During one of our consultation meetings with the Member States, one of the attendees who joined the meeting a little later, and did not know who was in the room, asked me about the plans that “they (the Commission) came up with”. She assumed I was one of the junior staff present, perhaps because the image of a decision-maker was not expected to be of my age and appearance. I was a little puzzled when this happened, but later realised that we often fall victim to our own biases and assumptions, and so inclusion and diversity often suffer. I have done it myself on numerous occasions. When I left the Commission and started working at Google, I found myself often instinctively looking for the ‘older man in a suit’ when important decisions were being taken. But at Google my experience is that the important decisions are just as often made by the person, man or woman, in a hoodie.
Starting with the biases and preconceptions we hold ourselves! When I worked on the (Erasmus+) Inclusion and Diversity Strategy, I was really impressed with how SALTO helped to build bridges between the various perspectives and approaches to inclusion and diversity, and how the entire network harvested and processed the large variety of voices. I think that the youth sector in Europe is at the forefront of inclusion and diversity work and this clearly showed in SALTO contributions to the Strategy. I often think that we need SALTO equivalents in other sectors in order to pioneer this collaborative and inclusive approach to working with people of all ages and backgrounds.
A recent song by Norwegian duo Karpe highlights the frustrations of young people in a world run by ‘white men pushing 50’. Globally, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement is a moment we need to seize to address widespread systemic inequalities and racism. We cannot afford to lose out on so much potential offered by diversity and limited by exclusion of individuals and groups. The celebration of 20 years of SALTO should be a celebration, not only of people and events, but also of the values that SALTO promotes. We could all use more inclusion and diversity.