We were in Georgia recently (the one near Russia, not the one where Randy Crawford got wet) and, on a Friday afternoon were surprised to find a noisy protest march heading down Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi. The patriotic flags hid a deeper story. 17 May is the international day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. On that day in 2013, a Pride event in Tbilisi was marred by anti-LGBT violence and since then the LGBT community has been afraid to mark this day publicly. Indeed it has been replaced by this event – Family Purity Day. It led to an interesting discussion with our local guide about how many younger people in this developing nation aren’t automatically subscribing to ‘traditional’ values, but are questioning whether there is another way. From my viewpoint, it was disappointing to see the emergent views of the young, and the rights of the LGBT community, subjugated by a loud and perhaps belligerent march. Not sure if there is a metaphor in here or not, but the image will remain with me for a long time. Then we returned to find that one of our newly elected MEPs is suggesting that “science may produce an answer” to homosexuality. We often hear of distant countries with policies on homosexuality which shock us; it feels as though there is still much to do closer to home as well.
In a more positive vein, I have just finished reading a book called “Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story” by Angela Saini. Written for an inquiring audience it seeks to examine the science regarding differences in male and female brains, how we develop and many of the societal beliefs about the different roles and abilities related to gender. This critical study seems to show that those differences perhaps aren’t all we have been led to believe. It is fascinating, not just in the science but seeing how gender studies have evolved over the years, how the findings have been influenced by politics and society, and some of the biases which can affect those undertaking, and interpreting research. Georgina Brown in the ED&I team has now recommended me four more books on similar subjects to add to my reading list.
And finally, I have been intrigued by some of the new areas we are now looking at under the inclusivity banner. The Equality Act of 2010 defined nine protected characteristics (age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief) where it is illegal to discriminate on that basis. As employers realise that inclusivity is a broader issue, we are now starting to look beyond this set, including issues such as: support to new parents; social background; people experiencing the menopause; those with caring responsibilities; neuro-diversity; part-time and job share staff. There will be other groups we haven’t yet identified and I am hopeful that our approach to inclusivity won’t be exclusive, but be tolerant and respectful of all humanity, whoever we are.