We dive deep into political correctness, ally-ship and using social media to push for social justice with diversity and inclusion trainer and coach, Ellie Highwood (she/her).
Ellie enables inclusive organisations via meaningful equality, diversity and inclusion strategies and actions, and empowers individuals to soar via coaching; making the world a fairer place one decision at a time and enabling more people to thrive.
Everything Ellie does is about developing people, or developing organisations so that they can develop people! After 20 years as a lecturer, climate scientist, department and research group leader and 4 years in the Leadership Group at the University of Reading, developing and implementing strategy and action plans for gender and race equality as Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, she is delighted to be running her own portfolio career as a consultant, coach, trainer and facilitator. This gives her the opportunity to work with fascinating people and organisations, and use all her experience of juggling leadership, research, management, parenthood and life.
Diversity and inclusion website: https://www.equasense.co.uk/our-expertise/
Coaching website: https://sendthemsoaring.com/about-ellie-highwood/
I hang out on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexisbushnell/
Find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialMediaForHumans
Join the club to learn more about ethical and effective social media marketing: https://socialmediaforhumans.club/
Voice over by Hawke Wood: https://www.spotlight.com/3490-9081-8844
I hang out on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexisbushnell/
Find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialMediaForHumans
Join the club to learn more about ethical and effective social media marketing: https://socialmediaforhumans.club/
Voice over by Hawke Wood: https://www.spotlight.com/3490-9081-8844
- [Hawke] Hello and welcome to Social Media for Humans, the podcast that empowers you to do social differently. Your host, Alexis Bushnell, and her guest, discuss their experience of social media as business owners, users, and ultimately humans, with insights and advice to help you find in effective and ethical strategy that works for you. Grab yourself a drink and join the conversation. - Hello, hello, I am here with wonderful Ellie. Do introduce yourself, tell us who you are, what you do. - Hello, my name is Ellie Highwood, I am the proud owner of two professional hats, so I am a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant working with organisations to help make the world a fairer place, and I also coach academics and researchers, and my pronouns are she and her. - Very good, see, to me, they sound like very different jobs. So I guess my first question is, are they very different jobs? And like do they combine in any way or are you very sort of separated about them? - Yeah, that's a really interesting question. So, to understand how they link together, we kind of have to think about what I was doing before I was doing those two jobs. So, I spent 26 years as a academic, as a climate change scientist. And during that time I was coaching, mentoring, teaching, doing research, and eventually got a little bit bored so I went and did a role at the same university heading up the diversity and inclusion strategy and actions. And that came out of having been a minority in a sense that I studied physics at A Level, and there's not many girls who do that, and I did physics at degree. So, I was used to talking about women in science all the time. So there was a theme between that and between my coaching activity. And then when I moved into diversity and inclusion more broadly, a lot of it is about coaching, conversations about influencing, about supporting staff who maybe have faced particular barriers because of their social identities, or actually supporting staff who want to work to make the organisation a more inclusive place but aren't quite sure how to do it. So, there is commonality there in that it's supporting people to grow and to make the world a fairer place. Practically how it works at the moment is that they are two separate things. So, my coaching clients are academics and researchers, and they are quite separate from the organisations that I tend to work with on the diversity and inclusion side. So I split my head to do that, it also means two lots of social media, two lots of business organisation, it does not sound when I talk about it as the most sensible, straightforward way of doing things, but hey-ho. - It is working for you at the moment, that's what matters. I wanna start then with the sort of diversity and inclusion side of things, 'cause I am also very passionate about diversity, inclusion, accessibility on social media, but I'm also very aware that social media is not the optimum place to be having discussions about complex subjects like diversity and inclusion. And it's also often not the best way to gauge where someone actually stands, because I do think when you bring in social media, there is a degree of like peacocking and, you know, this is my public stance because I know people will support me for that or because I know it's a hot take. And I think that makes it very difficult to have meaningful discussions with people because people are watching. So, I guess first I wanna know, do you think there is a part for social media to play in having those conversations? - Yes, is the short answer. I think different bits of social media have different roles to play there. So, one of the interesting things that I do is that most of my coaching clients are over on Twitter, and I tend to focus most of my engagement on Twitter on that side and not on the diversity and inclusion side, so there's a bit that I will engage with other people but I don't tend to post on Twitter about diversity and inclusion because I think that that platform although it's great for many things, is not my favourite place to engage around diversity and inclusion. And I think there you get some of the worst examples of what's going on. On LinkedIn, I think which is my other main social media platform, because that's where the HR professionals are that I need to talk to, that's where there's a lot of diversity and inclusion folks to learn from, I think there is absolutely a role there if you look at and follow individuals. And I have learned so much from following people who I would never have met in real life on LinkedIn, who are leading initiatives, who have lived experience of racism, for example, which I'm privileged not to have. I've learned so much from LinkedIn and met so many genuine people that I do think there is a real place there. One of the things I talked to my clients about is expanding your horizons, and particularly over the past two years, but generally a way of expanding your horizons is by using social media as long as you are self-aware enough to know when it's not going well and when you are getting sucked into those toxic kind of things. So I view it as a learning opportunity, a way of meeting people that you wouldn't necessarily meet, not the place where I choose to get into the more confrontational discussions, that's not my style and never has been, but there's definitely people who are great at doing that, and I've watched them do it and I'm glad someone does do it, but I'm equally glad it's not me. Does that make sense? - Yeah, very much so , yeah. When I first started being more vocal about like my own opinions, I felt very much like I had to be that person, like I have to be the person having the discussions, I have to be the person challenging people's opinions, I have to be the person bringing the research. And as much as I do like read a lot, I follow a lot of people from various walks of life and listen to their opinions, read what they have to say, all that kind of thing. So I do feel like I have some backing that I can send links to people and information and have you read about this, have you seen that? I am also very aware that I am also the person who will read somebody's interesting opinion about something and I will immediately be upset and angry and stressed out and not in the right place to actually engage in useful conversation with that. So for me, it was actually really interesting to kind of challenge myself to not be that person and to find other ways that I can add to making the world a fairer place without being the person who is having those discussions, and I think it's really interesting as well that you say that you are learning a lot from people on social media, because that for me is one of the real powers of social media is that people who have not historically had a voice and been able to put their reality out there can now do that. There is such a low barrier to entry, to posting on social media that we can hear stories from so many different people. And I think that is kind of the key to opening people's minds, because a lot of the political side of diversity and inclusion is so often this in the sky idea of, well, this could happen and that could happen, and there is so little humanity in it. And I think that allows people to go, oh, well, yeah, we don't want this to happen, so yeah let's pass these laws, without thinking, how is this gonna impact real humans? And I do think the power in seeing how it is impacting real humans is what makes the difference and what helps people to change their opinions. - Yeah, and I think, so let's face it, politically things are not going in a brilliant direction right now. However, I think there are different ways that you can influence and help the situation. So, in terms of not being the person that kind of takes on the confrontational side of it, what I focus on is broadening my network, engaging with posts from people that I think are really informative in sharing their experiences or sharing what they think needs to be done from their perspective, and engaging with those so that my network who are not all diversity and inclusion professionals will hopefully see that rather than posting strong opinion pieces. Now, I do post reasonably regularly on LinkedIn, and some of those have opinions in them, they tend to do quite well actually, but that's a different story. I don't post those routinely, I post helpful things, meaningful actions, because I think not only is it important to remember the humans that are involved, but it's also important to take meaningful action rather than performative action. So the biggest example of that was the black squares that were shown on social media after the murder of George Floyd. And I think it's been interesting to watch all the organisations that put black squares up and, you know, now nearly two years later, what have they actually done about changing attitudes around systemic racism, about racist behaviours? And lots of people are looking at that and holding organisations to account, which is brilliant, but that's the clearest example I've seen kind of that difference there. So I think that aspect of social media, that performative aspect of support for diversity and inclusion is tricky. I have a love-hate relationship with awareness days, I think awareness days for particular things are great in raising awareness, but they're not great if that's the only thing you do around whatever the issue is that's being talked about at the time. So whether it's International Women's Day, Black History Month, Trans Day of Visibility, all of those kinds of things. If it's the only thing you do, you maybe want to think about you having a meaningful strategy. - Yeah, yeah, I do agree, and I think on the sort of black square thing, it was interesting to see there was quite a lot of pushback. And it was the first time I had noticed there being pushback against that kind of performative thing of, well, we care about black lives, but posting a black square is it, that's how much we care. And that kind of intensified I think this, or it was clearly demonstrated during International Women's Day this year. - I was just gonna mention that. - On Twitter because the gender PayGapApp, I think is the account, was retweeting all of the posts from companies with attaching the pay gap difference in their companies. - Oh, it was brilliant. - I was just living for it. - Absolutely brilliant use of social media and in this case on Twitter, and, you know, it was superb. So all these organisations posting about celebrating International Women's Day, immediately got retweeted with the gender pay gap at this organisation is X%. And I just thought that was genius, I wish I was, A, clever enough to think of it, and B, techy enough to actually do it. But, you know, that was a brilliant way to use social media. And it got out of social media into, you know, mainstream, other media as well. So, you know, it made that transition because of raising awareness. - Yeah, yeah, and I think that was a really nice way to do it as well because it very clearly called people out. But it also allowed everybody else to make their own decisions about it, it wasn't directly tweeting people or saying, you know, you are an awful business, it was just like, great, you're saying this, here are the facts. There was no, what are you gonna do about it? There was no judgement in that sentence, it was just like the facts don't maybe back this up. - And it was a really interesting use of a bot as it were, you know, we usually think of social media bots, particularly on Twitter bots, as negative things, and generally they are, but that was a really interesting way to turn it around a little bit and go, okay, there are ways that you can use this kind of automation for good potentially. - Yeah, and also to add a little bit of nuance, which is something that's also often lacking. And I did think it was such a clever way to add more to the conversation and in such a simple way as well,, it really was brilliant. - Yeah, I think in the future we'll probably see that as, you know, in a number of kind of highlights as this is how you do, you know, what you can do in this area, I think we'll see it as a good practise example for a long time. - Yeah, definitely. I wanna come back to what you were saying about how you post on LinkedIn and you avoid posting too many opinion pieces and things, because there is a line I think between talking over people and using your privilege, and I'm interested to know how you navigate that. - Oh, I wish I had a compass in a map for a start. It is one of the things that I struggle with. So firstly, I think what I focus on working with my clients is about a kind of holistic approach to diversity and inclusion. So, I'm not talking about this is what you need to do about gender equality necessarily, because every organisation has different challenges. If it comes up that gender equality is an issue for them, then I might have a bit more to say, if it comes up that they're really dealing with an LGBTQ community issue and experience, then I would have less direct experience of that. And so that's where the beauty of having a diverse network comes in, you know, you need to contact and reach out and say, you really need to talk to people from this particular community. The place where over the past two years it has been quite challenging is around race and ethnicity work. And there are discussions around who should be leading that work amongst diversity and inclusion professionals. I am white, and in fact, 80% of diversity and inclusion professionals, I'm still not used to calling myself that because I never have been one in terms of, I don't come from an HR background. 80% of D&I professionals in UK and the USA are white female, which is not very diverse, Which is particularly ironic and something that we should be very aware of. And so what I tend to do is step away from issues that are particularly related to communities or lived experiences that I don't have. So I wouldn't directly share an opinion, but I would engage with posts from people who know better than I do, and amplify those posts. And that's one thing that allies can do if you are an ally and you don't share a particular characteristic with someone but you want to help address the systemic barriers to a particular group. One of the things you can do is amplify, that doesn't mean talk over, it doesn't mean paraphrase, it doesn't mean, for want of a better word, apologies, mansplaining, it means, you know, amplifying their voice. And I think that's what I try to do but it is a difficult line to walk sometimes. - Yeah, I think for me it comes down a lot to knowing your audience. Because I think there are people, primarily white people, who don't want to listen to people of colour or people with different identities to them. And when I read some statistics a while ago now about how most men, cis men, only listen to and enjoy media from other cis men, that is the bulk of what they listen to, what they watch, who they follow. And I find that that complicates things when it comes to using privilege versus talking over. Because there are people who if I shared a post from a queer black woman, wouldn't listen, they would scroll on, they would maybe even post their own differing opinion because they don't value that person's identity, opinions, education, experience, etc, even if it's not a conscious thing. And so I think a lot of it does depend on knowing and understanding who you are talking to, because if I am in a room of purely white people who are not interested in race or being more inclusive, certainly maybe even just from a not understanding, it's a big issue place. It could be more valuable for me to introduce the topic as a white person, and then offer sort of further follow up information of, well, here's some books you can read by people with this lived experience, here's some trainings that you can take, here's some people you can follow, that kind of thing. And I think it can be really difficult to judge, does this count as talking over somebody, or is this using my privilege to get through to people who aren't gonna listen to, you know, if I'm amplifying people. - Yeah, and that happens in the real world as well, so I've had organisations approach me and say, can you come and talk to us about race or racism? And I sort of say, are you sure you want me to come and talk to you 'cause you really ought to think about whether I'm the right person to do this, have you thought about having a person of colour, or person with lived experience come and talk to you? And sometimes they'll say, yes, but I don't think our, usually leadership team, are ready for that yet. So partly that raises a flag with me and says, okay, that's not how it should be, that's not right, you know, it shouldn't be that you're not ready to listen to some voices, right? So absolutely that is not where we should be. But there's also a part of me that goes, okay, accepting that this is not an ideal situation, can I do some good by starting the conversation and being very clear with them what the limits of what I will talk about are, and getting them to explore why they're not ready to listen to certain voices. Can I do that? And I think if I can do that, that's okay, but then they need to move on fairly rapidly to hearing those voices. So, I'm okay with going in and challenging groups who say, but we are not ready to explore why you are not ready and look at some of that, but I wouldn't stick around for doing too much in depth work on that, and I would want them to move fairly soon on to hearing other voices. It's a tricky situation, that is really one, and I have to be really self-aware of a tendency for, because I'm a people pleaser and a helper, not to fall into that trap of what is called the saviour role or the rescuer role if you think about it in terms of drama triangles of things. So, I have to be careful not to fall into that role because that is unacceptable. So, it's tricky. One of things I find really difficult is working out how genuine an organisation is. So you were talking about, how do you know what someone's real motivation is when you're engaging with them on a team? But it's also true, how do you know what an organization's real motivation is? And ethically, I really only want to work with organisations that actually want to do something that's meaningful and will make a change, but it's really hard to work that out at times. - Yeah, yeah, and I think that's true, especially true as well on social media, 'cause I've had discussions with friends, I have some friends from various different backgrounds who if somebody posts their opinion will just go in and assume negative intent because they have seen so many posts that they have given the benefit of the doubt to that have turned out to just be hate speech, an excuse for veiled hate speech, that now their assumption is that's everybody. If somebody posts this opinion, I'm gonna go in hard because I have had so many experiences where there was no genuine interest or whatever behind it. And I think it is really, especially hard online, to judge what is just lack of information, having read the headlines and not really thought about it from a person who means well, who genuinely means well, who genuinely wants to be a "good person," but doesn't have the understanding or the nuance or the experience of people with that background, to know why those things are a problem versus people who are regurgitating that because they believe it and they want to reinforce it. - Yeah, it's really difficult to know what people's motivation is, and social media is really tricky and I tend to be the kind of person that gives people's benefit the doubt. It's a constant navigational issue I think, and every now and then you have to stop and sort of take stock and go, am I still in the right kind of area with this? But I think being aware is part of the really important part of working in diversity and inclusion continually, not continually questioning yourself in some ways, but continually challenging yourself to make sure that you are not stepping over lines that you don't wanna step over. - Yeah, and I do think that is something that I've come up against with people from an older generation who grew up with political correctness, I hate that phrase so much. - (indistinct) - Yes, those people. - So many problems with that statement by the way, but nonetheless. - There is sort of those people who have that opinion of, if I'm always thinking about, you know, whether I'm gonna offend someone or whether what I've said takes into account everybody or whatever, then, you know, that's no life, that's political correctness gone mad, that's just silly, that's just wrong. I should be able to say what I want, you know, people should understand my motivations, they should understand that I don't mean any harm. And I think for me, the way to sort of engage with those people is to say like, there is a middle ground, like you say, you don't have to always be thinking about whether what you are saying is okay or whatever. But because I think, now for me, this came very clear when there was a racism issue with PewDiePie, the YouTuber, who had said some very hateful language on a stream and his defence was, well, you know, I don't usually say it, but I was really angry and in the moment. And I realised that even in a very angry in the moment moment, I would never say those things because they're just not part of my vocabulary, they're just not things that I think or use or ever engage with. And for me, that is kind of the difference, is if are using words which you are aware are hurtful outside of being around people, then that for me is kind of the problem that you are saying, it's okay if I do this stuff on my own, and then maybe I slip up in public, because all it is it's a public image of, I care about people, or I'm polite or I'm politically correct, versus an internal, I want to be a better person, I want to be inclusive, and so I am gonna work to remove certain words from my vocabulary and replace them with other things, or I'm gonna work to see people as whole human beings, as valuable human beings, because that is gonna naturally shift how I then talk about them and interact with them and view their content and what they're doing. - Yeah, I mean, when I worked in academia, there was a constant kind of freedom of speech versus hate speech type of debate. And, you know, we spent a lot of time sitting on the fence, according to some people, or walking the line between various different issues. And it is possible to walk the line, and sitting on the fence doesn't have to be negative, but it does have that view sometimes. It is possible to allow people to express their opinions in a way that also doesn't allow hate speech. It's tricky and it's much tricker online, but it does exist, I'm convinced it does exist. - Yeah, I think it is difficult, and I think it's important to realise that it's difficult, but I think everybody has to give a little bit of ground, everybody has to be prepared to go, not everybody is super educated about inclusivity and diversity and what language we should be using. And also maybe I am using language that is outdated, that is hurtful, and maybe I should be a little bit open to listening to what people have to say about it. And for me, that's kind of what makes the difference, is people saying, I'm not perfect, other people are not perfect, let's find some middle ground and speak to each other and see if we can move forward in some way. 'Cause I've had discussions with one friend in particular who is really a genuinely lovely human being, their child is non-binary, and they mean well, genuinely, they want to support trans people, non-binary people, but they just do not understand the terminology, the science even, and a lot of it is because they're from an older generation and they were raised being taught that there are two genders, that the biology is it, that this is how sexes work and stuff like that. And some of it is that they are not exposed to the community that I'm exposed to. I know a lot of varying flavours of queer people, I am a queer person. So, we have very different experiences of what is being talked about around trans people. And so it can be really difficult to have that conversation, and for me to go, okay, he's saying this because he has read these headlines because he follows these news people, because he doesn't have that much experience of trans people. Whereas I have a lot of trans friends and I follow a lot of trans people online and I make a point to learn about what is going on. And I need to allow him to make these mistakes and say, this is what I don't understand in a way that is kind of hurtful to the trans community so that I can then go, okay, here's why that's a problem, here's some information that can help you to sort of shift your view about that, here's the actual science behind this. And it can be really hard to have those discussions and to allow that speech, if you like, when you are so deep in like, but that's a really hurtful thing to say, why are you saying that? How do you not know that this is not okay? But people don't know, a lot of people don't know. And I do think we need to have some sort of compassion for that so that we can have those conversations that aren't just, how dare you say that, you are an awful person. - Yeah, so fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of offending, and when I say saying the wrong thing, who knows who's defining the wrong thing for that individual, it could be them, it could be their peer group, it could be society, but anyway, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of offending people, fear of getting into a discussion that rapidly goes to a level that they feel very either uncomfortable or unqualified to discuss. Those are one of the biggest reasons that people don't talk about diversity and inclusion issues and a big reason why organisations have until fairly recently been very nervous about going into this area. Conversations are never going to be easy around this subject, and we have to recognise that people with certain lived experience aren't gonna want to be in those conversations a lot of the time, it's not great to relive negative experiences that you've had, it's not great to even be having to think about the negative views, the hate, the wrong information that's out there and having to repeat over and over. Those of us with privilege in certain areas and or lack of education, shouldn't be relying on people to, and I mean, it's the wrong word, but to expose themselves to us, make themselves vulnerable, to talk about their lived experience in order to educate us, which is another reason that I think if you're careful about it, maybe LinkedIn rather than Facebook or Twitter. And I don't do Insta, so I don't know what it's like over there, or TikTok for that matter, maybe if you treat it as a place to learn, then it's a valuable thing to do because you can learn at least initially without having to have put people in that very vulnerable situation. I do think there's a lack of education, I think it's fascinating. So I have teenage sons, and you just have to listen to the way they talk about gender in particular around non-binary, around trans, these are not things that I had any concept of when I was their age, and things have changed so much for the better, yes, there's negative stuff on social media, but there's also positive stuff. There's stuff in schools to varying extents of suitability particularly around gender issues. They are way more open in talking about, oh yeah, so and so is non-binary, it's not a thing for them. So, I kind of have hope for the future that there will be kind of more and more conversations happening as long as the older generations in the nicest possible way get out of the way sometimes and stop trying to reimpose their experience and their views on everybody else. And I'm not anti, you know, but there's good and bad, you know, ways of doing this at all ages and stages and all identities, but, you know, I do think there is a difference, particularly with gender and trans issues, in how younger generation view it, talk about it, sort of normalise it compared to older generations. So it'll be fascinating to watch what happens as they grow up essentially and experience different systems that will have different barriers and different perspectives, it's a fascinating psychological experiment. - Yeah, you are right, and it is interesting to see, because I think a lot of the older generation, the opinions that they have, for me, it looks like they come a lot from fear. Like I said, they've seen the headlines, they've seen fear mongering posts, and because, like I hadn't thought about gender until I was kind of realising that I was queer. I hadn't thought about gender, I had some really transphobic views back in the day. And as much as I stopped having those views before I thought deeply about gender, 'cause I got to know some trans people. And turns out they're just nice normal human beings like everybody else, when I started thinking about like my own sexuality and I was sort of cycling through words for sexuality and I was like, well, how can I say that I'm into women if I don't know like how I'm defining woman. And when I thought about it and I was like, okay, well, what makes me a woman? And I was like, okay, well, what if I've been through menopause? What if I have a hysterectomy? What if I am born without on without ovaries or a uterus or whatever, am I still a woman? And I was like, well, yeah, 'cause I feel like a woman, I just know I'm a woman. And that was the only thing I could come up with that defined my own womanhood, and I'm a cis woman. So, it kind of, that was the moment it really dawned on me that like, wow, gender is nonsense. And it's like, if the only thing that I can realistically list that makes me a woman and that would remain true regardless of anything that I could go through or have gone through or whatever, is that I just feel like a woman. Then surely that is all we can ask of anybody that is any gender is like, if you just know what gender you are, you just know. And I think it can be really scary to do that work because there is some degree of, well, what if I think about my gender and I realise that I'm not my gender? Or I realise that things that I have previously considered to be how I define my gender, actually that might impact my own view of myself? If something happened, if I was in an accident that something happened and changed how my body is or something. And I think it can be really terrifying to have those thoughts, because it's not then just about gender as a concept, it's about your identity as a human and how you have interacted with the world and the relationship you have with your own body. And so as much as I think it is, I would rather people were much more open-minded and approached the issue of especially gender with compassion and thinking like, well, maybe I could be wrong about this, maybe I don't know everything or I haven't been taught everything. I do also think we need to have the compassion for those people who are wrestling with fear of what it means if they allow themselves to think about gender. - Yeah, and I think gender is a really good example, but I also think that this is where, so people generally don't think about their identity, right? So as soon as you start thinking deeply about identity, that can throw all sorts of things up. So, and when I say people don't think about their identity, that's a very privileged statement, and what I mean by that is that people who are in the privileged groups, so, you know, have an advantage in certain situations through nothing that they have done themselves, but just because of history and because of how the system's been built, they don't ever have necessarily had to think about what their identity means. So, you saw that in a documentary that was done on Channel 4 a while ago about the school that tried to end racism and they asked the sort of 12-year-olds and they asked the white children to talk about their identity in terms of race and ethnicity, and you had a room full of silent, kind of, we've never had to think about this, and then they asked the black children and children from Asian ethnicities to talk about their identity, and, you know, they were having fun and sharing stories and all this, that, and the other, and it was very stark. So, when I say you don't think about your identity, if you are in a position of privilege in that area, you don't think about your identity. So do an exercise on some of the development workshops I do where I get people to think about what part of your... We talk about social identities. So a bit broader than the UK protected characteristics, but including gender, including race, including education background. And we ask them to think about what part of their identity they're most aware of on a daily basis and things like that. And it's really hard exercise for people similar to me who would be right in the middle of the power and privilege wheel, so being cis, heterosexual, white, educated to degree level, it's a really hard thing to do and I think people get scared when they have to start thinking about their identity in those terms. And I don't like putting labels on people, but the fact is that we do do it as humans, and because of the way the system works, society works, and barriers that are there, there are groups of people who have similar identities who have faced particular barriers, so it can be useful. But I think that fear of once you start asking yourself those questions, where are you gonna end up? And it's not just about gender, it could be about race. And I talked to, I was working with someone who was a woman from South Asia, British but with South Asian heritage. And she said, well, we were brought up to not think about our colour because we were brought up to, you know, that everybody was the same. And following, you know, black lives matter said, I've really had to evaluate what all that means for me as a woman of colour, kind of almost had to re-recognize that part of her identity. And that was a fascinating discussion, but had obviously taken a lot of deep, deep work. And people are, you know, scared of doing that work, and that comes out as the standard defence mechanisms or avoiding the issue, so, you know, fight or flight really. - Yeah, I do wanna say, well, ask you sort of one thing, because I think one thing that creates a lot of resistance in people is the idea of privilege, and the misunderstanding of what it means. Because there are a lot of people who hear privilege and think, you think my life is easy because I'm white, because I'm male, because I'm cis. So, can you give a brief rundown of what privilege actually means? - I will do my best, Alexis, I can't promise, it'll be brief, but I will do my best. So, privilege in this context, I like to think of it as if you imagine that all the opportunities and things that are open to you are a set of doors around you, and all of those doors are locked. And you are standing in the middle of this room and all the doors are around you, they're locked. And suddenly you put your hands in your pockets and you have the keys. You didn't put the keys in your pockets, you didn't do anything, you didn't know the keys were there, you didn't do anything to put the keys in your pockets, they're just magically in your pockets. Now, you don't have the keys to all the doors, you only have the keys to some of the doors, but the keys that you do have the doors are the ones where you have some privilege. So you have magically got the key to this door, so you can open the door and take that opportunity. The doors that you don't have the keys, you have to wait for somebody else who's already on the other side of the door to open the door for you, or maybe you don't even know the door's there because you just can't see it and you don't have privilege in that area. It doesn't mean that you have had an easy life, it doesn't mean that you have not struggled in some areas of your life, it does not mean that even walking through the doors that you have the keys to is necessarily an easy thing for you. This is about the system and society and the way it is built, and the fact that the way that it's built means some people have the keys to some of the doors and not the others. The original person who talked about privilege, Peggy McIntosh, calls it and uses an invisible rucksack so you have all the tools that you need that you carry around, somebody's filled it for you, I don't know what they are, but I kind of like the keys and the doors and the opportunity, and the fact that if you don't have privilege, then sometimes you have to wait for somebody on the other side of the door to open it for you, I think that's kind of an interesting extension. So I don't know whether that answers your question, it's just, there's not so much you can say other than it doesn't mean that, that's not what it means. You can have had struggles, you can still be struggling, you can struggle in most aspects of your life, but if you have privilege in one small area, it means that you are not facing barriers that other groups are in that area. That's about it really. - Yeah, and I think that explains it really well. And I think to add to that, I think also it doesn't mean that you are a bad person and it doesn't mean that you have to feel guilty about that stuff. - It's not about you. - Yeah, it just means this is the reality of the situation and that's it. - Yeah, and we, you know, so for example, in the area of race, I'm white, so I would be privileged in that context. I have to be aware, though I was never taught it at school, but I now have to be aware of the way that systems have been built to advantage, in Northern Hemisphere anyway, to advantage white, in fact, globally, to advantage the white community. Does that mean I was individually responsible for any of those actions? No, but I think it means I do have to be aware of the fact that that's how it is and that that's not equitable and responsible for my actions going forward. - Yeah, yeah, and I wanna ask you one more thing before we finish up, and that is, all the people who say, I don't care about race, like people's race, people's gender, people's identity generally, like it doesn't impact how I interact with them. I treat everybody the same, so that's it, I'm doing my bit, because I don't treat anybody differently. What would you say to those people? - So, firstly, I often hear that as I don't see colour or I don't see gender, so to those people I would say, I absolutely guarantee you that you do see it. What you mean when you say that is, I don't think I treat anybody differently because of their gender or the colour of their skin. Now, we have things called conscious biases and prejudices, which we know about, and unconscious biases, which we don't know about. And you may be making decisions or treating people on the basis of an unconscious bias, which we all have, which come from social interactions, culture, education, our brain processes things unconsciously. We shouldn't feel guilty about that, but we should be aware that it could happen. So we don't ever know really that we are strictly treating people the same, unless we really are. I would also say, if you say to someone, I don't see gender, I don't see race, if for somebody that is a really strong part of their identity, what you're saying is, I don't see you, and that is not a good way to interact with people, so I think I know where it comes from, and I was probably taught to think that way and to say those things as well, but if you can really truly say you don't treat people any different, that's great, but you just have to be aware that there are things going on in your brain that you might not know about, that means you might do, and how someone might feel if you say, I don't see you. Those words are very particular so it's not quite the same as saying, I don't treat anyone differently, but you need to be really careful about the language there 'cause that is important at that point. - Yeah, yeah, that's interesting. And I think when I saw a tweet from, not a tweet, I saw a situation from, oh, was it Natalie Wynn or was it Abigail Thorn? Oh no, I don't know which YouTuber it was. One of them tweeted that it bothered them that when they went to sort of women's spaces, they're both trans women for people who aren't aware. When they went to women's groups, women's spaces, there was always an effort when they attended to ask people's pronouns. And they were very aware because they had friends who were cis women who went, that they didn't do it when they knew everybody in the group or they thought everybody in the group was a cis woman. And so the act of what we think of as being an inclusive act of asking for people's pronouns, asking for people to introduce themselves with pronouns, the facts that it only happened when they were conscious that there were people there who were not cis, made them feel just really icky and, you know, different. And I think that's one way that it can come out when we think, oh, well, I don't treat anybody differently. When I know there's a trans person there, I always ask for pronouns. But that is treating people differently, it's about if you're treating everybody the same, you are always asking people's pronouns, you're always introducing yourself with yours, you're always doing the same things, you are not making these special exceptions because you are consciously aware that somebody from that group is here. - And on a similar note, you are always making sure that there is a ramp to places, you are always putting captioning and maybe sign language, but you are always catering for the possibility that somebody might have different needs around their mobility or around accessing an event. You don't just do it because someone ticks a box on the form when they register that says, yes, I need this, you do it anyway, that's what being proactively inclusive means is you learn about what would be helpful for particular groups and then you do it every single time regardless of whether you know that there are people from that group in the room, because there may well be and you just don't know. So yeah, I think that's a really interesting point to raise. - Well, this has been a really interesting discussion and I'm sure it's been helpful for people. If they want to find you and follow you and learn from you, where can they find you? - So the best place to find me around diversity and inclusion is on LinkedIn, so, Ellie Highwood, on LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter under that name but as I say that's mostly not diversity and inclusion related. And I do have a Facebook page called, SendThemSoaring, which is my coaching business if there are any academics and researchers out there who want some help in that way. So, yeah, that's where people can find me. - Very good, I will put all the links in the show notes so people could just click them and come and find you. Thank you so much for being here, this has been wonderful. - Lovely to talk to you as always, but we don't often get a chance to talk about the diversity and inclusion side, so that's been really good, thank you for having me. - [Hawke] If you want more regular reminders to find your own way to use social media, follow Alexis on your social platform of choice. All the links will be in the show notes. Until next time, be a human.