We hope by offering more information, we can increase both education and awareness of diversity and inclusion and the topics that fall within it.
There are many different approaches to terminology and there's no conclusive definition for many phrases.
Take a look below at what we’ve covered so far. We'll continue to update this page.
An active bystander is someone who, when confronted with a situation where someone is acting inappropriately, chooses to do something instead of doing nothing.
It can be incredibly daunting to find the courage to do this, especially in a workplace setting.
It takes time, knowledge and empowerment from those at the top to feel equipped to do it and, often, we still need to overcome overwhelming self-doubt too.
Not only is it difficult to be an active bystander but it can also be challenging to identify the right time to be one.
“It’s a joke” or “this is how it’s always been” are common justifications we tell ourselves so that we may be able to avoid causing disruption.
It’s against our nature to be challenging because, as humans, we have an innate desire to fit in and belong. Because of this, self-doubt and reasoning of unacceptable behaviours are hard to conquer.
The simplest test is to ask yourself how you feel.
How did the joke at your colleague’s expense make you feel? Did it make you feel uncomfortable that a candidate was rejected due to stereotyping? Then this is your time to act.
The point of being an active bystander is for behaviours and thinking to change. Change does not come without challenge.
Over time, jokes, comments, stereotypes and bias become normalised in environments where they go unchecked and unchallenged.
The first step in undoing this is identifying when it’s happening. The next is to begin questioning – using your voice, privilege and actions to let others know their behaviour was unacceptable.
We’ve worked with the Active Bystander Training Company on a resource on being an active bystander. Take a look for some helpful tips and further explanation of the concept
Being “your whole self” or “bringing your whole self to work” is a term that's often heard within conversations on diversity and inclusion.
As a concept, it means that you're in an environment where you feel safe and comfortable to be completely authentic.
'Environment' can refer to a physical location such as your place of work or public spaces, although feeling at ease to behave in this way can sometimes be dictated by external factors like culture, for example.
Environment can also mean an internal place of self-acceptance and positive mental health.
Unfortunately, people often believe they must conceal or disassociate themselves from personality traits, characteristics and physical features for fear of judgement and discrimination. This is the most common reason people feel they're not being, and cannot be, entirely themselves.
Feeling as if you're being inauthentic can have a huge negative impact on many areas of a person’s life, but the benefits of feeling as though you can be your whole self have even greater effect, for example:
- you're often more productive
- your mental health improves
- your relationships and wellbeing improve
In addition, people commonly become role models in their lives and workplaces which, in turn, allows others to feel accepted and authentic about who they are.
Most people tend to suppress some parts of their personality in different situations, and this is normal.
What's unhealthy, and has a negative effect on both the individual and the organisation, is when someone feels they must suppress something all the time.
It takes equal effort from both individuals and organisations to create environments and situations that are conducive to the idea of being your whole self, especially in the context of diversity and inclusion.
The acronym 'BAME' stands for Black, Asian and minority ethnic.
This term is often used to describe all ethnic minorities, particularly in the context of diversity and inclusion initiatives focused on race and ethnicity.
This term is commonly used and considered to be 'politically correct'.
However, while it's not overtly offensive to use, grouping together all ethnic minority races can be damaging.
Working from the assumption that all races under this umbrella acronym are the same will make it challenging to identify the personalised issues faced by individual races and communities.
Every race has vastly differing experiences that must be acknowledged to make sure they are addressed.
It’s not always inappropriate to use these acronyms, as some projects may indeed focus on all ethnic minorities.
In the right context, using these acronyms is suitable. It's helpful to always consider which issues you are trying to address and who is directly affected by them.
It is not discriminatory to address specific races by their race, so if you're focusing on supporting issues predominantly faced by a specific race, then make sure that is communicated clearly.
Why we’re talking about it
Over the last year, we’ve seen more frequent and in-depth discussions on race and ethnicity terminology and which terms, abbreviations and words are appropriate to use.
Within these conversations, how to refer to a Black person in writing has come into question.
Technically when writing a colour, it’s grammatically correct to use the lower case to spell it out when it’s mid-sentence.
However, when referring to the Black race, using a capital letter moves the use of the word from describing a colour to describing the identity of a person or group of people.
The impact of language
The Black race consists of multiple ethnic origins and cultures but, due to the history of slavery and displacement of African people across the world, those whose ancestors originally came from Black-dominated countries are more often than not described by the western world as simply “Black”.
For example, in the UK it’s common to describe the ethnicity of a person of Indian heritage as “Asian” and yet a person of African heritage as “black”.
This term is suitable and correct to use to describe someone of African or Caribbean heritage, but by using a lowercase ‘b’, some argue that it robs people who identify as Black a certain dignity that is afforded to other races.
As much as this seems like a small change, it has a much larger and cascading impact.
It helps to shift the narrative to one that respects the identity and background of Black people.
Language is an important and essential part of inclusion and should not be overlooked.
This type of bias means people will often seek out and prefer information which supports their existing values or beliefs.
Confirmation bias can also impact how you recall or interpret information, for example: disregarding data, evidence or even people/groups of people if they do not conform to a preconception you may hold.
This can affect your ability to change your views, how you empathise and see different perspectives.
These are exceptionally important traits during your professional life, especially in leadership positions.
It's completely natural to have confirmation bias but it's important that we do not allow it to influence us negatively.
Try to be curious about opposing views and experiences to your own and practise listening and understanding when others are sharing their thoughts and perspectives.
Bandwagon bias is a form of 'groupthink' where you are influenced by the most widely held decision within a group of people.
Often, individuals in these situations will ignore their own beliefs and thoughts in place of conforming to the majority. This frequently happens to maintain harmony within a group, fulfil the basic need of human beings to belong or, similarly, to avoid rejection.
As we're by nature social creatures, it's particularly easy to succumb to bandwagon bias. This bias can negatively affect several things within a professional context.
A group identity can suppress individual ideas and creativity, inhibiting problem solving and perpetuating stereotyping.
It can also make it difficult to identify obstacles and future issues both from overconfidence and resistance to new information which may impact the group decision or belief.
It's vital to create environments, teams and groups where people feel comfortable to share ideas, ask questions and, feel valued as an individual and as a member of the team. It's important to encourage both of these identities to exist in tandem.
As the decision maker or leader, you could do this by avoiding starting with your own views and ideas and instead encouraging everyone else to share theirs.
Avoid discouraging critical thinking, questions and new information.
Instead, reward these behaviours by reacting positively to these types of contributions.
Terminology, especially in this context, is important as it can reflect a society’s attitude towards a particular group.
It can, however, become confusing when preferred terminology differs from one society to another.
Disability terminology is used in different ways in different countries, like in the US and UK for example.
The historical and political journey that the disability movement in each country took often helps to explain the differences.
In both countries, political movements arose from self-organised groups of "disabled people" (a UK term) who sought political rights and independent living.
In the US, the disability movement made a conscious decision to describe themselves as "people with disabilities" (or PWD), arguing that this recognised them as people first and does not define them primarily in relation to their characteristic or disability.
People-first language would refer to someone as "a person with a disability".
In the UK, the preferred term of the disability movement is "disabled people": emphasising that the person is disabled not necessarily by their body, but by a world that does not accommodate them.
The term "disabled people" is located in an understanding of the UK social model of disability, which draws an important distinction between disability and impairment.
Historically, society has taken a medical approach to defining disability (for example, someone is paralysed, therefore they are disabled).
The social model argues that someone’s impairment (being paralysed) simply describes their medical condition but if they were given the right equipment and accommodations, they would not necessarily be disabled.
Not all disabled people are familiar with the social model of disability, or preferred terminology, and they may choose to refer to themselves in a different way.
"The disabled" is a term that is almost universally regarded as offensive because of the way it can objectify, ‘other’ and de-humanise people.
Thank you to Legally Disabled? for its contribution to this feature.
There is often a distinction made between ‘equality’ and ‘equity’.
Equality is defined as ensuring people are treated the same and are given the same opportunities regardless of their characteristics.
Equity is defined as giving people what they need to ensure a level playing field.
Equity is considered a better fit with organisational strategies aimed at valuing diversity and creating inclusion, as it recognises and responds to people’s differences rather than ignoring them.
However, the distinction does oversimplify what is meant by equality.
In the field of equal rights, ‘formal equality’ means treating people in the same way, whereas ‘substantive equality’ is a broader, multi-dimensional concept, which is more focused on achieving equality in outcomes for marginalised groups.
The Equality Act recognises different dimensions of equality too.
The prohibition on direct discrimination is aimed at ensuring similar cases are treated in the same way, whereas the definition of indirect discrimination acknowledges that applying the same policy in the same way to everyone could disadvantage people who share a protected characteristic.
The gender pay gap is the difference in average pay between all male and all female employees.
The comparison is usually based on hourly pay not including overtime to remove the effect of men working longer hours on average than women.
The gender pay gap is not the same as equal pay.
The right to equal pay for equal work requires a woman (or man) to receive the same pay as a man (or woman) who is doing the same or similar work or work that is different but of equal value.
Major causes of the gender pay gap include:
- women being less likely to be in senior roles
- women and men doing different kinds of work and ‘women’s work’ being undervalued (for example, caring compared to craft jobs)
- the impact of women being primary carers and taking more time out of their careers
- ongoing problems with unequal pay
Gender pay gap reporting requirements were introduced in 2017 to shine a light on the gender pay gap and to motivate organisations to take action on all the factors giving rise to it in their organisation.
Our recent research looks at progress made by the largest law firms since the requirements were introduced: gender pay gap reporting: what can we learn from the 2020 snapshot?
“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” Primo Levi.
Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.
It's an international day to remember the six million Jews who died and the millions who were killed in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
It's a time to remember and to learn from the past in order to prevent these horrors happening again.
The term 'genocide' was coined by Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in 1944 in response to the Nazi’s systematic murder of Jewish people and he campaigned to get it recognised in international law.
The term covers acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, people who are members of a particular national, racial, ethnic or religious group.
One of the lessons to learn and reflect on is that such abhorrent acts emerge out of a process that begins with stereotyping and biased attitudes towards a group and escalates through discrimination, prejudice and verbal harassment to acts of violence and murder.
This emphasises the importance of not leaving prejudice, discrimination or the language of hatred and exclusion unchecked.
We all need to work to create a safer and better future for all our communities.
Biases exist within all of us and are usually either unconscious (implicit) or conscious (explicit).
Implicit bias informs decisions and behaviours without awareness and can even directly contradict a person’s cognitive beliefs and values.
Explicit bias is intentionally using bias to discriminate and can be either overt (such as by harassing or bullying someone) or subtle (by actively excluding or ignoring someone).
All biases are learned stereotypes and prejudices stemming from past experiences and interactions as well as environmental factors and/or circumstances such as upbringing or wider societal influences.
During any experience, situation or interaction, your brain will unconsciously collect all available information to prepare for and inform future experiences.
It uses this information to fill in blank spaces when anticipating an outcome, like what type of person would be best suited for a role you’re recruiting for.
The issue with allowing this preconceived information to fill in gaps and influence your decisions and behaviour is that it's often incorrect, discriminatory and perpetuates inequality.
It's important to be aware of what your biases might be and how to challenge them.
Awareness is key to dismantling stereotypes that have developed in your mind over a significant amount of time. Just as it took time to build them, it'll also take time to undo them.
You should be constantly alert to how your biases could be affecting your ability to be objective.
Our biases can come to the fore most when we're under pressure and our cognitive ability is impaired.
Organisations need to also consider how decision-making processes can be designed in a way to minimise the influence of bias, and regularly analyse data and review outcomes to check whether any group seems to be unjustifiably favoured or disadvantaged.
Allies are an effective and meaningful way to show a commitment to inclusion within your organisation and, as individuals, in society.
Anyone can be an ally and they can exist in many capacities.
Primarily, allies provide support to minority groups by signposting, raising awareness of issues and challenges, amplifying the voices of minority groups, and actively working against discrimination and inequality among many other things.
Within an organisation, we often see inclusion allies dedicated to particular strands (for example, LGBT+ and women), which is a valuable way to ensure tailored support, knowledge and activity.
Visible support from those at senior level or in majority groups meaningfully contributes to an inclusive and psychologically safe environment, letting people in minority groups know that they can be themselves, they are heard, and they are valued.
To allow for the most success with an ally initiative, it’s important they have a presence within every team in your organisation and at varying levels of seniority, weaving inclusion into your organisation in a visible way across the entire business.
In a professional context, it's a clear message that people have permission, and are welcomed, to feel included.
Disabled people want to educate the public and increase accessibility and acceptance of disability in society.
However, the way in which disability is depicted has been disputed amongst disabled people.
Most have experienced discomfort with the 'positive' stories about disabilities which, although well intended, can be demoralising and embarrassing.
In recent years, these depictions have acquired the provocative term "inspiration porn".
Inspiration porn is an informal term created by the late disability activist Stella Young. Like pornography, it objectifies the subject (the disabled person) whilst providing a benefit for the viewer (the non-disabled person).
It's usually seen in media portrayals of disabled people in memes, news stories, videos, pictures and articles whereby the disabled person is a source of motivation for able-bodied people.
Coverage with this narrative coveys messages which are damaging to the disabled community, suggesting that disability is a bad thing and that living with one is extraordinary.
One of the main problems with inspiration porn is that underlying issues, such as accessibility and inclusion, are not addressed. It fails to bring attention to the real problems disabled people face every day.
It does not mean we should not highlight successful disabled people.
However, it may be more helpful for organisations to include ideas from actual disabled people when considering any media portrayal. This will help in ensuring a meaningful and representative narrative is conveyed.
Furthermore, if you tell a story of a disabled person’s perseverance and success over difficult barriers they may have overcome, you should address why they've faced those barriers.
Consider suggesting what changes could be made to remove those barriers so that disabled people do not face them again in future.
It’s important and valuable to show what tools and support disabled people need to function every day and use this to begin to normalise disability.
Read the full article: why the legal sector needs to improve its portrayal of disabled people
The term was first used in 1989 by American legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw to explain how the law had failed to address a particular case of discrimination experience by Black women because of the way in which their race and gender intersected.
In the case, Black women were unsuccessful in applying for work at an organisation, but it was argued this was not race discrimination as Black men were employed, nor was it sex discrimination because White women were employed in the organisation.
Intersectionality draws attention to the:
- multiple layers of oppression (or privilege) experienced by different individuals
- interconnectedness of different parts of our identities
- heterogeneity within groups that share a characteristic, such as women, ethnic minority or disabled people
Intersectionality can sometimes be used in a way that emphasises individual identity.
It might be seen as shifting the focus away from group-based inequalities or discrimination associated with a single characteristic, such as racism.
However, if we view things through an intersectional lens, it should help us to gain a nuanced understanding of discrimination and develop more inclusive networks and movements for change.
For example, intersectional feminism is a movement that recognises that the barriers to gender equality vary according to different aspects of women’s identity – such as their social class, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion.
Intersectionality is important to consider in our approach to diversity and inclusion because otherwise we risk assuming that people’s experiences of inequalities are the same. This can lead to further exclusion of the people we’re trying to support.
Intersectionality requires us to have a flexible mindset, recognise complexity and ask questions, rather than seeking simple definitions and single solutions to inequalities between groups.
This is a term used to describe a process of learning, reflection, analysis and planning to make sure that a service demonstrates its understanding of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and heterosexism, and of the impact these have on the experience of LGBT+ people.
This means for LGBT+ solicitors and clients alike, adopting affirmative practice approaches can create a safe space allowing LGBT+ staff to feel comfortable in expressing their identity.
It also encourages non-LGBT+ staff to be more considerate of their words and behaviours to be as inclusive as possible.
Binary assumptive language/gendered language
These are examples of expressions that assume there are only two gender expressions.
Examples include phrases such as “ladies and gentlemen” or “sir/madam”, which are commonly used at events and in emails.
Where personal pronoun choice is not known, here are some gender inclusive alternative terms you can use:
- good morning/evening
- esteemed guests
- friends and colleagues
Heteronormativity is the belief that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life.
It promotes heterosexuality as the ‘normal’ or ‘preferred’ sexual orientation.
Such beliefs are not conducive to affirmative practices and do not create safe spaces for LGBT+ people.
Of the data that is shared, 5% of solicitors identify as LGBT+. We must move away from a heteronormative culture to promote inclusion. Language is one way of doing this.
Non-binary describes a person who does not identity as exclusively a man or a woman.
Someone who is non-binary might feel like a mix of genders or like they have no gender at all.
Often, non-binary people may use the pronouns ‘they/them/theirs’.
Microaggressions are verbal, behavioural or environmental insults or exclusions that are frequent, seemingly ordinary, and can be intentional or unintentional.
They are based upon biases and stereotypes learnt over time and are an everyday reality for marginalised groups in all aspects of society, including the workplace.
Microaggressions appear insidiously in conversations through inappropriate questions, body language, actions and decisions.
Despite often being small gestures, which alone are hurtful, they contribute to a larger and more persistent culture of exclusion.
The impact of experiencing sustained microaggressions works in a similar way to learning the stereotypes that perpetuate them: people begin to believe them.
Individuals who are victim to microaggressions commonly begin to adapt their behaviour, appearance, personality and identity to avoid them.
This prevents them from being authentically themselves, which not only feeds exclusion but is a detriment to a person’s wellbeing, mental health and, in a workplace setting, a business’ productivity.
Examples of microaggressions include:
- calling a woman “bossy” where the same behaviour from a man would be described as “assertive”
- making comments such as “I didn’t know you were gay”, suggesting that people who are gay behave in a certain way
Non-verbal microaggressions are frequently shown through body language: for example, eye rolling, tutting, or behaving disinterestedly or dismissively.
Microaggressions can also be observed in our decisions and actions. For example, by excluding somebody based on a preconceived stereotype or bias, or by not having accessible facilities.
Microaggressions are a learned behaviour, which thankfully means that we also have the ability to unlearn them.
Be mindful of your language, how you’re engaging in conversations and your body language.
Consciously consider how you’re making the other person feel within your interactions and how well you’re promoting inclusion.
Awareness is the first step; action is the next.
Read our guidance on inclusive allyship to learn how to be more inclusive and better support marginalised groups.
There are a number of models used to describe disability and the way it's perceived.
The models are a means of defining disability, which can be helpful – especially for non-disabled people – in creating policies and strategies to best support disabled people.
As with all aspects of a person’s identity, choosing which model best represents you and your disability is an extremely personal choice.
The social model is the view that disabled people are disabled by society and its limitations, both physically (for example, by inaccessible buildings) and in the attitudes/behaviours of individuals.
It's the social and environmental barriers which prevent disabled people from equal opportunities and experiences rather than a person’s impairment or disability inhibiting them.
It's then the responsibility of society, and the people, employers and environments that exist within in it, to actively help in removing these obstacles and allowing disabled people equitable participation in society.
This model is often preferred by disabled people as not only does it promote inclusion, and collaboratively working together to achieve it, it also works to undo negative perceptions of disability and disabled people.
This model of disability says that people are disabled by their health condition and looks at what is ‘wrong’ with the person, not what the person needs.
This model puts much of the emphasis on disabilities being the responsibility of the individual experiencing it.
Thus, it's not the role of society to adapt and evolve to ensure equal experiences between disabled and non-disabled people, but that of the disabled person to work to be as non-disabled as realistically achievable.
This model also suggests that the disabled person must be 'cured' or medically treated to become as 'normal' as possible so they may lead a life like that of a non-disabled person.
This viewpoint can perpetuate discrimination, particularly that disabled people are 'abnormal', and exclusion.
Positive action describes initiatives or steps that are intentionally taken to address the underrepresentation, historic disadvantage or different needs of marginalised groups.
The aim is to level the playing field and provide opportunities that others in more advantaged groups have had.
Examples of positive action include:
- providing a leadership development programme for women
- selecting a candidate from an underrepresented group in a tie-break situation
Positive action is defined in the Equality Act 2010, which also sets out the circumstances in which it is lawful.
This is where an employer reasonably thinks that there is underrepresentation or historic disadvantage associated with a protected characteristic and the action planned to address it is proportionate.
Positive action can help accelerate progress on diversity and correct structural inequalities.
It’s important to make sure positive action is well designed, including consulting with the groups it’s intended to help, so that it achieves its aims.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has more information and guidance on positive action.
Pronouns are the words we use to speak about another person in conversation.
For example, “he is my colleague” or “she was part of the project team”.
Pronouns are usually gendered (for example, he/him/his) and the gender we use is frequently assumed based on factors like appearance or someone’s name.
Judging by name or appearance is not always an accurate method for determining a person’s pronouns.
Getting these wrong can have a harmful impact and, even if you assume correctly, it may suggest that you have to look a certain way to demonstrate your gender.
To prevent these assumptions, it’s good practice for us to normalise sharing our pronouns. There are a number of ways we can do this.
Adding your pronouns to your email signature, name badge or LinkedIn profile are simple ways to let people know how to correctly address you.
When you introduce yourself to a new client or colleague, you could offer your pronouns or begin the dialogue by asking theirs.
You may feel uncomfortable to do this at first if you’ve never done it before, especially if you’re worried about making a mistake.
As with anything, practice makes perfect and it’s okay to get things wrong sometimes. Learn from any mistakes and keep trying.
If someone has indicated their pronouns to you, show respect and take care to use them correctly.
Language plays a vital role in inclusion and the way we address each other is an integral part of this.
Acknowledging and respecting someone’s identity in this way is an important aspect to building inclusion and acceptance throughout our workplaces and our society.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a duty to take reasonable steps to remove, reduce or prevent the substantial disadvantage a disabled person experiences because of their impairment.
This applies to both employees and job applicants, and includes adapting physical features and processes.
Workplace adjustments and reasonable accommodations
Some people prefer to use these terms rather than mirror the language of the Equality Act.
This is because they want to focus on good practice rather than the minimum of compliance with the Equality Act and what an employment tribunal would deem reasonable.
Some also prefer to use these terms because they see them as more inclusive of a wider range of employees who may need some extra support or flexibility to perform at their best – albeit the legal duty only applies to those who qualify as disabled under the Equality Act.
Make your workplace more inclusive
Our guidance on reasonable adjustments shows what has been possible in organisations in terms of adjustments for disabled people.
It shares best practice and should help organisations assess what is reasonable and could be done in particular circumstances.
What is class?
Social classes are groups of individuals with similar levels of power and status in society.
Income, wealth, education and occupation are key determinants of class. Some models, including the Great British Class Survey, have also added cultural and social capital into how class is defined.
The Office for National Statistics bases its classification of socio-economic status on eight occupational groupings: from “higher managerial and professional occupations” to “never worked or long-term unemployed”.
Social class in the UK
The British Social Attitudes Survey found in 2016 that 60% of the British population consider themselves working class.
This has not changed since 1983, despite the expansion in professional and managerial jobs.
In fact, nearly half (47%) of those in professional and managerial jobs consider themselves working class. This misidentification may stem from people wanting to downplay their own privilege and tell ‘origin stories’ based on multi-generational family histories.
Measuring social mobility
When measuring social mobility, which is defined as movement up or down the ‘social ladder’, the Social Mobility Commission recommends a key focus should be parental occupation at age 14.
According to this measure, just under a quarter (23%) of the solicitors’ profession come from a working-class background.
What is social mobility?
Social mobility is a term that describes the movement of individuals from one socio-economic class to another.
When we discuss improving social mobility in the profession, we’re seeking to widen access and progression opportunities to those who come from families or backgrounds that have lower socio-economic status, as determined by:
The Social Mobility Taskforce
We’re taking part in a government-commissioned Social Mobility Taskforce organised by the City of London Corporation to consider what needs to be done to improve socio-economic diversity at senior levels in the professions.
A key starting point is gathering the data on the current socio-economic diversity in organisations to assess what works in improving it.
The main indicator that the taskforce will use, as recommended by the Social Mobility Commission, is the occupation of the main household earner at age 14.
In law firms, 60% of partners are from a professional occupation background, compared to 33% of the UK’s working population using this measure.
Other indicators that are recommended and used by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in its latest diversity-data collection exercise include:
- type of school attended for the most time between the ages of 11 and 16
- highest level of parental educational qualification
Do you have a suggestion for a word, term or phrase we could discuss?
Email our diversity and inclusion team to make a suggestion.