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The royal question of equality and diversity training


diversityNews this month that Prince Harry is to be sent on a diversity course by the Army, makes Gemma Middleton question whether training is the answer to issues of equality in the workplace?

There is not a week that goes by where at least one member of the Royal Family makes the papers; recently it appears to be Prince Harry who has been having his actions scrutinised by all and sundry. Unfortunately for him, it is not endearing him to the nation.

The tabloids love a good scandal, so when the News of the World came across a three-year-old video, which captured Prince Harry calling a friend in his platoon a ‘raghead’ and ‘our little Paki friend’ they must have been overjoyed.

Photo of Gemma Middleton"It often appears to me that diversity training is often used as punishment if bad or unacceptable behaviour has occurred."

Just as that particular storm had died down another race row emerged surrounding a comment Harry made at his father’s, the Prince of Wales, 60th birthday celebration; the stand-up show, We Are Not Amused, back in November 2008. The line up consisted of some of the most popular and ethnically diverse stand-ups of the year, which included Stephen K Amos – a black comedian.

As with these shows, the performers are received by the Royals and this show was no exception. It was during this procession that Harry allegedly said to Amos, you don’t ‘sound like a black chap’. Again, his comments have caused uproar. This boo-boo came to light when Amos appeared on The Wright Stuff TV show earlier this month. During the interview the co-presenter asked whether the prince had said it in jest, Amos replied, “I hope so”.

Even though the chances are that it was made in jest during awkward, social banter, the damage, has been done, with many senior figures condemning his actions. It appears the prince, who is third in-line to the thrown, has a constant case of ‘foot-in-the-mouth’ syndrome.

Earlier this month, news came that Prince Harry was being sent on equality training by the Army regarding the comments he made about his colleagues. Conducting equality training is not unusual within the Army, in fact, every single recruit undergoes equality training when they first sign up.

It is not just the Army that insists on implementing equality and diversity training to all employees, many organisations across the board; public, private and voluntary sectors insist on it as well. However we have to ask the question, is just investing in mandatory diversity development really working?

Issues regarding equality and diversity are, unfortunately, still quite common whether it be on the grounds of race, sex, sexuality, religion, age, etc. the list seems to be endless; people have forgotten the principle rule of treating people how you wish to be treated. All of these issues not only impact on the individual, but on business and society.

The business benefits to a diverse workforce are enormous for both organisational performance indicators as well as personnel measures, yet we seem to be missing a trick somewhere. Although more and more people are completing diversity training the number of reported discrimination cases still remains high.

It often appears to me that diversity training is often used as punishment if bad or unacceptable behaviour has occurred, with individuals being made to re-attend diversity training so that the ‘big cheeses’ are seen to be doing something proactive. This is not enough.

Personally, I believe that to irradicate any form of discrimination, society as a whole needs to change. In my experience there doesn’t seem to be a set of principles that everyone sticks to, never mind agree with. What people view as acceptable depends on so many things and until this is addressed, issues, like the ones Harry seems to regularly land himself in, will inevitably keep occurring for everyone – not just the Royals.

Gemma Middleton is a marketing coordinator at Righttrack Consultancy


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