My D&I Journey with:
Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,
1. What was your journey into diversity and inclusion?
My journey into DEI started when I joined the workplace after graduating. I started the first network for emerging talent at my organisation then, and did a lot of work internally and externally on the generational agenda. My multifaceted career spans across Learning and Development, HR Business Partnering, Data and Insights and Retail Banking Leadership before taking the leap into DEI. Having the opportunity to define and deliver people and business strategy, as well as all of the broader business disciplines I have worked in have given me a rounded capability that lends well to my work in DEI.
2. How would you describe a typical day in your role?
No two days are the same in this work. I love the balance of data and analytics, Comms and Engagement, action planning, governance and reporting, policy design and review, training, and so much more. I spend a lot of time working collaboratively with internal and external stakeholders on various elements of this activity and I love the variation this brings to each day. In some ways, having an operational business background has taught me the importance of creating a strong operating rhythm in this role. DEI can be a space that can become highly operational due to the nature of issues that can spring up, but it’s really the strategic actions that move the dial on positive outcomes, making it important to find a good balance of the two. I endeavour to build touch points in with key stakeholders including my team regularly, and it’s important to prioritise this to ensure we are all clear on what we collectively aim to deliver. With 140,000 employees in this business, there can often be different requirements that pop up, so ensuring a strong rhythm is in place for strategic activity means it doesn’t lag when other fires arise.
3. What is the best part of your job?
I love the mix of work I get to do in this role. I often say that it is truly special to finish a deeply policy or process driven meeting to go straight into something engaging like a Comms or campaign related project. Since my career in this space started as an employee resource group co-chair, working with ERGs always brings me joy, and the passion that the ERG leads bring to their work is very infectious! I love the intersectional nature of the identities of stakeholders this work impacts, and how awesome it is to learn different things about people every day. Most of all, I love the little wins that come with driving positive outcomes whenever possible. At times this work can feel like an uphill climb, and it is truly the wins that keep you going.
4. What advice would you give to someone looking to move into D&I?
I would say passion is not enough. As someone who came into this work being very excited about the difference I could make, my experience has taught me that this is a true profession and requires technical expertise that many aspiring DEI processionals overlook. This includes technical knowledge around DEI topics and emerging themes, interpersonal and business skills such as influencing, communicating effectively, leading through change, etc. It also requires strong governance capability due to reporting requirements, benchmarking, senior stakeholder, legal and compliance requirements, and so much more. I also think it requires a strategic mindset to avoid the work becoming overwhelming, balanced with a capability to take big picture strategic concepts and goals, and create effective SMART action plans. I encourage anyone who is wanting to work in this space to focus as much as possible on these capabilities even if it is in the capacity of the work they are currently doing.
5. What are the main challenges faced by D&I professionals at the moment?
Whilst DEI is a strong catalyst for business success, it can’t always be assumed that the business is clear on how to engage with the agenda. For many organisations, DEI can be perceived as a “nice to have”, which can often make it challenging for DEI professionals to drive the meaningful outcomes that are needed. The downstream impact within some organisations is minimal resourcing, minimal budget allocation, and minimal focus from stakeholders that are influential. This can be a challenge for DEI professionals because whilst the work is very tangible, meaningful systemic change often requires buy-in and support across different stakeholder groups, with adequate resource and support to help drive meaningful change.
6. Name three skills that support you to succeed in D&I
1. Strategic Mindset: I find it really important to be clear on the long term impact that we are working to drive, balancing focus with immediate needs. This can be a tricky balance, so prioritization is key.
2. Influencing at different levels: A lot of our work requires understanding the needs of different stakeholders and engaging them in different ways to drive outcomes.
3. Stewardship: For me, DEI is about leaving the world a better place than I found it, one opportunity at a time. I think it’s important as DEI leads to be passionate about driving positive outcomes, balanced with being practical enough to get things done.
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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.