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Diversity is not Inclusion



Ashleigh Rennie - copywriter and owner of the Story Team

If you’ve been following my contributions to Euronewsweek, you’ll know me as a copywriter. What you might not know is that I’m also a feminist. While I acknowledge that women are in more spaces than ever before, it doesn’t mean that they’re equal. It doesn’t mean that there is equity. As long as we continue to do things the ways we’ve always done, diversity is not inclusion.

Here are three important things to understand before you continue reading:

  1. I adore men
  2. I believe language is the most important thing we have – it’s our superpower
  3. I’m okay with being vulnerable

The 8th March was International Women’s Day, and March is also Women’s History Month. I’ve delivered three speaking engagements about how diversity isn’t inclusion, and how women still have a long way to go in the world, generally, as well as in the workplace when it comes to closing the gender gap. All the gaps. Not just the financial one.

What follows isn’t a remarkable story. It’s just my story. But it speaks to the greater problems that we’re still seeing in the world – even though it’s 2022, and wow, we should have learned a thing or two by now.

It also holds as incredibly precious and vital, our use of language.


Diversity is not Inclusion – The beginning

I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. We weren’t wealthy, but we were very comfortable. Educated. We didn’t want for anything.

As a child, one is supposed to feel safe in the obvious places: home and school. That should be a given. And yet…


The horror of home

I grew up knowing that something was very, very wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it, exactly. It wasn’t an overt danger I was facing. No one hit me. Or punched me. But there was a sense that one step in the wrong direction would lead to catastrophe.

My father wasn’t a fan of women. He’d married one and had three daughters with her, and yet his tolerance of females was wanting, to say the least.

I was routinely told that I was the smart one, and my sister was the pretty one.

He once told me, at the age of eight or nine, that the line from my pubic bone to my belly button was sexy.

He would find his way into my bedroom or the bathroom while I was navigating puberty. He’d simply be there. Observing.

He also regularly told me to smile. “Put a smile on your face. Wipe that look off your face. Give us a smile.”

The deeper, and much more pressing crisis, was that he held all the power. So, while we were a family of predominantly females, and we certainly didn’t lack representation, he ruled the house with an iron fist.

He controlled the money.

He itemised the shopping bills.

If my mother deviated from what was expected he would punish all of us by screaming, withholding affection, not speaking to us, or just not coming home from work.

At night, he’d come home and run his finger over the window ledges and the tables and countertops to make sure my mother had cleaned his house properly.


The other inescapable horror

At the same time as this was happening, I was in a fresh kind of hell – high school.

I didn’t look like the other girls. I didn’t have long legs and long hair. I wasn’t good at sport. My features were too big for my face. I enjoyed the cultural side of things. And because I was so desperate for adult attention, I tended to spend more time with my teachers – so I was known as a suck-up.

This lack of popularity lead to a range of bullying that happened over years. It was mostly meted out by the boys – ridicule. Jibes. Laughing at me. Calling me names – slut. Whore. Not a girl. Cute (which, in my school meant, ugly but f@!kable). I’d never kissed a boy in my life.

These boys were a particular kind of male – physically large. They played rugby. They dated the pretty girls, who were enlisted to do more of the physical bullying. I was slammed into walls and kicked in the back in class.

A very structured social hierarchy was established. If you weren’t part of that, you were in trouble. Boys who didn’t fall into this category of maleness were beaten up. Tipped upside down in dustbins. Hung over the school balcony with knives to their throat. A reminder: this was an affluent school in Johannesburg with a diversity of gender. Equity? Not a chance. Inclusion? Ha.


The Presence and Absence of Language

The effects of my home life and my school life manifested in various ways. My hair fell out. I was underweight. I had no confidence. I had no self-esteem. I was terrified of men and relationships with them until late into my 20s. I had suicidal ideation by the time I was 19. And I had fantasies of killing my father.

I didn’t understand what was going on. For years, I thought I was the problem. I was ugly. I wasn’t good enough. Smart enough. Thin enough. Athletic enough.

Then, after years of therapy, medication, and long conversations with my mother and my girlfriends – I realised that I had experienced a toxic combination of two things: the everyday sexist language that was consistently being used around me; and the absence of language around things that were formative and incredibly important.


What are we saying?

The language that we use when we’re talking to girls?


Your bra straps are showing.

Your skirt is too short.

Cross your legs.

Don’t be a know it all.

Don’t answer all the questions in class.

Don’t be a showoff.

Stop being bossy.

You have a nipple stand.

Cover up.

Don’t distract the boys.

Don’t make the male teachers uncomfortable.

Don’t be too loud.

We teach children that girls are powerful and dangerous, and we sexualise their bodies. While there may be diversity in schools, that diversity is not inclusion.

And we teach boys that girls are there to be objectified. We prioritise his education over girls. This is bad news for boys too. Because any boy that is slightly effeminate, or shows emotions, or wears their hair long, or cries, or wears pink is targeted. Why? Because they’re too feminine. And society isn’t a fan of the feminine, unless it’s in a bikini. You run like a girl. You scream like a girl. You hit like a girl. Don’t be such a girl.

We’re not fans of girls.


What are we not saying?

The absence of language is just as devastating to diversity and inclusion.

Growing up, there were things we didn’t talk about. When I was around 13 or 14 we went out for lunch in a restaurant. I started having the worst abdominal cramps I’d ever experienced. It felt like knives were slicing up my insides. I had sharp, shooting pains down my legs. It was only 24-36 hours later that I realised I was having my first period. No one had prepared me for this. No one had told me what would happen to my body.

As I was being bullied at school, there was the implied threat that if I spoke out about it, I would suffer. I knew that these kids carried knives. There was no way I could take a stand and talk about what was happening.

This restriction around language and the policing of women when they try to say no, or they try to speak out, takes many forms as we get older. The threats range from being laughed at, ostracised and jeered at, to not getting the raise or promotion we’re after, to being physically attacked in the street, on public transport, and in other public spaces. Soraya Chemaly explores this in detail in her book Rage Becomes Her.


My theory – you’re not going to like it

If your organisation and your people engage in everyday sexist language, or there’s an unspoken rule that certain things don’t get discussed, then your organisation is my father and the boys at school when I was growing up, and your women are me.

We balk at this idea. It’s worth remembering that we are taught this gendered way of being before we can even speak. It’s possible that you don’t even see it happening around you, because it is so normalised.


What do we do?

All around me, I see women who lack confidence. Who are pushing all the time to move beyond that. Who are fighting the structures in place that support the idea that diversity is not inclusion.

I can only tell you what I’ve done.

  1. I work with women. They are my clients. They are my network. I love men and I find them smart and brilliant, but I feel most comfortable with other women. I want to uplift other women, and I want to be uplifted by them.
  2. I talk about it. I speak about feminism and the need we still have for it in society as often as I can.
  3. I tell little girls that they are clever. I ask them what books they’re reading. I ask them what they like to do at school. I NEVER tell them they’re pretty. And if I like her outfit, I’ll tell her she looks totally fierce and, dressed like that, one day she’ll take on the world.
  4. I make money. As much of it as I can. Because, as Rachel Rogers says in We Should All be Millionaires – we need to make bank. That’s what gives us our autonomy.

If you’re a woman reading this, you can leave. It will be rough. But if you draw on the resilience you have inside you, it will be okay.

To men, the next time you are in a conversation about women being barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, or you hear the term female author, or female doctor, or you see a man making a woman feel uncomfortable, say something. We need allies. More than anything, we need you to be our allies. As long as everyday sexist language exists, and as long as we aren’t talking about it, diversity is not inclusion.

Ashleigh is a Copyhackers-trained conversion copywriter who helps ambitious business owners attract their ideal clients and generate wealth with words. She's also a speaker, a feminist, and dog mom. She lives in London and works with incredible businesses all over the world.


Fund to launch and grow a business will help black entrepreneurs in the UK



Blacl barber looks after a client and his business
Applications are open for funding of up to £15,000 for the most innovative new business ideas and exciting existing companies in the UK 

Future 100 Growth Fund, a programme backing Black British entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses is now open for applications. The £1m partnership between Europe’s leading media and entertainment company, Sky, and the newly launched independent civil rights group, the Black Equity Organisation (BEO), aims to provide funding and support over three years to help overcome the significant barriers faced by young Black entrepreneurs in Britain when setting up businesses.

“We want to share our platform and capability to create lasting change for Black British entrepreneurs. We are pleased to be working with BEO to provide direct assistance and advice from Sky to help make the UK a great place for Black businesses.” – celebrated Dana Strong, CEO of the Sky’s Group. The company has made £30 million commitment to tackle structural inequality and make a difference in communities impacted by racism.

Driving economic empowerment and equity of opportunity for Black people and businesses is one of six key areas Black Equity Organisation will focus on. Research has highlighted that in the 10 years between 2009-19, only 0.24% of the total invested in UK start-ups from venture capital funding went to Black entrepreneurs. Just 0.02% went to Black female entrepreneurs.

Besides offering funding of up to £15,000 for the most innovative new business ideas and exciting existing companies, the initiative aims to create a network of mentors and community organisations to advise and assist new enterprises through direct financial support and products nurturing talent and innovation.

”The Future 100 Growth Fund will back the next generation of Black founders to thrive and succeed. We can’t wait to see what the applicants achieve through this programme as they drive growth across their businesses and for the UK economy.” – says Dame Vivian Hunt, Chair of Trustees at Black Equity Organisation.

The programme is open to applicants between 18 and 30 years old of Black African, Black Caribbean, Black British and/or Mixed-race descent who are UK residents. The fund will support Black entrepreneurs who are looking to bring a business concept to life, have a fledgling business that they want to scale or have the beginnings of a thriving business.

To find out more about the Future 100 programme and for details on how to apply visit the project here.

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Hospitality industry in the UK threatened by staff shortages



Two housekeepers making a hotel bed
Housekeepers are expected to receive a 7.4% pay rise, but UK businesses still struggle to recruit staff | Photo: Liliana Drew

The hospitality and leisure sector’s post-pandemic recovery, in the UK, could be severely hampered by the lack of staff, a new report from a British bank has revealed.

“UK Hospitality’s Next Challenge”, a study from Barclays Corporate Banking, shows that the release of pent-up consumer demand for socialising, holidays and experiences following the pandemic has given a boost to the sector. Over three quarters (77%) of H&L operators are confident of growth this year, and had predicted an average 30.5% uplift in revenue compared with pre-pandemic levels. This equates to a £36bn² rise in annual turnover over 2019, and a £54bn increase on 2021.

However, the predicted growth could be stifled by soaring supplier costs and a scramble for talent. Hospitality and leisure businesses report that their transport costs have already spiked by over 38% year-on-year on average, and their utility bills by 37%.

Meanwhile, over nine in 10 (94%) hospitality and leisure businesses are struggling to recruit personnel, with vacancies for cleaning staff (20%), front of house staff (18%), and delivery staff (16%) causing the most issues. There are particularly acute shortages of cleaners in the East Midlands and the East of England (28%).

Almost a fifth (16%) of bars and restaurants are finding it difficult to hire waiting staff, and over two fifths of gyms and leisure centres (42%) cannot find fitness instructors. Recruitment issues also extend to back-of-house and C-suite roles: 17% of operators are having trouble sourcing finance staff and 16% said the same about senior management positions.

“Crucially for the industry, our research shows that talent shortages are also a major concern, with businesses in every vertical finding it challenging to fill their vacancies. It means there is now an added imperative for hospitality and leisure firms to find new and novel ways to recruit, reward and retain their staff.” – says Mike Saul, Head of Hospitality and Leisure at Barclays Corporate Banking.

Hospitality and leisure operators are already establishing new incentives to recruit and retain talent, including permanent work flexibility, the introduction of bonuses, and an increase in staff welfare budgets.

Almost one in five employers (19%) have also increased wages given to staff. Senior managers are set to receive the biggest boost to their pay packets, with an average increase of 7.7% – equivalent to £2,014 a year for a full-time worker. Delivery riders, housekeepers and kitchen staff are also expected to see their wages rise in 2022.

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Contemporary artist Demit Omphroy partners with GAP for NTF collection



Artists Demit Omphroy on the streets
Partnership: the limited-edition is Demit Omphroy’s first digital series of NFTs | Photo: Instagram

Contemporary artist and former professional soccer player Demit Omphroy is partnering with GAP for its third collection of limited-edition non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

As the brand, founded in 1969, continues to explore new channels to engage customers in the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, this spring, Demit launched a limited-edition graphic tee collection featuring his unique and recognizable work, and now the artist is launching his first NFTs with Gap. Demit’s art depicts life through vibrant colors and an expressionistic style, seeing the world through his inner child.  

“My work is playful, expressive, and simplistic, yet loaded with emotion. Being able to express myself through a new digital medium and collaborate with Gap, one of the most iconic brands in history, is exciting for me as a creator.” – celebrates the American artist who is also a citizen of Panama and the Philippines through descent.

On June 15, the One of a Kind digital auction will begin, featuring single edition digital art and a custom, hand-painted Gap denim jacket by Demit.  

In July, Gap x DOGAMÍ NFT wearables will launch as the first fashion collaboration in the petaverse. Digital Gap logo hoodies specifically designed for DOGAMÍ avatars will engage players to express their virtual pet’s individual style that will have a direct impact on game stats. 

“Partnering with unique artists and creators is a cornerstone of our NFT program,” – says Chris Goble, Chief Product Officer at Gap. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Demit and to create this vibrant collection of NFTs and product that amplifies his voice and represents his distinct individual style.”  

The Gap Threads marketplace and DOGAMÍ are both built on Tezos, a more energy efficient blockchain, allowing for minimal energy consumption and a low carbon footprint. Customers can also join Gap’s Discord server to connect, engage, and foster a community with other fans of Gap NFTs. The Discord server can be accessed at

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