A recent survey carried out by HR Magazine found that a high proportion of organisations were claiming to take diversity issues seriously but only 57% had a diversity strategy in place. This reminds me of the early days of anti-discriminatory practice when there was a lot of rhetoric about the importance of tackling discrimination and oppression, but nowhere near as much evidence of concrete steps being taken to promote equality by translating the verbal commitment into actual practice. Tokenism is what it was called in those days, so perhaps that’s what we are seeing today.
Back then an additional problem was that much of the discussion generated more heat than light and led to a lot of people backing off to what they perceived as safer territory to get away from some of the excesses. It is good that we see far less of this these days (although it has not disappeared altogether – see the discussion in my Promoting Equality book – http://astore.amazon.co.uk/neilthomp-21/detail/0230223435), but what has replaced it as a problem – to a certain extent – is a polite commitment to valuing diversity and promoting equality which does not recognise the complexities and challenges involved. We have certainly moved on in terms of awareness of the issues, but my work in this field leads me to conclude that we still have a long way to go.