Five books that deepened my understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion
A diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) specialist’s learning is never done. Across The Pond’s global head of brand DEI Anna Brent shares the five books that transformed her own thinking.
Across The Pond shares five reads that improved thinking around diversity
When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), your education is never finished. I’m on an ongoing mission to try to understand the structural inequalities and biases that impact society, our industry and my workplace. This means following innovations and current best practice in DEI corporate policy, and knowing what our clients (given they include the likes of Meta and Google) are doing to change things in their own organizations.
But few things bring home the importance of advancing diversity and inclusion like hearing personal stories of how discrimination and deep cultural biases have impacted individual lives.
Some of these titles deepened my understanding about issues I haven’t experienced personally; others I loved because of how much they resonated with me (even in uncomfortable ways), and said things I’ve never tried to put into words myself. All of them were a valuable use of my time, so I want to share them for anyone in search of their next engrossing read.
The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry
I read this book with particular interest because my wife and I are two women raising a son. We constantly debate how we can free him from the unhealthy expectations society imposes on boys in regards to the gender norms they ‘should’ subscribe to.
In his deliciously accessible yet provocative way, Perry discusses aspects of modern and historical masculinity, acknowledging ways even he is susceptible to stereotypes. Best of all, he leaves us with a positive sense of what the future could be like, reassuring men that they ‘have nothing to lose but their hang-ups.’
Queer Intentions: A (Personal) Journey Through LGBTQ+ Culture by Amelia Abraham
Abraham is a journalist and this book combines reportage with personal reflections on queer life in the 21st century. It’s brilliantly written and often entertaining. I felt she was speaking my thoughts around the complex territory that is fighting for queer people to be afforded every single right and opportunity that straight people take for granted, and yet wanting to preserve something unique and beautiful about the ‘otherness’ of the LGBTQ+ experience.
Yes, I want to be able to marry the love of my life should I choose to... but I don’t want you to expect me to sheepishly follow what traditional marriage or weddings have looked like so far.
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
The 21 essays in The Good Immigrant, all written by people of color, cover everything from cultural appropriation to racial profiling. I knew it would teach me a lot, and it did, but I wasn’t expecting to find myself awkwardly reflecting on my own sense of shame at growing up with a foreign parent in Dorset. My Brazilian mum wasn’t only ‘not English,’ she didn’t even care about ‘playing English’ and I was too young to process the dilemma of assimilation versus celebrating cultural differences. We can’t force ourselves to not want acceptance – especially when we’re kids – which is why it’s vital for our culture to reflect everyone who lives in it.
Anti-Racist Ally: An Introduction to Activism and Action by Sophie Williams
Williams, whose background is in the ad industry, has said her intention with this book was to write something simple but insightful about being a better ally. She’s certainly achieved it. I found her writing empowering and encouraging. It contains advice that I think most of us could do with pinning to a wall and referring to next time we’re in danger of not trying to make things better in case we make a mistake.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Frustration at the conversation about racism being dominated by people not actually impacted by it was the spark behind this book. The fact that it made Eddo-Lodge the first Black British author to top the UK book charts leaves me with a hope that this book is being read by the people I imagine least likely to read it. Four years since it was published, I do hope that some of the points Eddo-Lodge makes, particularly about who decides what’s ‘fair’ and taking personal responsibility for making a difference in your sphere of influence, have actually started to make an impact.
Looking ahead, and sticking with my belief that the journey of self-education is never-ending, this year’s list is already taking shape. It includes some fiction, in the form of Bernadine Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other, as well as Darren McGarvey’s Poverty Safari, David Baddiel’s Jews Don’t Count and Diversify by June Sarpong.
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Across the Pond
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