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Beat the Backlash - Inclusion Makes Movements Matter

#MeToo & Black Lives Matter – Global Movements, not Isolated Incidents

I’m driven to write as the globe still reels following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Emotive. Uncomfortable. Racism is now an unavoidable and often uncomfortable conversation, but through this, we must grow.

I have a nagging thought. I’m reminded of the power, volume and veracity of emotion surrounding the #MeToo movement in 2017. How are they connected? What can we learn from this moment, this honesty and these demands for change?

#MeToo & Black Lives Matter – Global Movements, not Isolated Incidents

Tarana Burke coined the #MeToo phrase in 2006 and it grew once the message “It is not your fault and you are not to blame” struck a chord in survivors of sexual harassment, assault and violence. The heartbreaking phrase came when a 13 year old child confided to her that she had been assaulted. Burke could not find the words in that moment to respond and wished she had simply told the girl: “Me too”.

The movement garnered volume ten years later when (white) celebrities used social media to share their own experiences, asking those who could empathise to simply respond “MeToo”. Not knowing that Tarana Burke had already been drawing from her experiences without the spotlight of media support, Alyssa Milano corrected the narrative back to credit Tarana. Together, they taught one half of the world to speak out and the other half to listen.

#MeToo in Stats

  • 500K Tweets in 24 hours (Twitter)

  • 4.7 million posts in 24 hours (facebook)

  • Trended in 85 countries

  • Half of women have experienced sexual harassment at work

  • Nearly one in five women have suffered sexual assault

As a survivor of sexual assault, it was a trigger. There was a warmth in gratitude knowing I was not alone, but met with the chill of knowing I was not alone. How can sexual assault be happening so often and how can it be so damaging, to so many people?

The enormous volume of voices singing ‘Times Up’ across the globe felt like an opportunity for a seismic shift and change. This was our moment – we would finally see a reduction in violence against women, an increase in representation of women in positions of leadership in media, business and politics.

But no. Violence against women continues to rise, with domestic abuse reports rising a third during lockdown. Politics hardened in the UK with 80% of Conservative MPs being male. In the media, women are routinely shamed for giving their opinions. Naga Munchetty and Emily Maitlis spring to mind.

Similarly, the stats for Black Lives Matter in England and Wales are undeniable.

Black Lives Matter Stats

  • 137,500 people have attended over 200 protests

  • BAME 4 x likely to be stopped and searched by police

  • BAME 3 x as likely to be arrested

  • BAME 5 x as likely to have force used against them

Since Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1993 and the 1999 report citing ‘institutional racism’ police are now liable for acts of racial discrimination and subject to independent inspections and scrutiny. But Covid has highlighted systemic failings for BAME communities in housing, schooling, job opportunities and access to health care.

#MeToo Backlash

In 2019, after the #MeToo swell, it was reported that 60% of male managers were “too nervous” to mentor, socialise with or have 1:2:1 meetings with women at work for fear of being accused of harassment. How many men had learnt to fear women, and not be seen as allies?

  • 38% men now actively avoid women in junior-level positions

  • 27% men avoid 1:2:1 meetings with female co-workers

  • 21% of men would be reluctant to employ a woman for a job which requires close interaction

  • 19% of men would be reluctant to hire an attractive woman.

But there has been a shift. The movement has been the catalyst for change in policy. For example, some companies (such as Transport for London) have banned non-disclosure agreements. TimesUp funds were established to help women pursue legal action against sexual assault.

But perhaps most importantly, victims learnt they were not alone, they were not to blame.

Their pain was not their fault.

And their allies learnt to listen.

Make Sure This Movement Matters

Black Lives Matter is the boiling over of centuries of oppression. After an American football quarterback taking a knee to the national anthem garnered more emotion from the leader of the ‘land of the free’ than a white man taking a knee to a black man’s throat.

So as Colston’s statue rises from the docks in Bristol to join others earmarked for museums across the country know change starts in us each as individuals, and leaders (of all levels) will encourage others to follow:

Inclusive Leadership

  1. Learn how to challenge racism and unconscious bias in yourself.

  2. Learn how to challenge racism and unconscious bias in others.

  3. Use your authenticity and emotional intelligence NOW.

  4. Understand the breadth and depth of the problem.

  5. Use this to open an honest, open dialogue with friends, family and colleagues.

  6. Identify three goals to promote inclusion and be held accountable.


  • DON’T Expect change overnight – movements are a marathon, not a sprint. Wellbeing of all staff will be important. Check in with each stage of your talent pipeline. Recruitment, retention and the ‘retired’ in spirit.

  • DON’T minimise fear and exclusion: Where men became reluctant to employ or mentor women, this came from a place of fear – a fear of being ignorant to what the problem is, to being caught, to be held to account. Translate this to your workforce and racism. Educate. Promote understanding. Make conversations inclusive, not exclusive.

  • DON’T let the label obscure the problem – #MeToo was never about women being abused and harassed. The problem was the men who felt free to harm and get away with it. Targeting solutions at women fails to address the problem of sexism. The same applies here. The problem is not BAME employees or stakeholders. The problem is racism, the people who are silent, ill-informed or too racist to change.

The Black Lives Matter movement is no different. The problem here are those remaining silent. Afraid to show their ignorance or bias. It’s time to listen and learn, now.

Finally, my last tip is to look around you now. See the helpers. Find your allies. Unite. Collaborate. Share frustrations and find solutions. Actively seek inclusion and not division.

Reach out now to learn how to undertake Inclusion Reviews for your setting, your leadership, for your staff and your stakeholders.

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