Simon Terry

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Perceptions matter

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere – Martin Luther King Jr.

I am passionate advocate for diversity. I have seen the power of different perspectives, skills and backgrounds working together. Embracing diversity enables us to leverage the potential of all the world’s talents. We all need to advocate for more equal treatment of others.

If you consider this an issue for others, remember this. Discrimination is about perceptions. People are discriminated against because of what they are perceived to be and what that is assumed to mean. Gender, age, race, creed, sexual orientation, and any of the many other bases are all simply proxies for flawed human perceptions.

Perceptions can and will be wrong. Discriminatory perceptions are almost certainly guaranteed to be wrong. In a world that accommodates discrimination, you can never predict which side you will fall of the arbitrary line of these views.

There are too many reasons why someone, including you, might be in the wrong camp. I have seen people form false & prejudicial perceptions for reasons as silly as the colour of clothing, a person’s way of talking or the colour of hair. Silly as the reason may be the prejudice based on perception was real. That anyone should have to continue to experience prejudice is intolerable.

Don’t leave the fate of the talent in your organisation to arbitrary perceptions. Silence is not a strategy and cultural issues will not work themselves out in time. Take steps to address any issues:

  • make clear your own position, advocate for equality of opportunity and treatment and create a culture that calls inappropriate behaviours
  • go talk to those in your organisation who may be at risk of experiencing discrimination and listen to the stories of what is occurring
  • examine your own unconscious biases and encourage others to do the same 
  • make changes in people, policies and processes to foster a more representative organisation 

When nobody has to worry about the flawed perceptions of others, we are all better off.


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