Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Tag: training

#ItStopsHere: Consent Matters

Content warning: This blog explores themes of sexual violence.

Dhara Brahmbhatt, Interim Strategic Initiatives Project Coordinator at King’s, has recently completed the Consent Matters course offered to all students & staff at King’s College London. Dhara offers her reflections on the course and encourages others to complete the online module; to better inform yourself of your rights and to support others. 


Did you know that 70% of female and 26% of male students and graduates surveyed have experienced sexual violence? (The Student Room Report).  If you are reading this blog, you’ve probably experienced unwanted sexual behaviour, and almost certainly observed or heard of friends who have experienced this.

Sexual violence is unacceptable and the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) team at King’s College London is aiming to prepare students to be able to act in the moment when they see an unacceptable situation, and / or to recognise when their own behaviour crosses lines of acceptability.

When I joined the EDI team to help promote the Consent Matters course, my colleague Helena Mattingley (Head of EDI) encouraged me to enroll on the online training created by Epigeum so, I could encourage others to complete the course based on my own experience of Consent Matters. The interactive course is promoted to students and available to all staff for free. To learn more and to complete the training visit our Consent Matters webpages.

Prior to taking the course I believed that consent comes with common sense. I mean, how difficult can it really be to say ‘no’? Or to hear ‘no,’ and act accordingly? But it wasn’t until I started going through the course that I recollected personal experiences where I had been in similar situations and how uncomfortable I had felt at the time. After completing the course, I feel confident and have a better understanding on not only how I can be an active bystander but also what my legal rights are and what I should have expected from support services.

The Consent Matters course is extremely informative and educates individuals on why consent is important, when consent can and can’t be given, and the legal context in which we study, work and live. It provides a foundation for acceptable behaviour in relationships, and uses stories that spoke to me which helped convey the importance of respectful relationships.

Consent Matters debunks misconceptions and teaches us how we can overcome these misconceptions and apply consent in practice.

There are a few different ways of being an active bystander, including non-confrontational options, and all which offer support. Some examples are (which the course further expands on):

  • Offer support
  • Shift the focus away from the remark or situation
  • Step in after the event
  • Talk to others
  • Confront the person directly

Finally, the course has several useful signposts and pieces of information in the ‘resource bank’, here you can find a wealth of links for different support services. These links are extremely handy to have for yourself or your friends in case of unforeseen circumstances. After all, more than half of the readers of this blog will have experienced unacceptable sexual behaviour – and knowing where support is available is so valuable.

Sexual violence unfortunately isn’t uncommon; however, this does not make it acceptable. Consent matters is a course designed by Epigeum and promoted at King’s for students and staff to take to help equip them with the tools needed if these situations were to arise in their own lives or of their friends and families. It also educates these individuals on whether their own behaviour under these circumstances is acceptable. The course addresses key factors in details regarding acceptable behaviour in relationships, misconceptions, and different manners in which one can be an active bystander. The course also highlights key links and information in the ‘resource bank’ for various support services available.

 Therefore, as the saying goes ‘knowledge is wealth’ take the course today and better inform yourself on your rights and how you can support those in need.

KCL students & staff can complete the course now, by visiting our Consent Matters pages!

 

References:

Bias or No Bias? The EDI Question

This blog is part of a series from Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sarah Guerra, where she will be addressing the whole picture’ of EDI, why it is important, and how we go about making effective, systemic change.


Often EDI is reduced to conversations about unconscious bias training, which was seen as a panacea when it first arrived. Like much in the EDI arena, it is a useful tool and mechanism, but is not in itself a complete solution to complex and interconnected structural issues.   

The purpose of providing Bias training is to create awareness, in individuals and groups of employees, about the concept and reality of implicit bias.  

Implicit attitudes are positive and negative evaluations that are much less accessible to our conscious awareness and/or control. Essentially, they are thoughts and beliefs that shape what we think and how we act, which we are unaware of.  

Bringing in the perspectives of others and creating self-awareness helps to highlight thinking and/or behaviour that is done unwittingly, provide ways of adjusting automatic patterns of thinking and eliminate discriminatory behaviours. It also highlights what behaviour is expected in the workplace. This training can take many forms, from e-learning programmes or PowerPoint presentations to in-depth workshops with interactive talks and exercises, the latter having the greater impact on building awareness and helping to change behaviour. At Kings this kind of training is a key component of our strategy. We have developed Diversity Matters and Trans Matters training which we deliver and tailor to staff teams of 5 – 20 people on request. In parallel, we support and build communities through our staff networks, which provide peer-support for staff with particular protected characteristics, and the More than Mentoring programme, which pairs staff members who share personal characteristics to enable a deeper understanding and connection between participants. Please follow the links above and get in touch if you are keen to engage with any of these projects! 

For training programmes to be effective, they need to dovetail with other initiatives so that employees see training as part of an ongoing journey in changing behaviour and creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. This is why Kings has an ongoing programme of senior leadership development in relation to EDI and our management and leadership passports. To ensure that awareness continues long after training is completed, we encourage activities such as asking participants to share stories on social collaboration channels where we generate ongoing discussions. To join the conversation you can follow us on Twitter and our internal intranet pages or join a network 

Throughout the organisation we need to provide communication that helps all teams to build empathy for, and understanding of, the experiences of minority or disadvantaged groups. Success comes when the responsibility and accountability for diversity is clearly part of the organisations leaders’ objectives. This needs to be coupled with active encouragement and systemic support for people to share any instances of bias, and crucially for these to be followed up and dealt with effectively. At Kings we are doing a variety of things, these range from introducing cultural competency modules to ensuring we have an Anonymous Disclosure Tool which staff, students and external visitors can use to anonymously disclose incidents of bullying, harassment, sexual misconduct or hate crime. 

Job adverts are an important area to consider when addressing bias. There are two types of bias in job adverts, explicit and implicit (as with everything else). Explicit biases are those that we can control or be clear about, such as levels or types of qualifications, particular audiences and types of candidates. In contrast, implicit biases are unconscious perceptions, stereotypes and beliefs that have been developed from past experiences and influences. These can be very powerful and are much harder to pinpoint.   

Much work has already been done at Kings to make job adverts more inclusive. We have tried to address gendered words, remove jargon and ensure straightforward titles that specify the role, skills and experience required.   

Like many organisations we are taking major steps towards becoming a more welcoming and inclusive place to work. We take the opportunity to demonstrate this in our job adverts by stating our commitment to be an equal opportunity employer. This positive step shows our commitment and the importance we place on it. 

Another tool for reducing bias is a name-blind recruitment process. This removes information, such as age, gender, name, education and even the number of years of experience from CVs, which might otherwise prejudice an application. This is a proven way to overcome unconscious bias and promote greater diversity. It has increased in popularity over the last couple of years after a series of studies, including one by Nuffield Colleges Centre for Social Investigation, showed that people with ethnic names needed to send out 60% more applications than job seekers with white’ sounding names before they got a call back . Name-blind CVs encourage the recruitment of new employees without identifiable information, so that personal bias doesnt creep in.   

To implement a name-blind recruitment process well, an organisation should start by determining the absolute necessities an applicant must possess to fill the role and remove the information that has no bearing on a persons ability to competently carry it out. If needed, the extra information can be collected but separated from the application process. The success of your name-blind hiring would be captured in diversity recruitment metrics by measuring the statistics for shortlisting, testing, interviewing, hiring and retention before and after blind hiring. When I first arrived at Kings the concept of name-blind recruitment was felt to be near impossible at a University. Whilst we have not yet implemented it, people now regularly ask me why we are not doing it – this shows how times change.   

So, Ill end as I began – training and awareness on unconscious bias is an important part of any EDI strategy, as is understanding where and how it shows up in practice. So please all take all the opportunities available to undertake training and build your awareness. But the critical difference is made when you a) apply that learning and b) use that learning to develop a real curiosity as to why inequalities exist and persist.   

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