Our Diversity & Inclusion Blog

The Trust’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Pamela Brown, joined the ambulance service recently and is writing a weekly blog about Diversity and Inclusion. You can read her latest blogs below.

Labels or no labels?

Thursday 29th March 2018

Armed with the millennial generation’s defining traits — Web savvy, boundless confidence and social networks that extend online and off, I thought I had understood the issues surrounding multi- generational work teams.

However, a conversation with my 15 year old nephew Nikhil and his friends raised the spectrum of Generation Z who are hot on the heels of the Millennial Generation who appear to be forging a political identity all of their own.

Having been to the London Pride Event our discussion turned to the LGBT agenda where it seems that generation Z is seeking something more radical: an upending of gender roles beyond the binary of male/female. The core question isn’t whom they love, but who they are — that is, identity as distinct from sexual orientation.

L.G.B.T.” includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender —but the new vanguard wants a broader, more inclusive abbreviation.

Part of the solution has been to add more letters; the emerging rubric is “L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.,” which stands for different things, depending on whom you ask.

“Q” can mean “questioning” or “queer,” an umbrella term itself, formerly derogatory before it was appropriated by gay activists in the 1990s. “I” is for “intersex,” someone whose anatomy is not exclusively male or female. And “A” stands for “ally” (a friend of the cause) or “asexual,” characterised by the absence of sexual attraction.

It may be a mouthful, but it’s catching on, especially amongst some young people.

The term is also gaining traction on social media sites like Twitter andTumblr, where posts tagged with “LGBTQIA” suggest a younger, more modern outlook than posts that are labeled “LGTB.”

As Nikhil said to me when you see terms like L.G.B.T.Q.I.A., “it’s because people are seeing all the things that fall out of the binary, and demanding that a more inclusive name come into being”.

Still, the alphabet spaghetti of L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. may be difficult to sustain. In the     next 10 or 20 years, the various categories heaped under the umbrella of L.G.B.T. could become quite quotidian.

Then Nikhil rattled off a list of gender identities, many culled from Wikipedia. “We have our lesbians, our gays,” he said, before adding, “bisexual, transsexual, queer, homosexual, and asexual.” He took a breath and continued. “Pansexual. Omni sexual. Trisexual. Agender. Bi-gender. Third gender. Transgender. Transvestite. Intersexual. Two-spirit. Hijra. Polyamorous,Cisgender, Gender fluid.”

In response to this growing trend some universities  allow students to register their preferred pronouns in the university computer systems and the University of Lancaster UK has installed gender neutral toilets in the university’s library and Sugarhouse nightclub.

From a business perspective, it’s becoming more obvious that companies that want to reach teenage and Generation Z consumers (and talent) have to show they “get it.”

Facebook made it official last February when it told the world that limiting binary-gendered options is a thing of the past and added a third option to its standard male and female ones: custom.

From a drop-down menu, users can select from 58 different identities, including agender, androgyne, gender fluid, trans female, trans male, trans person, cisgender, and two-spirit. (Each term refers to a subtle variation of gender and sexual identity and expression.) For users who don’t fit into the 58 pre-populated list of gender identities, Facebook offers a 59th option: “fill in the blank.”

Four months after expanding its gender list in the US., the social media giant unrolled 70 custom gender options for its U.K. users, including intersex man, intersex woman, and asexual as well as allow users to choose either a female, male, or gender neutral pronouns.

The U.K. have now added the gender neutral title, Mx (which was also recently added to Oxford English Dictionary alongside the standard choices of Miss, Ms., Mrs., or Mr .Interestingly Mx still comes up as a spelling error on spell check.

Notably, a number of government forms and some banks allow for the term Mx.

We have an interesting time ahead. I wonder what being a champion for the LGBT community will look like in the future or what the world of diversity analytics will offer.

Can we learn from others & embrace cognitive diversity?

Thursday 5th April

blog 2

The underlying psychological bias that results in what we recognise as “groupthink” behaviour is beginning to be well documented, with a greater focus on ensuring organisations actively seek more cognitive diversity in their teams to be successful.

Another term that has been commonly used to describe ‘group think’ is herding, it is in evidence all around us: in work, in the consumer world and particularly in emergency services. But why does herding happen?

Psychologists describe herding as social proof, a behaviour when people follow the actions of others in an attempt to reflect the “correct” behaviour for a given situation. This urge to conform to established patterns or to follow the lead of perceived authority figures, trendsetters or simply people “in the know” is the social glue that binds people into a herd.

The reality is that ‘group think’ is natural, we all feel comfortable when we are around people who have common perceptions, experiences and perspectives.

Social proof is in many aspects of our lives, this tendency to conform and follow can be beneficial. In fact, social proof is one of our key human traits.

The evidence suggests that the social proof bias is amplified in complex situations where the “right way” to act is ambiguous yet the importance of being accurate is critical. A work environment potentially, then, offers perfect conditions for social proof to operate in an exaggerated way, giving rise to the herd behaviour that can drive bubbles and bursts.

Herding with money

If any of you have made any forays into investments you may have seen how when stock markets are falling, there is a strong pull on investor emotions as social proof (and loss aversion) encourages them to sell if they see others doing so. Buy why? The evidence from behavioural finance suggests the answer to this question could be surprisingly irrational – that people sell because others are selling. Herding and group think are actively being played out.

The lesson for organisations now is that in the same way investors can fall into ‘group think’ so can hiring managers. If we keep recruiting in our own image and in the same pool of potential applicants we will keep the ‘group think’ intact and remain rigid compared to those organisations who are embracing cognitive diversity (different ways of thinking and doing things) and the creativity and innovation it brings with it.