My D&I Journey with:
Senior Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion,
1. What was your journey into diversity and inclusion?
I spent seven years in industry as a graduate trying out different roles – and learnt what I was and wasn’t good at (e.g. no to finance!). I navigated to HR at the latter part of that journey, spending time in Organisational Development and Engagement. I became really interested in understanding the levers of employee engagement. I had an opportunity to move across to Gallup to provide consultancy to other companies on how to leverage human behaviour in the workplace. I spent 10 years there as a senior consultant, working with FTSE 250 clients on their engagement strategies. During these engagements, I was working with Exec teams who were so often homogenous – in most cases the only diversity was one female HR leader. This led me to research and study the qualitative difference and honesty of discussions when there were more diverse voices in the room, which paved the way for a diversity career. I joined Vodafone in 2015 as the Global Head of Engagement, leading the diversity strategy for 100,000 employees across 30 countries. The ambition was to be the best employer of women in the world. In 2019 I moved to Google, where I really focus on how to foster an environment of belonging and work on interventions to bring equity across lines of difference.
2. How would you describe a typical day in your role?
What I love is there isn’t anything typical. My role is a balance between engaging internal and external stakeholders on a daily basis, and that can be complex, challenging and fun! I may be presenting to a leadership team to engage them on our diversity strategy, or sharing externally with our clients the diversity journey we are on. Much of my day will always involve working with my team members who are supporting leaders across the business, project managing key diversity, equity or inclusion interventions and supporting our 16 Employee Resource Groups across the company. My direct team is spread across Europe and Latin America, with my peers being based in Asia and the US, so a typical day often involves spanning time zones – coaching, problem solving with them, as well as working with leaders across the business. I’ve also loved the flexibility that has now opened up globally, so my typical day also involves taking my son to school and my puppy out for a walk!
3. What is the best part of your job?
Hearing people’s lived experience and real life stories, and having the opportunity to shape and influence our leaders and organisational culture to enhance the sense of belonging for all our employees.
4. What advice would you give to someone looking to move into D&I?
I think there are various different ways to navigate into diversity & inclusion related roles, but my key advice would be to learn effective influencing. Whilst technical expertise is important, influencing the business agenda and leaders to integrate D&I is critical and these influencing skills need to be developed and honed over time.
5. What are the main challenges faced by D&I professionals at the moment?
Our roles require both breadth and depth, and it can be challenging to achieve both. There is such strong demand and need for our work, that many D&I professionals find themselves under-resourced and under-supported. Managing the wellbeing of our D&I teams is critical – this can be hard, demanding and emotionally challenging work and to look after others, we need to have our oxygen masks on first.
6. Name three skills that support you to succeed in D&I
– As mentioned before, I would highlight Influencing as the strongest skill that is needed to succeed.
– Alongside this, adaptability is key as the agenda is constantly shaping and evolving and this can’t always be anticipated, so needing to be agile, learn quickly and adapt is so important.
– And finally I believe this work requires objective empathy – this is a hard balance as many of us have come to this career path because we are from an under-represented group ourselves. That gives us drive and passion but balancing the empathy with objectivity is key to ensuring the best outcomes.
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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.