Diversity Digest

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

The Man in the Mirror

This is the second of 2 blogs this week from The London Postdocs who have started a campaign The Lost Voices to address and raise awareness of inequalities that early-career researchers might face.

Author: Dr Shaakir Salam, King’s College London

Editing contributions by Dr Jemima Ho (The London Postdocs, King’s College London), Jumani Yogarajah, Kailey Nolan (NIHR ARC North Thames), Dr Morag Lewis (The London Postdocs, KCL), Dr Rui Pires Martins (The London Postdocs, QMUL), Dr Sarah Jasim (The London Postdocs, NIHR ARC North Thames, UCL, LSE)

2020 turned many things on their head for all of us, but one thing that stood out for me, was the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. It brought to light the reality of ‘the talk’ that black parents must have with their children. I have experienced ‘the talk’ but through the lens of an Asian Muslim, which has shaped and impacted most, if not all, my decisions when trying to pursue my career as an early career researcher,

For me, the talk’ ranges from regular comments and suggestions such as: ‘your name will cause you problems’, ‘you will have to work twice as hard just to get to the same positions as your non-Muslim peers’ and ultimately ‘you are currently the enemy in this country’. Unfortunately, for many of us, these microaggressions have been imprinted on us from a young age.

Growing up in the North of the UK, in a post-9/11 world, I encountered countless instances of overt racism from secondary school onwards. When this happens from such a young age, it becomes so internalised that you begin to hate anything about yourself that makes you different. In secondary school, my peers asked why my dad does not own a ‘paki shop’ (a corner shop and a common stereotype synonymous with South-East Asian heritage), and I was also regularly asked if I loved the country I was born in? At university, the overt racism became more subtle (although the jokes about being a terrorist continued), and by this age I had become so accustomed to the looks and the questions, I began to let most things slide.

Entering the academic world, I hoped to leave behind the attitudes that I had been surrounded by growing up. However, whilst I wanted to fully immerse myself in my degrees and later my PhD, I became conscious that my extended family support was lacking compared to my peers. Additionally, I held, and still hold, a hidden pressure that my academic degrees must lead to success as, unlike many of my peers, I have no financial fallbacks. At the time, I had never heard of the concept of intersectionality – the notion that one person has a multitude of identities and their experiences of oppression and inequality can relate to one or many of these interrelated identities, including race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity. It just felt like challenges compounded further challenges that I had to face by myself.

Although my name is Shaakir (pronounced Shark-ir), I gave up trying to get my academic peers to pronounce my name correctly. I have now become accustomed to the nickname ‘Sharky’ as the half-hearted attempts ranged from ‘shaky’ to the funny white boy at school calling me Shakira. As prominent members of society have recently reclaimed the correct spelling, origin, and pronunciation of their names, it has caused many of us to reflect on how much of ourselves as early-career researchers we dampen down or reshape to fit in with the academic environment?

I know I must shave my beard before I interview for academic roles to avoid any negative connotations with my religion. The mention of Ramadan brings a confused expression to most, with some asking me ‘but do you actually believe in it?’ Throughout my academic career I have known that embracing my religion and culture may hinder my progress, and that ironically being myself may be detrimental to my career prospects. These experiences have stayed with me as I have progressed to a postdoctoral researcher and have cumulated into a form of internal hatred towards myself, my culture, and my religion. Am I a brown Muslim struggling in an academic system, or just another Geordie living in London working as a postdoctoral researcher? Can I be both and succeed in my career?

I am now working in a system that makes me feel too white to be ‘brown’, and too ‘brown’ to be white. Throughout my time in academia, I have seen and acknowledged that attitudes towards British Muslims and others from a minority ethnic background change. However, the lack of cultural and racial inclusion to this day makes me question whether I want to continue this career path. If becoming the leader of a laboratory has less than 5% chance of success for white students, what chance do I have? As I write this, I am unsure if these issues will change in the lifetime of my career. However, I am hopeful that new awareness, initiatives and strategies, and more diverse voices and representation, will ensure that the next generation will not face the same struggles that some of us have endured.

The Man in the Mirror: Shaakir’s Story

Can you relate? Share your story

The Lost Voices is a series of three initiatives aiming to collate stories on inequalities faced by the early-career researcher (ECR) community, to help empower us all and enact institutional change. It is led by The London Postdocs and the NIHR ARC North Thames Academy, and funded by a UCL Researcher-Led Initiative Award.

In the first phase, we are inviting early career researchers to share their story. So if you have experienced inequality, bias or prejudice in any form, please let us know by:

Find out more about ways to share on The London Postdocs website and our social media channels. The closing date for submissions is Monday 24th May.

What’s next?

Shaakir and The London Postdocs will be interviewing senior academics across different disciplines and institutions who have also faced inequalities in their careers – so we can all learn from their experiences. If you are a senior academic who has faced or overcome inequalities during your career, please get in touch with us at or contribute your anonymous views via The Lost Voices senior academics survey

We will then collect both early-career researcher and senior academic stories, and discuss and debate these issues with institutional decision makers on Monday 24th May, with the aim of illuminating these experiences and inspiring further initiatives that drive change.


Food for Thought

This is the first of 2 blogs this week from The London Postdocs who have started a campaign The Lost Voices to address and raise awareness of inequalities that early-career researchers might face.
Author: Anonymous 

Editing contributions by: Dr Jemima Ho (The London Postdocs, King’s College London), Jumani Yogarajah, Kailey Nolan (NIHR ARC North Thames), Dr Morag Lewis (The London Postdocs, KCL), Dr Rui Pires Martins (The London Postdocs, QMUL), Dr Sarah Jasim (The London Postdocs, NIHR ARC North Thames, UCL, LSE), Dr Shaakir Salam (The London Postdocs, KCL) 

What’s for lunch? So how was the food? Were there free drinks afterwards? These are common questions asked by earlycareer researchers (ECRs) during and after academic events and conferences. Not to say that we are all about the food, but it’s common knowledge that this is where a key part of vital academic networking occurs.  

So, what if your diet excludes you from joining in? Too many conferences do not cater for dietary restrictions, resulting in feeling overlooked or left out. Meeting new people is awkward enough; such instances of exclusion make it harder still to put your best foot forward, limiting the networking opportunities that are so vital for our careers.  

What happens in this situation? People are left to spend their lunch time hunting outside for a shop that can provide for them where the conference organisers have not, rather than participating in the conference with the rest of their peers. It seems like a small thing, but it is profoundly unwelcoming to be told that there’s no lunch for you in the middle of the day, and no snacks during tea breaks.  Bringing food is a common coping mechanism, although fielding all the questions that provokes is not fun. Alternatively, you can go with whatever looks like it will be safe, and hope you guessed right, but conferences should be places for engaging with your peers and their research, not for worrying that the food you just ate may be hiding an unpleasant surprise. 

The whole situation suggests a deeper problem. If a conference can’t manage something as simple as a dietary requirement, how do they cope with other accessibility accommodations? We recognise that there has been a global push towards inclusivity – not just of dietary requirements and restrictions, but of accessibility in general – but has the academic sector caught up? From conference organisers, to peers, to the way networking is designed – are we all being as inclusive and considerate as we should be?  

Can you relate? Share your story 

The Lost Voices is a series of three initiatives aiming to collate stories on inequalities faced by the early-career researcher (ECR) community, to help empower us all and enact institutional change. It is led by The London Postdocs and the NIHR ARC North Thames Academy, and funded by a UCL Researcher-Led Initiative Award. 

In the first phase, we are inviting early career researchers to share their story. So if you have experienced inequality, bias or prejudice in any form, please let us know by: 

  • Posting your anonymous story on the The Lost Voices Story Collection 
  • Sharing your experience anonymously in the The Lost Voices ECR survey 
  • Sending us a short video (maximum length: 2 minutes 19 seconds) via WeTransfer (see our Youtube channel for examples) detailing your experienceWe are offering £10 vouchers (Lifestyle/ Amazon) via e-mail for your time 

Find out more about ways to share on The London Postdocs website and our social media channels. The closing date for submissions is Monday 24th May.

What’s next? 

The London Postdocs will be interviewing senior academics across different disciplines and institutions who have also faced inequalities in their careers – so we can all learn from their experiences. If you are a senior academic who has faced or overcome inequalities during your career, please get in touch with us at or contribute your anonymous views via The Lost Voices senior academics survey. 

We will then collect both early-career researcher and senior academic stories and discuss and debate these issues with institutional decision makers on Monday 24th May, with the aim of illuminating these experiences and inspiring further initiatives that drive change.   

Food for Thought: An Anonymous Story

Enjoyed the read? The second blog from The Lost Voices Campaign will be published later this week 

Bias or No Bias? The EDI Question

This blog is part of a series from Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sarah Guerra, where she will be addressing the whole picture’ of EDI, why it is important, and how we go about making effective, systemic change.

Often EDI is reduced to conversations about unconscious bias training, which was seen as a panacea when it first arrived. Like much in the EDI arena, it is a useful tool and mechanism, but is not in itself a complete solution to complex and interconnected structural issues.   

The purpose of providing Bias training is to create awareness, in individuals and groups of employees, about the concept and reality of implicit bias.  

Implicit attitudes are positive and negative evaluations that are much less accessible to our conscious awareness and/or control. Essentially, they are thoughts and beliefs that shape what we think and how we act, which we are unaware of.  

Bringing in the perspectives of others and creating self-awareness helps to highlight thinking and/or behaviour that is done unwittingly, provide ways of adjusting automatic patterns of thinking and eliminate discriminatory behaviours. It also highlights what behaviour is expected in the workplace. This training can take many forms, from e-learning programmes or PowerPoint presentations to in-depth workshops with interactive talks and exercises, the latter having the greater impact on building awareness and helping to change behaviour. At Kings this kind of training is a key component of our strategy. We have developed Diversity Matters and Trans Matters training which we deliver and tailor to staff teams of 5 – 20 people on request. In parallel, we support and build communities through our staff networks, which provide peer-support for staff with particular protected characteristics, and the More than Mentoring programme, which pairs staff members who share personal characteristics to enable a deeper understanding and connection between participants. Please follow the links above and get in touch if you are keen to engage with any of these projects! 

For training programmes to be effective, they need to dovetail with other initiatives so that employees see training as part of an ongoing journey in changing behaviour and creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. This is why Kings has an ongoing programme of senior leadership development in relation to EDI and our management and leadership passports. To ensure that awareness continues long after training is completed, we encourage activities such as asking participants to share stories on social collaboration channels where we generate ongoing discussions. To join the conversation you can follow us on Twitter and our internal intranet pages or join a network 

Throughout the organisation we need to provide communication that helps all teams to build empathy for, and understanding of, the experiences of minority or disadvantaged groups. Success comes when the responsibility and accountability for diversity is clearly part of the organisations leaders’ objectives. This needs to be coupled with active encouragement and systemic support for people to share any instances of bias, and crucially for these to be followed up and dealt with effectively. At Kings we are doing a variety of things, these range from introducing cultural competency modules to ensuring we have an Anonymous Disclosure Tool which staff, students and external visitors can use to anonymously disclose incidents of bullying, harassment, sexual misconduct or hate crime. 

Job adverts are an important area to consider when addressing bias. There are two types of bias in job adverts, explicit and implicit (as with everything else). Explicit biases are those that we can control or be clear about, such as levels or types of qualifications, particular audiences and types of candidates. In contrast, implicit biases are unconscious perceptions, stereotypes and beliefs that have been developed from past experiences and influences. These can be very powerful and are much harder to pinpoint.   

Much work has already been done at Kings to make job adverts more inclusive. We have tried to address gendered words, remove jargon and ensure straightforward titles that specify the role, skills and experience required.   

Like many organisations we are taking major steps towards becoming a more welcoming and inclusive place to work. We take the opportunity to demonstrate this in our job adverts by stating our commitment to be an equal opportunity employer. This positive step shows our commitment and the importance we place on it. 

Another tool for reducing bias is a name-blind recruitment process. This removes information, such as age, gender, name, education and even the number of years of experience from CVs, which might otherwise prejudice an application. This is a proven way to overcome unconscious bias and promote greater diversity. It has increased in popularity over the last couple of years after a series of studies, including one by Nuffield Colleges Centre for Social Investigation, showed that people with ethnic names needed to send out 60% more applications than job seekers with white’ sounding names before they got a call back . Name-blind CVs encourage the recruitment of new employees without identifiable information, so that personal bias doesnt creep in.   

To implement a name-blind recruitment process well, an organisation should start by determining the absolute necessities an applicant must possess to fill the role and remove the information that has no bearing on a persons ability to competently carry it out. If needed, the extra information can be collected but separated from the application process. The success of your name-blind hiring would be captured in diversity recruitment metrics by measuring the statistics for shortlisting, testing, interviewing, hiring and retention before and after blind hiring. When I first arrived at Kings the concept of name-blind recruitment was felt to be near impossible at a University. Whilst we have not yet implemented it, people now regularly ask me why we are not doing it – this shows how times change.   

So, Ill end as I began – training and awareness on unconscious bias is an important part of any EDI strategy, as is understanding where and how it shows up in practice. So please all take all the opportunities available to undertake training and build your awareness. But the critical difference is made when you a) apply that learning and b) use that learning to develop a real curiosity as to why inequalities exist and persist.   

International Transgender Day of Visibility: why visibility in healthcare matters

Adam Shepherd is a third year medical student at King’s College London. For Trans Day of Visibility he shares his reflections as a trans man researching transgender people’s experiences in healthcare settings.

A screen grab of a light grey option box asks you to 'Select Gender'. There are two options, 'Male,' which has been selected with a blue dot, or 'Female'

A ‘Select Gender’ box with two options: ‘Male’ or ‘Female’






When I was born, a doctor assigned me to be “female”. During my childhood I felt increasingly at odds with the ways that I was being socialised as a girl by the world at large, but it was only in my early twenties that I learned a word to make sense of my growing unease: Transgender.

As a Latin prefix ‘trans’ simply means “on the other side of”. Nowadays ‘trans’ epitomises much more than that – it is an umbrella term for diverse identities and experiences of people whose gender does not align with the one they were designated at birth. To me, ‘transgender’ encapsulates that feeling of comfort, pleasure, and relief of arriving after a long and tiring journey: home sweet home.

However these definitions are a far cry from how we were understood even 70 years ago. From labelling trans people as mentally ill and promoting the use of psychotherapy to cure us, to realising the benefits of letting us transition to our identified gender, the relationship between medicine and the trans community has historically been strained.

The impacts of this is still felt today. A 2016 report found that transgender people in the UK, on average, experience higher health inequalities than cisgender lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. In 2018, Stonewall and the National LGBT Survey showed how trans individuals are more likely to face discrimination in medical settings, and more likely to avoid seeking healthcare when they need it.

As an aspiring doctor I was appalled at the anecdotes I heard in my own support groups – stories of being met with ignorance and insensitivity when seeking medical care as a trans person. My first opportunity to do something about this came when I undertook my Masters of Public Health dissertation in which I explored trans people’s experiences of primary care.

In my research, communication emerged as a key factor shaping the relationships transgender people had with their General Practitioners. Yet even before entering the consultation room, participants had to mediate inflexible medical records which failed to recognise their identities and bodies. Fixed ways of thinking about gender are embedded in healthcare practices through these processes and documents, making communication only part of the problem.

To make sense of this, sociologist Ruth Pearce proposed two conceptual models to think about the experience of being trans. “Trans as condition” depicts the traditional understanding that ‘trans’ can be clearly defined, often by a healthcare professional, and that transitioning resolves a person’s transness. “Trans as movement”, in contrast, posits that ‘trans’ is variable and versatile, similar to how we subjectively experience the world around us. From this viewpoint, ‘trans’ stops being a defect that needs correcting, and becomes a social identity.

Working with Dr Benjamin Hanckel, I sought to better understand how the changing conceptualisations of trans experiences were reflected in healthcare guidance, and whether it aligned with lived experiences of transitioning. Looking at healthcare guidance documents by NHS England illuminated these discrepancies. Changes over time in the language used illustrate how institutional shifts towards the idea of “trans as movement” has enabled greater numbers of gender diverse people to emerge from the shadows through being officially recognised in these documents. However, rigid medical forms often do not account for diverse experiences of gender. Consequently people who are transitioning continue not to be accounted for in health structures built around the expectation of cisgender bodies.

What is evident is that for healthcare to become inclusive of all trans people, we need to tackle the very design of healthcare organisations, which is often based on outdated ideas of gender. But gender is a complex topic.

In another project Dr Benjamin Hanckel and I asked young people who visited the Science Gallery London exhibition GENDERS: Shaping and Breaking the Binary to explore what gender meant to them. Whilst traditional ideas of gender surfaced, early findings point to how many young people are increasingly open about gender, recognising it as being fluid, even if at times it feels restrictive, reminiscent of a “trans as movement” framework. Nonetheless, the question remains as to how these new and shifting models of gender, that recognise everyone’s myriad and diverse experiences, will enter into healthcare provision.

As I look towards the future of becoming a medical professional, I realise there is a way to go until transgender people are not just accepted, but have their needs acknowledged in healthcare settings. With the recent court case concerning the provision of puberty blockers to trans youth and continued lack of knowledge among healthcare providers, the future might seem bleak, but change is on its way. From Brighton and Sussex NHS Trust expanding vocabulary for midwives to include gender neutral terms, to the emergence of new grassroot organisations to advocate for the health needs of the trans community, the tide is slowly beginning to turn.

Further Reading:

New Dharmic Prayer Room at King’s

Former KCLSU Activities and Development Vice President (2019/20) and current final year BSc. International Management student, Nakul Patwa, pens a blog about the opening of the new Dharmic Prayer Room at King’s, and what it means to him and other Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist students.

I remember vividly my first day at King’s College London and, like everyone else, I was very excited, a little overwhelmed, and still getting familiar with the ins and outs of the enormous institution. It was only by chance that I came across the Chaplaincy at the Strand Campus. Tucked away under a staircase, it was almost as if it was a world of its own. Little did I know then that this space would become an inspiration for what I was going to achieve at King’s. I would later go there to meet fellow international students, over the “international lunches”, have numerous enriching conversations with the Chaplain, meet some of my closest friends – it almost became a sanctuary of sorts for me, as it did for so many students during their time at King’s.

picture showing the new dharmic prayer room

The new Dharmic Prayer Room which has recently opened at Guy’s Campus

My experiences with the chaplaincy inspired me to champion the cause of this institution that was a cornerstone of the essence of King’s. I wanted to give back in a way that would allow many more students like me to engage with the chaplaincy – that is where the idea for a Dharmic Prayer Room for students following Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist faiths was born. I felt the need for a dedicated space because of my conversations with student groups and hearing the challenges they faced while practicing their faiths.

It was one of the first things I wanted to achieve when I was elected as the Vice President of King’s College London Students’ Union. Having garnered widespread support of the student body and various student groups, I was optimistic that this was something that would provide a safe space for students whose faiths have not historically been equally represented. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has brought about, I am delighted to have achieved this for King’s. I believe that this project will add more value to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion projects for the institution as well as the King’s Vision 2029.

I believe that this project is a milestone, not only in the illustrious history of King’s, but also in the history of UK universities. It is an important step towards honouring and fostering the diversity of our membership. I am extremely proud that I could turn my dream into reality, and my hope is that more institutions across the UK would take a cue from King’s to establish spaces that would enable their population to express themselves in a manner that enhances their vibrant ecologies.

picture of Nakul Patwa

Nakul Patwa, former KCLSU Activities and Development Vice President (2019/20) and current King’s student.

Safer public spaces – looking upriver

Following Sarah Everard’s murder, and public discussion about why male violence against women continues to be commonplace in our society, we hear from two members of the King’s community.

Joy Whyte is Strategic Director for Education and Students, and chair of the newly convened King’s oversight committee on “Preventing and Addressing harassment and sexual misconduct”

Joy Whyte leans against a stone rail, set alongside the exterior of a stone building. She is a white woman with auburn hair tied in a low plait and wears a teal top and jacket.

Joy Whyte

Data released by UN Women on 10 March 2021 showed that over 70% of women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment in public. For women aged 18-24 the figures were even higher – just 3% of respondents said they had not experienced such harassment.

Around the same time the UN report was released, we saw the news of Sarah Everard’s disappearance, a police investigation, and – tragically – the discovery and identification of her body. Six months earlier, in September 2020, Blessing Olusegun had gone missing after a walk and, heartbreakingly, her body was found the next day on a beach in Bexhill. Whilst Blessing’s unexplained death drew much less media coverage at the time, an online petition is urging the reopening of the police investigation.   

Writing last week, Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, notes that “True, most women will not be kidnapped or killed. But the more important point is that male violence against women is absolutely not rare.” 

Yet the narratives around assault tend to highlight women’s vulnerability, rather than the actions of the perpetrator or the culture in which those arise. The Scotland-based organisation Zero Tolerance, which has published best practice tips for reporting on violence against women, observes that “headlines like, ‘Woman raped’ can make it seem like violence is something that ‘just happens’ to women when in fact these crimes always have both a victim-survivor and a perpetrator”.

With these recent events on my mind, I’ve been reflecting on two contrasting incidents that happened to me on the tube in the same fortnight, about 18 months ago.

In the first, I randomly fainted on a rush hour tube, which was very unnerving and thankfully extremely unusual. But someone helped me to get back up, someone put my book in my bag, another person gave me some water, someone called the TFL station staff, and someone even offered to walk me home. People were kind, considerate and involved. I felt cared for and supported.

A week or so later, I was harassed on a morning rush hour tube. A man put his hands round my waist to move me out of the way – it was intrusive, inappropriate and unwelcome. I said all the things I’ve previously thought of only after the event, quite loudly, starting with: “why are you touching me?”, then “you’d say excuse me to a man, you wouldn’t touch them”. And finally, when he told me I was angry, “yes I am angry, because you touched me inappropriately”.

The man who harassed me was clearly embarrassed by my reaction. And the people around me on that busy rush hour tube were also embarrassed, and completely silent. Even though I was vocal, no-one spoke up alongside me. I got off the tube, and got on with my day. If I mention either story, it’s normally the one in which people were kind, rather than the one in which I was ignored. Not because the latter doesn’t matter, but because it seemed so routine – a part of living in the world as a woman.

Yet, as this interview with Laura Bates (the founder of the Everyday Sexism project) notes, “from the #MeToo movement to Black Lives Matter, the inflection point for resisting injustice is not when one crusader saves the day, but when everybody is emboldened to speak out at once.”

However, the solution to sexist interactions and gender-based violence affecting women is not to be found in changes to their everyday behaviours (and I use the term ‘women’ inclusively, encompassing non-binary and trans identities). Rather, we need to focus on education;  resourcing for the courts – in which successful prosecutions are shockingly rare; training for the police and all parts of the criminal justice system; meaningful engagements around consent and respect; the introduction of the long-awaited Online Harms bill, which will better protect children and young people from being exposed to online pornography; and robust interventions – societal, legislative, and corrective – that expose the problem of violence, not as something that women should have to endure, but rather as an issue that we can prevent and address through complex, holistic, societal solutions.

Here are some suggestions for practical actions that you can take (please add other suggestions in the comments below):

  1. Create a distraction – You can let both parties know you are present by interrupting the situation. You could ask for the time or some information, and stand in the line of sight whilst assessing the situation.
  2. Directly confront – Talk to the assumed victim – ask if they are ok, if they need help. Talk to the assumed perpetrator – remain non-judgemental and calm.
  3. Delegate the intervention – If you think someone else is better placed to take care of the situation, call a service such as the police or talk to someone senior, a friend of the perpetrator/victim, or an impartial source.”

Finally, I’m reminded of Professor Stan Cohen, who I was lucky to work with at LSE, and who was fond of quoting Saul Alinsky’s parable: “A fisherman sees a body floating down stream and jumps in to rescue it. The same happens a few minutes later, and then again, and again. When a tenth body floats down, the fisherman leaves it and runs upstream, to find out how to stop these people getting into the water in the first place.”

We’ve been spending way too much time downriver. Let’s do all we can to change that.


If you’ve been personally affected by sexual violence or harassment, please reach out and access support.

  • Our Chaplains are available to all in our community (of all faiths and no faith) by contacting the Chaplaincy and Dean’s Office on 020 7848 2373 and 020 7848 2333 or at chaplaincy@kcl.ac.uk and dean@kcl.ac.uk.  
  • For students, you can also contact our counselling service on 020 7848 7017 or email counselling@kcl.ac.uk. Your personal tutor is also able to offer support. 
  • For staff, you may want to talk to a trusted colleague or manager. And our independent and confidential Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is also available by phone or email.   

Men, what can we do?

Following Sarah Everard’s murder, and public discussion about why male violence against women continues to be commonplace in our society, we hear from two members of the King’s community.

Roscoe Hastings is the School Manager, and equality, diversity and inclusion lead, of the School of Population Health & Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine at King’s. 

Roscoe Hastings is sitting at a table with one hand resting upon the other. He is a white man with dirty blonde hair. He is wearing glasses, a grey suit, white shirt and navy tie, and he is smiling.

Roscoe Hastings

The week beginning on the 8th of March was bookended by International Womens Day and Mothering Sunday. It should have been a week of celebrating women, shining a light on the injustices they face and reflecting on where we have come and where we still need to go in the fight for equality – particularly on how far we must go in addressing the systemic issues for trans women and women of colour. However, it was not the week that any of us anticipated.

It saw us mourning the death of Sarah Everard, another woman murdered after not being able to walk home safely at night; we watched a peaceful vigil (and some would say protest) against that murder being broken up by heavy-handed policing, and yet another woman’s experience of mental health and racism being vilified and questioned on national TV – this time Meghan Markle’s. As ever, sitting behind all these events has been yet more hatred, harassment and gaslighting on social media.

As I watched on horrified and ashamed of what I was witnessing, I was struck by two clear self-reflections. One was how easily I fell into the Im not part of the problem” mantra, seeing the problem as other men”. Secondly, that my silence in not wanting to appear tokenistic in tweeting or speaking out about what I was seeing, or thinking that I should let women speak for themselves, is the problem. I, like many, have been saddened by the sheer scale of the stories that women have told in the last few weeks, of their lived experiences.

It is all too easy to think that our sector is liberal thinking, inclusive and a bastion of progress. We have seen a shift in the last two decades. We have seen a (slow) increase in the representation of women in the sector – more women vice-chancellors, more women professors; the establishment and success of Athena SWAN; the creation of Womens networks on many of our campuses; and progress in addressing many antiquated policies and practices in relation to flexible working, probation, promotion and more. I do not want to make out that the job was by any means done, but there had been at least some progress. I was proud to work in a sector that held these issues as important and non-negotiable and was on a journey trying to deliver change. However, what we have seen over the past weeks has made me question where we are, and how we are challenging ourselves as a sector. 

I currently have the privilege of leading the diversity and inclusion agenda in my School, one in the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine at King’s, which has been an eye-opening experience. I fell into the role partly because no one else in the School stepped forward to take it on – leading me to ask questions about why this was the case. I have been struck by how many of the colleagues who are leading this work in the university are women and/or are people of colour. While this may seem like a great thing – the people who have for years been underrepresented and marginalised in higher education are leading the charge for change – I have come to realise that this is double-edged. The responsibility for initiating and delivering change in culture, practices, and a system that has been built over centuries on the dominance of white, cis men, is a further burden on those who have been oppressed by it. How can we think that this is ok?

The absence of men, as allies, in these spaces and conversations, is part of the problem. By not being present in the committee meetings, delivering the training, or speaking out when needed, we are complicit in the very problems that we think we are tackling. In leaving women, people of colour and the marginalised to lead equality and diversity work in the sector, we are reinforcing a silence that permits continued harassment, microaggressions, misogyny, and outright racism and sexism that should have been long banished from our universities and sector.

So, what can we do?

  • Educate yourself. Take time to reflect on your own (in)action. Listen to women when they are sharing their experiences in a way that inspires trust and respect. This requires empathy, attention, a refusal to interrupt and valuing the experiences being shared. 
  • Be comfortable in being uncomfortable, the discussions and sharing of these experiences by your colleagues, students and friends may produce self-blame, shame and anxiety. The solution is to learn and engage more, not to retreat and make yourself feel better or absolved.
  • Engage in support for women by asking —not assuming — how you can best support, advocate, and act. Remember, it is not about you. Ask women how you can amplify, not replace, and take over.
  • Change your mind set about the role of men in equality and diversity spaces.  If we continue to leave the heavy lifting to others, progress will continue at its current glacial pace. We need active, vocal, and strong allies.
  • Step forward and step up. The easy part of being an ally is saying you will be better or respond. The hard part is in taking the action you have committed to. Hold yourself to your promises and commitments. If you see something, say something, and commit to action when you witness inequality, harassment or bullying in all its forms.

I have reflected a lot over the past fortnight on my role in these conversations, how I have been complicit, and how I need to change. I would encourage all men to do the same. 

EDI Call to Action: National Census Day

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Project Assistant, Jessie Krish, writes about the UK Census: what it is, why participation matters and how this aspect of our democratic framework stands to have real impacts on equality and inclusion in research, local governance and our daily lives.

The UK census, which happens every 10 years and gathers information that gives the UK government a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. The data that is collected is used to plan services such as transport, education and healthcare.  

It is really important that we all fill the census out on Sunday 21st March or as soon as possible thereafter: ‘who’ participates impacts the data we have and our view of ‘who’ our country is 

The overall response to the last census in 2011 was 94% but amongst some black and minority ethnic households it was up to 10 percentage points lower. This can lead to decision-makers operating without awareness of the needs of particular communities. Entering the recovery phase of the pandemic, which has brought stark disadvantages such as health-inequalities between different ethnic groups to light, this is more important than ever. 

We are excited that this year the census will ask voluntary questions on sexual orientation and trans status for the first time since the census first ran in 1801. Iain Bell, Deputy National Statistician at The Office for National Statistics commented in The Guardian that, without robust data on the size of the LGBT population at a national and local level, decision-makers are operating in a vacuum.’ In the same article, Nancy Kelley, chief executive of Stonewall, said: Historically, lesbian, gay, bi and trans people have been a hidden population in the UK, and this lack of visibility has damaged our ability to secure the rights and the support our communities need. 

The census data is also an invaluable resource for those of us working in relation to health, policy and the social sciences, whose research strongly mirrors King’s commitment to society.

A recently published rapid ethnographic study led by Dr Maria Kordowicz from the School of Population Health & Environmental Sciences, in collaboration with Dr Dieu Hack-Polay at the University of Lincoln, scopes the extent to which community organisations do and should play a role in multi-morbidity care provision in Southwark and Lambeth. This is an apt example of King’s research that draws on census data and stands to make a real impact on health and social care policy and outcomes in our local boroughs.

The more accurate census data is, the more useful it is. Don’t forget to fill it out and to remind your friends and family too! It is also important to flag that those who do not complete the census could be fined up to £1000.

Please take note of some key practical information below. For more information visit census.gov.uk.

A woman with brown skin and long curly hair stands on the pavement, near to a city junction. Dusk is falling and she is smiling. Overlaid text says: 'How do I take part in the census?'

Image from the 2021 national census campaign.

To prepare yourself for Census Day on Sunday 21st March you should: 
  • Ensure that you have received a letter from the office for National Statistics – this will contain a unique 16-digit household access code. You will need this if you wish to complete your census online. 
  • Remind all adults in your household that they will need to complete the census too, using the same household access code. The census should take around 10 minutes per person to fill in. 
  • When you have completed the census, why not share this on social media with the official hashtag #census2021  

Additional support:

  • If you would prefer to complete a paper form, this can be request via www.census.gov.uk. 
  • You can visit a Census Support Centre where you will be provided with support to complete the census. Phone the free census helpline on 0800 141 2021 to find your nearest centre. 
  • To get information about large print formats, braille formats or British Sign Language visit www.census.gov.uk or phone the census helpline free on 0800 141 2021 
  • Phone the free language helpline on 0800 587 2021 


Layla F Saad’s Me and White Supremacy: What I learnt

Sophie Rust recently joined Equality, Diversity & Inclusion as a Project Officer, working two days a week in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities. She previously worked in King’s Careers & Employability.  

Nine months after the murder of George Floyd sparked a resurgence of the global Black Lives Matter movementI have been reflecting on my own journey towards practising anti-racism. Layla Saad in her book Me and White Supremacy explains that commitment to anti-racism is a lifelong practice. It is one that I have only recently started to understand 

Last June we saw organisations scrambling to articulate positions on racismMany were sceptical about the depth of convictions behind their public statements and black squaresWhilst structural and individual racism must be addressed, it was my own inaction that left me most uncomfortableAsking myself am I really doing enough?, the answer was a resounding no. Like many other white people, I considered myself liberal, progressive, and ‘not racist’, but through engaging with anti-racist scholars and activists such as Ibram X. KendiReni Eddo-Lodge and Akala, I understood that ‘not-racist’ is not enough. This seemingly neutral position actually upholds the status quo in order to retain white privilege.  

Educating myself has helped me deepen my understanding of racismthe legacy of colonialism and empire, and how I can show up as an ally to People of ColourOne of the texts that has been most helpful is Layla F Saad’s Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World.  Originally a 28day Instagram challengeMe and White Supremacy is now in book form with journaling questions to complete at the end of each day. got a small group of friends together to read and discuss it over a few months, which provided accountability and support as we confronted this uncomfortable subject matter together.  

The book begins with an introduction to Saad’s own story, an overview of white supremacy as a topic and instructions on how to use the book. The rest of the book is split into four themed sections: Week 1 – The Basics which grounds you in key concepts; Week 2 – Anti-blackness, RaciaStereotypes and Cultural appropriation; Week 3 – Allyship; and Week 4 – Power, Relationships, and Commitments.  Saad has given me vocabulary to discuss racism and white supremacy, which has transformed my confidence to speak about race. Journaling has enabled me to go deeper into the content and relate knowledge that might otherwise remain abstract and theoretical to my daily life. 

On a light-green background, arrows point to work, home, church, business, school and government, listing changes in each domain that can promote anti-racism and lead to change.

Instagram post and graphic by illustrator and activist Danielle Coke presenting steps you can take in the short-term to combat racism and contribute to change. Follow Danielle on Instagram @ohhappydani.

Responding to the section on commitments at the end of the book, I explored my sphere of influence to see where I could practice anti-racismThis led me to examine where I was shopping and to discover Black-owned alternatives via marketplaces such as Jamii or Janet’s Listbecame a member of gal-dem which is an independent media organisation committed to telling the stories of people of colour from marginalised genders. decided to join the trade union UNISON in order to organise and campaign for better working conditions for all staff. I joined my local Labour Party to understand more about local issues where I live in Tottenham which has a large Black and Minority Ethnic populationIn my previous role in King’s Careers & Employability I participated in our local Race Equality Group and worked with Gya Niyazi to ringfence 20% of the Student Opportunity Fund grants for Black students. I’ve also started having conversations about race with my family. This has been one of the most challenging commitments, especially with the added barrier of virtual communications during the pandemic. These are just a few examples related to my personal sphere of influence so I’m not sharing them as a blueprint. I know this is just the beginning and I still have a lot to do. Each day presents new opportunities.  

Saad writes: ‘it is your responsibility within yourself, your communities, your educational institutions, your corporations, and your government institutions to do the work that you can do every day to create the change the world needs by creating change within yourself.’ There are fantastic ways to get involved in anti-racism work at King’s such as the Race Equality NetworkGlobal Day of ServiceConversations about Race and anti-racism resources. Learn more about anti-racism at King’s here.  

Please do reach out to me by email or LinkedIn (sophie.rust@kcl.ac.uk) if you have feedback on this blog post or want to connect – would love to hear from you! 

Targeted Graduate Recruitment, Apprenticeships and Internships

This blog is part of a series from Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sarah Guerra, where she will be addressing the whole pictureof EDI, why it is important, and how we go about making effective, systemic change.

There are a variety of ways to diversify your workforce and enable those from underrepresented groups to get the experience they need to get on the career ladder and progress successfully. These include graduate recruitment schemes, apprenticeships and internships. 

Recruiting graduates differs from overall employee recruitment, as candidates are less likely to have previous employment experience under their belt. It is ironic, in my view, that as a University we don’t have a consolidated or consistent approach to graduate recruitment! We have a great 2-year rotational scheme in our IT department that aims to develop graduates’ IT and business skills and experience and has proved very successful. I really find it hard to understand why we don’t have more of this across the university and will devote some time to exploring this over the coming months. 

In general, new graduates are highly ambitious, eager to impress in their first career role, and have high expectations of their managers to support and actively sponsor their career. Targeted graduate recruitment as part of a recruitment strategy can enable a focus on creating greater diversity in areas where there are the greatest gaps. This can positively increase the number of BME graduates entering employment through graduate recruitment, which subsequently impacts the talent pipeline. 

A targeted approach could include using higher education ethnicity data, looking at universities with better BME representation. With our 17,900 undergraduates making up just over 60% of the student population, King’s is in an excellent position here, and, with our Careers and Employability Department, we should be thinking about how to maximise this competitive advantage. 

In addition, the implementation of  cross-organisation schemes, in which BME graduates spend a few months in each department, provides greater exposure across an organisation’s activity and can help those who are joining the workforce to evaluate where their strongest skills lie. The Civil Service is very good at this and has several schemes for graduates under the umbrella of the Civil Service Fast Stream (this is how I started my career). This lays the groundwork to help new entrants succeed in their future careers, providing opportunities at an early career stage for valuable leadership insights across a range of environments. 

All recruitment, and particularly graduate recruitment, requires care and attention. Employers should already have good quality data on their workforce and collect data on  new graduate employees so that they can track them as they progress. (See my blog The Drive for Data). This helps organisations to understand the rewards for their investment and provides insight into what other future targeted interventions are needed. 

Historically, many graduate schemes have suffered from the built-in biases we are all aware of. Any future schemes need to be designed and operated carefully, seeking to identify and minimise bias at each stage of the recruitment process and ensuring that, once in an organisation, all individuals are treated fairly and given equal opportunities to succeed and thrive. 

Apprenticeships were historically a method for developing a new generation of practitioners in a trade or profession, through training that is done on the job, accompanied by formal study. They are increasingly attractive as individuals prefer to get hands-on work experience and not build mountains of student debt.

There is significant under-representation of BME apprentices in some industry sectors with higher earnings potential, such as engineering and science. Therefore, organisations have a crucial role to play in redressing this imbalance and ensuring that women, disabled, or queer people, BME and other marginalised groups are not discouraged from taking up apprenticeship opportunities.

Employers can do this by encouraging applications for apprenticeships from under-represented groups and scrutinising the reach of their recruitment strategies – asking themselves, how might these reach a wider audience? They can and should review recruitment and selection criteria to ensure they don’t exclude or discourage under-represented groups. They can go further and consider giving all atypical applicants who meet the minimum selection criteria an interview, and using positive action to address under-representation (see my blog on ‘Targets, Quotas and Money’). Organisations have also seen success by targeting information at parents of young people from disadvantaged groups to help address their under-representation.

Targeted Internships or Work Experience Internships are career-based learning experiences that involve real world” work environments and expectations. Taking a targeted Internship approach can help address underrepresentation or experience gaps. To make this meaningful and effective, an organisation would need to consider how to structure these programmes and also provide experiences that enable interns to learn about the tasks of their work but also learn to navigate environments and build networks. It is important that Interns are recruited in an open and fair process. Internships should not be nepotistic; they should be a serious part of an organisation’s hiring pipeline. The Civil Services award-winning diversity internship programmes, including the Early Diversity Internship Programme and the Summer Diversity Internship Programme, are good examples.

It is important to treat people as individuals and place a positive value on diversity – not to be seen to be ticking a box or tokenising. Equality is about fairness in society, where everyone can participate, and have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. So whether it is interns, apprentices or graduate recruits, there is a need to ensure equal access to opportunities to fully participate in the learning process, to treat everyone fairly, and equip both managers and learners with the skills to challenge inequality and discrimination in their work/study environment.

The coronavirus crisis has illustrated how embedded and ingrained Vision 2029 is at Kings, prompting an extraordinary short-term realignment across our five strategic priorities of Education, Research, Service, London and Internationalisation. The institutions immediate response demonstrated our immersion in the concept of service, and the strength of our partnerships in our local London boroughs– and with Cornwall, through the extended community of Kings Service Centre. Our academic strategies for education and research have been adapted swiftly and imaginatively so that our students can continue to receive a world-class education under dramatically changed circumstances, and our research continues to thrive and make a major national and international impact. Kings people have responded creatively and pragmatically, adapting to challenging circumstances while continuing to deliver at the highest level. Our increased reliance on technology is just one example of how our professional services capabilities, and the expertise of our professional services staff, are fundamental to success. Overall, as we have shaped our route to recovery, the effect has been to accelerate, rather than defer, our commitment to Vision 2029.

As someone who has benefited from a graduate recruitment scheme, starting my career in the Civil Service Fast Stream, I have a real enthusiasm for them. Without a doubt this scheme gave me a start and professional grounding that has stood me in good stead throughout my career. Equally, as the only brown girl of that group, and the last to get promoted, eventually finding myself leaving to get the recognition I deserved, I fully recognise their limitations in a world in which structural inequalities persist.

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