in the capital. The charity probably needs no introduction given its rich history and impact over the years in this area. This feature is to highlight the work which has been taking place and is yet to come, in their Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) journey.

Over the last couple of years, many organisations have been questioning their work culture, as a result of key events happening within the social and public arena. These have included: the tragic murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in 2020. The murders of sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry in 2020, Sarah Everard in 2021 and Sabina Nessa some months later, all by male perpetrators in each case. These unrelated incidences and the most recent murder of Zara Aleena by a stranger in June 2022, remind us of the continued fight in addressing acts of violence against women and girls, and their subsequent safety on the streets. Finally, since 2019, the world has participated in the fight against Covid-19 and the ensuing pandemic, which has magnified social and economic inequalities across various communities, including our health, social care, and education systems to name a few.

CSTM has engaged with the themes emerging from these incidences. At the end of last year, 2021, members of the team from various departments and at different levels, who were eager for the organisation to be proactive in understanding how inclusive it was, put out a tender to carry out a 3-month EDI review. This took place between January to April of this year. They recruited Dr Ope Lori as a consultant from PILAA to carry out the assessment, which would culminate in a set of recommendations being outlined that the organisation could implement.

As part of the assessment, they wanted to know how they could best improve their approach in 3 key areas:

1. Recruiting and managing our workforce and volunteers

2. Developing anti-discriminatory practice in everything we do

3. Working towards excellence in being a diverse and inclusive charity

The review saw a qualitative approach being taken, through 1-1 informal interviews being conducted between Dr Ope Lori and roughly 75% of their workforce. In addition, there were 1-1’s with Trustees, a Volunteer and as important, a group of clients, whom the charity serves. The project was a collaborative endeavour, built on trust, mutual respect and a shared desire to improve on EDI.

An executive summary about the report and the ensuing recommendations will be made public by the CEO Pam Orchard in the coming months and will be published on the organisation’s website. Here we briefly outline 3 key themes which emerged from the review, but which are part of a larger conversation across the sector and other workplaces at large.

Actors discussing challenges in the workplace from past experiences (2021) PILAA

Lived Experience

The first was around the notion of ‘lived experience’. It became a key phrase throughout the review and from an EDI perspective, we learnt that it was more complex than meets the eye. Having ‘lived experience’ is a criterion which is being used more frequently within the landscape of recruitment, however within the context of the organisation, what is being referred to is, ‘the lived experience of homelessness.’ Multiple users spoke to this, not only as a criterion to be included on job descriptions or within the criteria for trustee selection, but more crucially, within the lens of what it meant for the services to be delivered in an authentic way. A lot therefore could be learnt from tapping into this element of experience, which the organisation will be building on. 

Facilitating Difficult Conversations - On Race

A major theme we have seen across a range of industries, especially after the social injustices outlined earlier, is that many organisations are asking, to what extent are they an anti-racist organisation? To what extent are they equipped as an organisation on an institutional and individual level, to challenge discriminatory behaviours against race, but also any of the other protected characteristics? To what extent are frontline staff, in particular black colleagues and those from minority ethnic groups protected and supported from racial abuse, specifically made by clients and what policies are in place? These were by no means easy questions to answer at CSTM, especially when trying to get the right balance between the needs of employees and those whom they serve. CSTM, as with other organisations seeking to be an anti-discriminatory, anti-racist organisation, will have to recect on past wounds, in order to achieve a better future. As Randall Robinson, the African American lawyer, author and activist urges us to do, we must “know and embrace our past in all its fullness, for therein lies our only hope for a healthy, self- agrming present – and future.” (1)

Diversifying Recruitment

Good work was already happening in this area, especially at Board level of the organisation, where a recent recruitment of Trustees at the end of 2021, had brought more diversity into the group. How to diversify teams and truly understanding what diversity means beyond difference, was a challenge that multiple departments were conscious of tackling. There were simple effective measures that could be taken, such as re-working governance pages and making them more “user-friendly”, in the sense of adding personality to trustee bios, in order to appeal to a wider and future set of applicants. Longer measures, related to unpacking the root issues that could cause an ongoing perpetuation in a lack of diversity. To this end, a recent study by Rathbones, stated that up to “90% of charities recruit most of their trustees through word-of- mouth and existing networks.” (2) If trustee members are therefore recruiting who they know, unless their pool is mixed on multiple levels, then who they recruit, will continue to be predominantly, white, male, from a higher economic background and from similar work industries, as seemed to be the general case across the landscape of governance. Therefore, challenging old ways of doing things in order to eradicate room for unconscious biases to manifest, is critical in changing the narrative and the landscape of diversity within the context of recruitment.

To find out more information on The Connection at St Martin’s and their work on EDI, and to read about the review in the coming months, please visit here.



(1) DeGruy, J (2017) Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, Joy Degruy Publications Inc; Illustrated edition

(2) https://www.rathbones.com/knowledge-and-insight/how-recruit-trustees-your-charity- practical-guide

Spotlight – DOJ Gaminz

This month we spotlight one of our international clients, DOJ Gaminz, a start-up in Nigeria within the video gaming industry. We first spoke to them around International Women’s Day, as they hosted their campaign to #BreakTheBias around female gamers, as they invited the Amazons, a Nigerian female basketball team to their flagship game lounge in Surulere, Lagos.

As they told us “girls also play FIFA”, despite the perception that female gamers did not play sports games and that not all of the women who came into the games lounge were partners to the men who visited, as we were told by Uki Oriakhi, the Gaming Service Officer.

In this relatively new industry, with the video games market in Nigeria being valued at 150 million U.S. dollars in 2022, and with it expecting to rise to 176 million U.S. dollars by 2023 (1), DOJ Gaminz have implemented an EDI strategy which utilises their motto “Amplify your experience”, to tap into the market and cater to the different online and offline users and visitors.

The Amazons female basketball team with DOJ Gaminz team member. International Women’s Day, 8th March 2022.

“Girls also play FIFA”

In what appears to be a predominantly male industry, they have seen similarities and differences between male and female gamers, in line with global studies that perhaps surprisingly indicate that women make up 46% of all gamers. (2)

Currently, they have seen more women using more of the VR games on Oculus than consoles, which include PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Whilst men tend to play more FIFA, in what is viewed as a traditional male game arena, during tournaments, women are often enquiring about taking part. This important observation reflects that sometimes what might be perceived as a gender difference in game play, could also be down to other factors, such as addressing marketing campaigns and who they are geared towards.

Amazon players playing FIFA 22 and NBA 2K22

For example, in the 2017 study conducted by Newzoo on ‘Male and Female Gamers: How Their Similarities and Differences Shape the Games Market’, when looking at the discovery methods core gamers had with finding new games, men were “more likely to be influenced to play a game by a TV or online advert”, compared to women, who tend to discover a game predominantly through friends or family. This finding could suggest that men engage with marketing campaigns more or that marketing campaigns are in fact geared towards men, thereby missing an opportunity to reach women.

DOJ Gaminz International Women’s Day Flyer

DOJ Gaminz adapted their marketing strategy and campaigns, from flyers and social media posts to speak to female gamers and have continued to engage with various communities, to become more inclusive. Through campaigns which include Easter, Father’s Day and Mental Health Awareness, they have thought globally, yet acted locally, where they follow EDI calendars as they relate to Nigeria, and to World International special dates.

Amazon team player on Oculus (VR)

“Not all female gamers are gfs”

DOJ Gaminz staff also enrolled on our CPD course, “The Grassroots of Diversity”, which helped them to continuously offer an inclusive welcome to all of their visitors, further adding to amplifying the gamers experience in the games lounge, whilst pre-empting those yet to come in.

Their next offline, FIFA 22’ competition is set to take place on the 11th and 12th of June, where you can follow them on Instagram at doj_gaminz or connect with them at info@dojgaminz.com


(1) https://www.statista.com/statistics/1067747/nigeria-video-games-market-value/

(2) https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/male-and-female-gamers-how-their-similarities-and-differences-shape-the-games-market