Category: Diversity and Inclusion

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.

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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.

Black History Month: This October  marks a special anniversary

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

Abi Lasebikan, Co-Chair of our Race Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage workplace equality network, takes us through the history of BHM…

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Every October throughout the UK, Black History Month (BHM) celebrates the achievements and contributions of Black people to: the development of British society; technology; the economy; the arts and culture.

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” – Marcus Garvey

History

The first ever BHM event was held in London in 1987. Akyaaba Addai Sebbo, coordinator of Special Projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) at the time, is acknowledged as the originator of BHM in the UK and creating a collaboration to get it under way.

A colleague of mine, a woman, came to work one morning, looking very downcast and not herself. I asked her what the matter was, and she confided to me that the previous night when she was putting her son Marcus to bed he asked her, “Mum, why can’t I be white?”

The mother was taken aback. She said that she was so shocked that she didn’t know how to respond to her son. The boy that had been named after Marcus Garvey had asked why he couldn’t be white!

– Akyaaba Addai Sebbo

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It can arguably be said that the catalyst for BHM started eighteen months before the GLC was abolished in 1986. What followed in the months leading up to the GLC’s abolition was a concerted effort to find ways of carrying on the progressive equalities work of the GLC. The London Strategic Policy Unit (LSPU) made up of 15 Local Authorities, formed the body that took over the radical bits of the GLC after its abolition.

 

Linda Bellos, the then leader of Lambeth Council, remembers Ansell Wong, the then Head of the Ethnic Minority Unit, approaching her with the idea of initiating Black History Month in the UK.

Continue reading “Black History Month: This October  marks a special anniversary”

Diversity and Inclusion Week – Age Diversity in the Workplace: Multigenerational Working

Employers are now seeing five different generations of employees working side-by-side in their workplaces. The five different generations are defined as:

  • Traditionalists: 70 year olds – 80+;
  • Babyboomers: 50 year olds – late 60s;
  • Generation X: late 30s – late 40s;
  • Generation Y/Millennials: 20 year olds – early 30s); and
  • Generation Z/Digital Natives: born now-late teens. (Source: Virgin.com)

Delayed retirement and increased longevity mean that we have workforces that are ageing and therefore becoming increasingly multigenerational. Whilst this in itself is enriching for workplaces, employers will need to take into account the differing needs, perspectives, skillsets and communication styles of their staff across the generations to ensure an inclusive, productive working environment. Collaboration and employees’ understanding and appreciation of age diversity will also be key to fostering inclusion in the workplace.

The Assembly Commission recognises these challenges. To this end the overarching aim of our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy is to continue to foster an inclusive and collaborative takes account of all protected characteristics, including age. We have also developed an introduction to unconscious bias training module for our staff and our workplace equality networks are multigenerational and work collaboratively together. We also conduct annual staff surveys which provide an opportunity for to staff to say how they think and feel about their workplace.

As an employer, we recognise the rich diversity that exists within a multigenerational working environment and the breadth of creativity, skill sets and perspectives from which we benefit. We will do all we can to recognise this as we progress in delivering our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy over the coming years.

Diversity and Inclusion Week: The Assembly as an Inclusive employer

We strive to be an inclusive employer that supports the needs of everyone that works here. We have a number of teams, policies and procedures in place to help us to develop an inclusive culture, and to ensure that our staff are supported, can be themselves and fulfil their potential.

“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.

Workplace networks

Our workplace equality networks help us to promote inclusion internally and externally by taking forward diversity campaigns, providing peer support, sharing best practice and by helping the Assembly Commission to consider equality, diversity and inclusion in our work.

They are a place for people who identify with a protected characteristic group and/or have an interest in matters relating to a particular diversity strand, to come together. They help is to achieve a safe, inclusive and diverse working environment for all. This week, we are launching MINDFUL, our mental health and wellbeing network.

External recognition

We have received a number of accolades that demonstrate our commitment to fully supporting our staff, fostering an inclusive working environment and providing inclusive services. These standards acknowledge the progressive policies that we have in place and help us to maintain a best practice approach. Recent achievements include:

  • being ranked fifth in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index 2017, ranked the top public sector employer in the UK and named the Top Public Sector organisation in Wales for the fourth year running. Ross Davies, our Diversity and Inclusion Manager, was also named Stonewall Cymru’s Ally of the Year;
  • retaining our National Autistic Society Award for being an autism-friendly employer and service provider;
  • being listed as a top 10 family friendly employer in the UK by Working Families Organisation;
  • being designated as a Disability Confident Employer and Age Positive Employer;
  • retaining the Investors in People Gold Standard, the international mark of global excellence. Organisations that meet the world-recognised standard reflect the very best in people management and our achievement of the gold award demonstrates our continuing aim of being an employer of first choice.
  • winning Action on Hearing Loss Cymru Excellence Awards for our service to people who are deaf or have a hearing loss; and
  • Achieving the Action on Hearing Loss Louder than Words Charter Mark.

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What our staff say

We think a good way to tell you more about what we do, is to let some of our people tell you themselves:

“Adjustments have been made to my working pattern in order to achieve a work-life balance that is appropriate for me, including working condensed hours and term-time working. These adjustments have proven to be extremely valuable.”

“It took me 3 years to come ‘out’ in my previous job; it took me less than 3 weeks to do the same here. It was clear straight away that everyone accepts everyone else for who they are.”

“I do not feel disabled when I come to work, as I am treated with respect and my skills are appreciated.”

“As a deaf member of staff I am well supported in my role. Colleagues have adjusted their working practices and I have been provided with the necessary equipment to enable me to make a full contribution to the team.”

“Since joining our BME staff network, I feel reassured knowing my views have a place to be heard and valued. It makes me feel supported in my work and gives me the confidence that I can influence change in the organisation.”

“I joined the staff disability network after being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (FM) a few years ago in the hope of having some influence in the development and revision of corporate/HR policies in terms of how these affected people with all disabilities (having worked closely with the Diversity and Inclusion team), but particularly such invisible conditions as FM. I am pleased that, as a collective voice, the network has been able to influence some of these policies and get things changed.”

“Without the support, understanding and flexibility of line managers and advice and support from the occupational health nurse I doubt that I would be in work today”