My D&I Journey with:
Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement,
Direct Line Group
1. What was your journey into diversity and inclusion?
I spent 15 years of my career in communications, leading teams tackling engagement campaigns, strategy launches, acquisitions, people change and everything in-between. Over that time I became an advocate of the power of connection. As I became more senior I found myself coaching leadership teams on authenticity, transparency and trust. I saw how critical inclusive leadership, especially psychological safety, was to creating a high performance culture where people could contribute and succeed, but so often it was lacking and efforts to move the dial were superficial. I wanted to be part of changing that. This led me to pivoting my career to DEI – and I haven’t looked back since!
2. How would you describe a typical day in your role?
I love the variety and focus on making a difference for colleagues, customers and communities to support stronger business performance. I could be working on strategy with my team or discussing progress with our board. I might be talking to students on a work experience programme or delivering a session at a conference. Sometimes it’s spending time with our ERGs to discuss how things are going or coaching a leader to navigate through an issue, or talking to a supplier about an initiative they are supporting. Often I’ll be collaborating with teams across the business such as HR, Marketing, Digital or Procurement to enable more inclusive practice by design.
3. What is the best part of your job?
First, I get to work with so many talented people, internally and externally, every day I get to learn from them and co-create solutions. Second, through this work I get to see the difference it makes to people’s lives. Colleagues securing promotions, customers finding it easier to do business with us, young people accessing a career path they never thought possible or people who have been struggling receiving the support they need to thrive. That gives me energy to keep going because the work can feel challenging, complex and never ending.
4. What advice would you give to someone looking to move into D&I?
There’s often a misunderstanding of what an effective DEI practitioner does, so spend time getting to know what it involves. To succeed you need strategic thinking to understand where you are and where you want to get to, combined with technical expertise to create initiatives to do that. You need to have difficult conversations, while also holding people to account. You need to understand data and use insight to inform what you do. Most importantly you need to build capability and influence change, with an agenda that’s owned by everyone. Leading an ERG provides a great opportunity to build these skills and I know many people who have come into DEI roles this way.
5. What are the main challenges faced by D&I professionals at the moment?
We live in a world that’s more polarised than ever. Political dividing lines are becoming more cultural and fearmongering is rife in the media. We have government ministers saying diversity and inclusion roles are a waste of money and newspaper headlines proclaiming free speech is under threat. That means the conversation has shifted towards ideological debate, rather than one that is about people, where we value difference, have respect and tolerance. That means it’s important to think about how DEI work is talked about and the psychology of bringing people together and supporting change.
6. Name three skills that support you to succeed in D&I
1. Storytelling – drawing upon insight and lived experiences to build the case for change
2. Strategic thinking – building strategy and prioritised plans to support business performance
3. Adaptability – learning from experience, responding to issues and continually course correcting
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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.