Civil Service

https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2019/09/26/what-inclusion-means-to-me/

What inclusion means to me

Head and shoulders of Preema Saide
Preema Saide, Head of Diversity and Inclusion Fast Stream & Early Talent, Civil Service HR

In National Inclusion Week, I’ve found myself in deep reflection thinking about what this personally means to me.

As a woman from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background, who comes from a lower social-economic background and has underlying health conditions, as well as being a carer, I tick most diversity boxes. I feel very connected to the subject matter through my own lived experiences. But I found myself asking why should this matter to those who cannot relate?

Perhaps because I do tick many of these diversity boxes I have a real passion for striving to get this right. But what drives others to create an inclusive environment?

During my time in Fast Stream and Early Talent, I’ve had great insight into how inclusive we are in the Civil Service. Both through the eyes of Fast Streamers and by observing Fast Streamers in group settings such as Base Camp (our 3-day induction event). From these collective experiences, I understand that as humans we innately have a strong sense of connecting with people like ourselves. Those who look like us, talk like us and behave like us.

While making Planet of the Apes, Charlton Heston observed the actors who were brought in to play the different groups in the film. What he found at lunch on his first day was that all the people who were given the ape costume sat together, all the gorillas sat together, and all the chimpanzees sat together.

What does this tell us? It’s natural to create groups of like-minded people or those like ourselves. As my own experiences showed me when I was at university, where distinct groups formed themselves based on race, religion and class, cliques can be formed at Base Camp. We tend to find people like us more intelligent and more likeable. But with this, you create a group mentality – ‘in-groups’ and ‘out-groups’ – those who don’t belong. 

We all probably know what this feels like, to some extent, from being picked for your school sports team… or not! Or being part of the ‘in’ crowd at uni... or not. Being invited out for team drinks… or not. Inclusion comes in all shapes and forms, but most of the time we don’t even realise that we’ve created these ‘in-groups’. All these experiences make you who you are. 

Why does this matter? Working for a short time with the policy profession I was amazed at how important inclusion was to the success of policy-making and how detrimental ‘group think’ can be. We can all probably think of real-life examples where this can have disastrous consequences. Quite simply, what we put in is what we get out.

We also know we perform better in inclusive environments. Diversity and inclusion underpin business success. People from different backgrounds will have different experiences and working styles, bringing a wider range of learning and perspective. 

In answer to my own question, this is why inclusion should matter to everyone. It should drive us to ensure we all play our part in inclusive cultures and working environments. National Inclusion Week gives us this opportunity to talk openly, celebrate our inclusivity but also to check that we are all doing the right thing. Take this week as an opportunity to talk to someone completely different from you. Look around you and think about how inclusive you and your teams are.

Recognising that our Fast Streamers come with their own lived experiences and from a range of backgrounds needs to be celebrated – but so does recognising everyone has their own starting point and individual needs. I’m proud to work for a team that recognises this and has a strong inclusive ethos.

We are making strides in the Fast Stream to become more inclusive to ensure our Fast Streamers are not just future leaders but inclusive leaders.

Fast Stream applications are open

The application window for the 15 schemes in the Civil Service Fast Stream programme opened on 26 September and will close on 24 October at 12:00 noon.

Applications are also welcomed to the Summer Diversity Internship (SDIP) and Early Diversity Internship (EDIP) programmes.

Applications to SDIP will close on at 12:00 noon on 24 October.

Applications to EDIP will close at 12:00 noon on 14 November.

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2 comments

  1. Comment by Ruel Cole posted on

    Without Prejudice

    Hello Preema Saide,
    I have read your blog and you have opened my eyes to a number of things I was not aware of, what Charlton Heston observed the actors. You are so right when you stated, “It’s natural to create groups of like-minded people or those like ourselves”. Being picked for the school team sport team, is no different from working in any of the MoJ/HMCTS working environment. Like Charlton Heston, I have also have observed the in which promotion, R&R and opportunities are handed out not only in my own office but in other offices that I have visited and talking to other staff mostly from BAME background. Hence one of the reason why I have been campaigning against a system that is very unfair, and take part in blogs to voice my concerns, in the hope that things will change and the civil service will truly be a place in which people from all background are made welcome in the working environment.

  2. Comment by Myles Lester posted on

    Great blog post Preema, thanks for sharing your personal experience.