Diversity Digest

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Proud to be intersectional

Kirsten Johnson is the Student Experience Manager in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, and is proud to be a walking, talking, assumption-shattering work in progress. 


I am the child of a Black Jamaican mother and a white English father.
I am a cisgender bisexual woman from Derby.
I am married to a Hungarian woman. 

I am a representative. I am one face in a sea of faces to some, and a lifeboat to others.
I am a confident, intelligent perfectionist, always looking for the next thing to improve and always looking back at the things I didn’t get right.
I am introspective, extroverted, and fun to be around (but not always fun to be).
I am thoughtful, diplomatic, and hard to argue against. I am tired of sometimes being the only person being all three.
I am tall, strong, and imposing, with a deep, commanding voice that’s hard to ignore.
I refuse to minimise myself (and leave that to other people to unsuccessfully attempt).
I am shaped by the things I wasn’t taught, by the whitewashed misrepresentations I don’t have the headspace to process that impact our shared present and future.
I am looked down upon through no fault of my own.
I am privileged through no work of my own. 

I am always striving to use all of the above to leave the world better than I found it. 

We live in a world which tries to predetermine our lives before we are born. We are gendered, ethnicised and racialised before we come out of the womb. Our ticked boxes are dictated to us, and can assign us to spaces where we feel safe, but can also limit our opportunities and give others free license to discriminate without much fear of consequence. My own intersectional experience enables me to identify with a broad range of people, but can also make me unsure of whether I really “fit”.
This is something I struggle with. 

I am a human with characteristics. That should be boringly normal, and for me it is, most of the time. Most of the time I can be proud – of my blackness, my queerness, my body, my brain – without challenge. At the same time, I’m hypervigilant – as a woman, an LGBTQ+ person, a brown person, an ally. I’m vigilant as a traveller to other countries (including my wife’s and my mother’s), and other cities that are less accepting/diverse than London. I want that impossible world where no-one needs to feel vigilant.
I am proud to work every day to carve out spaces where people can feel safe as themselves. 

I put a lot of pressure on myself.
Because I know I can be part of the change. Because I know I can lead. Because “who will if not I?” When you are a marginalised minority, you feel the pressure to be the best representative you can be, and to open the door for others. When you are a multiple minority, even more so. Change has to come but isn’t freely given, so someone has to push harder on that door, and it feels like it kinda has to be you. I want to be one of many leaders of that change, but I also feel the pressure to do it. I see how things could be.
I’m proud to be persistently impatient and demanding 

I pull in allies who don’t share my characteristics but get (most of) it and want to work with me (and put in their own work to learn). I find sources of strength. I choose my own role models. I talk about my worries with my wife and listen to her to unlearn and reset. As a result I am kind(er) to myself and more forgiving. I am proud to use my intersectionality and to be strategically, strongly, vulnerable to make it that bit easier for the next person who has one of the same boxes ticked.
I realise I am far from alone, and we chip away at things a little bit at a time. I pull out a sledgehammer as needed. 

I am proud of who I am, and who I am becoming.
I am proud to create spaces that welcome, celebrate and accept people for who they are.
I am proud to do my bit to make things better for the current, and the next, generation. 

 


Kirsten’s blog is part of a series celebrating this years Black History Month theme of ‘Proud To Be’, visit our Diversity Digest page throughout October to read them all. 

Happy Black History Month

Helena Mattingley, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s reflects on what makes the cut into history curricula and shares her ever growing reading list.


Each October we mark Black History Month to  celebrate  the achievements and contributions of Black people now and throughout history, and noting the deliberate neglect or active removal of Black people from history.

British History as taught in schools is highly edited, not only in terms of historic periods, but who within those periods has the spotlight. History is produced in re-creating – who and what is chosen, how it is presented, and the selective memory and even more selective re-telling.

History is created from the pieces left behind, cherry picked and woven into a narrative by curators which typically matches their world view. It’s taught as being History, rather than curated evidence of the past – by which I mean it’s presented as Truth with a capital T.

My perception of what I was taught as history was like looking through a microscope and being told I could see the whole of UK History. To have a real understanding, we need to recognise the prejudice and bias of the evidence, of the historians, and what makes it into public consciousness is not a true reflection. I want to add more microscopes and more perspectives until I can see a broader representation of the past to continue my self-education.

This is why Dr Liam Liburd’s work to design a King’s Colonial History module is so important. Through inclusive scholarship, a cohort of talented students have uncovered and pulled silenced histories into focus. New voices and perspectives are bringing an important dimension of our past to life, and challenging the simplistic default white narratives.

Self-education is a powerful took, which is why I’ve been building a reading list. What would you add to this?

  • Black and British, David Olusoga
  • Black London, Avril Nanton and Jody Burton
  • Black Tudors, Miranda Kaufmann
  • Staying Power, Peter Fryer
  • Empireland, Sathnan Sanghera

You can use the comments section below to share your own inclusive must reads lists

 

I am proud to be

In double celebration of Black History Month’s 2021 theme of ‘Proud To Be’ & a special birthday, Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s has penned poem to mark the momentous month.


image of sarah guerra, director of equality, diversity and inclusion

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at King’s College London.

I am proud to be 

A daughter of immigrants (They get the job done. Yes, I am proud to be 

a Hamilton fan, too.)

A diasporic Trini and Mauritian and grateful for all the roti that’s brought to my life 

Politically black even with my light brown sugar skin  

A daughter of nurses and a lifelong devotee and beneficiary of the NHS 

Someone who started life in that council block in Joyce Avenue, N18 

A sister of a Met police officer (but terrified at what tragedy any day might bring) 

A mother of four unbelievable young women who will all leave their indelible mark on the world (and on me!) 

A committed and demanding partner for life – Who knew my Beautiful Stranger awaited me at that Somerset House basement party? (I only want to be with you.) 

Surprised to discover the joy of hard cardio in my fourth decade, such a regular at Tooting Leisure Centre that they all know me (Yes, Citizen Khan is an icon, cheers Adil) 

A born and bred Londoner – unusual for being from ‘the North’ and now joyous in Tooting – have you been? Home of Sadiq and in Lonely Planet’s top 10 coolest neighbourhoods on EARTH (the Guerra effect?)  

A survivor – of rape and sexual assault, and of racism and sexism in a world that has tried its best to keep me down 

An Equality Warrior battling for the rights of everyone, particularly those society often chooses to overlook  

Seen by others as brave, adventurous, scary and hilarious 

An Olympic standard Netflix binger (other providers are available) and avaricious reader and cinema enthusiast (Shonda, Ava, Steve, Spike, Zora, Zadie, Toni, Chimamanda thank you for enriching my life so!) 

A world traveller – 42 countries at my last count (a real source of pride and pleasure) 

A foodie – pondering food, cooking and eating are really some of my most favourite activities 

Channelling the gifts of Maya Angelou: Still I rise in my career despite the snakes and ladders, concrete ceilings, glass cliffs and ritual humiliations  

A brown girl in the ring at King’s – all too often the only one 

A smart woman and a thought leader. People listen when I talk, and they remember my name (picture and hear Irene Cara here – Fame, I’m going to live forever) 

Someone who may have no rhythm and be tone deaf but who dances to the beat of her own drum (and sings the tunes in her own head – thank you Tracy, Madonna, Tina and Beyonce for being the soundtrack of my life)! 

Someone who loves passionately and commits evangelically to what she believes in  

I am proud to be me – my own little piece of black history celebrating my half century 

A black, bi, menopausal, warrior princess  

Sarah Guerra  

Happy Black History Month 2021 and Happy 50th Birthday to me. 

 

 

 

 


Learn more about Black History Month 2021 – Proud To Be – here.

Stonewall – staff survey now open!

Nicole Robinson, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant & Jake Orros, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Project Officer at KCL share how to get involved with this year’s Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.


At King’s we are committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment where all members of our community can achieve their potential. This includes our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer colleagues. To support our journey to being a truly inclusive employer we have worked with the charity Stonewall since 2016.

This year we are taking part in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index and we need your help!

As part of our submission to the Workplace Equality Index we want to hear from you. We are calling all staff at King’s College London to take part in Stonewall’s employee survey. The staff survey is your chance to tell us how we’re doing as your employer. It asks about your identities and about your experience working at King’s. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to have your say and honestly share how we are doing as an organization. Together we can create a more inclusive university.

Whether you’re LGBTQ+ or not, we want to hear from you!

You can take part in the survey here.

Stonewall is a charity  that stands for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and ace (LGBTQ+) rights everywhere. Over the last 30 years, they have helped create transformative change in the lives of LGBTQ+ people in the UK and around the world.  The charity has also been at the forefront of making workplaces inclusive for LGBTQ+ people for more than 15 years through the Stonewall Diversity Champion scheme.

King’s has proudly taken part in the Diversity Champion scheme since 2016; the programme empowers LGBTQ+ people and allies to step up as leaders, role models and activists in the workplace. As truly global institution the Champion scheme echoes King’s vision to develop and empower individuals to lead and make the world a more inclusive place.

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion:  “This independent Stonewall survey is a good opportunity for all our staff to feedback on our LGBTQ+ inclusion journey and success to date. King’s has come a long way since we became a Stonewall Diversity Champions in 2016. I myself have come out as Bi whilst working at King’s.

Since 2016, we have seen all of the Senior Management Team undertake structural inequality and Trans Matters training, updated our trans inclusion policies,  improved the provision of gender Free toilet facilities and we are currently creating an allyship toolkit to support all members of our community. I would encourage all staff at King’s to get involved and complete this years workplace survey.”

Organizations from across the UK take part in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index, each receiving a score as a measure of their actions to build an inclusive workplace. The Index is our chance to celebrate our achievements, understand where we need to make progress and benchmark ourselves nationally as an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace. This year we’ll be sharing with Stonewall our updated Trans inclusion and Dignity at King’s policies, as well as sharing our work on socially responsible procurement and Trans matters training delivered to senior leaders.

Our submission is divided into 2 parts:

  • Firstly, we are measured across 8 areas of employment policy and practice.
  • Secondly, all staff are invited to take part in the online survey run by Stonewall.

Both parts of our submission are independently reviewed by Stonewall who will announce the latest Workplace Equality Index early next year.

We want to say thank you for supporting our Stonewall journey and for participating in the survey. If you would like to know more or if you have any questions you can get in touch with the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion team via email at diversity@kcl.ac.uk

Take part in the survey here

Frequently asked questions:

  • The survey takes 5–10 minutes to complete.
  • The survey is open to all staff at King’s – not just members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • The information you provide is anonymous and completely confidential. All of the information gathered by Stonewall is fed back to King’s in an aggregated way, without any personally identifiable information.
  • Survey closes on 5th November 2021.
  • 16th February 2021 top 100 and Gold, Silver & Bronze employer awards are announced.

Useful links & additional information:

Note: If you don’t work at King’s College London, why not reach our to your employer and find out if they are taking part in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index this year. The Survey is open for all organizations taking part until 5th November 2021.

The Council Room

Celebrating the Diversity of our Student Body and our Students’ Achievements.


We want our spaces on campus to represent King’s and our global diversity. We recognise that rooms around campus do not always reflect the diversity of our staff and students, or showcase success, civic leadership and service. As identified through our Athena Swan and Race Equality Charter Marks, the images in the Council Room were chosen for a pilot project to diversify the images and present a broader range of role models.

Image of the council room set up for a committee meeting.

The Council Room, The King’s Building, Strand Campus.

A university working group has recently updated the imagery in the Council Room. The group had an explicit aim to address the historic lack of diversity in the images, particularly gender and ethnicity. The new image panels now show a broader, more diverse range of role models, illustrate King’s dedication to service, and celebrate our students’ achievements. The changes also modernise the space and remind us of our academic purpose and who we serve.

Group photo of 5 students sitting on steps of Bush House, hanging in the Council Room, King’s Building, Strand Campus.

The artwork was installed on 19 July.

The working group included students and staff, and deliberately connected to our Athena Swan and Race Equality accreditations. This work is a pilot and we hope to use similar approaches with larger sections of our community as part of routine campus refreshes. Thank you to the hard work of the teams involved.

Council Room set up for a committee meeting.

The Council Room.

If you are interested in contributing to diversifying King’s spaces in the future, please contact diversity@kcl.ac.uk.

It Starts With You – Mutual Mentoring and Data

EDI Consultant and Mutual Mentoring lead, Nicole Robinson, explains the link between data and King’s Mentoring Schemes, and how a better understanding of our our university can benefit all staff. 


Have you ever wondered what King’s does with your personal data? 

It is common to see information about data protection and storage, but you may wonder why we need this information from you in the first place. You may be reluctant to provide this information to your organisation. This may be especially true when we are asking you to provide personal details, such as your sexual orientation or trans history.  

One of the positive outcomes of providing your data however, no matter who you are, is that it helps us to develop evidence-based, targeted equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) interventions including our Mutual Mentoring and More than Mentoring schemes.  

In December 2020 King’s launched the first pilot wave of our Mutual Mentoring scheme. Mutual Mentoring aims to increase confidence across King’s in championing all areas of EDI by matching a senior leader with a volunteer who has knowledge or experience of a prioritised area of EDI. The senior leader, in turn, can offer guidance on leadership, career progression and development. The scheme is currently in the pilot stage, and there are hopes to scale it up in future. 

In the first wave of the pilot, EDI Project Officer Lauren Blackwood was matched with VP Education, Professor Nicola Phillips for six months. In reflecting on the partnership, Lauren said; 

‘We both felt safe and comfortable to talk quite frankly. I was very surprised about how authentic I felt I could be on a frequent basis. It was great to be signposted to academic materials related to my interests, and to understand why specific approaches were taken and the constraints that exist at different levels. I feel proud of my growth over the last two years, and I have gained so much from both the Mutual and More than Mentoring schemes. 

The More than Mentoring scheme is separate from the Mutual Mentoring scheme. For the last four years, the scheme has matched mentors and mentees with shared lived experience to foster deeper understanding and connection between members of the King’s community. Staff who have participated in the scheme have reported feeling more connected and supported, and many staff return to participate year-on-year, often moving from mentee to mentor. The scheme has grown each year, partly because of testimonies and encouragement from other staff. Staff like Nirmal Sampathkumar, a Post-Doctoral Researcher from IoPPN, who took part in the scheme this year. Nirmal shared his experience working with Lucy to colleagues as part of a collaborative webinar, and encouraged others to join the scheme; 

https://web.microsoftstream.com/video/af2c40dc-7d0e-4460-96af-6c7beac80c15 

We’re looking forward to opening the scheme again in the new academic year.  

To be able to run positive action initiatives, King’s must be able to evidence why they are needed, which is why King’s needs to be informed about your personal data. King’s mentoring schemes are a direct result of staff updating and providing their equal opportunities and diversity monitoring data. When these interventions are recognised by external accreditations such as the Race and Gender Equality charter marks, they also improve our ability to access funding for even more initiatives: it flows back into research, back into our staff experience, and to supporting our students.  

diagram showing the progression of how data is collected and used

How is your data collected and what is it used for?

And it starts with you.  

To submit your Equal Opportunity data today:  

  • Log into HR digital services 
  • Access My Profile (click your photo in the top left or right-hand corner of the screen)  
  • Click Equal Opportunities in the drop-down menu on the left and update the details in My Profile.  

All your personal data is anonymised will never be identifiable. Visit Equal Opportunity Data webpages to see how your data is used and protected.  

 

Learning to do better

Jennifer Hastings, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Manager here at King’s College London, explores what it means to learn to do better.


I have been thinking a lot about the EDI learning process and the reliance we have on marginalised groups to help us understand their experience. As a university community, we know the importance of an environment that facilitates learning. You only need to read the King’s strategy to see the value placed on accepting, if not embracing, our mistakes (“King’s is a space in which to learn through questioning views, exploring beliefs and values and learning from failure as well as from success”).

Critical thinking and the ability to fail may be cornerstones of academic success, but what happens when well-meaning debate or plain ignorance causes harm? Of course, there is a difference between genuine curiosity and those who spout discriminatory views under the guise of “playing devil’s advocate” however it still prompts the question of how we enable people to learn and challenge whilst maintaining a safe space for the rest of our community.

The term “safe space” can have a range of connotations that are often dependent on a person’s background, political leanings and lived experience. That said, I imagine most people agree that it’s difficult to thrive in a space that doesn’t meet this basic definition. The reason we place so much emphasis on a “safe space” within the context of EDI is because the topics addressed are not hypothetical concepts; they relate to the identity and lived experience of other people (some of whom may be sat in the same room as you).

It’s also important to acknowledge the pressure often placed on certain groups to relive their own trauma as a way of schooling others. This can be made worse by the reaction that follows, whether that’s extreme defensiveness or deliberate gaslighting. In her book “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race”, Reni Eddo-Lodge talks about her experience of educating white people: “The journey towards understanding structural racism still requires people of colour to prioritise white feelings.”

I will always believe in a person’s potential to learn, change and do better however I acknowledge that this comes from a place of privilege. It is a lot easier to take a forgiving stance when it isn’t your identity that is being questioned or your lived experience that is being dismissed. In Emma Dabiri’s book, “What White People Can Do Next”, she refers to a quote by bell hooks (the lack of capitals is deliberate):

“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”

I don’t have an answer to this, but I believe it’s a conversation we mustn’t shy away from. In lieu of a solution, below are some points to consider when exploring topics relating to EDI. I would love to hear any further advice or perspectives you have in the comments.

  • Being safe and uncomfortable are not mutually exclusive (as outlined in UCL’s helpful toolkit). Mira Vogel from King’s Academy has produced an excellent resource about brave spaces, which illustrates this point and provides guidance on how these can be facilitated in an educational setting
  • If you are facilitating a discussion, consider outlining its scope at the beginning and clarifying whether there are any matters that aren’t up for debate. For example, if you were leading a discussion on the BLM Movement, it could be helpful to state at the beginning that KCL’s stance is to work towards being an actively anti-racist university and that this is not the space to debate this approach
  • When undertaking self-directed study, it’s worth exploring whether you can find answers by championing the work of marginalised groups. By paying for content, whether it’s a book or online subscription, you are acknowledging the value of the creator’s labour
  • An individual’s right to hold a belief does not supersede the rights of those with other protected characteristics. Stonewall tweeted about a recent example concerning gender critical beliefs and how the freedom to hold these beliefs has no bearing on the right of trans people to live free from harassment and discrimination
  • I’m going to end by quoting the writer, Matt Haig: “Self-forgiveness makes the world better. You don’t become a good person by believing you are a bad one. Acknowledge faults, don’t become them.” In summary, when you make a mistake (which is inevitable), apologise and use what you’ve learnt to do better next time

 

 

 

It’s time to give ourselves a break: How to overcome parental guilt during the COVID pandemic

Emma Warnock-Parkes, Clinical Psychologist and exhausted mum of 2, shares 5 strategies for overcoming parental guilt.


Emma and her children smiling and laughing

I’m sitting in a lunchtime zoom meeting of fellow parents working at my university. The topic of discussion is how the pandemic has impacted on us. I’ve never met any of these people before but looking around I know we have one thing in common: we are all knackered. Many of us sit with a child on our lap or one repeatedly appearing in the background requesting more snacks. We simultaneously shovel down some lunch and keep an eye on our emails. As I half listen (a skill many of us have acquired thanks to COVID), I’m struck by the fact that in addition to all being exhausted and desperately needing a haircut, we are plagued with a common problem: guilt.

‘I’m not spending enough time with my kids’; ‘I feel bad they are stuck with me and cannot see their friends’; ‘He should have had a better birthday’; ‘I’ve given them too much chocolate’; ‘they are on screens far too much’, ‘I’ve shouted’, ‘I’ve sworn’, ‘I’m irritable with them’, ‘the house is constantly a mess’, ‘I’m not helping them enough with their school work’; ‘they are falling behind’. The list goes on.

I listen to other mums fighting back their tears as they beat themselves up over what has undoubtedly been the most difficult year of our lives. I’m suddenly overwhelmed with sadness and deep compassion for these amazing women, and for myself. This last year parents have faced unprecedent challenges. We have managed the anxiety and uncertainty of a global pandemic, alongside performing an impossible juggling act that no generation of parents has faced before. We have done all this while adapting to remote working, without our usual social supports, while being stuck inside our homes in an unrecognisable world. Many of us have had to worry about job or financial security, had friends and family who are struggling, coped with illness and loss. So why are we all being so hard on ourselves?

Given what a common experience it is, there is surprisingly little research on parental guilt.
Some psychologists argue that women feel more guilt than men, and that maternal guilt has an evolutionary basis motivating us to provide care (Rotkirch & Janhunen, 2009). One would hope this would change as parental roles become more shared. That said, I just asked my husband what he has felt most guilty about during the pandemic: he has eaten too much ice cream and not learnt enough Italian apparently. As this is a sample of one, and I happen to know Dads who have struggled with COVID parenting guilt, I’ll say no more.

As I listened to other parents talking, it struck me that as a psychologist and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) therapist I know quite a bit about helping people overcome guilt. Yet, like many good psychologists, I’m terrible at taking my own advice. I vowed that later that day I would get out the chocolate biscuits, put on yet another episode of Paw Patrol and give my pangs of guilt a self-therapy session. Here is what I found:

5 CBT tips you may find helpful for addressing COVID parenting guilt:

1) Spot your guilty thoughts.

Guilty feelings are driven by guilty thoughts, so spotting what you are feeling guilty about is the first step to overcoming it. Guilt arises from the perception that we have done something wrong or harmful to another: “should” thoughts. “I should be spending more time home schooling my children”, “I shouldn’t have got so angry” etc. These thoughts leads to feelings of guilt, and at times anxiety or low mood. This can understandably impact on what we do. We might dwell on our guilty thoughts or withdraw from others. This can become a vicious cycle, leading to more negative thinking and guilt:cycle, negative thoughts lead to feeling guilty low, anxious. cycling to behaviors and then back to negative thoughts

If you feel parental guilt about many things since COVID began, try to spot the thoughts that
makes you feel most guilty. For me this is not spending enough time with my kids.

2) Are you as responsible as you feel?

Feeling guilty does not mean that we are guilty, it may mean that we are taking on too much responsibility. A helpful CBT technique here is drawing out a responsibility pie chart. It can help you to see that there might be other factors that have some responsibility. This is done in 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Start by writing down how responsible you feel. For me, as Netflix helpfully asks whether my children are still watching Paw Patrol, I write, ‘I feel 100% responsible for not spending enough time with my kids during the pandemic’.

Step 2: Write a list of all the other factors that can take some responsibility. Here I write down: the COVID virus; the government for poor outbreak management leading to childcare closure; people who did not follow guidelines early on; my work; my husband; myself.

Step 3: Allocate percentages of the pie to each thing on your list (make it add up to 100%). Give a percentage to all the other things first, ending with yourself. Then draw out the pie chart. This is what I ended up with:

My Responsibility Pie Chart: 

pie chart of my responsibilities: me 5 percent, my husband 5 percent, governtment 30 percent, covid-19 40 percent, people not following guidance 10 percent, my work 10 percent.

Drawing it out is a powerful reminder that despite feeling 100% responsible, we really cannot blame ourselves for a global pandemic and the impact it has had on our lives.

3) Focus on what you have done, not what you haven’t.

The pie chart helped, but I still feel some guilt. Guilt is often maintained by discounting what we have done, and instead focusing on what we have not. I spend a few moments writing down the things I have done for my children during the pandemic. I find this hard, so ask my husband to help. I also look back through the photos on my phone for the past year. This surprises me. I half expect to see nothing but photos of my children screaming through my zoom meetings as I throw snacks in their general direction. What I see instead is smiling faces in the garden, happy walks in the park, a couple of outdoor meet-ups with friends and family last summer, even a few shots of them eating fruit, instead of chocolate. All of these memories have been totally blocked by my feelings of guilt.

What strikes me is I how much I have done this last year to get us through. If I had time to frame or make a collage of these photos I would. I clearly don’t (cue more guilty thoughts). Instead, as a reminder of what I have done, I save one of us all smiling as my phone screensaver. It is an exercise I thoroughly recommend you try.

you have done much more than you think. Give yourself some credit.

4) This year has been hard enough, so do what’s helpful.

Self-criticism and guilt go hand in hand and may have become a bit of a habit. It can help to explore what impact this is having on you and your family. Ask yourself:

a)Is being hard on myself helping us at all? For me, the answer is no.

b)Are there any disadvantages? For me, it makes me feel rubbish and much more in my own head, which in turn makes it harder to have fun with the kids.

If beating ourselves up is not helping us, or our children, it is probably a good idea to try to notice when dwelling on it, and to let it go. For me this includes dropping my standards. The kids won’t be getting any home-made hummus this year, and that’s ok (to be honest they only did once before COVID and, on account of it tasting like Polyfilla, nobody ate it anyway). I realise comparing myself unfairly on social media has not been helping. An Instagram photo only shows a one second window into the lives of others. You may see little Jessica eating a rainbow food bowl or practicing her phonics, but what you don’t see is the tantrum and screen time that come after. I decide to unfollow all the mummy food accounts on Instagram that tend to make me feel bad about myself. Quite frankly, if any of us manage to throw the occasional bit of broccoli in with the fish fingers this year, we are winning.

“Try not to compare yourself to other parents on social media.”

5) Be kind to yourself – What would you tell any other parent?

Thinking of the compassion I felt upon hearing my colleagues’ struggles, I remember how key it is to tune into kindness for yourself when struggling with guilt.What would we say to any other parent who has gone through/is still going through what we have? I spend a moment thinking of a close friend of mine who has had a hard year juggling work and kids. I first imagine what I would say to her. When I tune into my feelings of compassion, I then start writing a note to myself:

‘Dear Emma, give yourself a break! You have done the best you possibly could in the hardest year of your life. You’ve juggled full-time work and childcare for two children during a global pandemic. All while getting used to working at home, away from family and friends, with little sleep and no break. You deserve a medal rather than being so hard on yourself. Extra TV and snacks is essential COVID survival. You are doing a great job, even if you don’t feel like it. Be kind to yourself.’

Writing a compassionate message to yourself and reading it back may feel like a strange thing to do, but I wholeheartedly recommend trying it. Once you have, try to plan in a regular small act of self-kindness. I make a plan to take a proper lunch break away from the screen each day that week and read a little of my book (and when I managed it, it felt amazing). Our children can only benefit from treating ourselves a little better.

Feeling a little lighter, I close the laptop and turn off Paw Patrol. Once the whinging about the TV going off has stopped and I have mediated another row over Lego, my eldest son digs his elbow into my tummy, “squidgy mummy” he reminds me. He spots the exasperated look on my face and corrects himself: “you are the best mummy” he says.

For once I decide to let myself believe him. And you know what? The rest of the afternoon felt a little better for it.


If you are struggling with excessive feelings of low mood or anxiety, do reach out for help. Many employers, including my own university, offer psychological support through employee assistance programmes. There are helpful resources, including information on accessing talking therapies, on the Every Mind Matters NHS page.

NEST is our dedicated staff network for supporting parents and carers at King’s. they provide support to staff with parental and/or caring responsibilities through a range of events, an online community, and by offering guidance and representation at a strategic and policy level. You can find our more about NEST here.

The case for diversity quotas in recruitment

In this blog Timothy Ijoyemi, Research Fellow and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Advocate at Durham University, explores the  case for diversity quotas in recruitment. 


Of the numerous ways to address BAME under representation in higher education and many other sectors, diversity quotas are among the most controversial. To suggest that a portion of roles within an organisation should be reserved for applicants from underrepresented groups is to invite accusations of unfairness, discrimination, and naivety. After all, shouldn’t a meritocratic society let people rise and fall on their merits? Isn’t it naïve to think that hiring on any criteria other than aptitude and experience won’t negatively impact productivity? This post outlines some of the arguments in support of quotas, as well as research findings that should give opponents pause for thought. 

The myth of meritocracy 

One powerful argument against the charge that quotas undermine meritocracy is that there’s no meritocracy to undermine in the first place. Power and privilege define the metrics of merit – however reasonable they might seem – meanwhile structural and implicit biases make it harder for members of underprivileged groups to convince recruiters that they satisfy these criteria. Ironically, by helping to level an uneven playing field, quotas could actually bring us closer to the very meritocratic ideal so often invoked to contest them. 

Softer methods of increasing diversity don’t always work 

Of all the levers available to recruiters wanting to increase organisational diversity, quotas are one of the most powerful. When implemented as temporary measures, they can kick-start progress that might otherwise take decades to achieve, or never materialise at all. There is ample evidence from corporate American, for instance, that ‘soft’ approaches to increasing diversity – including diversity training, hiring tests, performance ratings, and grievance systems – don’t reliably translate to more diverse work forces or company boards. By comparison, stronger “affirmative action” initiatives in U.S. college admissions have had considerable success in increasing admissions of students from underrepresented groups, with one study finding that students of colour were 23% less likely to be admitted to elite institutions in states where legal challenges had succeeded in banning these initiatives.  

While quotas don’t necessitate affirmative action – or positive action as termed in the UK’s  Equality Act 2010 – they would strongly incentivise recruiters to find and attract talent from underrepresented groups. They would also give a solid rationale for implementing positive action, such as preferentially hiring a candidate from an under-represented group over a non-minority candidate where the two are equally qualified. 

Existing BAME talent can meet organisational demands 

On its face, the concern that quotas would require lowering recruitment standards smacks of prejudice, seeming to rest on the assumption that members of underrepresented groups are less likely to possess abilities that make members of privileged groups generally more suitable for (particularly higher level) organisational roles. A more charitable take is that those expressing this concern know that structural and overt discrimination hinders attainment for many underrepresented groups, seeing differences in hiring rates as a regrettable, but inevitable, outcome. Aside from passing the buck for increasing workplace diversity to institutions dominant earlier in the pipeline (e.g., schools), this attitude reflects a poor estimation of BAME talent. Educational attainment at GCSE is now higher among many BAME groups than white British pupils, while the percentage of 18 year olds from every BAME group entering higher education has risen dramatically over time. Despite this, examples of under representation in the workplace abound. To take just one example, while over seven percent of first year postgraduate entrants in 2017/18 were black, only 0.6% of university professors belong to this group. Diversity quotas would help to close the gap between BAME educational attainment and success in securing commensurate workplace roles.  

Initial concerns dissipate after quotas are introduced 

Some argue that diversity quotas are simply too divisive to be used. While it’s true that quotas are generally viewed unfavourably by members of privileged groups in the UK, there’s good reason to believe that this is at least partly rooted in suspicion of the unfamiliar. Indeed, research conducted in the U.S. and Europe has found that attitudes of board members towards gender diversity quotas are more favourable in countries with quotas than without. And this doesn’t simply reflect pre-existing differences in opinion. In Norway, even company directors who opposed gender diversity quotas before they were introduced eventually came to view them positively. Far from seeing their fears realised, these directors said that increased female representation on boards had led to better governance and decision making. Considering the numerous benefits that accrue to organisations with more ethnically diverse employees, it seems likely that broader diversity quotas would also be viewed more favourably once their positive effects were felt. Sometimes bold leadership is needed to implement good but unpopular solutions. 

Diversity quotas are not a panacea for the barriers to employment that underrepresented groups face, nor are they without controversy. Nevertheless, delivered in a targeted, time-limited way, they could be the shock to the system needed to break through the diversity ceilings that more tepid approaches have failed to breach. 

Ace and Agender – Turning Discomfort into Confidence

Ali Gibson (any/all pronouns) is the current Vice President Education (Health) at King’s College London, and a third-year medical student as of September. Ali’s blog talks about experiences growing up and the euphoria of finding a gender identity.


I was 16 when I first found and started using the label ‘Asexual’ to describe me, after at least two years of feeling different. Whilst my friends entered and experimented with sexual relationships, my teenage years came and went without sexual feelings and as you do, you put it down to something else; I was yet to hit puberty, or to meet the right person, when I would be magically fixed and all about the sex. It never materialised, and so I ended up internet searching ‘no sexual attraction’ and found Asexuality. Labels can be contentious but for me, finding that there was a group of people who didn’t experience sexual attractions or desires in varying forms was eye-opening. It didn’t cause a revelation of something I wasn’t already, instead it just made sense and came with a community who had all been (at least similar) boats. 

The one thing I neglected confronting as a teenager was my gender. It would be wrong to look back now and not think I have probably questioned my gender for about the same length of time as my sexuality. It’s hard to explain what it feels like as all our references come from within the binary society we live in, but I never felt like a ‘girl’, and I never felt like a ‘boy’. Nor did I really aspire to either perception I had of what that meant. As I grew up I was proud of the fact I didn’t own any make-up, skirts or dresses, things I considered feminine, and I spent most of my childhood scraping my knees on scooters, bikes and rollerblades. I was a ‘tomboy’, and proud. But that label fades and I went through puberty to find myself confronted with being a woman, with breasts and periods and a reproductive health condition to boot. I have long hated my tight curly hair, despite much adoration from others, shaving it off at 17 under the guise of raising money (which I did do, so not all selfish). I’ve had an unnecessary complex around being able to wear a baseball cap and not look like cartoon character Crystal Tips, which has bothered me for seemingly no reason. 

At the end of January just past, having bought a baseball cap on sale, I twisted my short but significant curls up onto the back of my head and (with great skill) put on the cap. I looked at myself in the mirror and for the first time in an immeasurable amount of time saw someone who looked like me, who looked like I want to. Full of emotion I laughed in surprise at myself and this person I saw in front of me. It followed weeks of wondering if I should change my label; I was four months into my time with KCLSU in a job where there’s a short time to get things done, nevermind having to reintroduce yourself. And I knew I wasn’t unhappy being a cisgender woman (someone born biologically a woman who also identifies as a woman) – but could I be happier and more comfortable as someone non-binary? 

Ali, KCLSU Vice-President Education (Health) and soon to be third-year medical student

I took time off at the beginning of March and came back using my new name, Ali – a name I used online which had been wholly accepted by the people I met there and felt like a name and a person I had created for myself. This was the new me, the me that university had bloomed, the me that felt I had a place. I am so thankful to all of my colleagues across KCLSU and King’s who have wholeheartedly accepted my name change, some astute colleagues even picking up on it before I formally let people know. If I had to stick a pin in it, I’d say my gender is ‘Agender’ – I have none, I just don’t feel it, and I’ll keep my hair short and wear t-shirts with television references and baseball caps as long as it feels good. Where in the past I was uncomfortable with someone drawing attention to my non-femininity (bullies would jeeringly ask me, a complete stranger, whether I was male or female, a common sentiment used by transphobic people), I now actively don’t mind what pronouns someone uses for me, and find it quite liberating when someone’s assumption differs from my biological sex.

It’s taken me five, maybe seven years to get here, but meeting people who are transgender, non-binary and gender diverse has shown me the alternative, and is one of those things I wish 14-year-old me had been exposed to. Because it’s only when we break out of the binary, and share with our young people the vibrancy and inclusivity the LGBTQ+ community has to offer, that we can turn discomfort into confidence. 

Ali Gibson (any/all pronouns) is the current Vice President Education (Health) at King’s College London, and a third-year medical student as of September. Ali’s blog talks about experiences growing up and the euphoria of finding a gender identity.

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