EDI from the face of privilege, bias, allyship and microaggression
Imagine if you tasked two individuals to build the tallest Lego tower. If you gave one the blocks to build on a plain surface and the other the blocks to build on a trampoline while kids performed stunts on it, who do you think would win?
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is something we have all heard constantly in meetings, on job applications and interviews, and in mainstream media. It is now a legal requirement for organisations but we sometimes find that concepts get lost in the never-ending creative ways individuals try to implement them.
Hannah Alipoor, during a recent HELOA conference, was able to bring us back to the epicenters of EDI: understanding privilege, unconscious bias, allyship and microaggression. Her session brought to light what these terms could look like in practice and why understanding them is important in a HE setting. This was a reminder that each institution’s main responsibility should be to support all learners and that those who are keen on practicing EDI may not just attract a diverse range of students and staff, but will most likely be more equipped to retain them. This is something that GHWY is passionate about.
But what does reducing inequalities look like in practice? Here are some examples of what GHWY, including our member institutions, have done regarding privilege and allyship in particular.
Promotion of social mobility: working through privilege
One of the things Hannah expounded on during the conference was that the issue surrounding privilege is not merely that it exists but that we sometimes neglect to acknowledge its presence. Consequently, we fail to take actions to balance the playing field. This is one of the issues that might affect certain groups of students when it comes to entering the workforce. Thus, it is necessary that whilst we talk about the reasons behind the issue – that certain groups might not have the same privileges as others – we should also consider practical ways to make changes.
The University of Bradford, one of GHWY’s member institutions, has identified that graduates from Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnicities do face additional challenges when it comes to employment. It has shown creditable interest in this issue, including leading the Graduate Workforce Bradford Project (GWB) to boost their job prospects. Though it mostly focused on graduates from Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnicities in the city of Bradford, there are key findings that apply across the country.
A strong point that arose from the project’s evaluation was how graduates’ sense of individuality, as influenced by experiences and institutional interactions, affect their career choices. By engaging with and building strong partnerships with various proactive organisations in the labour market and relating this information to employers, GWB was able to give students of Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnicities diverse opportunities to experience work even before graduating. This boosted confidence on their present and potential abilities, and consequently motivated them to interact with the labour market.
Circulating comprehensible information: a form of allyship
Another key take from Hannah’s talk was the importance – necessity, even – of allyship in promoting inclusion. It involves learning and unlearning, analysing practices, re-evaluating one’s actions and assessing whether they are done in solidarity with a marginalised group. It plays a huge role in metaphorically shaping the minds of institutions as it reminds actors to consciously examine how effective and beneficial their actions are.
The internet is undisputedly over-flowing with numerous reports, but how accessible is their language? This is something disabled learners and those wanting to support them might face when looking for a step-by-step guide on what to expect when transitioning into HE. Not every individual may know where to find reliable resources outside those provided by well-known institutions. But if these resources are not produced with different types of audiences in mind, and in ways they can easily understand, then there will still be some gaps.
For this reason, GHWY collaborated with Kirklees College, the University of Huddersfield and University of Leeds to help bridge this gap by creating a transition pack for disabled learners. The resource brings to light some of the necessary answers for disabled students that are hidden under incomprehensible words.
Though this is only a reminder, and not an expression of novelty in terms of privilege and allyship, the practicalities of EDI are still areas institutions and society in general are yet to vastly explore. However, being aware of the resources and projects carried out to reform the application and impacts of privilege, unconscious bias, allyship and micro-aggression are key to ensuring equality, inclusivity and diversity.
Melody Amadi, Outreach Officer, University of Bradford