With the introduction of the new Employment and Race directives from the European Union in 2001 it is now important that companies examine their attitudes and policies on gender, race, disability, sexuality, age and religion. Given this context, we believe that an understanding of the legislation and its effect on equality and diversity in South Africa on company policies is important for all employees.
However, here at Impact Factory we tend to do things differently. So when we think about equality and diversity issues we don’t offer a standard ‘off the peg’ equal opportunities training. If that is what you need we are probably the wrong company for you.
Certainly in our diversity workshops we cover legislation and each company’s own internal policies, but our focus is on examining people’s perspectives on difference, diversity, change and the attitudes and feelings that are sometimes difficult for people around equal opportunities programmes.
Our experience is that with this type of work people can attend a fairly mechanistic one-day event covering the legislation and company policy and leave with the feeling that the work was “bolt-on” and irrelevant to them. The organisation feels it has done what is required but little really changes back in the workplace.
If people feel unable to engage with the realities of working within a diverse, multi-cultural organisation the training isn’t doing its job properly.
Bigotry happens, whether it’s around race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or nationality.
Whether people want to admit or not, we are all prejudiced. We all make assumptions about others that reinforce our stereotypes; indeed we look for evidence to support our biases. We’re all guilty of the occasional toss-away line that cuts deep; and we all have intolerant behaviours that are so ingrained we don’t even notice we’re doing them.
Not only that, each of us is the focus of someone else’s prejudices and bigotry, is someone else’s stereotype, is the trigger for someone else’s intolerance.
Can you eliminate prejudice? No you can’t.
Can you get people aware of how their prejudices affect others and help them do something about it? Absolutely.