National Inclusion Week 2020 - What inclusion means to me: Dr Sharon Dixon

1st October 2020

As part of National Inclusion Week (28 September to 2 October 2020), and in line with the recently established Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, BASES will be sharing stories from the EDI Committee Members on what inclusion means to them, to help raise awareness about Inclusion in the workplace.

National Inclusion Week 2020:

What does inclusion mean to me?

It is easy to assume that everyone around us perceives their environment in the same way as us and experiences the same barriers. However, where one person feels comfortable and welcomed, another may feel anxious and excluded. Taking time to consider this, to ask questions and to provide a wide range of opportunities is so important for improving and widening inclusion.

Whilst our levels of awareness and resulting efforts to improve inclusion have had a positive effect in some areas over recent years, the opportunities available to us are still heavily influenced by our personal characteristics and situations. I believe two key influential factors are stereotyping and role models.

Our society and the opportunities available to people are still heavily influenced by stereotyping. In this area, I feel strongly that education is key to improving inclusion across society. As an example, while schools still have separate uniforms and sports labelled as for ‘girls’ and ‘boys’, how can we expect children to grow up without biases and expectations regarding their roles in society and what they can and cannot do - what they can and cannot be? These stereotypes limit aspirations.

Similarly, role models are so important – as the saying goes ‘we cannot be what we cannot see’. As examples, if students do not see staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups, and if they are not aware of openly gay male staff, then they may not consider a career in our field. We need these role models in order to become a more welcoming discipline. Being inclusive includes identifying the barriers that currently prevent those that are not represented widely in our discipline from pursuing the careers that some of us progressed into as a matter of course.

On a positive note, things have improved and sport is playing its part. Who would have dreamt 10 years ago that we would have females providing expert opinion on male footballers on the BBC, and that some of these would even be black? These small steps all add up, but perhaps our current environment has highlighted that it is sometimes possible for change to happen more quickly...

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Dr Sharon Dixon                                                                                                                                                Member, BASES Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee                                                                      Associate Professor in Biomechanics, University of Exeter 

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BASES stands for the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. BASES is the professional body for sport and exercise sciences in the UK.

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