Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

A day in the life: Sarah Guerra

This  blog is part of a new ‘day in the life’ series from KCL’s Diversity Digest blog. In this new feature we will go behind the scenes, getting to know our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Team and find out more about their work. 

Our latest ‘day in the life’ feature comes from Sarah Guerra (she/her) our outgoing Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion.

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

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Not so long ago on Twitter, I was taken with how KCLSU President Zahra regularly tweets to help KCLSU members understand how she spends her day working on their behalf. It led me to commission a ‘Day in the Life’ of series from EDI team members.

When thinking about writing mine I felt it would give a better sense of the depth and breadth of EDI work if I did a ‘Week in the Life of’. Our intention with this series is to help people see how equality, diversity and inclusion; change, transformation and embedding happen at a university like ours. Plus, as my last blog for King’s I get to reflect on how I spent my time to make a difference.

So, looking back at a random week, how have I spent my time?

I regularly chair several different large internal and external group meetings; that week, they included –

  • The College Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum which I co-chaired with KCLSU’s VP Welfare and Community. This forum that went live in 2020 works hand in hand with the College’s Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee. It is a body of staff and student voices to represent the breadth of perspectives of the King’s community. It provides insight into lived experience, acting as a link between local communities and King’s governance and decision-making structures.
  • There was also Advance HE’s Strategic Advisory Group for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
  • I also sit on many other committees and working groups. As fusty and bureaucratic as that might sound, these are the way an institution like ours brings people together from across the college. Committees and working groups provide a structure and focus for examining topics and making collective and informed decisions. This is the reality of how good quality, collaborative, well-governed ‘stuff’ within many organisations happens.

That week’s committee meetings were

  • The Safeguarding Oversight Committee.
  • The Report and Support Project Board – the board is overseeing the introduction of this platform to assist us in tackling bullying and harassment behaviours as set out in our Dignity at King’s Policy (introduced in 2020). Report and Support is an online reporting platform that gives organisations the insight they need to monitor and prevent bullying and harassment. The software allows users to report any incident safely and to access further support. It enables organisations to take a proactive and preventative approach and so improve organisation culture. Alongside the project board we also had a lengthy and detailed process mapping session. Here we are using a tool called a Miro Board and working in partnership with an expert IT process mapper.
  • The College International Committee which I joined relatively recently.
  • The HR systems user group which is looking at how to address pain points in our current HR systems.
  • The Data Governance Committee which ensures that data – one of our major assets – is managed proactively legally and effectively.
  • Externally there was the REF Equality Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Panel which is just reaching its end after two years of intense work.

Whilst my team generally operates in the strategic, rather than the individual case work or transactional space – this week did also include some time on an issue that has proved hard to resolve for an individual.

I also often find myself in ad hoc exploratory meetings. That week there was one looking at how we help staff and students understand consent within sexual relationships and, as part of that, how we increase take up of the Consent Matters training we have on offer first introduced in 2017

As well as large scale meetings I have lots of smaller meetings that might either be in terms of relationship building or offering troubleshooting or innovative consultancy and advice. This week these have included:

  • quick check-ins to steer the development of our new microaggressions training a 2022 development;
  • discussing how to build organisational trust, particularly through the lens of improving the effectiveness of our public and community engagement;
  • how to increase the pipeline of black academics and use Positive Action methodologies effectively and safely;
  • getting to know our new senior philanthropy manager;
  • a quick review of lessons learnt from the REF process.

Interspersed with all that is my own life as a mum, daughter, partner, friend and in various voluntary roles. This week had a school cultural event, attending a medical appointment with my mum and a lovely concert in which my daughter’s orchestra was playing. Plus, I made it to a former team member’s leaving do as marking and honouring exits is so important in ensuring people feel valued not to mention being great fun and an opportunity to catch up with people.

Then of course there is leading and managing my team. I pride myself on doing this effectively and compassionately (hopefully they agree). Working at King’s I got the chance to live out the leadership and management style I had always craved in my earlier working life – to “walk the walk”, if you like. To do anything effectively, I believe I need to set aside time for relationship building, thinking and sharing ideas. So, all weeks are interspersed with these opportunities. This week included a deep dive with a whole chunk of the EDI function on how to utilize one of our training products better, as well as upwards, downwards and sideways one to ones.

Of course, in between all that I must find time to deal with the issues that erupt out of left field (of which this week, like most, had its fair share) as well as sit at my virtual desk. At my desk (which can be in several rooms in my house) I write things like this blog, and follow up on actions, prepare for meetings, answer emails and look ahead to the coming weeks. I try and do this in good chunks of time so I can be efficient and effective – if you’ve never read How to Be a Productivity Ninja, by Graham Allcott, I would really recommend it. It really helped me take control of my limited time and use it effectively.

Stonewall gold celebration

Kirsty McLaren, Sarah Guerra & Paul Webb.

An absolute highlight of my week was meeting with our Stonewall Account Manger to get the feedback from our recent entry to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index – the main reason I do my role is because I want to make a difference. I want the world to be a fairer place and I want everyone to have the ability and opportunity to succeed without unnecessary barriers. Participating in something like the Stonewall WEI helps us identify what best practice is and continuously improve. This is with the focus of ensuring our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer + (LGBTQ+) staff, students and community can be themselves and feel fully welcomed and included at King’s. So having a feedback meeting that:

  • notes the progress and success we have achieved;
  • looks at what else we can do as well: and
  • considers how we maintain the gains we have made

is what I absolutely live for.

It is fair to say no two days are the same and in fact rarely are any two weeks the same – one of the reasons I love my job but also one of the things that makes it particularly challenging.

That week the more unusual or one-off things that happened included attending the Creative Majority Round Table  and being filmed for a leadership video that King’s Business School is making. I have to say, discovering there is a fully decked-out filming studio in Lavington Street and taking part in the production with an actual clapperboard blew my mind and made my week!

I love my job, but it is without a doubt demanding. I get to meet all sorts of interesting people. I need to be versatile and working in concert with a multiplicity of people. It regularly involves shifting from macro to micro perspectives. Helena Mattingley recently described it as having a telescope and a microscope and knowing when to use them. I’d add a wide-angle lens to those, as well as a plunger to suction out blockages and a screwdriver to tweak tiny aspects.

Successfully embedding equality, diversity and inclusion requires long-range, deep and innovative strategic thinking, short-term problem-solving and crisis management. Each day I get out of bed to make a difference. I work to identify and address the many

issues that contribute to the structural inequality that prevents the equality, diversity and inclusion we are striving for.

That’s my week in 1500 words.

Finally, I am grateful for the time I have had to contribute here and grateful to all those I have worked alongside and been supported by. I am also hopeful and wish the next person stepping into what is a truly amazing role and opportunity all the very best as they take it forward.

You can learn more about Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London and get in touch with the team by visiting our webpages. 

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