A Black woman, Asian woman, and white woman wearing the pride flag look at a laptop

Institutional Racism

Reflections on my most joyful project, and dealing with sexism and racial inequality in the workplace.

I had a workshop with my favourite trial partners. We’ve reached around three-quarters of all first year students who received our intervention. Our behavioural messages motivated them to seek help when they feel at-risk of dropping out of their qualification. This has been an amazing project. The short-term results have been immedietely measurable. We’re excited on the way ahead.

I had a short but sharp project team meeting on our diversity and inclusion randomised control trial. We are strategising and planning. We’ve got a governance group next week that’s really important for the next phase of the project.

Later in the day, I had a quick meeting with a colleague about her conference paper coming out later this year. I can’t wait to read it. It’s going to be amazing.

I also had to do a whole heap of admin, because, as you know, I’ve been away at the last two days at the conference. I’m catching up on work.

The other thing about today is that I had to make a decision that comes up for women of colour all the time. I had to weigh up whether it’s worthwhile, and if I’ve got enough energy, to point out institutional racism.

A professional association from our sector has promoted their International Women’s Day event. All three speakers are white cisgender able bodied women. I decided to write a very tactful email. I suggested this was an opportunity to invite First Nations colleagues to speak at the event, and that they might also consider including women of colour who disabled, and another racial minority women. The organisation’s response (via the two white women organisers) was disappointing, even if unsurprising.

They said they’re already planning other diversity events in the year. They pointed me to their advertised talks. All the speakers present as white people, including one disabled white man.

Allow me to point out the obvious: one white male minority does not replace the lack of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and other racial minorities from an event supposedly celebrating women.

It’s professionally damaging every time we’re forced to broach examples of exclusion. It’s equally dispiriting that the response is always the same: too late now, maybe next time.

This was the exact topic of my talk yesterday. I discussed how equity diversity policies and practises are divorced from the reality in which institutions are run.

Our state is working towards very ambitious targets, to equalise the number of women in senior roles, to increase the number of Aboriginal people, and recruit more disabled people in our sector.

International Women’s Day started as a day of rebellion; a fight for class and gender liberation. This cannot happen is only one group of women take centre stage.

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