Equality and Diversity in an Archaeological Context.

CIfA Conference, Leicester, April 2016.

As you will know, if you follow our blog, we’ve been preparing for the annual CIfA conference for some time now, and particularly for our conference stand and CPD workshop, entitled Equality and Diversity in An Archaeological Context. As some of our earlier bloggers said, we all found the Glass Ceilings session at the CIfA conference in Cardiff last year really inspirational, and it was where I first laid out my own hopes for forming an Equality and Diversity Group in a paper called “Let’s do something”. Glass Ceilings really fired people up and I was overwhelmed that my call to action was met so enthusiastically – so much so, in fact, that within a year we have formed the group (with over 70 members), elected a committee, developed a 3 year action plan, held our first AGM and two committee meetings, become a visible presence on social media, impacted CIfA practice by adding a clause for parental and sick leave to be part of all special interest group constitutions, and organised a stand and a session at this year’s conference. Phew!

Despite this list of achievements, I think it’s fair to say that we came to conference this year with a sense of trepidation. Glass Ceilings felt like such a turning point, a real shared moment in which a very large body of professionals were extraordinarily moved by accounts of sexism and discrimination. This, and the further out pouring of these on social media using the hashtag #everyDIGsexism and Twitter account of the same name (@everyDIGsexism) after the conference, all suggested we had very big shoes to fill. I think it is also fair to say that we were unsure of the broader response we might receive – the Glass Ceilings audience was self-selecting, but putting ourselves out there on a stand for the first time, to meet those who might be unconvinced at the need for action on equality and diversity in the profession, was nerve-wracking.


‘I found the session/workshop an extraordinarily exciting and inspirational day’


Happily, I am pleased to report that our nerves were unfounded! The stand and session were great successes. Apart from being a great place to meet and catch up with group members, the stand also provided a place where people could come and share experiences and thoughts on actions with us. We had both a “share an experience” box and a “suggest an action” box, but in reality few people used these, instead engaging us in some important conversations to express experiences and ideas for action face to face. These were really valuable and we warmly thank all who took the time to do so, and especially those who shared very personal, and often very upsetting stories of discrimination on the grounds of equality and diversity.

Our session was also a subject for our pre-conference nerves. We were clear that setting out to simply replicate Glass Ceilings would not do the legacy of that session, or indeed the aspirations of our group, any justice. Instead we decided to structure our offering as a day-long CPD workshop – our aim was that we not only critically explore equality and diversity issues across the profession but that we explore the potential for action to address these. Once again our nerves were unfounded! The session was organised by two of our committee members, Sarah and Cath, but was a whole committee effort. Sarah and Cath’s great work was also supported by Amanda and Jim, who created a work book for the day, Emily who headed up communications, and Mike, Joe, Jim and I who acted, with the rest of the committee, as facilitators on the day.


‘..opportunity for all ….. to discuss issues and potential actions within their group.’


The session enjoyed the presence of three great speakers, Doug Rocks MacQueen on gender, Theresa O’Mahony on disability, and Alan Greaves on sexuality. In addition, I also led a short talk on questions of ethnicity and sexuality, which introduced some new themes and excited much discussion in the room. Each paper was followed by the opportunity for all (almost 40!) participants, who had been divided into 4 groups, to discuss issues and potential actions within their groups. We divided actions into personal action, actions our employers/organisations could take, and actions for CIfA, and especially for us, CIfA’s Equality and Diversity Group. In the final section of the day we came back together as a whole group to share key discussion points and share actions, and I thought it would be helpful to highlight the key suggestions and ”take home” points that arose here:

Personal action

  • Practice respect for others, empathy, and sympathy
  • Report issues and problems
  • Give recognition to colleagues and helpers – credit people for their contributions
  • Take personal responsibility in challenging discrimination and not being silent – addressing tea hut banter
  • Taking responsibility for supporting one another – give time to set up groups, attend workshops, self-education
  • Open dialogue if you don’t understand


Action our organisations can take

  • Supporting colleagues to speak out on discrimination on the grounds of equality and diversity by
    • Creating a safe place to report issues and problems
    • Creating a system/structure to support this and to avoid victimisation
    • To allow professional time to do this
  • Providing/bringing in training and education on equality and diversity issues
    • Including bringing in mental health awareness training/mental health first aid
    • Allowing professional time to do this
  • Review recruitment policies – e.g. the assertion that new employees must have a driving licence discriminates against a variety of disabilities
  • Recognising that some areas, such as technology can be divisive – and prioritising expenditure to support equality and diversity instead
  • Taking a responsible approach to the supply chain element – e.g. tender to companies with equality and diversity training
  • Enhancing accessibility provision – everything from facilities for nursing mothers to express, to supporting disabled colleagues


Actions for CIfA

  • Here much of the action is for our group specifically to review CIfA’s policies and procedures and to advise the Board in a variety of areas where this could be developed. In addition we could
    • Provide/facilitate equality and diversity training for ROs
    • Expand the range of advice on HR issues
    • Facilitate connections between other organisations who also address issues of equality and diversity (e.g. the Unions)


The latter is a necessarily brief list. In fact, we have a group action plan, currently a draft until ratified at our AGM in the autumn, which is 9 pages long! Our draft Action Plan is available now on our website. But two of the most important things that arose from the session, for me, were both the fact that many of the aspirations for action expressed by the workshop participants are mirrored in our action plan, and that the session also provided some important new actions which we have now been able to incorporate.


‘truly multivocal’


Ultimately I found the session/workshop an extraordinarily exciting and inspirational day. A year ago I made a call for action on equality and diversity issues in the profession, and I could not have imagined, then, the kind of productive, joined up brainstorming on such actions that this year’s conference would bring. What made this session even more exciting was that it was truly multivocal. Colleagues from all parts of the profession, and from managers to students, came together to provide really innovative approaches that we can all take at a range of different levels. And I now can’t wait to hear how these have been implemented by others, and to begin implementing them ourselves over the next year, in the Equality and Diversity group.


I look forward to reporting on these more soon!

Hannah, Chair CIfA Equality and Diversity Group.


Also checkout our Storify of the hashtag #EqualityinContext to checkout some of the activity on the day!


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