Sarah is a trainer, consultant, and public speaker. She joins us to talk about the role we can all play in creating a level playing field in attitude and action.
Sarah is passionate about creating a culture that raises others up to allow the creation of a level playing field. We discuss how she has overcome her own fears and now uses her voice to challenge our systemic and historical inequalities. We live in an unequal world and need to recognise what we can do to empower others and ourselves to change this. By creating an open dialogue, we can begin to make our workforces more agile and as a result more inclusive. The recent pandemic has highlighted the importance of inclusive practices and acted as an accelerator for change, but how do we ensure that this continues?
Inequality is a systemic, historic issue and we need to recognise what we can do to empower others and ourselves to accept that, although we are not all on an equal playing field yet, we can all work together to achieve this. We can do this through championing and investing in potential, as opposed to focusing on where we are currently. There is currently too much difference to even consider us equal.
Sarah uses her position to give others a voice, she speaks on behalf of those who are either not confident enough to do so, or feel they are not able. She believes that if we can utilise words that are often associated with negativity, such as bias and privilege in a positive way we can begin to shift culture forward. We need to learn to implement day to day strategies that ensure change. A systemic, cultural change needs to occur, and for this to happen we all need to step up/step forward and give support.
The importance and urgency of inclusive practice stepped up due to the COVID pandemic, driving quite a monumental change. This highlights that workplaces can change, but before this pandemic there was not the same level of urgency to achieve this. Sarah believes we have seen more change in the last few months, than in the last decade. Changes in flexibility, working from home, wellbeing. We need to keep hold of what we have learnt during this period and keep it moving forward. Similarly, to the Paralympics in London, during this time we started to see an inclusive and accessible London but this did not continue, we need to maintain momentum and attitude in order to continue change and we can only do this via proactive engagement.
One ongoing issue is the assumption that a person’s disability is their defining characteristic and not considering how other elements may affect them when working at home. We assume being at home, as it will be more accessible, will be better for them.
Sarah found when interviewing for roles she had to do more and put herself at a higher standard. She had to be more qualified and experienced than other candidates in order to feel as though she was on a level playing field. Recruiters do not consider your background, or challenges that you have experienced to get to that point. Similarly, we can write people off at a certain age when they would have many more years of experience and contributions to make.
Companies can have a diverse workforce, but without inclusion they will not see the value, the two must go hand in hand. You can hire someone with a disability, but you then need to operate inclusive leadership and have productive engagement to ensure you receive the best from them. This needs to happen immediately and not at their first review/6 months down the line. We must understand that difference can bring worth. Many workplaces do not know what to do with people with speech impairments, often due to fear of the unknown and not having the resources to allow the person to feel comfortable and do their job well. There are very few role models with speech impairments, especially on boards. Sarah is still working on feeling comfortable with the way that she speaks, but she pushes through this as she wants to try and help others overcome their fears.
Sarah has been working on a holistic approach questionnaire, that starts from induction and opens a two-way conversation that is co-created with the employee to ensure that they are able to reach their potential, allowing for an equal playfield in the workplace.
SEE Change Happen
Sarah Burrell Inclusion