If you are an organisation struggling to engage with ethnic minority communities, reflecting on your use of language is a good place to begin.
There are claims made sometimes that social justice issues have ‘gone too far’. An example is that some schools are encouraging the use of phrases such as “Happy Holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas” to pupils to ensure their language is inclusive of all children during the ‘winter’ holidays. But does discouraging the mention of a Christian celebration, mean that students feel less excluded if they do not celebrate the holiday. Or are we unfairly disparaging a joyous time of year for many Christians?
There are many sides to the debate on the issue above. However, what should be understood is that at the heart of these discussions is that language is important.
The language and wording we use to interact with people around us can have the impact to exclude or actively include people. Language can affect how welcome we feel within a workplace environment or perhaps even discourage some people from applying to roles in the first place. As an organisation you should reflect on your own approach to include the voices of those who you engage with and employ.
Being aware of inclusive language can improve your organisation’s engagement with ethnic minority communities. You may not be aware of it, but if your organisation lacks diversity within the staff network, this can have an impact on your outreach to communities you find difficult to engage with. Language is able to project to people a range of different nuances from age, gender, social class, race, education and much more.
If you are struggling to understand how to counteract this phenomenon in your external communications, there are some simple steps you can take. An initial step to counteracting your unconscious bias within your language, is choosing to promote an explicit inclusion statement. This can be used when you promote a new position available in your organisation, or looking to gain perspectives from your customers/clients.
Something as simple as:
“We value very highly the benefits of having different experience and points of view in our organisation and we are keen that people from all walks of life apply for our roles. Our organisation particularly welcomes applications from women, disabled people, LGBTI+ people, people from ethnic minority communities and people of all ages.”
The statement below communicates a positive message of inclusion without applicants feeling spoken down to about their protected characteristics.
- “We value very highly the benefits of having different experience and points of view”
- The wording is an alternative to using the phrase “diverse or diversity” which can feel condescending to some applicants. They understand they bring a new perspective than most applicants if they are underrepresented within the role advertised and want this to be recognised outside of being labelled a diversity quota.
- “in our organisation and we are keen that people from all walks of life apply for our roles.”
- Shows a welcoming approach that is interested in the experiences that any applicant has. Unlike other roles that are advertised that may be looking for a CV experience that matches to a set career trajectory that the applicant may not have had. Applicants will feel more encouraged to apply, speak of their professional journey and share how their skillset meets the criteria for the role.
- “Our organisation particularly welcomes applications from women, disabled people, LGBTI+ people, people from ethnic minority communities and people aged under 50.”
- Highlights these specific categories are in line with the positive action measures put in place to increase representation. This also shows a particular awareness to equality and diversity within your organisation’s positive culture.
CEMVO Scotland posts blogs every month to publicise guidance to promote better engagement with ethnic minority communities, updates on equalities policy in Scotland or a hot-take on an issue in the news. If you’d like more bespoke and nuanced race equality and human rights guidance for your organisation, please get in touch with our Race for Human Rights team for consultancy support which is fully funded for Public, Third and Private Sector organisations based in Scotland.