Written by Louise Gookey and Ravi Ruparel | Published: 9th May 2021
One of the aims of embracing equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) in organizations and institutions is to make them relevant. This is achieved by ensuring equal treatment and fair opportunities for everyone. The positive steps forward in embracing these changes were hampered during the pandemic, but this only creates new opportunity for digital educators.
EDI policy aims to eliminate discrimination and prejudice based on gender, race, age, disability, religion or sexual orientation. It seems that the time really is now for these changes and many are being mandated. Global governing institutions and bodies are now recommending that boards of directors and trustees fully embed EDI into the running of activities from the top down; from measurement to decolonization of the curriculum. It’s a discussion that will be hard to avoid over the coming months.
The reality is that many of us hold different prejudices and unconscious biases depending on our upbringing, education and location. What matters is what we do next, and we hope that you are as ready as us to look forward to the positive changes and their consequences on life. It's a really big topic and here we simply introduce the matter, and we will be following up throughout the year.
The Digital Education Awards wants to continuously look at how we can use the education environment to ensure we recognise and celebrate our differences, to create an all-inclusive atmosphere, which we can take with us throughout future life.
A recent Forbes article stated that ‘having people from different backgrounds and cultures provides us with the balance of voices and diversity of thought that we need’.
The benefits of a positive EDI strategy, governance and framework have been proven time and time again, it allows wider perspectives, makes you community relevant, creates a sense of belonging, increased productivity and creativity. It might even increase revenue, margin along with education outcomes. In business, having a diverse workforce can help create higher revenues and figures from a 2018 Harvard Business Review show that companies with higher-than-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues.
Despite a positive step forward, during the pandemic there has been a backward step. The physical closures of workplaces and schools has meant that vulnerable individuals and in particular from diverse backgrounds were potentially less likely to receive the support and extra services they need.
We have seen different sectors of society being affected in different ways and in many cases this has shone a light on pre-existing inequalities.
For example, research from Scope in the UK, has shown that over a quarter of people living with a disability feel they have been forgotten during the pandemic. A study from UN Women also showed that women did nearly three times as much unpaid and domestic work as men during the pandemic which, for many, was at expense of their careers. Addressing this gap in equality is important at the Digital Education Awards, and we are starting to see how digital education can help. There is opportunity for those with access and stuck home. There are many that had devices donated or upgraded and these are available for continued use by the whole family and support system.
One example is from the education platform FutureLearn who has noticed an increase in female enrolment on their courses, which currently sits at 60% of all their students. This suggests that the use of technology has allowed individuals who may have been marginalised by the pandemic to upskill and retrain using flexible learning and that perhaps traditional education methods do not meet the needs of many.
We are also seeing trends of global learning and how this can benefit individuals whose location sets them at a disadvantage. For example, being on a laptop in one country and learning from an expert across the globe who has a completely different background to you, is helping to break some of the traditional barriers around EDI. It’s not just a one way lesson from East to West, can you imagine the impact on diversity in a mixed maths class with students from Delhi, Shanghai and London? Or a mixed art class with children from Italy, Africa and Canada?
The Digital Education Awards has been created to recognise excellence in the digital education community and as a result is committed to creating and sustaining a positive and inclusive environment for our employees, partners, clients and audience.
It aims to ensure everyone is equally valued and respected and that it is representative of all members of society.
The Digital Education Awards define diversity as valuing everyone as an individual. This is reflected within our values and behaviours and our leadership habits.
These values will be reflected across everything we do as we push for a more inclusive world.
We will be publishing on this topic throughout the year with practical tips, observations and recommendations of resources. For now, don’t let it drop off your agenda.