The Recharge Recap: Where is the Outrage?
In October, we invited our partners and colleagues across ED&I to Red Bull London for an evening to recharge and reflect. Here is a recap featuring takeaways from the night.
We wanted to host a recharge because we’re living through a time of omni-crisis.
Our CEO Asad Dhunna shared: “The first five years of running The Unmistakables has included a global pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, a war on Ukraine and now a war between Israel and Palestine. The way we consume these world events - through social media - means that while we may feel connected, in many ways we are still disconnected.”
“This recharge gives us an opportunity to come together as humans - something that artificial intelligence can’t yet do - and to share stories, connections and reflections of how we’re seeing the world right now. Reflection is key, I’m hearing from more and more leaders that they are struggling to find the time to reflect, and without that how can we help to navigate through this time? “
The political and economic climate is uncertain and business leaders need to understand what this means, and recognise that people in their workplaces are feeling the toll of the relentless news cycle. Just weeks ago in the UK, the Tory party conference revealed the extent of their disdain towards ED&I and highlighted how marginalised groups are being exploited for short-term votes. In our conversations with ED&I practitioners, we constantly hear how challenging it is as budgets are scrutinised, and made only more difficult by the effects of inflation and much slower economic growth in the West.
What this asks of us is to take a longer-term view which can be increasingly challenging over the past five years. This means recognising the meaningful change gained so far, addressing where the needle is not moving fast enough and defining measurable routes to better outcomes. “If you had told me in 2018 that I would be standing in front of a passionate group of clients, supporters and partners and we would have achieved what we have, then I would have laughed. But now as I think forward to 2023, I think that we need to retain a sense of hope that we will build a future that is better for us all.”
Passing the mic to different voices
To build that future, it is essential that we also reflect on what voices are being platformed. Earlier this year, our Diversity & Confusion report revealed that underrepresented groups feel the most excluded from the work of ED&I. With communities less likely to believe in meritocracy being most likely to feel excluded from ED&I conversations, we can see how privilege influences who gets to feel heard. If leadership is driving the ED&I agenda, leadership must ensure that it doesn’t centre its own, singular voice.
Engaging with different perspectives is vital to recharging as it helps broaden horizons, and exposes all to new ideas and experiences that they may not have considered. “The one thing I’ve learnt as a leader is that my voice does not always need to be heard. I need to pass the mic to those with views that the world needs to understand.“ said Asad, “which is why I would like to pass the mic on to Eli, Chynna, Rosie and Amani - all unmistakable in their own right, and who are here to share their views on the world today.”
In a pass-the-mic showcase, four members of The Unmistakables shared their lived expertise (the combination of lived and professional experience) in relation to what they considered underacknowledged, yet crucial topics in ED&I.
Rosie Ngugi discussed how the UK’s complex relationship with class causes it to often be the forgotten dimension of ED&I. Looking at the key challenges faced when accounting for class in equitable work, Rosie shared starter questions that people looking to build inclusive workplaces can ask themselves:
“What are the unwritten rules of when and how to speak? How to dress? What is and isn’t “professional”? Do you notice people adapting their accents and code-switching? Who tends to progress? And who knew who to get which job?”
Eli Keery examined how the internet and social media impact lived experiences and the role it plays in our understanding of identities and cultures. Describing his personal journey as a youth online, Eli described how easy it is to be shaped by misinformation and how ED&I must navigate the influence of the online world.
“Our currently divisive times in regards to ED&I are in no small part due to how we navigate the internet. For the youth who will never know a world without it, it is more important than ever to facilitate open dialogues about our fears and insecurities beyond just therapy settings, and encourage and teach critical thinking skills and media literacy as the anxiety of growing up is not something that will leave us.”
Shedding light on the importance of Black History, Chynna Rhooms shared her experience of working in ED&I and the glaring lack of awareness of the history behind offensive words, negative stereotypes and prejudices.
“History is not static; it's constantly being made. Every day, every event, every choice contributes to our collective history. So, the next time you hear a statement, a song, or see a product, consider who is telling the story and what historical narratives are being perpetuated. By actively seeking out and acknowledging this history, we can create more culturally sensitive content.”
Amani Saeed also offered her perspective on brands beginning to actively market to Muslim communities and the cognitive dissonance what it feels like to have “companies who didn’t notice you - ever- suddenly begin to think of you to sell you stuff”
“Companies may wish to consider what more they can do, both to educate non-Muslims, and also to make Muslims feel not just seen, but respected, and welcomed. Because right now, even if you invite us to the party, we’re still deciding whether it’s the kind of function we want to turn up at”.
All four speeches are available to read in full on our website.
In conversation with Samantha Renke
Bringing an activist perspective to the conversation, we spoke to Samantha Renke to share her experience as a disability rights campaigner considered one of the UK’s most influential disabled people for the past five years. In a wide-ranging fireside chat with Simone Marquis, Managing Director of The Unmistakables, Samantha gave her thoughts on accessibility, media representation and the experience of being disabled in a disabling world.
Diagnosed with Brittle Bones at birth, Samantha described growing up knowing that opportunities are few and far between in comparison with non-disabled peers. Research into the unfair extra cost of disability shows that on average, disabled households need an additional £975 a month to have the same standard of living as non-disabled households. Our Diversity and Confusion report found that 59% of workplace professionals are actively avoiding conversations about disability, which is a contributor to what Sam believes is a damaging narrative that disabled people do not work or contribute to the economy. Without having these conversations in order to identify and remove barriers, we will not create change.
But having conversations is not enough to address the apathy shown towards disabled communities. “Allyship is great, but where is the outrage against disabling structures and environments? What other humans would have their access denied and nobody make a fuss? [...] Everyone should lose their ego when addressing disability. Ableism is not a binary and we have a lot of learning and unlearning to do”
While there seems to be more media representation of disabled communities, Samantha notes that representation often comes from an abled gaze and media enables stereotypical narratives with disabled people hating their lives. Her first acting job in a Maltesers campaign was groundbreaking for demystifying sex for people with disabilities, and more humanistic representations like it can help challenge perceptions and internalised ableism.
When it comes to recharging, however, Samantha explained that her experience with internalised ableism can make it hard to set boundaries, and the lack of opportunities made available to disabled people often means she can overwork trying to grasp them. “I’m aware that disabled people are seen to always only speak up about their needs. But instead of having a complex I unashamedly ask for so much information about accessibility now because I used to feel like I couldn’t. However, I notice it’s easier for me and people look out for me because I’m a speaker”. Be sure to check out Samantha’s episode on The Speakeasier for more of her thoughts on how optimised accessibility can benefit everyone.
We hosted The Recharge as a means to connect, inspire and energise those who are working tirelessly to improve inclusion, often in the face of adversity and resistance. Doing this in silos only makes it feel more challenging and isolating. By sharing strategies that sustain us and addressing what drains us, collectively, we can support each other to build a more inclusive and equitable future.
If you are interested in attending our next Recharge event register your interest here.