My D&I Journey with:
Head of Inclusion & Diversity,
British Transport Police
1. What was your journey into diversity and inclusion?
I started in the private sector in an HR role where I had the opportunity to specialise in global mobility. This meant I was working on practical things such as work permits but also getting direct experience of working with different cultures, developing my cultural awareness and understanding. I’d already been volunteering with LGBT charities, but my ultimate goal was always to work in equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) professionally. I left the private sector and spent a couple of years working in mental health, taking advantage of all the training on offer. I’ve now been at the British Transport Police 14 years – initially working in EDI as an add-on to my day job but then the force recognised there was a gap in provision for someone who could drive its strategic vision in this area, and I’ve been doing that since 2013.
2. How would you describe a typical day in your role?
There’s no such thing as a typical day. Unlike some other police forces our EDI function needs to have an overview of what we’re doing externally (such as building links with the community) and internal matters such as reasonable adjustments and requests for flexible working. We have a business partner model so I work alongside HR business partners, policy & reward managers and other operational and function delivery leads – not to mention our 10 employee resource groups. These are the people who help me to design delivery. We also have partnerships with third party organisations and agencies to help us support victims of crime and safeguard those from vulnerable groups.
3. What is the best part of your job?
Because of the organisation I work for and who I work with, the best part of my role is that I have agency to make change. I’m made to feel like I’m employed as an expert, and as my remit covers such a wide range of policing matters I have the opportunity to affect any number of activities, processes or policy. I report directly to the Deputy Director of People and Culture, independently to our HR functions, which tells you how EDI is perceived as its own distinct discipline to better add value to the organisation.
4. What advice would you give to someone looking to move into D&I?
The best way is to gain experience – there is no defined career path and no such thing as an A-level in EDI! This means you need to be the driver of your career, and this could involve going out to do some voluntary work, as I did. If it’s a passion of yours, you’ll already be doing that. Speak to other people who are already in these roles and take every opportunity to learn from them too. A solely academic approach to EDI would be hollow, as it’s really all about people.
5. What are the main challenges faced by D&I professionals at the moment?
When the Black Lives Matter movement gained ground this summer, there were a lot of reactive responses by some organisations. In some cases they created EDI roles without really understanding the purpose behind them. Unfortunately, questions around credibility and why EDI is needed is something we always experience, and this goes back to EDI being something conceptual with no defined career path. Demonstrating the success of EDI programmes is often qualitative, which presents another challenge. It’s intangible so not always easy to evidence.
6. Name three skills that support you to succeed in D&I
The number one skill you need is curiosity: not coming into things with defined ideas, and having the wherewithal to accept that they may change. Then I would say adaptability – recognising that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and finally resilience. All of these characteristics should get you to where you need to be.
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