My D&I Journey with:
Head of Diversity and Inclusion,
1. What was your journey into diversity and inclusion?
My first job – as a teenager – was selling pens outside the local bingo hall. From there, I got a job working in the stockroom of my local Argos. So I suppose a career in HR was a natural and logical step! And then I specialised in diversity – when I saw that (despite everything that the HR profession was trying to do) there was still under representation and misinterpretation of specific groups and communities. So I made it my mission to try and redress that.
2. How would you describe a typical day in your role?
No typical days for me – thank goodness! One day I could be presenting to a room (or screen) full of hundreds of people about the benefits and impact of diversity; the next day I could be involved in a policy meeting at the EHRC or Cabinet Office around equal pay or Disability Confident; and the next day I could be involved in preparing and planning the agenda for a joint meeting with the trade unions on some aspect of partnership working. I also make sure I always have enough time in the week to catch up with the team and make sure that we are on top of any new changing developments – of which there many in the NHS!
3. What is the best part of your job?
The variety of things that I get involved in – and the privilege of meeting so many people across the NHS who are working tirelessly to make the health and social care sector the best employer that it can be. The variety gives me exposure to good and best practice from a range of sectors – that I can then feed into our website material and my presentations. And meeting the fantastic colleagues from across the health and social care sector gives me the opportunity to connect and link them up – and learn from what they are doing – and what makes most impact.
4. What advice would you give to someone looking to move into D&I?
Don’t let yourself get boxed in! You don’t want to just be a D&I specialist. You have to bring more. You have to understand your business – understand the bottom line – and understand what makes a difference in your industry. I would recommend a relevant qualification – such as an MBA or equivalent if you are able. I did an MSC in International HRM when I was 47 and it was the best thing I could have done and opened up all sorts of opportunities for me – and (most importantly) opened up my mind.
5. What are the main challenges faced by D&I professionals at the moment?
The main challenge has always (and will always) been convincing people that you are “relevant” and “necessary”. So you need to be able to not just sell yourself – but also sell what you are “pitching” – and show how it makes a difference on the bottom line. On top of this, the D&I agenda and “space” is growing every year. So you need to keep learning, developing and challenging yourself to do better.
6. Name three skills that support you to succeed in D&I
1. Collaboration. My best projects have been in collaboration with others. As they say, if you want to walk fast – walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk together.
2. Courtesy. You should always be grateful to anyone who is prepared to be open and share their lived experience with you. It takes bravery and does not go without its risks. So respect that and be courteous.
3. Kindness. To your team and your work colleagues in particular, a little kindness can go a long way. But also remember to be kind to yourself. You deserve it – but it’s easy to overlook yourself sometimes.
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Online Training Workshop
Level 1 – The Foundations to Being an Effective D&I Leader
This online Level 1 CPD Accredited training workshop has been designed for professionals looking to move into a D&I role, or those who have been in a D&I leader role for less than 12 months.
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.