I was honoured to be asked to give the keynote speech at the launch today of a new Race Equality Guide for Employers produced by DCU Centre of Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion @DCU_DI
This Guide puts the voices of underrepresented people right at the heart of what it does, and that was a very good reason for me to support its launch! I haven’t been involved in its production at all – that credit entirely goes to the team at DCU led by Sandra Healy, to the Race Equality Forum and its partners, and to Linda Keitasha.
You can find the Guide here: http://bit.ly/38SNk8h – a recording of the event will be made available soon too.
I’m very honoured to
be here to launch this Guide today, and thank you for inviting me. The Race
Equality Guide is not only necessary, but it is an excellent example of good
practice in supporting as well as encouraging progressive race equality
I have been 17 years in this area of work, working with national and regional government, international organisations, private and public sector groups, migrants and ethnic minority people from a wide range of groups. There are 3 key things I have learned about making progress on race equality:
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Racism adapts to local contexts and structures. Every country and every sector has to develop good practice and share it for real progress to be made.
Race equality has to become part of our way of doing things. It is not a time-limited project, and it is not finished, because we are undoing centuries of barrier-building and undoing them in a world which does often not want to acknowledge those barriers exist at all.
There is a reason that Black and Ethnic Minority people are 5 times more likely to identify racism in the workplace than their colleagues. Not only do white employers and employees not experience racism in the majority, we don’t naturally see it either. We have to be prepared to view our institutions and practices in the workplace as more likely to perpetrate racism than not, and approach that problem openly and determinedly. And we have to be prepared to champion that work in a wide range of forums.
Thank you to all of the team in the DCU Centre of Excellence and the Race Equality Forum behind this Guide and the incredible work that has gone into it in the last months. The importance of this tool is not just in what it sets out to do in, but also in what it acknowledges:
stratified labour market
precarity, financial precarity, and reduced choice in the labour market
And it draws
on lived experiences of those in the labour market who have been affected by
those barriers. It highlights the necessity of working in partnership
with those with lived experience in order to understand and breakdown those
It is very important to say that this work is not optional – our society depends upon it, our business sectors depend upon it, our employers depend upon it. Yet too often it’s painted as an extra. Race equality in work is not something we can do, or should do, its something we MUST do. There are hard truths about segregation in the Irish labour market which have to be faced. There are legal protections for employees from racial discrimination, but too often discrimination is so embedded into the structures and practices of the labour market here that they cannot be unpicked and identified as single cases of discrimination. Our problem is not just conscious bias, or even unconscious bias, it’s the very structures we have built in order to do business. And the fact is that those structures do not have to discriminate for us to be effective in business. Rather, they are often shaped by a historic legacy which is not fit for the current world of work.
The segregation which
currently exists in the Irish labour market is a series of barriers which are
preventing workers from taking up jobs for which they are qualified – sometimes
overqualified – and experienced, and preventing employers from benefiting from
the wide pool of talent available in this country. We can think too not only of
ensuring we get full access to our currently qualified pool of applicants, but
of accessing tomorrow’s talent and ensuring employers can access them early and
fully for maximum development opportunities.
Work is – I think it is widely acknowledged – first amongst equals in both measures and means of integration. Not only in terms of entry to the labour market but also in pay, promotion, income security, and working conditions. Integration is not a one-stage project for newcomers either, it is an ongoing project for the whole of a society, because our world changes every day, to ensure that all groups have opportunities to contribute and to benefit. The world of work offers us opportunities for stability, for respect, for social status, and for social relationships – all of these are crucial to an equitable society.
For this reason, I am
also really pleased to welcome the establishment of the Race Advisory Council.
This is partnership in practice, and it’s something we hopefully we see a lot
more of in future. I wish you the very best for your work, and I know that the
discussions that you have will be enormously useful in extending the work
I started by saying
that we have to view our institutions and practices in the workplace as more
likely to perpetrate racism than not, and approach that problem openly and
determinedly. One of the things that has most impressed me in this Guide is the
way in which it encourages and supports employers to practice authenticity and
openness in their approach to race equality work. It is this which, for me,
enables us to move beyond race equality as a ‘fix’ towards race equality as a
mode of doing business.
Once again, congratulations to the DCU Centre of Excellence and to your Race Advisory Council for the production of this new Race Equality Guide, and many best wishes for the future work to follow. Beir bua agus beannacht libh go léir.
Though colleagues will very often hear me talking about the problems of racial profiling as they are related to policing and criminal justice, there is an everyday version of racial profiling which relates to the movement of people through a wide range of public and private spaces, from simple things like shopping to engaging with state agencies or applying for services.
In this new article in Image Magazine, in partnership with INAR, Angela O’Shaughnessy explores the everyday nature of racial profiling in Ireland, interviewing 4 people who have experienced it. I was happy to help out with the legal and political background to racial profiling in Ireland.
Over the past few months, my role as spokesperson with Fingal Communities Against Racism has been particularly focused on sharing what we know about the attraction of conspiracy theories, online anti-mask and anti-lockdown groups, and the role of extreme hate groups in Ireland and abroad in driving division in our communities.
Fingal Communities Against Racism was set up in autumn 2019 to counter a far-right election campaign in the region, and drive out the groups who were attempting to use the region to create anti-immigration and white nationalist narratives about our towns. You can read more about our work at www.fingaltogether.ie
Since January 2021, I’ve spoken to a number of media outlets about our work to recognise and counter those movements through supporting people in every community to talk with those attracted to those ideas and reduce the likelihood of friends and family becoming attached to movements, events and ideas pushed by extreme hate groups.
International Women’s Day here in Fingal, and the incredible contribution women
make to the development of our region,
Fingal County Council Community Development Office are recognising and
supporting women’s leadership through conversations about the challenges and
opportunities women experience in setting out to improve our communities.
This week on behalf of Fingal County Council Community Development Office, I’m hosting a series of online conversations with women active in leadership in our area. I am joined by Geraldine Rooney, of the Centre for Independent Living Blanchardstown, Ayodele Yusuf, of Balbriggan Integration Forum, Bridie O’Reilly of the Fingal Older People’s Council, Shelly Gaynor, of the Independent Living Movement Ireland, and Catherine Joyce of Blanchardstown Traveller Development Group. I also talk to Anne Marie Farrelly, Chief Executive of Fingal County Council, who is Fingal’s first woman in that role.
Together we talk about the challenges facing women getting started in community action, the kinds of problem-solving leadership that women are doing here in Fingal, and how that involvement in community has changed their lives and that of the community around them. Internationally, women are much less likely to describe themselves as being leaders, and much more likely to describe themselves as doing leadership, and that’s true too for our interviewees this week.
With decades of
voluntary and professional work in the community between them, advocating for
opportunities, resources, justice and social change, they emphasise the
importance of seeing community leadership as a shared activity. You will hear
their advice on building networks of support, being recognised for your work,
the opportunities that open up through starting small, and ways of scaling up
small community actions to more influential means of affecting decision making
and policy across Fingal.
Geraldine Rooney talks
to us about how her desire to see small changes led to a big change in
direction for her, developing her skills and learning to see the bigger picture
so that she could commit herself to building something much larger and
effective than she had imagined at the start. We talk too about how women often
feel too unskilled for community leadership when they are younger, but struggle
with the silencing of older women’s voices when they become active later on.
Developing younger women in community leadership skills is key, but so is
recognising the experiences of older women who have come to community action
after raising their families or juggling early careers, because they bring a
lifetime of relevant skills with them. Their voice needs to be heard at
Bridie O’Reilly tells
us about how she learned the value of building a network of support for your
leadership work and taking credit for your own work, so that you have the
recognition and the resources to build on what you have achieved and leverage
that value for wider influence to improve your community. She shares her
experiences of community action as a younger woman, determined to build pride
amongst young people in their area and in themselves, and more recently in her
retirement as she has taken on the challenge of building a strong network to
advocate for and with older people who are isolated from the wider community.
In telling these stories, she shows us the way that opportunities come up in
different times of our lives for us to build community solidarity and support.
Not all of the projects we are involved in last for ever, but leadership is
about filling the gap that’s there now, and creating collective responses that
will positively change how we relate to and support one another.
Ayo Yusuf talks to us
about the need for persistence in community action, asking people to take
ownership of their ideas to improve their communities and be creative with
those. Leadership is something anyone can do, no matter their starting point,
and it’s a skill you learn the more involvement you have in your community.
Learning to work with people is key, as everyone has different motivations and
capacity to commit themselves to action. Getting discouraged is a common
experience, but you can learn to move past that, finding the people around you
who share your passion for your community and equally determined to get things
Catherine Joyce asks
what we can do to improve coalition building between women leaders in different
areas and around different issues, so that we can advocate together for and
with one another in the different spaces we move in. She points out that women
are always involved in problem-solving in local communities, around employment,
schools, family supports, and raises the excellent point that we very often ask
women to conform to an abstract idea of leadership, rather than looking at
where community leadership is already embedded in women’s activities, and
recognising and supporting that properly.
Shelly Gaynor shows us what self-advocacy can become, tracking the journey from self-advocate to advocate for others, and how we can better supported disabled women in participation and leadership in our community life. She highlights the value of getting involved young, and growing your experience and confidence as a leader.
And finally Anne Marie
Farrelly talks to us about the ways in which women’s leadership contributes to
the many aspects of community life we take for granted day-to-day, and how
women’s voices can influence local decision-making. We talk about the changes
that would make a big difference to those women who are already involved in
community leadership and who would like to make bigger changes in our region
for themselves and others
I’m very excited to
hear and share their stories with you, and I hope you’ll join us through the
week to meet and learn from 6 incredible
women leading in community development in our region. We look forward to
hearing about your experiences too, and your thoughts about how we can support
women’s leadership in Fingal in future. Happy International Women’s Day from
all of us to all of you.
A Conversation on Women’s Leadership in the Community will celebrate women’s achievements and recognise challenges and opportunities that women experience when involved in community action.
Dr Lucy Michael will be joined in conversation by Geraldine Rooney, of the Fingal PPN and Centre for Independent Living Blanchardstown , Ayodele Yusuf, of Balbriggan Integration Forum, Bridie O’Reilly of the Fingal Older People’s Council, Shelly Gaynor, of the Independent Living Movement Ireland, Catherine Joyce of Blanchardstown Traveller Development Group and AnneMarie Farrelly, Chief Executive of Fingal County Council.
Please join them on celebrating International Women’s Day this 8th March. To register your interest and receive an invite to the launch click here https://form.jotform.com/210564851020041
DPO Coalition UN CRPD Information Webinar – Jan 2021 This presentation is an opportunity to learn about CRPD and what it means for you. We also explain about how Ireland reports to the UN and how you can become involved in this process. This video and the webinar where the content was originally presented are part of a process to create a Shadow Report to the UN on CRPD by the Disabled Persons Coalition (DPO Coalition). https://vimeo.com/518991942
Doing a quick review of 2020, and wow! what a year it has been!
Our 2020 projects included: – #Policing and racial profiling – Algorithmic bias and racism in #recruitment – Training employers and recruiters to address barriers for migrant women applicants – Integration programme design and evaluation training with local authorities and civil society orgs – The impact of digital skills on #refugee integration – Labour market assessments for pathway refugees – The impact of #Covid19 on local integration programmes – Rights awareness for people in the #InternationalProtection Process – Supporting advocacy by #Disabled Peoples’ Organisations – Racist incident reporting analysis – Hate crime and #hatespeech briefings ahead of the new legislation – Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey analysis with reference to #BlackLivesMatter (launch Jan 2021!)
So many exciting and valuable projects, great co-investigators and co-authors, and much to look forward to in 2021.
We are so privileged to have worked for and with such amazing people this year, and look forward to sharing more of our work with you in 2021!