Interior designer and TV presenter Simon Hamilton has over 30 years' experience as a diversity and inclusion consultant, as well as a designer, educator and careers mentor. Here he explains what you need to bear in mind when navigating the subject of equality, diversity and inclusion in your business in 2022.
As an interior designer with a career spanning over 3 decades in the commercial and residential sectors, working for myself, other design practices, and recruiting across Europe, the UK and Asia I have gathered a wealth of experience about business. While enjoying the variety this work has offered, I also encountered discrimination of various types in the workplace. Sometimes it wasn’t even obvious to me.
It is a highly important issue which many companies are more than ever acutely aware of, but can struggle to know how to cope. So how do you navigate the subject of equality, diversity and inclusion in 2022, while still being true to your values and keeping your business thriving?
Thankfully help is no longer a stranger and I am consulting with businesses across the interior sectors to support change. The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) has created a new guide on ‘How to create an inclusive design practice'. You can click here to find out more. Some of the principles could be applied to other industries as it covers the recruitment process, team management and tracking progress. As a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, I have been deeply involved in the process of defining what is necessary to help the design industry navigate these tricky waters.
Through my endeavours with the BIID, I was appointed by the University of Plymouth to provide consultation services and support for their diversity, inclusion and skills programme. Recognising they had a serious shortfall in attracting a diverse faculty and students compared to other universities, they decided to address it face on. The Gateway project has been developed over the past 6 months in tandem with the Plymouth based Diversity Business Incubator (DBI) on board. Now with a live website, created as a developing resource, we have a centralised point of contact and engagement for all businesses to tap into. We are in the midst of organising a podcast about the Gateway Project to reach a wider audience. I have been contacting local businesses to suggest ways that they can engage in the project. We will be hosting a series of online and live events at the University in the coming months enabling local businesses to become part of this essential initiative.
I also work with United in Design, which is a charity co-founded by Sophie Ashby and Alexandria Dauley in 2020 to specifically tackle the lack of diversity in interior design industry. This has led to the establishment of a very successful apprenticeship programme offering young graduate designers the opportunity to work for some of the UK’s leading practices and suppliers, which were out of their reach before.
* Some ways of being more diverse and reaching a new audience can be as simple as giving an hour of time to speak to aspiring youngsters from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds. Unfortunately there are several groups in society who face discrimination, so initially focussing one’s efforts could be more effective. For example people from black, asian and ethnic minority backgrounds or BAME, are just as keen to learn about what the KBB industry can offer them in terms of real employment and future career prospects. What they need now are more role models.
* Other ways to reach this broad audience is by creating projects, workshops and initiatives inhouse, that are inclusive and will appeal to a wider group.
* Ensuring there is clear representation in the company goes a long way to help attract and maintain a diverse workplace. By introducing these talented individuals to retailers, suppliers, design practices and the creative industry, we will help change the perception that the sector is beyond their reach, into one that is a welcoming and viable career option.
* It simply comes down to talking and sharing experiences and offering an open forum for discussion. By coming together, we are able to make positive steps and take real action to address the issues that have existed for too long.
If you would like to talk about how to become more diverse and inclusive within your business, feel free to contact Simon via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.