THE RETURN of The Herald & GenAnalytics Diversity Conference yesterday brought together the country’s senior professionals in HR, business development and recruitment to share ideas and explore this year’s theme of ‘Reset: Re-engage: Re-focus’.

The conference took place at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow yesterday with a packed programme of panel discussions and began with a keynote speech from Emma J Bell – an author, and former partner in Scotland’s largest law firm, who was also an employment judge and who still trains every newly-appointed judge in England and Wales.

Bell’s emotive speech captivated audiences from the outset as she shared three inspirational survivor stories from a three year global research project she was involved in. The main theme of her speech was in the ability to not only survive adverse experiences but to consciously thrive.

Each of the three panel discussions (outlined below) delved into themes around a post covid workplace, digital exclusion, artificial intelligence, online working and also accessibility and disability.

Hundreds of attendees appeared to enjoy being at a live event, digesting the debates with eager interest, with many networking opportunities also taken advantage of.

The conference was hosted by broadcaster Rachel McTavish, and was supported by Skills Development Scotland, BAE Systems, Diageo, sportscotland and commercial law specialists, CMS.

After Emma Bell’s keynote speech, next followed the first in the set of panel discussions.

PANEL SESSION 1 – “Taking Care of Business”

The first session of the day focused on issues surrounding looking after your employees, work culture and employee wellbeing, and inclusion as performance barometers.

The panellists were Harry Dozier (Head of Health Workforce Equality at Scottish Government), Liz Barnes (Director of People and Organisational Development – Scottish Fire & Rescue), Fergus McMillan (Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion – Skills Development Scotland), and Gillian MacLellan (Partner at CMS).

On the topic of employer wellbeing Fergus pointed out: “We need to remember that we’ve not all experienced the pandemic equally. There’s a huge amount of inequity…and we need to take into account there’s social inequality as well.

“I think we need to acknowledge that this is a recovery process that will take a bit of time…to take that collective sigh of relief.”

The group also explored topics including the great resignation, reengaging with employees and tackling burn out.

PANEL SESSION 2 – “Learning the Lessons – No One Left Behind”

The second panel of the day consisted of Bryony Williamson (Operations Manager D&I lead at ENABLE Works), Khadija Mohammed (Senior Lecturer, University of the West of Scotland), Mike Douglas (Impact Director for Age Scotland), and Douglas Morrison (Director of Operations and Future Skills – Construction Scotland Innovation Centre).

The group were passionate on issues surrounding age, disability and recruitment. Bryony commented: “Unless you can automate what you do, if you need employees you need to have older workers, disabled workers, people from an ethic minority – you need to do it for your own organisations if you want to progress.

“It shouldn’t be viewed as a moral obligation to take on someone with a disability. We need to get past the box ticking, and to see the person and the talents that they have.”

PANEL SESSION 3 – Future Proofing Equalities and Inclusion – Algorithms@Work

After attendees enjoyed a delicious lunch, the third and final panel session commenced.

The panellists were Lois Ratcliffe (Internship Programme Manager at Inclusion Scotland), Steven Grier (Country and Regional Manager (UK North) – Microsoft Ltd), and Margaret Moore (Director of Citizen and Devolved Government Services Sopra Steria).

“Disability inclusion can be quite extensive,” Lois explained. “The problem with algorithms is that they can supercharge services to be faster, but they can start excluding people regardless of their needs.

“I am really positive about the future; we’re moving in the right direction, but it needs to be led by lived experience. It needs to be the disabled persons voice at the heart of it.”

The Herald & GenAnalytics Diversity Conference ended with a captivating talk from Marvin Bartley – Assistant Manager at Livingston FC and Equality and Diversity Advisor for Scottish Football Association. He discussed Red Carding Racism and the importance of equality and respect in the sports industry.

He spoke candidly about the instances of racism he has experienced throughout his football career and the ways it’s impacted not only himself but also his family.

“There was an incident when someone recorded me as they racially abused me,” he said. “This then circulated over social media.

“To hear the hatred in someone’s voice based on the colour of my skin – that was really difficult to deal with and it put me in a bad place.”

He explains that when he started to call people out over racism, this triggered an even more intense reaction of racial abuse.

Bartley shares many proactive solutions to tackle racism in football and how to hold those accountable, including an automated text message service that describes the perpetrator in detail so that they can be traced after leaving the stadium.

“A two game suspension isn’t a deterrent,” he stressed. “Someone can say something offensive and then in 30 seconds forget about it, but for me I still remember it like it was yesterday…and scars live with me.

“It is tiring, but I’m emotionally detached from it now. I made that decision after the second racism incident when I was recorded. For me it’s about helping others and being a support network. My colour will never be a barrier for me.”

Attendees then had the opportunity to share their reflections of the event and network with fellow guests.

Claire McKendrick, Site Director – Shieldhall, Diageo commented: “Diageo were proud to support diversity in Scotland at the 2022 Diversity Conference in Glasgow today. A huge thank you to The Herald and GenAnalytics for hosting a truly inspiring event; driving the conversation around the importance of inclusion & diversity in the workplace and helping to deliver change and shift mindsets.”

The annual conference is committed to keeping the momentum going regarding issues on diversity and inclusion, and with the success of the 2022 event yesterday it appears to be a shared passion among a great proportion of Scotland’s industries.