The Women’s March on London last Saturday was a fantastic event.
I’m not naive. I know a march barely feels enough of a response to recent political events. First, there was the toxic take on diversity and inclusion that marked the EU referendum. Then came more of the same in the run-up to the US election. But after those body-blow results, it was heart-warming to be among over 100,000 people in London – all wanting to make clear their opposition to the politics of hate. And to know that this was being replicated across many other cities worldwide.
We’ve seen the spike in politicians using inflammatory language and imagery to support their ‘post-truth’ message. In doing so, they give permission to hate whole groups of people, and it should be no surprise that hate crime rises massively as a result. More schoolchildren are spat at in the street, or told to “go back where you come from” (they don’t mean Bethnal Green, either). When confronted with a new world leader who boasts of sexual harassment and assault, who mocks a disabled reporter in front of a huge crowd and the world’s press, who stereotypes entire nations as criminals, and yet who is still deemed fit for public office, it’s clear how much work we need to do.
There are permeable walls between what is said and done in the political sphere and what happens in our schools, on our streets, and in our businesses. Finding ways to respond positively is a clear and direct test of our abilities as inclusive leaders. But once the initial outrage has died down, it’s our professional and personal responsibility to do so.
Sharing good practice is at the heart of our work as leaders, and will always be so. It’s an important way of showing that bias and discrimination can be challenged, and business benefits derived from creating inclusive organisational cultures.
It takes no skill to find bad practice. There’s plenty of it around. Instilling good practice – by showing how things can be done well, by encouraging leaders to do things differently, and by celebrating the progress made – is a positive response to those who want to divide and rule.