Category: Diversity and Inclusion

Removing the barriers to encourage a diverse and representative audience into public life

Our guest post comes from Deputy Presiding Officer, Ann Jones AM as we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December. 

Having been a politician for many years, I’ve been faced with numerous obstacles. Some of these have been due to my disability and I’ve worked hard to overcome these barriers. I’ve been lucky enough to have received a great deal of support from my family, colleagues and in the workplace which has had a big impact on my life.

I know first-hand that the barriers facing disabled people can be very off-putting and can discourage people from taking part in public life and politics. These are barriers that we need to remove in order to encourage a diverse and representative audience into public life.

Barriers which disabled people encounter may include:

  • Perceptual – based upon their views of accessibility or other people’s views of disabled people;
  • Environmental – based upon the accessibility of a physical space; or
  • Procedural – based upon the policies and procedures in place.

My mother was an inspiration to me and she made sure I was given all the opportunities that those without a disability had. This is what we need to do for the wider public, by breaking down these barriers.

A commitment to promoting diversity

I feel very privileged to be the Deputy Presiding Officer at the National Assembly for Wales. I’ve been keen to use my role to highlight issues of importance. The two themes which I’ve focused on to date include ‘Women in Politics’ and ‘Promoting an accessible Assembly’. Over the years, the Assembly has been awarded numerous prestigious awards for its commitment to inclusion and diversity.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index, where the Assembly is recognised as the Top Employer in the UK in 2018 and as one of the Top UK Employers for LGBT people each year since 2009
  • National Autism Society Autism Friendly Award
  • Ranked in the top ten UK employers, accredited by the Top Employers for Working Families organisation
  • Age Employer Champion Status
  • Action on Hearing Loss Louder Than Words charter mark, and Service Excellence Awards.

The Assembly is committed to promoting diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity for staff and the people of Wales. There’s a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion team within the Assembly Commission along with an Assembly Committee (Equality, Local Government and Communities) that tackle these issues daily. Further to this, a report has been commissioned by the Assembly’s Remuneration Board to identify barriers and incentives for disabled people standing for election.

We are proud to have an accessible building and the policies, procedures and training in place to ensure that disabled people can fully participate in our democracy. Whether this be as an Assembly Member, a member of staff or a visitor.

But this has certainly been a journey. We have worked hard over a number of years to continue to improve the accessibility of our buildings and the support that we have in place for disabled people.

Designing an inclusive home from the inside out

When the architect of the Senedd was putting plans in place, I noticed that some of the design features weren’t taking disabilities into consideration. The big glass walls were completely transparent, making it very difficult for a person with a visual impairment to see. I put forth my idea to include visual aids such as large dots on the glass surfaces. I had to push the idea numerous times before it was agreed. After all, if it’s right for a person with a disability, it’s right for everyone. These are the small changes which make a big difference.

In 2017 I was fortunate enough to attend the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s inaugural conference for parliamentarians with disabilities in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was inspiring to hear the struggles and successes that people from all over the Commonwealth have experienced. I was very pleased to showcase Wales and our exemplar Parliament building. This has now been established as a standalone network by the name of Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities (CPwD). I hope that this will drive positive change throughout the Commonwealth and indeed the world, in politics and across public life.

Ann Jones at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’sAnn Jones with Kevin Murphy, speaker of the Nova Scotia Assembly in Canada inaugural conference for parliamentarians with disabilities in Nova Scotia, Canada
Ann Jones AM with Kevin Murphy MLA, Speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislative  Assembly in Canada

I would encourage all disabled people reading this blog to consider what role you can play in public life, whether through volunteering in your community, applying for a public role or by standing as an Assembly Member.

It’s important that on this International Day of Persons with a Disability we remember that disabled people have a voice that needs to be heard and that any barriers to participation should be challenged and removed. We all have a role to play in helping to identify and remove barriers for disabled people.

Elected Members have an important role to play, whether disabled or not, to give a voice to the needs of disabled people.  Having campaigners and advocates are also very important but the value of having elected representatives who have experienced difficulties and tackled them is invaluable. This is why more needs to be done, to strive for equality and inclusion in all aspects of life.

Black History Month 2018: This year it will be 50 years since the Race Relations Act 1968 came into force

The Black History Month Wales’s logo

 

This year is significant, as it will mark 50 years since the Race Relations Act 1968 (the RRA 1968) came into force.

A picture of ‘No irish no blacks no dogs’ sign in a house window

The RRA 1968 succeeded the Race Relations Act 1965 (the RRA 1965), the first ever Race Relations legislation, which made it a civil but not a criminal offence to discriminate on the “grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins” in public places such as hotels and restaurants pubs, libraries, public transport, and the like and legislated for the punishment of incitement to racial hatred. The RRA 1965 didn’t apply to discrimination within employment or housing, which were two clear areas where discrimination was prevalent, the infamous “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish” signs were still lawful after the RRA 1965. The RRA 1965 established the Race Relations Board to enforce the Act, however the Board’s only power was to refer the matter to the attorney general who could then do no more than seek a county court injunction to restrain future discrimination. For these reasons the RRA 1965 was criticised as ineffective and too narrow.

The RRA 1968 widened the scope of anti-discrimination legislation to include housing, employment and service provision. It empowered the Race Relations Board itself to seek redress in the county court. Redress could also include awards of damages as well as injunctions to restrain future discrimination.

As an employer we value diversity and inclusion and are committed to developing and maintaining an inclusive organisational culture.

“I believe it is important that the Assembly leads the way in promoting an inclusive organisational culture and that it is a modern, accessible parliamentary body with which people from a diverse range of backgrounds can easily and meaningfully interact. It is incumbent on us as the National Assembly for Wales to lead on this and share our experiences, ensuring that the values of equality, diversity and inclusion are respected and practiced by all,” Elin Jones AM, LLywydd, National Assembly for Wales.

It would therefore seem strange to commemorate Black History Month (BHM) and not reflect on the RRA, a piece of legislation that was a predecessor to the Equality Act 2010, under which we have a general duty to eliminate unlawful discrimination harassment and victimisation based on protected characteristics[1].

We are proud to be an accessible employer, that attracts and retains a broad range of talent, as well as an accessible service provider. We are committed to valuing diversity, promoting inclusion and addressing inequalities, not just because:

  • as a non-devolved public body we have a general duty under the Equality Act 2010 to: eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation; advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
  • research evidence shows that inclusive organisations, which attract and develop individuals from the widest pool of talent, consistently perform better;

but because it is morally the right thing to do, as Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE, stated in the McGregor-Smith review[2]:

“We should live in a country where every person, regardless of their ethnicity or background, is able to fulfil their potential at work”.

We are consciously ensuring that there is no room for discrimination in the recruitment process and there is a zero tolerance policy to discrimination being experienced by any of our of employees. We have a number of supportive policies for staff, such as our:

  • ‘Dignity and Respect policy’- which is underpinned by the concepts of fairness, dignity and respect,
  • ‘People strategy’ – which recognises that every staff member, irrespective of their background, deserves the ability to realise their full potential and progress in their careers,
  • ‘Recruitment policy’ – which outlines our commitment to recruitment on the basis of merit, fairness and openness.
logo for the Assembly's Race Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage workplace network
The Assembly BAME workplace network’s logo

We have an active Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage workplace equality network named REACH, which works closely with management to develop an inclusive organisational culture. We are very grateful to our staff for the work they do to help us to be an inclusive organisation. We know that our staff are our best asset and we want to make sure that they work in a supportive and safe environment.

We want to continue to be an exemplar organisation in valuing diversity, promoting inclusion and embedding equality, both as an employer and as a parliamentary organisation. Our vision is to be an organisation that is accessible and engages with, and respects the people of Wales. We engage with as diverse a range of groups as possible in the belief that this can only lead to a better democratic institution and legislature that delivers effectively for all the people of Wales.

For more information about working for the National Assembly for Wales, please visit our recruitment pages.

More information on our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion is set out in our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2016-21.

[1] Protected characteristics: Age, Disability, Gender reassignment, Marriage and civil partnership, Pregnancy and maternity, Race, Religion and belief, Sex, Sexual orientation

[2] The Time for Talking is over. Now is the time to act. Race in the workplace’

 

 

Bi Visibility Day 2018

 

By Rhayna Mann

Twenty years ago I had just finished university. I was travelling, having adventures, meeting new people and beginning to consider my future. Doesn’t that sound idyllic? The other side of this story is that I was also coming out as a bisexual woman. Why do I put a bit of a negative tint on that? Because it was a confusing and challenging event that didn’t happen overnight.

As a youngster I was attracted to women as well as men, but growing up in a small valleys mining village these thoughts were seen as unnatural. To be gay was frowned upon and it was frightening to me as a young child to see how some gay men (because there were no visible gay women) were avoided and talked about. I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me, but the feelings I had towards men and women remained.

By the time I was eighteen, the public narrative around gay people was shifting. It was ok to be gay – as long as you lived in a cosmopolitan city or were famous! But what struck me the most were the people who were acknowledged in the media as being bisexual, people such as David Bowie, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Freddie Mercury and Janis Joplin. I looked up to these people, they filled me with inspiration and awe….and they were bisexual. To be able to identify with someone whom you can look up to is very powerful.

At the age of eighteen I came out. It was incredibly uneventful, I was a bit disappointed. My friends responded with ‘thought so’ and carried on being my friends. My parents however introduced me to my first experience of passive biphobia; they believed that being bisexual isn’t real or legitimate and dismissed it as being ‘just a phase’.

My second experiences of bi-phobia happened throughout my twenties; when starting a new relationship with a man they would often see my bisexuality as a threat or a novelty. When dating a gay woman, I would be seen as a fraud.

The final experience of bi-phobia has been my ongoing inability to keep some female friends. I have personally found that some straight women find female bisexuals threatening, and that has been one of the most upsetting things for me.

However, once I was comfortable with my own identity I found that, by and large, others were too. Over the past twenty years positivity and acceptance have overshadowed any negativity. Talking with friends about sexuality, their honesty and humour has been refreshing and has helped me to evolve from a bisexual woman into just a woman…who happens to be bisexual.

But the most significant experience I’ve had has been positive and non-judgmental acceptance from my beautiful children, friends, family and work colleagues. This has given me the strength to be happy and comfortable with who I am.

So happy Bi Visibility Day, let’s continue to question stereotypes and help create an environment where we have the opportunity to flourish and evolve into the people we truly are.

2018-WEI-graphic

Bi_flag

2018 top-employer-black-bilingual

 

Out-Naw.png

As a member of a minority – does your history matter?

 As part of our work to commemorate LGBT History Month, our guest blog comes from Norena Shopland (@NorenaShopland), the author of Forbidden Lives: LGBT Stories from Wales.

When my book Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales was published at the end of last year, one of the questions I was asked was, why did I write it?

The question wasn’t asked out of prejudice, but a genuine concern about the usefulness of a work that concentrated on a ‘minority within a minority’ with, they believed, a limited audience.

At first glance, they seemed to have a point – Wales is a small country, with just 4.8% of the UK population; and when it comes to history, is it even necessary to define every person or event as specifically English or Welsh? After all, the laws of the UK affect everyone, and everyone has more-or-less the same experiences under those laws.

The same question can be asked of other, larger minorities, who rarely exceed 20% of the population, such as black and Asian, at around 13%. Although we can relate diverse histories in themselves, is it necessary to talk about, for example, Welsh and English black and Asian people as separate entities?

Before answering, perhaps it is helpful to contemplate how you might go about finding individuals in the written record, which in itself can be a daunting task, and something I came across when writing Forbidden Lives. One of the reasons I became interested in my country’s history of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – about 6-10% of the population depending on whose statistics you accept) was because Welsh people were being used in UK history without any reference to their country of origin. This was particularly noticeable when celebrating LGBT History Month in February, when people like Ivor Novello, the Ladies of Llangollen, Leo Abse, and many others, were being included but within a UK, or more often, English concept.

LGBT history books rarely include an individual’s country of origin, or an index references to Wales or the Welsh – something that is also true of other countries. For example, many LGBT histories will include references to, say, work on sexology done in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, but Germany per se will not appear in an index. If you wanted to construct a German history from general histories it could not be done.

The Welsh LGBT history conundrum

All this means is that to construct a Welsh LGBT history, it was necessary to search far and wide through many mediums. An added difficulty with regard to Wales, unlike other countries such as Germany, is that Welsh people for much of the nineteenth century and beyond, are often referred to as English.

Anyway, having surmounted various hurdles to put together the lives and events which appear in Forbidden Lives, what about the original question of ‘why go to all this trouble’? After all, some of the people I include already appear in UK histories and, whilst a number of my stories either highlight little known accounts, or are completely new, why can’t they simply be added to a UK history?

Well, they can. But there are far more reaching questions. The book has shown people from Wales have been very influential in shaping LGBT history, such as Wolfenden and the Sexual Offences Act – both of which changed society as a whole. What was it about these Welsh people that caused them to be so influential? In fact, the book has raised a whole series of questions that cannot be covered in detail here, but which concerns different types of experiences than that of England.

We also need to engage more museums, archives, schools and people in LGBT history and to do that we need to have local individuals – the more Welsh LGBT people we can identify the more engagement there will be. More engagement means more understanding of diversity and less discrimination.

So, in the end what was my answer?

Because history and politics aside, they’re rattling good stories – and after all, everyone loves a good story!

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The National Assembly for Wales is committed to promoting LGBT equality. We have been named by Stonewall as the Top Employer in the UK for LGBT people, a Top Trans Employer, and our workplace network has been Highly Commended for their work. If you would like to find out more about our work promoting LGBT equality, please contact our Diversity and Inclusion Team.

stonewall logo employer of the year stonewall logo top trans employer

stonewall logo star performer organisation        Stonewall logo highly commended network group

Celebrating 100 Years of the Representation of the People Act 1918

To commemorate 100 years since the Representation of the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent, Deputy Presiding Officer Ann Jones AM (@ann_jonesAM), discusses the importance of the  women’s suffrage movement in Wales.

February 6 2018 marks one hundred years since the Representation of the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent. This Act gave women the right to vote, provided that they were over 30 and that either they or their husband met a property qualification. The Act, which increased the electorate by over 8 million people, hardly represented equality, but it was a major step forward in the journey towards full suffrage for women, which was ultimately achieved in 1928. To mark the anniversary, there will be a programme of events, exhibitions and other activity taking place in Wales and across the United Kingdom.

Women, Wales and Politics

Championing the role of women in society is something that I am incredibly passionate about.  I have therefore established a Wales, Women and Politics working group of women Assembly Members. By working with key stakeholders in the sector, we will work towards delivering a programme of events and activities to explore the history of the women’s suffrage movement in Wales, and ensure that the role women play in civic society in Wales is under the spotlight.

The National Assembly for Wales has already achieved international recognition for promoting gender equality. In 2003, it was the first parliament worldwide to achieve gender parity.  Unfortunately, the Assembly has seen a gradual decline in the number of women Assembly Members, with currently only 26 of the chamber’s 60 seats being occupied by women. While the Assembly is still an international leader in gender representation, the decline in the number of women representing the people of Wales is a concern. I was, therefore, interested to hear that Prof Laura McAllister and her colleagues recommended integrating a gender quota into the electoral system in their recent “A Parliament that Works for Wales” report.

Celebrating the achievements of women this International Women’s Day

The focus of our activity in the short term will be around International Women’s Day (8 March), a global day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The Senedd will host an exhibition that tells the story of the suffrage movement in Wales and a lecture by Dr Ryland Wallace, the leading authority on the suffrage movement in Wales. We will also be working in partnership with the Welsh National Opera to launch of ‘Rhondda Rips it Up!’, a newly commissioned opera which profiles the life of Margaret Haig Thomas, one of Wales’s most prominent suffragettes.

Ann Jones AM

Deputy Presiding Officer, National Assembly for Wales

We’re number one on Stonewall’s UK Workplace Equality Index 2018

The National Assembly for Wales has been recognised as the 2018 UK leading employer for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the latest Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.

It’s the first time that we have topped the list and comes ten years since we first entered the index. Since then we have steadily worked our way up and have featured in the top ten for the past four years.

stonewall logo employer of the yearstonewall logo top trans employer

Stonewall logo highly commended network group     stonewall logo star performer organisation

A leader for workplace equality

Stonewall has also highly commended our work in promoting, recognising and supporting transgender equality, citing us as one of only 11 exemplar organisations in the UK.

In addition, our LGBT workplace network, OUT-NAW, has been recognised as a Highly Commended Network Group and we have achieved the status of a Star Performer organisation because of our consistently excellent performance in the Index.

We are proud to be leading the way not only in Wales but across the UK.

Working towards more progressive ways of working

We first entered the index in 2008, where we were ranked 208 in the UK. Since then we have we have made incremental changes to our policies and engagement activities that has resulted in our continuous improvement and approach to LGBT inclusiveness and therefore, our rise within the Index.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
208 73 47 42 20 26 11 4 3 5 1

We are a modern parliament and we embrace creative thinking. We have always been proactive and progressive in our approach to LGBT equality, creating an inclusive environment and culture by making small meaningful changes.

We have used an incremental approach to LGBT inclusion, using feedback from Stonewall and best practice to be a progressive organisation. Being inclusive is in our very DNA. The Government of Wales Act 2006 that established the Assembly Commission as a corporate body stated that the Assembly must ‘make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that their functions are exercised with due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people’. So it’s part of everything that we do.

Leading change through strong leadership

We are proud to have dedicated and strong leadership, across the organisation and at different levels within the organisation, from the Llywydd, the Chief Executive and Directors, to our Diversity and Inclusion team and network members and allies across the Assembly.

Our inclusive approach is visible to staff and visitors. We fly the rainbow flag at certain points throughout the year, we have our Stonewall Workplace Index certificate and awards on display in our reception area, we have network members and allies wearing rainbow lanyards and our allies have a sign on their desk proclaiming their support of LGBT colleagues.

When one colleague joined the organisation he was delighted by our approach to LGBT inclusion, stating “it took me three years to come out in my old job; it took me less than three weeks to do the same here. It was clear straight away that everyone is accepted for who they are.”

photo of LGBT staff and allies with the rainbow flag

Elin Jones AM, Llywydd of the National Assembly for Wales, said:

“We are truly honoured to be recognised by Stonewall as the leading employer in the UK for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“The National Assembly has diversity and inclusion at the very heart of its role representing the people of Wales.

“We are proud to support our LGBT staff network and continue to work to create an inclusive culture – not only for the people who work here but for the people we represent across all Wales’ diverse communities.

“As Wales’ parliament, it is right that we should lead by example to demonstrate what can be achieved with the right attitudes, leadership and determination.

“This is not only a great day for the Assembly, it’s also good news for staff in the many other Welsh organisations represented in the top 100 employers. This demonstrates that Wales clearly understands the value of inclusive policy and service delivery and I congratulate them all.”

Joyce Watson AM, Assembly Commissioner with responsibility for diversity and inclusion, said:

“This is a wonderful achievement which comes on the tenth anniversary of the Assembly first being recognised in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.

“It is a testament to the dedication of our staff, in particular our diversity and inclusion team, for embracing and ingraining LGBT equality in all aspects of our work representing the people of Wales.

“Our success shows that incremental changes in policy and a willing approach to changing attitudes can achieve so much and serve as an example to others.”

For more information about working for the National Assembly for Wales, please visit our recruitment pages.

10 facts for 10 years of Black History Month in Wales

Black History Month Wales is celebrating its 10th year anniversary this year. First celebrated in the UK in 1987, this year also marks the 30th anniversary of Black History Month (BHM) in the UK.

Map

Every October throughout the UK, BHM celebrates the achievements and contributions of Black people to the development of British society; technology; the economy; the arts and culture. Read more about the history of BHM.

In celebration of 10 years, here are 10 facts you might not have been aware of:

1. In 1987 BHM was only celebrated in London, it is now a UK wide event with over 6,000 events being celebrated across the UK every October. Canada and America celebrate Black History Month in February.

2. The following were invented by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people:

Pencil sharpener, trolley car power system, first traffic light, sweeper truck, dustpan, automatic elevator door, first clothes dryer, fire escape ladder, fire extinguisher, carbon filament for the lightbulb, blood plasma bag, ironing board, hair brush, straightening comb, tricycle and more.

3. Betty Campbell  became Wales’s first black head teacher in the 1970s, with her post at Mount Stuart Primary School in Butetown, Cardiff.

4. Wales has one of the UK’s oldest multi-ethnic communities in Cardiff, in the area of Tiger Bay. Sailors and workers from over 50 countries settled there.

5. Leonora Brito was born in Cardiff, raised in and influenced by the multicultural community of Tiger Bay she recreated the society’s values through her writing. Her writing provided a unique insight into Afro-Caribbean Welsh society, largely unrepresented in Welsh writing until her work appeared. Her story ‘Dat’s Love’ won her the 1991 Rhys Davies Short Story Competition. She died in 2007.

6. Mohammed Asghar (Oscar) AM became Wales’s first Muslim councillor, representing the Victoria ward on Newport City Council in 2004. He became the first ethnic minority and Muslim member of the Assembly when he was elected to the National Assembly for Wales in 2007.

7. The 2011 census reported there were 18,276 Welsh African people, amounting to 0.6% of the Welsh population.

8. In 2008 Vaughan Gething AM became the youngest ever President of the TUC in Wales, also becoming the first black person in the role.

9. Eddie Parris, who was born at Pwllmeyric near Chepstow, became the first black footballer to play for Wales, playing his one and only international against Northern Ireland in Belfast in 1931 – nearly half a century before England’s first black player was awarded an international cap.

10. Judge Ray Singh, CBE, Chair of race Council Cymru is a retired District Judge and the first ethnic minority judge on the Welsh bench.

For further information on the Black History Month celebrations around Wales visit the Black History Month website.