Civil servants imagine ‘Japanese gay grandfather’ during diversity training

The civil service has been accused of wasting money on diversity training after it emerged officials were told to imagine a Japanese gay grandfather and an African Paralympian in a wheelchair during a taxpayer-funded workshop.

The exercise was conducted for lawyers and other officials in the Government Legal Department (GLD), which provides advice across Whitehall.

The Inclusion in Action workshop was run online and also showed attendees a “diversity iceberg” and a Danish television advert that showed professionals stepping out of boxes if they were bisexual or had engaged in sex in the past week.

The workshop, which was run in April, is one of a number of courses for civil servants to increase diversity awareness.

One senior mandarin complained of being ordered to complete several courses on unconscious bias, which is concerned with tackling hidden and unwitting prejudices.

‘Horrified and utterly demoralised’

The source said: “I am horrified and utterly demoralised. The civil service seems to be completely ideologically captured and spends an unbelievable amount of time talking about equality, diversity, inclusion, gender ideologies, trans issues, micro-aggressions, allyship … the list goes on.”

Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, of the campaign group Don’t Divide Us, said: “This is patronising, divisive drivel.

“Inclusion in Action looks like another gross misuse of money and resources.

“These tactics, based on highly abstract theories of critical social justice, are likely to sow more division rather than help anyone facing serious disadvantages or discrimination.”

Slides shown to participants, seen by The Telegraph, urge them to first “clear your mind and close your eyes”, then to “picture the individuals described” and “conjure up the most detail you can”. The examples given to imagine were an “elderly Japanese gay grandfather” and an “African Paralympic athlete in a wheelchair”.

‘Diversity iceberg’

The course also featured a “diversity iceberg”, a graphic featuring labels such as age, race, talents, languages, sex, non-visible disability, and beliefs underneath a so-called “waterline of visibility”.

Civil servants were asked to consider questions such as “what might others see/assume about you?” and “what factors have helped/hinder you in your life and career?”.

The class focused on the concepts of inherent privilege – the notion of in-built advantages in life stemming from race or class – as well as unconscious bias.

To explain these ideas, officials were asked to watch films, including one in which people were organised into a line for a race where participants were given a head start if they had gone to private school or if both of their parents were married.

‘Step out of box if bisexual’

Another clip featured an advert for a Danish television channel in which people of different occupations were organised into boxes and were asked to step out of their box if they were bisexual or if they had had sex in the last week.

On 10 June, GLD officials were invited to a two-hour course entitled “Understanding Micro-Behaviours Training”, which aimed “to enhance understanding of micro-behaviours, how to manage them, [and] explore the impact they have on individuals”.

Micro-behaviours, or micro-aggressions as they are more commonly known, are subtle actions that could offend minorities, such as stereotyping or asking where someone is really from.

A film on “Modern racism and micro-incivilities”, which has been used as part of race workshops for Treasury officials and remains on the intranet service, gives examples of inappropriate behaviours. These include “not giving eye contact” to people in the “out-group”, “not pronouncing name correctly [sic]”, people being “ignored and interrupted” or “constantly criticised”, stereotyping and making “assumptions about [minorities’] skills/abilities/temperament”.

A GLD spokesperson said: “All standalone mandatory unconscious bias training was removed in December 2020 in line with ministerial direction.

“As part of GLD’s diversity and inclusion strategy, we offer colleagues an inclusion training pathway with several components, including the standard Inclusion in the Civil Service e-learning module, mandatory for all civil servants.”

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