Inclusion and diversity in awards – and businesses – can only be a good thing

I was fortunate enough to win the Inclusion and Diversity category in The East Midlands Business Desk ‘s Leadership awards earlier this month, and as a black and disabled entrepreneur, I often think about the idea behind inclusion and diversity categories when it comes to award ceremonies.
For the most part, I believe them to be a fantastic addition to the generic categories of most awards. There’s only so many times you can see a “Best Director” or “Rising Star” category and it’s important that we celebrate the notion of inclusion and diversity within organisations – something which is often ignored.
When people decide to set up a business or become an entrepreneur, it’s very easy to focus solely on financial gain. And although you need to be profitable in order to survive, you should also want to create a business with a conscience that gives back. After all, doing good feels good and creates a legacy that will last.

The more we celebrate it, the more widespread it will become

The more that we shout about businesses’ inclusion and diversity work, the more it will encourage other businesses owners and senior management teams to do more around this important topic.
After I graduated from university, I struggled through many months of unemployment. I struggled to find a job – not because I wasn’t qualified, but because of my the colour of my skin and the fact that I was disabled.
Eventually, I was given a chance by a disability charity to become their Head of Finance. I did this job for a few years until unfortunately, due to the late effects of Post-Polio Syndrome I was forced to give it up through sheer exhaustion and ill health.
That’s why becoming a Disability Confident employer (a government-backed scheme) is very close to my heart.
Both of my businesses, Easy Internet Services and Easy Internet Solutions are proud Disability Confident employers. This means that we actively try and recruit staff who have disabilities and we make our interview processes accessible to all.
We also allow staff to work from home, choose flexible hours and do whatever we can to help them work around their disabilities.
It shouldn’t take you, or someone close to you having a disability and seeing the struggles they face to make you become a conscientious employer. There are 13.9 million people in the UK living with a disability – people who would make fantastic employees if they were given a fair chance.
Similarly, I know many great businesses who develop equality and diversity groups to identify talented staff of different ethnicities who could be fast-tracked for management and career development opportunities.
Again, it shouldn’t take a business being owned by a black person to think of these initiatives – they should be more widespread across all kinds of industries – especially the ones that are dominated mainly by white, middle-class people.

My hopes for the future

Though it’s fantastic that awards are now celebrating inclusion and diversity, in a way it’s a double-edged sword.
In the same way that the Black British Business Awards celebrates black people in business, I really wish that we didn’t have a need for such segregated events. That we could just have a British Business Awards and awards for the most conscientious employer.
How we’ll know that inclusion and diversity have truly been achieved is when you can go into a room at a business awards ceremony and not be greeted by one demographic of people.
Despite this, I do think we’re well on the way to achieving real change – and these kinds of categories are raising awareness and creating a positive, ripple effect. But we still have a way to go.
What do you think? Do you believe in segregating awards ceremonies and categories in this way? Be sure to let me know in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media.
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