My D&I Journey with:
Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager,
1. What was your journey into diversity and inclusion?
I’ve gone from being a tech geek coding websites to becoming the Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager for Haleon. I graduated from Aston University with a BCs in Computing for Business before working in various tech roles ranging from a business analyst to an agile coach in the investment banking and pharmaceutical industry sectors.
From aged 11, I enjoyed helping others and became involved in various charity events such as selling plants for Christian Aid, hosting a Macmillan Coffee Morning and fundraising for Breast Cancer Research. I then became a volunteer and mentor for Muscular Dystrophy UK Charity, setting up my own South Asian Neuromuscular network in the West Midlands, being an Evenbreak Mentor and LGBTQ+ Refugee Mentor. These experiences have all helped me learn more about myself and discover my purpose and passion, which is to be a leader that creates meaningful change so that people can succeed and be themselves.
My primary reason for moving into a DEI role stems from my personal experience of living with an invisible disability within the South Asian community. This brings many additional challenges to my daily life, including day-to-day management of my disability, and leading the fulfilling life that I want. I have overcome challenges and broken-down stigmas within culture, society, employment, and life in general, and it has made me more resilient, compassionate, and driven to make a change for those around me and the next generation.
Over the years, I have become more confident in sharing my own story to help others to see a different perspective to life, to raise awareness of invisible disabilities and the intersectionality we humans are all made up of. This beautiful perspective of understanding humans is what brings value to organisations and society, allowing them to flourish and be the best that they can be.
I first dipped my toes into the DEI world when I led the GB&I disability network at Deutsche Bank, and the UK Disability Confidence Network. I also represented the disability diversity group at the Consumer Healthcare I&D Squad chaired by the CEO at GlaxoSmithKline.
It wasn’t a difficult decision to move to my current role but the right decision. Reflecting on my career journey, I realise how each role has helped to shape who I am today. I’ve realised life isn’t always a straight line, but a big squiggly line and you should follow with it. The biggest gift you can give is to become more self-aware and to follow your heart.
In October 2022 I marked my first anniversary as the Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager at Haleon; I have loved every moment of it.
2. How would you describe a typical day in your role?
Every day is different; variety is what I love about my role. Haleon is a new company which was launched in July 2022, so I am in a very exciting position where I am creating and designing the DEI strategy for the entire company. It has been an interesting journey so far and I am looking forward to embedding DEI into our culture.
I love being able to interact with so many different people, learn about them and support them on their DEI journey. I manage several projects; one of my proudest to date is designing and launching the Global Employee Resource Groups, another is creating the global DEI council at Haleon and working with other departments on how they are embedding DEI within their strategy.
I am currently working with the Head of Facilities advising on how we can make our working environment more accessible and inclusive for all. I am also working on redesigning the DEI SharePoint and creating DEI resources and material for all employees.
3. What is the best part of your job?
I learn something new every day. I enjoy learning from others and their lived experiences as well helping them on their DEI journey and discovering how they can become better inclusive leaders. I don’t see my job as a job; it is my passion and purpose in this life, and I feel very fortunate to have a job that aligns with my own values and beliefs.
I enjoy a challenge and it excites me that I can be part of shaping and influencing the organisation’s culture, where we champion individual unique identities and cultivate a culture of belonging so that everyone can be their authentic self.
4. What advice would you give to someone looking to move into D&I?
Discover your ‘why’, what your values and beliefs are, what environments you thrive in and what excites you and what doesn’t. Being in a DEI role is very different to any other role I have been in; it can be very exhausting but also extremely rewarding.
Network and get to know people who work in the DEI world and find a DEI mentor. Join a DEI community so you are around people who share similar interests to you, where you can learn and understand different perspectives and career journeys. My journey started being a volunteer in different charities, I then led on the disability employee resource groups at work. This gave me real experience into the DEI world and how it made me feel; I realised how to manage my passion vs being strategic and creating meaningful change.
5. What are the main challenges faced by D&I professionals at the moment?
Resources and funding for DEI. Leaders understand the reason why DEI is important and the benefits it will bring to the organisation, yet I find that there is lack of investment in the resources both in the number of full-time employees in DEI roles and funding given to support DEI initiatives. Another challenge is capturing diversity data beyond gender and ethnicity.
6. Name three skills that support you to succeed in D&I
1.) Understanding your own self-awareness and biases. I have found this very powerful as it allows you to make better decisions based on facts rather than a personal experience or bias.
2.) Active listening skills; intentionally listening to understand rather than respond. Being able to effectively communicate verbally and in writing and strong influencing skills with people at different levels of seniority. Being able to analyse data and set aspirational goal and KPIs.
3.) Knowing when to balance your passion of DEI with strategic thinking and leadership, as this helps you be more effective at delivering successful outcomes and creating meaningful change.
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