Equality – does it really matter?

Well does it? Or is it something trendy that’s been forced on us with the latest equality legislation that is, dare I say it, politically correct that’ll just cost us more money and won’t really make any difference to anyone?

Well, if being politically correct means that I treat everyone fairly and with respect, then count me in!

One of my best friends at school finally came out to me at the ripe old age of 26 and he was astonished at my reaction – or lack of it. It wasn’t that I’d ever said anything remotely homophobic to him during our 12 years of friendship but because, living as we did in a small town, he was convinced that I would react with horror and break off all ties with him.

Nothing could have been further from the truth, but as I came to know and understand different aspects of my friend’s life, I was horrified to learn how he’d felt as he grew up, and the discrimination he faced – and still does.

So, when the new equality legislation came into effect, because I know how inequality affects real people’s lives, I was only too happy to play a role and lead my organisation’s response to the legislation – to help get rid of discrimination in the workplace and make sure that people have equal chances and opportunities, regardless of whatever protected characteristics they have.

One of the other things I’m responsible for in my equality role is helping to make sure that we seek, and then take account of, the views and needs of protected groups when we decide which value for money studies we do, and what we cover in those studies. And, more importantly, having done our work, establishing whether it has made a difference or not.

We had tried to get in touch with a variety of people and groups representing people with protected characteristics using email, and our website, but no one was responding. We’d assumed this was because they were too busy to respond to us, or weren’t interested in our work. But we thought we should try another way of making contact, so we organised a seminar at our Cardiff office on Thursday 5 June.

We invited people from 30 groups and wondered what sort of response we’d get – and it was fantastic! We had 19 delegates and I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm, passion and ideas. It wasn’t that they were too busy to get involved with us or weren’t interested – it was that our communication was confusing and our role in the equality agenda wasn’t clear.

Once we’d explained what we do, and why, and how we wanted to work together to help make real improvement to people’s lives, we quickly came up with some great ideas on how we can make best use of all our time to make real changes and improvements.

So what have I learned?

Well, for one thing, it’s that personal stories can be a lot more powerful than lots and lots of technical speak to say why I’m doing something – which is why I started my blog with a story. And for another thing, don’t assume that because you don’t get a response, that no one’s interested – instead you need to keep doing things in different ways to get the right result.

I don’t want to disappoint any of the new friends I made at yesterday’s event – so I’m going to make sure that I take forward the ideas they gave me so that we have an ongoing relationship to help us raise our game and really promote and advance equality in Wales.

About the author: 

Director of Corporate Resources, Kevin Thomas

Kevin was appointed as Director of Corporate Resources in March 2014. Kevin is the Auditor General’s nominated member of the Board, and is also a member of the Management Committee. He is Chair of both the Equality Steering Group and Corporate Enablers Committee.

His role involves advising both the Auditor General and the Board, and he is responsible for organisational performance management, and running the organisation’s corporate services: Business Services, Communications, Compliance, ICT, and Planning and Management
Information. Kevin is a Chartered Public Finance Accountant.

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