My D&I Journey with:
Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion,
Joseph Rowntree Foundation / Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust
1. What was your journey into diversity and inclusion?
My journey started as a project manager in local government, working with disadvantaged communities, identifying barriers to accessing services and helping social services to change their policies, processes, and practices to be more inclusive.
Next, I managed positive action training programmes for the same local authority. Here I influenced numerous managers to provide graduate and non-graduate training opportunities that led to successful careers for the trainees.
This was followed by strategic policy work on EDI issues, still in local government, for a further five years. I moved on from here to a post in Higher Education where for ten years I led on EDI work covering staff and students.
Four years ago, I joined Joseph Rowntree Foundation/Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRF/JRHT) as their Head of EDI.
2. How would you describe a typical day in your role?
My role is varied due to working with the diverse parts of the organisation. For the Executives and Trustees I would be developing and consulting on EDI strategies, or writing action plans, policies or reports for them. Then there are regular meetings with People Team colleagues or other leadership teams sharing EDI information or reviewing our EDI objectives.
Encouraging staff networks and delivering diversity campaigns and training is where I engage directly with most staff. I will also work individually with staff and managers when they need legal or other practical advice. When I find time, I keep myself up to date on EDI developments and new perspectives.
3. What is the best part of your job?
The parts of my job that give me great satisfaction are those activities that have some durability or mark a concrete milestone. Getting JRF/JRHT into the Stonewall Top 100 employers index at 67th place in 2019 was an important milestone. Since then, I have seen the staff networks start, grow, and thrive; the Disability Confident Scheme has overcome some hurdles before being established; and our positive action initiatives for BAME has made a tangible difference to our recruitment practices.
The most satisfaction comes when I get feedback from colleagues about what they have learnt or how they feel affirmed by what we are doing.
4. What advice would you give to someone looking to move into D&I?
I think it is a great field to work in and can be very rewarding if you are passionate about fairness, equity and making a difference in people’s lives. However, you also need to come to this field with your eyes open as it can be challenging. EDI is sometimes viewed as a “nice to have”, which can make it difficult to be heard or make progress.
You need to understand your sector, be resilient, courageous, and patient. You also need develop your support networks as things can be tough. Bringing about change means winning hearts and minds which takes time and effort, more so in this field.
5. What are the main challenges faced by D&I professionals at the moment?
The D&I space has evolved considerably over the last twenty years and different sectors grapple with different issues. Keeping up with EDI developments, whether good practice, legal changes, or new concepts can be challenging, particularly if you do not have resources to support this work. Covid-19 and the BLM movement has demonstrated that some groups continue to experience persistent systemic inequalities. Having meaningful discourse on race is challenging as people are afraid to engage.
Other current challenges, where inequalities persist are disability and LGBT+ and this is borne out by data on unemployment rates and research on incidents of discrimination and harassment.
6. Name three skills that support you to succeed in D&I
From my perspective the ability to build relationships, work collaboratively with others, influence and manage change in organisations is important to succeed in this field. Furthermore, understanding models of change and project management skills help greatly when planning and implementing change programmes. Data reporting and analytic skills are needed because you need to draw your insights from internal and external evidence when you want to introduce new initiatives. The ability to research is important as this is an evolving field. For example, psychology has played a significant factor in helping us to understand issues such as unconscious bias and the impact of trauma due to exclusion and discriminatory practices.
Looking for a career in D&I? View our Jobs Board
Share Your D&I Journey
If you are a senior in-house diversity and inclusion leader, we would love you to share your career journey and highlights with our community.
Click here to complete our short questionnaire
Online Training Workshop
The Foundations to Being an Effective D&I Leader
This one day online CPD Accredited training workshop has been designed for professionals who have recently taken on responsibility for leading, or helping to deliver their employers diversity and inclusion strategy, as well as those who aspire to do so. It offers a unique opportunity to learn the foundations to being an effective D&I Leader directly from three experienced D&I practitioners: Gamiel Yafai; Fiona Daniel and Toby Mildon.
Only 18 places remaining!