My D&I Journey with:
Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
1. What was your journey into diversity and inclusion?
I started in the private sector in a generalist HR role, part of a Learning and Organisational Development team. I started to deliver training on diversity in the late 1990’s and I was so interested in this area of work that I decided then and there I wanted to work full time in inclusion. My passion was to make the workplace a better place to work for people from minoritised groups/backgrounds. As I was studying to be a lecturer at the same time, I focussed my academic work on inclusion within teaching. After I graduated, I then looked for a role that had EDI as its primary focus rather than just part of the role. I moved into the voluntary sector when a role came up as an Equalities Officer, which enabled me to work with lots of organisations who wanted to improve their equality practices.
2. How would you describe a typical day in your role?
I don’t think there is such thing as a typical day- which is one of the reasons I love what I do. The role is so varied, that one day you can be developing a policy or a strategy, the next thing you can be advising senior management, right through to delivering new initiatives or education and awareness about various aspects of inclusion. One thing that you are always doing is being people focused and engaging with people at all levels and in lots of different ways.
3. What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is people. I love to talk and network with people. I build solid working relationships and I find it brilliant that I get to engage with lots of likeminded people. Although my role sits within the wider HR function, we have our own EDI team and work closely both with other people focused teams as well as with the wider university.
4. What advice would you give to someone looking to move into D&I?
I am often asked this question, and there is no set career path or defined way to get into EDI. I think having a good variety of experience and ideally some generalist experience, for example from HR or the wider People remit. Then gain some more specific relevant experience – this could be through job shadowing, volunteering, or even get a mentor who is an experienced EDI professional.
Whilst there are qualifications out there in EDI – ranging from Level 2 up to Master’s degree, I believe the variety of experience and exposure is much more useful on a practical level although this can be coupled with the academic knowledge. Speak to other people who carry out EDI roles from different sectors, work out where you see yourself fitting. You also really need to be a people person as EDI is all about people!
5. What are the main challenges faced by D&I professionals at the moment?
There are many challenges faced by EDI professionals, whilst the Black Lives Matter movement gathered serious traction last year, the issues are not new issues. We have for a long time had inequality in society in relation to Race as do we for many protected characteristics. One of the challenges is that organisations often want results very quickly and to be able to measure with accuracy the success of EDI interventions very specifically. Often this is very difficult to do, and success can take a long time, there is not necessarily ‘quick fixes’, nor should there be. Sometimes success is also difficult to measure and may be more qualitative than quantitative.
6. Name three skills that support you to succeed in D&I
– Openness: The ability to be open to suggestions, open to change and open to trying new things.
– Resilient: things take time to change and you must be resilient and determined to move with the change and where possible try to encourage change to move more swiftly when it is in the right direction.
– Empathy: you need the ability to put yourself in the other persons position without being judgmental or telling people what or how they should feel.
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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.