Amanda Maclean explains why we should never give up challenging discrimination.
On 8th March I had a conversation with my daughter about some work training she’d had just taken part in, (most of them Millennials, including the trainer). The mixed group of participants were referred to collectively as ‘guys’, the trainer seemed surprised when the women participants made valid points, only referencing responses made by the men, dismissing the intelligent questions the women posed with the put-down: `well, I suppose it means you’ve been paying attention…’. She was, rightly, furious and also frustrated that she hadn’t called him out on the many micro- aggressions she experienced in that session. She is a junior employee and felt she would be labelled as ‘difficult’ if she spoke out. She was already worried about being perceived as annoying, simply by asking intelligent and challenging questions.
The irony of that happening on International Women’s Day was not lost on me. In that moment I felt deeply saddened and also incredibly weary that we are still here. Still stuck in this casual, almost wilfully blind, sexism despite it being a different generation. It sometimes feels like I have spent my whole life railing about how diverse voices are minimised, trivialised and made to feel we should ‘get back in our box’. And should you be not only a woman, but also black and working class, then you might wonder if you have suddenly been shrouded in a Harry Potter cloak of invisibility when you try to get people to pay attention to your views and ideas.
So my #ChooseToChallenge is to challenge myself not to give up; to keep going even though there are days when it feels progress happens at a glacial pace. I challenge myself to seek out those inspiring friends and colleagues, male and female, who give me the energy, encouragement and courage to be an Ally, to speak up in support of others and to challenge structures and processes that are simply not fit for purpose.
I remind myself there will always be days when it feels like the fight has gone on too long and the challenge to overcome bias, discrimination and far worse, seems insurmountable. When simple human kindness and compassion for others appears abated. And that’s exactly why we need to share our stories.
For those who claim we’ve made enough progress and we need now to move on. For those who roll their eyes when we talk about inclusive practices. For those who feel diminished by others’ power and think it has to be ‘either you or me’, not ‘both of us together’. For those who shield their own vulnerabilities by going on the attack.
So thank you to the succession of incredible women who have inspired me to keep going, from Dawn Butler to Laura Bates, from Bernadine Everisto to Professor Sarah Gilbert, from Dina Asher-Smith to Catherine Paynter. I salute you all but more than that, I salute all of my amazing colleagues at CCCU who don’t give up, who take another breath and plough on. Let’s keep sharing our stories so we can take heart from each other and keep taking that next step.
Amanda Maclean, Head of People, Culture and Inclusion.