Monday, 25 June 2012

Equality & Diversity News: June 2012

What's in this issue:

  • Runnymede Bulletin on Sport and the Olympics
  • Government introduces ban on age discrimination in the provision of services from October
  • Genetics company faces inquiry after certifying MP’s racial purity
  • Racism is learned (and can be “unlearned”!)
  • New research suggests prejudices may form at a much earlier age, but it also offers hope that biases can be unlearned
  • UK signs Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence
  • Study on media coverage of ethnicity & religion in Europe
  • Some facts on Disability
  • Thought for the month
  • Gender Diversity on Boards: The Appointment Process and the Role of Executive Search Firms?
  • Tribunal kicks out claim that calling someone ‘darling’ amounts to religious discrimination
  • Private school 'sacked pregnant teacher to avoid wasting money on maternity pay'
  • Any Questions/Comments

Runnymede Bulletin on Sport and the Olympics

The Spring 2012 edition of the Runnymede Bulletin - which focuses on Sport and the Olympics - is now available to read and download. Articles include: Interviews with British Olympians Larry Achike and Tasha Danvers; A 1000 years amnesia: sports in Muslim heritage; The problem with football; The Olympic legacy; South Asian women in sport.

This newsletter can be viewed at:

Government introduces ban on age discrimination in the provision of services from October

On 12 June 2012, the Government announced that it plans to implement the age discrimination ban and the exceptions, subject to Parliamentary approval, from 1 October 2012, and published its response to the consultation on exceptions from an age discrimination ban in the provision of services and public functions.

The Government states:
“We are taking a proportionate approach. The new law will only prohibit harmful or unjustifiable treatment that results in genuinely unfair discrimination because of age. Harassment related to age will also be banned, as will victimisation resulting from complaints about discrimination or harassment. The ban on discrimination will not affect the many entirely justifiable instances of different treatment that do not cause any harm. It strikes the right balance between the interests of business and consumers. Once the ban is in force, service providers and others will still be able to provide different services to different people based on their age, if:
·        they can show a sufficient reason (“objective justification”) if challenged; or
·        they can justify extra help to an age group with particular needs; or
·        the different treatment is allowed as required by law, for example, free prescriptions and eyesight tests for older people, free bus passes
 Exceptions permitting age discrimination will apply to
·         immigration
·         financial services
·         concessions re services
·         age-linked holidays
·         services restricted by age under other legislation
·         residential mobile homes
·         associations

You can read the government’s response on the GEO website:

Genetics company faces inquiry after certifying MP’s racial purity

A Hungarian medical company specialising in genomes faces a criminal investigation after it was revealed it had produced a report certifying a member of parliament had no Jewish or gypsy heritage, in order to prove his racial purity. The MP, who has not been named but is from the far-right Jobbik party, apparently requested Nagy Gen Diagnostic and Research check his genetic background ahead of local elections in Hungary in 2010.
Nagy Gen checked 18 positions of the MP’s genome for variants that are apparently characteristic of Jewish and Roma ethnic groups, and concluded that he was “ethnically pure”.
Following the publication of the certificate in the far-right press, Hungary’s Medical Research Council decided to report the company to prosecutors: “We filed complaints because the council believes that Nagy Gen’s activity is ethically unacceptable and professionally unfounded,” said Jozsef Mandl, the council’s general secretary, adding that it had broken a 2008 law restricting genetic testing to reasons linked to patient health.
In a statement, the council also condemned the test for its “dubious political objectives” and denounced the company for its “unscrupulous material interests”.
The test has awoken unwanted memories in Hungary, once home to hundreds of thousands of Jews later consumed by the Holocaust, of the “racial purity” desired by the Nazis. It also comes set against a backdrop of contemporary Hungarian politics in which Jobbik, the third-biggest party in parliament, has faced frequent accusations of anti-Semitism and anti-Roma behaviour.

Racism is learned (and can be “unlearned”!)

New research suggests prejudices may form at a much earlier age, but it also offers hope that biases can be unlearned.

For more than four decades, the notion that racism and physical prejudice don’t fully develop in humans until the teen or adult years has been at the root of research into racism. Popular scientific belief had been that children, who only develop the ability to express racial preferences at around age 3, gradually develop those preferences over time and only cement them well into their teen years.

But new research not yet published by Mahzarin Banaji, a renowned Harvard University psychologist, brain researcher, and racism and physical prejudice expert, and colleagues suggests that even though they may not understand the “why’’ of their feelings, children exposed to racism tend to accept and embrace it as young as age 3, and in just a matter of days.

“We have known for a very long time that children process information differently than adults. That is a given,’’ says Banaji. “But what has changed, where racism and other prejudice are concerned, is that we had far over-calculated how long it takes for these traits to become imbedded in a child’s brain. It’s quite shocking really, but the gist of it is that 3- and 4-year-olds demonstrate the same level and type of bias as adults. This tells us that children ‘get it’ very, very quickly, and that it doesn’t require a mature level of cognition to form negative biases.’’

Banaji’s study, conducted with two Harvard peers, examined how children and adults identified ambiguously featured faces as happy (smiling) or angry (frowning). They showed 263 white children, between the ages of 3 and 14, a number of graphically drawn facial images in different skin tones from very light tan to brown, and asked them to describe them as happy or angry.

One part of the test showed the children a set of faces that were an “inconclusive’’ light tan color that could have represented a white person or a black person. In that segment, most of the children, without prompting, described the faces as black, and also, no matter the facial expression in the drawing, as angry.

Conversely, those faces the children said they believed to be white - even the faces bearing frowns - were almost exclusively described as happy.
When the white children were asked to compare white faces with Asian faces, the outcome was the same: The Asian faces, and the faces that they perceived to be Asian, were described as angry. And the white faces were almost exclusively happy, the children said.

A group of black children tested in the study revealed equal favorability and negativity biases, regardless of whether they perceived the test faces to be black or white. In other words, the black children showed no pro-black or pro-white bias.

So the $64,000 question: Will the physical prejudices young children learn early in life stick with them into adulthood? Maybe not.

“As children age, let us say past 10, environment begins to play a tremendous role in how they perceive in-group and out-group people - people who look like them, and people who do not,’’ Banaji says. “So the good news is that even a child whose parents make no conscious effort to teach [him] not to be prejudiced can shed that prejudice if he finds himself in a diverse enough place and consistently observes in-group and out-group people interacting positively and as equals.’’

“The odds of aging children losing or at the very least lessening their bias against out-group people are only increased, of course, when responsible adults in their lives consciously place their children in a position to see different groups interacting as equals,’’ Banaji adds.

“It is not the fault of the children that they grow up to see a majority of power and influence concentrated among one race,’’ she says. “So if we don’t act in their lives, as they age, to show context to that imbalance, they may continue to believe that one group is better or worse than the other, based on nothing more than color, features, or expressions.’’

UK signs Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

On 8 June 2012, the United Kingdom became the 20th member state of the Council of Europe to sign the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and on 14 March 2012, Turkey became the 1st member state of the Council of Europe to ratify the Convention.

Further information about the Convention can be found at:

The Council of Europe has also produced a series of interesting videos on the issue of violence against women and domestic violence. These can be found at:

The Council of Europe has also produced an excellent round-up of European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) cases that have involved domestic violence and/or violence against women and childen. This can be found at I have reproduced just one case below:

Kontrovà v. Slovakia (no. 7510/04) 31.5.2007
On 2 November 2002 the applicant filed a criminal complaint against her husband for assaulting her and beating her with an electric cable. The police later assisted her in withdrawing her complaint when she returned to the police station accompanied by her husband. On 31 December 2002 her husband shot dead their daughter and son, born in 1997 and 2001. The applicant received no compensation.

The European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning the authorities’ failure to protect the children’s lives, and a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention, concerning the impossibility for their mother to obtain compensation.

Study on media coverage of ethnicity & religion in Europe

“Getting the facts right: reporting ethnicity and religion” was published by the Media Diversity Institute in partnership with the International Federation of Journalists and ARTICLE 19. The Study is based on interviews with 117 journalists and editors and critical analysis of 199 news reports from across nine EU countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia & the United Kingdom).

Knowledge about EU legislation relating to anti-discrimination is significantly higher among those in old EU member states than new member states. The study also found that the majority of stories that touch upon ethnicity are nowadays framed within five broad themes: immigration, poverty and crime, discrimination, playing politics and ethnic minorities.

Good media reporting and journalistic practices in reporting on issues relating to race, ethnicity and religion are outlined as:

“…in-depth reporting, providing background information, explaining legal contexts, considering the impact, giving a voice to the voiceless, showing respect, raising awareness about diversity, avoiding stereotypes, taking a stand on discrimination, moving beyond the event and minimizing harm”

Further information is available from:

Some facts on Disability

  • There are almost 11 million disabled people in the UK of whom:
    • 5.1 million are adults of working age
    • 5.0 million are over state pension age
    • 5.1 million males and 5.8 million females
      (Office for Disability Issues updated Department for Work and Pensions estimates based on Family Resources survey 2009/10)
  • There are around 9 million disabled adults in England, with the greatest concentration (1.5 million) in the North West and Merseyside. (Office for Disability Issues updated Department for Work and Pensions estimates based on Family Resources survey 2009/10) 
  • Only 17% of disabled people were born with impairments. The majority of disabled people acquire their impairment during their working lives 
  • People are more likely to become disabled if they have a low income, are out of work or have low educational qualification.
  • The majority of impairments are not visible – less than 8% of disabled people use wheelchairs. (Papworth Trust disability facts and figures 2010)
  • About 1 million people in England have a learning disability (2% of the population). 796,000 of them are aged 20 or over. (Estimating future need/demand for supports for adults with Learning Disabilities in England - Institute for Health Research, Lancaster University 2004).
  • 1 in 7 people in the UK (about 9 million) are Deaf or hard of hearing. (Action on Hearing Loss)
  • 577,000 people in the UK receive benefits as a result of having problems with mobility.(BICPA ;Being Inclusive in the Creative and Performing Arts)
  • There are two million people with sight problems in the UK. One person in 30. There are an estimated 25,000 children with sight problems.(RNIB
  • 7.3% (952,741) of the children in the UK are disabled:
    • Prevalence is higher among boys (8.8%) than girls (5.8%)
    • Boys have a higher rate overall and are more likely than girls to experience difficulties with physical coordination; memory, concentration and learning; communication.  (Prevalence of childhood disability and the characteristics and circumstances of disabled children in the UK: secondary analysis of the Family Resources Survey Blackburn, Spencer and Read) 
  • Disabled children are more likely to live with low-income, deprivation, debt and poor housing.
  • 66% of disabled children live in a 2 parent family. The proportion of children living in lone parent families (34%) is greater than that for non-disabled children. (Prevalence of childhood disability and the characteristics and circumstances of disabled children in the UK: secondary analysis of the Family Resources Survey Blackburn, Spencer and Read).
  • There are currently 1.3 million disabled people in the UK who are available for and want to work. (Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, Jan - March 2009)
  • Only half of disabled people of working age are in work (50%), compared with 80% of non disabled people. (Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, Jan - March 2009)Employment rates vary greatly according to the type of impairment a person has; only 20% of people with mental health problems are in employment. (Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, Jan - March 2009)
  • The average gross hourly pay for disabled employees is £11.08 compared to £12.30 for non disabled employees. (Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, Jan - March 2009) 
  • 15% of young disabled people are not in any form of education, employment or training as opposed to 7% of their non-disabled peers. The gap increases between the ages of 16 – 19 to two thirds as likely (27% compared to 9%) (Papworth Trust)
  • 23% of disabled people have no qualifications compared to 9% of non disabled people. (Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, Jan - March 2009)
  • 16 per cent of adults with impairment experienced barriers to education and training opportunities (that is, the learning opportunities they had) compared with nine per cent of adults without impairment. (LOS 2009-11)
  • 2.7% (220,890) of pupils across all schools in England had statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN) (DfE 2010)
    • 54.9% of pupils with statements of SEN are placed in mainstream schools
    • 38.1% are in maintained special schools
    • 4.3 % in independent special schools
    • 2% in non-maintained special schools
    • 0.8% in pupil referral units. 
  • In 2010 there were some 1,470,900 pupils with SEN without statements representing 18.2 per cent of pupils across all schools. This is an increase of 0.4 percentage points from 2009. (DfE 2010) 
  • At 30%, the poverty rate for disabled adults in the UK is twice that for non-disabled adults (Employers’ Forum on Disability)
  • The annual spending power of disabled adults in Britain is estimated at £80 billion per year (Papworth Trust

Thought for the month

I saw this quote (not sure who said it I could find no reference on Google) in a coffee bar near where I live. I thought it was a very useful guide when navigating the complexities of equality and diversity issues and the mistakes that we can sometimes make. It may also be a useful quote to use when someone says “I will not apologies as I have done nothing wrong – I have the right to say what I like even if I offend someone!”

“Apologising does not always mean you're wrong and the other person right, it just means that you value your relationship more than your ego”

Gender Diversity on Boards: The Appointment Process and the Role of Executive Search Firms?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published new research looking at the process of recruiting and appointing women onto the boards of the FTSE 350 listed companies in the UK.
The research carried out by Cranfield School of Management is the first in-depth study into the appointment process to corporate boards and the role of head hunters. The report identifies good practice and suggests recommendations for further action by headhunters and chairmen.
In 2012, women account for almost 16% of directors of FTSE 100 Boards but more needs to be done to increase diversity and improve corporate effectiveness.
The full report can be found at:

Tribunal kicks out claim that calling someone ‘darling’ amounts to religious discrimination
A claim of religious discrimination was so ridiculous that it was thrown out of an employment tribunal in April before the hearing even got under way.

A British Airways steward, Rothstein Williams said that when a female co-worker called him "darling" it offended his religious sensibilities to the extent that he had to bring a case to the tribunal. He is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He also said that another colleague had "harassed" him for reading the Bible and his managers had done nothing about it.

Mr Williams went to the tribunal to claim that BA discriminated against him on religious grounds. His claim never got off the ground, however, when tribunal judge Jessica Hill said Mr Williams claim did not have any legal basis and dismissed it before any court proceedings could begin.

The tribunal had heard that BA has so many staff that they struggle to remember each other's names, so 'darling' is a useful substitute.

Mr Williams explained how he came to be so offended during a trans-Atlantic flight in 2010. He said: "My colleague said 'Take the glasses darling'. I said I was Rothstein'." The woman said she regularly called people 'darling' and passengers liked it, adding it was a 'nice name'.

On another occasion Mr Williams said a male colleague had seen him reading his Bible at work and harassed him because of it. He said he had been undertaking Bible studies but ended up in front of a disciplinary panel which sided with the witness – who said he had been writing about his colleagues.

Mr Williams, who is still employed by the airline, said his treatment left him depressed.

But Judge Hill insisted it was his reactions to fellow members of staff that led to his disciplinary action and suspension, not his religious beliefs.

Victor Hulbert, spokesman for the British wing of the Seventh Day Adventists – which claims a British membership of 334,000 - said: "I wouldn't think we would be any more offended by use of the word 'darling' than any other members of the public. And a pastor would suggest you turn the other cheek."

Private school 'sacked pregnant teacher to avoid wasting money on maternity pay'

A £21,000-a-year private girls school unfairly sacked a teacher after she became pregnant, telling her they did not want to “waste” money on maternity pay, an employment tribunal has found.

Rebecca Raven said she was “absolutely stunned” when she was fired just days after telling her headmistress she wanted to take maternity leave. When she complained, Robbie Locke, one of the school’s trustees, told her that his family had made “sacrifices” and that she and other teachers should just be thankful they had jobs. Mr Locke continued: “Maternity leave is very disruptive to businesses and has made businesses go bust. “We already have a staff member who has worked only four weeks this year and has already been paid for a full year. This is ridiculous as she has not done any work and she is still getting paid. This cannot happen again.”
Mrs Raven said he went on to tell her that other areas of the school would suffer if she claimed maternity pay, adding: “If some people take out more than they should, then everyone else misses out.”

Mother-of-three Mrs Raven, 32, began working at Howell’s School in Denbigh, North Wales, as a part-time house mistress in October 2008 and was taken on as an art teacher in November the following year.

However, she was sacked without warning in May last year, eight days after she wrote to Emma Jones, the acting headmistress, to confirm her intention to take maternity leave around the birth of her third child.
Mrs Raven, from Flint, North Wales, said she could not believe it when Mr Locke’s wife, Nicola, handed her a letter telling her she was losing her job because there had been a “poor take-up” of art by pupils in the upcoming academic year.

She said: “I was absolutely stunned. I have never been so shocked in my entire life. It was totally out of the blue. “There was absolutely nothing beforehand that led me to the fact I might receive a letter saying something like that, with big bold letters at the top saying ‘notice of termination of contract’. “I was very, very upset because I put so much of my life into the place. Still to this day I can’t get over it. It’s a horrible feeling, the feeling of your world being ripped from under you.”

At a follow-up meeting in June last year, Mr Locke was said to have told Mrs Raven that parents had complained about her going on maternity leave because it would be “very disruptive” to their daughters’ studies.
Minutes seen by the employment tribunal reveal that he told her: "Money has been wasted in the past on sick pay and maternity pay and we have had to make sacrifices in our own family. You should all just be thankful you have jobs.”

Howell’s School claimed it did not know Mrs Raven was pregnant when she was dismissed and offered her an alternative part-time position.
However, the employment tribunal in Shrewsbury ruled that she was unfairly sacked from her £23,295-a-year job because of her pregnancy.
It will hold another hearing to decide how much compensation she should be awarded.

Howell's School said in a statement: "We are disappointed by the conclusion of the tribunal and are considering an appeal. Our position remains as it was before the tribunal.”

The school added that it is experienced at dealing with staff pregnancies in line with its equal opportunities policies, and its annual report shows it is in “excellent shape financially and operationally”.

Any Questions/Comments

If you have questions or issues that you would like me to address in future newsletters, or you have comments and suggestions about the newsletter, please let me know.


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