Tag Archives: diversity

It was time to fight for liberal values

Helen Belcher 2I joined the Liberal Democrats a couple of weeks after the 2015 General Election. David Cameron’s awful statement on human rights was the final straw. For a peacetime Prime Minister to threaten innocent people by saying “for too long we have been a permissively tolerant society, saying to our citizens that, as long as you stay within the law, we will leave you alone” – well, quite frankly, that was extraordinary. It made me realise that it was no longer enough to passively support liberal values, but that it was time to fight to protect them.

The last year has been a whirlwind of activity. Balancing family life, running a growing company, campaigning and learning some of the political ropes has been exhilarating, although difficult to manage at times. After a couple of speeches at the Bournemouth conference, and a very close result in a town council by-election which seemed to come out of nowhere, I was persuaded to apply to join the list of approved parliamentary candidates. That session Ben Sims wrote about, I also attended, as did Thornbury and Yate PPC, Claire Young.

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments

How I am trying to improve diversity in the Liberal Democrats

In December 2015 the ‘Diversity Monitoring Group’ was created which consisted of five people passionate about ensuring progressive change is made to address diversity. Most people are aware that diversity needs to be addressed in the Liberal Democrats. Everyone has heard Tim Farron say ‘we are a male and pale party’. Instead of waiting to see what the Party will do next we’ve decided to create a member-led diversity survey.

The results of the survey have been shared with  Liberal Democrat Headquarters,  chairs of SAOs and AOs and some Federal Executive members.

How it happened

We created a set of questions, set up a Google form, and started publicising the survey, mostly across social media. The survey was shared on social media from December 2015 to February 2016.

The results show that we had 132 responses from Liberal Democrat members, all of who are anonymous. The main issues raised were: communication, party culture, gender equality and unconscious bias.

Questions include:

  • Are there specific areas in the party which you feel men and women are not treated equally?
  • Do you feel better guidance on equality and diversity (via training) could come from diversity team HQ and ALDC?
  • Do you have any more comments regarding the party’s understanding of equality and diversity?

Conclusions from the survey include:

  • The need to take into account accessibility when communicating with members.
  • Party culture  – the “misogyny and sexism” in the Party and the “need to be educated about gender issues eg unconscious bias”.
  • We have passed on specific feedback to diversity SAOs and AOs
Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 20 Comments

Disability is nothing to hide, so let’s not act like it is

Henry and Natasha campaignAs a candidate for my home town in May’s local elections, I’ve helped residents fight for repairs to roads, I’ve lobbied for more action on dog mess and I’ve campaigned to prevent closures to residential homes.

As a blind candidate for my home town in May’s local elections, I’ve done all this while helping changing a few attitudes along the way. I spoke here about a mother who was delighted to see someone like her visually impaired daughter standing for election but a lot more has happened too – I’ve even received messages from young disabled people saying that me standing is a confidence boost for them.

I’m sure many readers will agree with me that standing for election is a mix of emotions – there are ups and there are downs.

But after the diversity debate, there’s a particular part of being a blind candidate that needs to be tackled head on – and so I turn to Lib Dem Voice.

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Still waiting for true diversity

Conference must be congratulated on passing the Diversity motion on Sunday. But contentious issues and some mysteries remain. One is why have we taken 14 years to get round to all-women short-lists for constituency selections, when they became the law of the land in the 2002 Sex Discrimination Act?

In theory, any local party could have operated all-female short-lists at any of the three general elections since then, safe in the knowledge they were legal, passed by Parliament. Had that happened,  the battle for all-BME (now BaME) lists could have begun at least a decade ago.

Perhaps before Parmjit Singth Gill, only our second ethnic minority MP in 120 years, could have been given proper support in the general election of 2005. The party gave the impression of not giving a tuppeny bowel movement about full diversity or wanting BAME MPs. They hung him out to dry, with the self-fulfilling prophesy that he would lose.

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The science behind diverse shortlists

During the debate on diversity the speeches on all sides were so moving that I felt compelled to share some of the science behind WHY we needed this motion and why I am so proud of everyone who spoke in that debate.

Studies show that from birth, girls lose out to boys. In the ‘Baby X’ trials where a baby is referred to as ‘Dana’ or ‘David, or dressed in pink or blue irrespective of their gender, adults treat the babies differently.

At the age of 11 months, in studies where mothers are asked to estimate their infants’ crawling ability on a sloped walkway, mothers of boys over estimate and mothers of girls under estimate how well their child will do. Parents’ beliefs about what their child is capable of influences what parents expect of their children.

The reason for this, according to Professor Virginia Valian in her book ‘Why so Slow‘ is due to gender schemas and the accumulation of advantage.  Gender schemas are cognitive constructs that lead to over-valuations of men and under-valuations of women.This misevaluation occurs despite the intention to measure actual achievement. Most people sincerely mean to be meritocratic, and ignore gender, ethnicity, or disability, when making judgments. But the data suggest people overrate some groups and underrate others.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 38 Comments

Shortlists and Privilege

On Sunday, Conference voted for all-women shortlists. As part of the debate, I gave a speech outlining how my experience showed that lots of men simply aren’t aware of the privilege they have. I was surprised that this speech would immediately precede the rare event of a leader’s speech in a debate. Tim – I hope I set them up all right for you!

For the first 40 years of my life I lived as male. Transitioning to female in 2004, and starting my own software company at the same time, showed me what I had anticipated – that I had to work much harder to be treated as worth listening to. It didn’t come as a shock to me, as I’d observed this since childhood – in fact, it was one of the reasons I used to delay transition. But I know other trans women who have been surprised by this side-effect.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 23 Comments

After the diversity debate: the hard part

Note: you can view the debate here, about 44 minutes in. The agenda for the conference is here and the Conference Dailies which include the amendments for Sunday are here.

On an issue where it is entirely possible to be on either side of the argument holding a position that is Liberal, it is time for all concerned to be respectful of that fact and to acknowledge that the real hard work on diversity is yet to be done.

Like a number of other people, I found myself supporting the Conference motion that included all-women shortlists despite my not supporting all-women shortlists .  I had drafted Amendment 2 to refocus the debate on the entirety of the party’s colossal diversity problem and ensure it wasn’t portrayed solely as a gender problem.

Amendment 2 commits the party to set out to local parties how to use the Equality Act.  It enables winnable seats to choose between candidates of equal merit in favour of those from an under-represented group.  It also commits the party to present the bizarre effect of the Act in not allowing ‘diversity shortlists’ – a concept many liberals would support.

So what next?  Two points have been made by people who opposed AWS that should be acknowledged and acted on, just as the points made forcefully in the debate by speakers from Liberal Youth about wider culture change in the party.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 13 Comments
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