Diversity Digest

Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Author: Sarah Mander (page 1 of 4)

UK Black Pride: How UKBP is creating a more inclusive LGBTQ+ community for BME people.

UK Black Pride is Europe’s largest celebration for LGBTQ+ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent. Whitney Robinson, co-chair of the King’s Race Equality Network, explains why it is such an important event.  


Over half of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) LGBTQ+ people in the UK have reported facing discrimination from within the LGBTQ+ community. Equality at King’s cannot be achieved until every single member of staff can experience equality within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community.

King's at London Pride

Photo by Matt Nelson (https://www.mdnphotovideo.com/)

We are proud that colleagues from Proudly King’s and the Race Equality Network stood together this Pride because, in the words of the writer, feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde:

There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone.” We can achieve so much more by supporting not only our own causes, but others which can affect a great number of people from our community

As a straight black woman, I’ve experienced discrimination based on my gender and, like many other ethnic minorities, racism and ridicule based on the pigmentation of my skin. However, unlike ethnic minorities of all shades and backgrounds who identify as LGBTQ+, I’ve never been a victim of prejudice and violence based on who I choose to love!

As coined in 1989 by law professor and civic rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality is the overlap between different categories of social identities such as race, class, gender, disability, religion and sexual orientation. Crenshaw argues that this overlap is key in creating interdependent streams of discrimination for those significantly marginalised within society.

Ethnic minorities often report experiencing homophobia within their cultural communities alongside racism and isolation within the LGBTQ+ community. A third of Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBTQ+ people have experienced hate crime based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, compared to one in five white LGBTQ+ people. With statistics like this in mind the need for movements such as UK Black Pride are becoming increasingly apparent.

UK Black Pride is an opportunity to embrace the power of intersectionality through celebrating and embracing the heritage of LGBTQ+ ethnic minorities within a setting reflective of their experiences and culture. As the King’s community, let’s stand together in solidarity towards advancing and achieving true equality, diversity and inclusion for all!

This year we make small beginnings with our presence at UK Black Pride and a Gypsy feminism event run in collaboration with Traveller Pride. We encourage every person, regardless of their identity, to take part in staff networks at King’s. We hope we can collaborate more with the Race Equality Network in the future and work together with every single network to make King’s – and the world – a better place. – Kirsty McLaren (right) & Josh Pullen (bottom), co-chairs of Proudly King’s

Becoming a better ally

In anticipation for London Pride this weekend, King’s Chaplain, Tim Ditchfield, has penned a blog reflecting on his experience at the Stonewall Open Trans Ally Programme.. 


In recent years I have met several trans people and have heard their stories of challenges and struggle, a desire to be fully themselves and a pressure to deny themselves. And painful stories of being victimised and on the receiving end of abuse and aggression.

As someone who identifies as a straight cis Christian man (I guess you’d expect the Christian bit from the College Chaplain!) I am aware of two key things. Firstly, that God is a God of love who welcomes all people and has a special concern for those who are treated badly by other people, often those on the margins; and secondly that the church has, sadly, failed to live up to this standard in so many ways, but especially in relation to LGBTQ+ people.

I have also realised how I have sat on the fence about this. Recognising a desire for equality but doing little about it as it doesn’t affect me personally. Which is why over the past year I have started to be more proactive. I went to the Stonewall Workplace conference in April which was inspirational seeing so many impressive people speaking. And so many of the speakers identified as people of faith.

Ruth Hunt, the amazing CEO of Stonewall, spoke of her faith. Also people like Nour Shaker, the Trans Advisor for Vodaphone UK, and Shaan Knan, a Liberal Jewish trans man, who is working on a PhD exploring the intersection of trans and faith. All of these people and many others during the day spoke of their faith in a positive way and how it has shaped and encouraged them to be who they are.

As a result of this, I went on the Stonewall OPEN Trans Allies Programme two weeks ago. This was a day-long programme described as follows:

The Stonewall Trans Allies Programme is for individuals at all levels in an organisation. It is designed to empower individuals to actively create more trans-inclusive workplaces and communities. It’s designed to give participants a deeper understanding of the impact of common transphobic narratives on the trans community, and help participants create a clear action plan to actively tackle them, and to give participants access to a network of other trans allies to help create positive change.

The starting point for the day grew out of this statement of intent: though Stonewall encourages an open and honest environment, debating people’s identities is not acceptable. Trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary people exist. All identities are valid.

It was a useful day as we explored terminology, identity & privilege as well as the current legal position. It was painful to hear people’s stories of abuse and the reality of transphobia. It was challenging to work through what we as allies can do to respond proactively to this.

We had to leave with an action plan: what we’d do immediately, within a month and within a year. My immediate one was to use my pronouns in emails and on name labels at events, which I’m now doing. (I found this blog really helpful when asking why I should do this.)

Check.

Within a month, I planned to write a blog post about the day. Here it is.

Check.

Within a year I want to ensure the chaplaincy is a place where trans people feel fully welcome and included, and also a place where we are encouraging all people to explore the intersections of trans and faith in a safe environment.

Work in progress.

 

Why I call myself Black.

Last weekend saw the UK celebrate the first National Windrush day. Commemorating the day 71 years ago that several hundred people from the Caribbean arrived to start a new life in Britain. A day to celebrate the many contributions the Caribbean community has made to British society. It got me thinking about myself and my identity and specifically why I call myself ‘black’?

I get asked this a lot!

And people ask, what about BME and BAME or person of colour (POC)? What do you think of those? Why do we need these? Are they a way of erasing identity, euphemising race issues or are they empowering and necessary?

Ask anyone, and you’ll find multiple equally convincing or equally inconclusive and divergent views, all connected in some way to their identity and experience in the world with that identity.

So, to answer that question, I speak from my own identity and experience, to articulate why I call myself black.

Sarah 1.0

I was born, here in London, a child of immigrants, mixed in every way, parents from opposite sides of the world, Trinidad and Mauritius (and their respective colonial histories), of two different religions – Muslim and Catholic. I went to 3 different primary schools and was nearly always the only brown girl in the class.

In my teens, I was ‘too different’ (read: brown) for any boys to dare want to go out with me or admit to wanting to. All this created confusion and led me to not like myself very much, even if it was unconscious. I had a deep-seated, internalised sense that I wasn’t normal, I wasn’t good enough. I was ashamed and embarrassed by my home, smelling like ‘funny food’. I longed to have fish fingers like ‘everybody else’.  I could never have articulated this feeling as being about skin colour but looking back from 2019, it so obviously was.

My parents were simultaneously ambitious and clear about the achievement and aspiration they expected of me, whilst at the same time carrying their own internalised perspectives on our place in the world which was impacted by how they experienced the world and were treated as immigrants.  I can’t imagine what it was like having been invited and enticed to come to the UK on the promise of a new life, to find that life was damn tough and lonely. To protect me they taught me to expect to be not accepted, to expect to work twice as hard and ensured that I failed the “Tebbit test”. (Norman Tebbit, then a leading figure in the Government, said that immigrants from the Commonwealth and their children should show their patriotism by supporting the England cricket team rather than the team from their, or their parent’s birth country.)

 

Ms Guerra: The Second Wave

A childhood into teens, never talking about or unpacking my identity – it just wasn’t a thing we did then, and then into my 20s. It was here I met my white partner, became a stepmother and then in my 30s, birthed my biological children. A second wave starts to emerge, in which I actively learned about gender equality and the patriarchy with the help and support of the trade union movement – notably via the amazing TUC Women’s and Black Workers’ movements.

It was in this time I also read the life-changing book Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain by Mike and Trevor Phillips.  This really helped me discover the layers of my identity and understand the many self-limiting beliefs (mine, my parent’s, those around me) that contributed to how I experienced the world and often suffered from Imposter Syndrome. Reading this helped me develop language, agency and capacity, to not only understand my own identity but to be able to talk about it and use it as a tool to make me better at my job. (This is what HR people call ‘self as instrument’. It’s a thing!)

In the meantime, I was developing my career and transforming from a tax specialist into a more generic civil servant, and then to a people and organisation specialist. Now, I knew the problem of underrepresentation was real, not just my instinct. Now, I knew that different people got to progress in their career because of their identity and experience.

Now, I had gained the ability to expose, crystallise and articulate these issues. In my trajectory towards becoming an equality practitioner, I recognised the need for data and numbers: the need to prove that issues exist in order to persuade people to act. That means we must have language to conceptualise and explain what is going on. We need to have methods that enable us to penetrate people’s defences and address their personal (un)comfortabilities.

 

Sarah Guerra – and the equality warrior revolutions!

In 2019, I am a Black woman, confident in her identity and skill. I call myself black because despite being brown and having straight hair, I am what Trinidadians refer to as ‘dougla’. When I say it, black, I feel comfortable and authentic. I know that being brown-skinned- rather than black – affords me more privilege, but the teachings of my parents, that people like me will never be accepted as English, runs deep. Black was a term adopted by political activists to create a movement. For me, Brown doesn’t help me to convey or develop that movement.

Similarly, I see BAME/BME as interchangeable and have taken on POC from the Americans which for me was existentially better than having to classify anything from the spectrum of global majority skin colours as ‘non-white’.

The sad fact is, for race equality to happen, we need these boxes and labels to create concepts and interventions around identity. My personal view has always been talking about the labels is a distraction if it takes energy away from recognising the underlying systemic, attitudinal aspects and from doing things that help shift the dial. That said, I know for some it is important and so am keen no one sees me as dismissive. I just want to explain my perspective.

I encourage us each to approach these discussions with sensitivity and empathy, seeking to understand and see the whole picture. To understand what is important to individuals in any given circumstance but to not get hung up on language for the sake of it.

One of the things I did this weekend to take note of Windrush Day was to listen to this very moving podcast from one of my childhood faves Baroness Floella Benjamin. It was so resonant for me! I was a ’Playschool baby’ and racism and its manifestation – once I stopped letting it win – has indeed made me resilient and given me valuable life skills as well as a pride in who I am!

On this as with everything in the D&I sphere, I am always really interested in people’s reactions and feedback, so do get in touch. You can find me on Twitter @equalitywarrior.

 

 

 

 

Be Brave.

This week  I feel inspired we reached a really significant milestone. We launched a King’s-wide staff Race Equality Network (REN). This was great for so many reasons, and it’s led me to reminisce on one of the turning points in my career, back in the dim and distant past, when I worked with three colleagues to start a HMRC BAME women’s network.

It was personally transformative: giving me access to senior people, building my personal credibility and profile, enabling me to exert influence as well as developing and practicing skills. It  met many new people from across a huge organisation. I got personal support and nourishment but also provided inspiration, guidance and support through being a role model to others. I will never forget being in a room with a colleague who was relatively early in her career and her wonder that there were women of colour in senior positions (relative to her as to opposed to actually senior)! She actually said “I really didn’t know people like you existed!”

I’ve been at King’s for just over two years, as Director of Diversity & Inclusion (a unique position across the sector). My focus has been supporting an intersectional approach to enable and empower community voice, staff and students.  The REN launch completes the first tranche of networks that we needed. I recruited India Jordan and Sarah Mander specifically to support community network development and they have worked tirelessly on their bespoke community network model based on the fabulous Proudly King’s approach.

The creation and success of this new Network is a key part of the delivery of King’s Race Equality Action Plan which supports the Race Equality Chartermark. It also comes along just as we are about to see the start of the newly refreshed college D&I governance structure.

As part of the event, one of the co-chairs, Precious, asked me to share something that had personally inspired me. This allowed me to reveal my TV addiction, which I am currently feeding by re-watching Grey’s Anatomy created by the ground breaking, inspirational Shonda Rhimes.

I got out Year of Yes – How To Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person (a book I have since bought multiple times as a gift). It’s such an eye-opening book. She was the first person ever, and also the first black woman to have three top rated network TV shows in America, at one time, airing back to back on a Thursday evening. Year of Yes very entertainingly exposes her epiphanies in discovering her personal authenticity and beating back her self-limiting beliefs and behaviours.

The breadth of the book is such that I could have used it to make points about gender or race solidarity and allyship, imposter syndrome, career ambitions and success, parenthood, mental health and its impacts on everyday life, being a woman, being a black woman, being a first and the list goes on.

I chose an excerpt about what choosing to be different, choosing to change and choosing to lead feels like:

I thought saying YES would feel good. I thought it would feel freeing. Like Julie Andrews spinning around on that big mountaintop at the beginning of The Sound of Music. Like Angela Bassett when she’s Tina Turner and she walks out of the divorce court and away from Ike with nothing but her name in What’s Love Got to Do with It. Like how you feel when you have just finished baking double-fudge brownies but you have yet to shove one into your mouth, starting the sugar rush roller coaster that won’t end until you are curled up in a ball on the sofa, rocking back and forth while scraping the crumbs of the empty brownie pan into your mouth and trying to talk yourself into believing that maybe the ex-boyfriend you dumped wasn’t so bad after all.

Like that.

This YES does not feel like a post-baked, pre-eaten brownie.

I feel forced into this. I feel like I don’t have a choice. My obligation to my network to my stupid Year of Yes idea has trapped me.

My paw caught in a trap. I can try and chew it off and run away. But if you think I am whining now? Try me when I am down a paw and have just a bloody gnawed stump to deal with.

The tears.

The drama.

The wailing and moaning.

The cross I would be nailing myself to would be so pretty and brightly lit. Oh, my cross wouldn’t be missed by anyone! You’d see my cross from space.

The numbing fear is starting to creep over me. ….

 

This passage particularly spoke to me for the REN launch, reminding me of my own experiences leading discussions and activity aimed at championing and supporting diversity. Our REN co-chairs Precious Alabi and Whitney Robinson, and sponsors Syreeta Allen and Jonathan Grant, are choosing to step up and that takes courage. Each person that has signed up to the network and attended the launch are also saying signing up to be part of creating the change we want to achieve at King’s and in the world. This in any sphere is hard, but for race, a complex and sensitive topic, that impacts each and every one of us every day – well that is especially challenging or as Shonda might say ‘badass’!

 

Anyone in a leadership position can tell you that it’s tough work each and every day. It needs you to steel yourself and re-find and renew your motivation repeatedly.

I wanted the room to know that the fear and anxiety they were bound to feel over the time to come was something everyone feels. It is part of being a brave leader. It is something I feel almost daily.

This event filled me with hope and renewed energy and I am just so proud and privileged to have been able to pay a small part in the network’s birth.

 

How one parent-carer started a PhD at King’s (and managed to keep her sense of humour)

In recognition of Carer’s Week, we are publishing a very special, anonymous story of a PhD student at King’s, who is also a carer for her son. You can find out more about Carer’s Week on their website, check out the many events happening at King’s, and see the many messages of support for carers from the King’s community on the KCL Diversity Twitter


I became a carer when I became a parent. I was a carer when I returned to academia to become a PhD student. I have been a carer for 19 years and a PhD student for six years. I will be a carer for the rest of my life.

I am also a researcher in a ground-breaking, exciting multidisciplinary field, working an exciting new discipline, with a public engagement track record and sought after as a lecturer at a number of universities in the London area.

But I need to take a break to appeal my son’s PIP decision. This is the second time I have had to do this during my PhD. The last appeal took eight months. My son won, of course. I have also spent the last two years trying to get our local Adult Social Care team to recognise that he is eligible for support under the Care Act. If I stop supporting him, who will?

I was genuinely astonished when I came to King’s in 2013 to find that there was no support for and no recognition of carers. No financial support: no bursaries and no fee waivers for example. And no support networks. And I looked everywhere. I went from faculty to department to doctoral studies to funding office to various student advice and support teams and representatives and so on. One year I was introduced to the KCLSU president who said to me: ‘Oh I know about you – you’re the student carer!’ It was as if I was asking to go to the moon. Except for the Chaplaincy – they got it, and they were great.

In my life outside academia I had led parent-carer support and advocacy groups, I had considerable experience in engaging with statutory authorities and policy makers, and was a trustee for the national charity supporting my son’s disabilities.

After all these years of campaigning – it was about 12 years or so, I really thought we had managed to make a difference in this world – why was I having to start campaigning again and alone for my own case as a self-funded PhD student carer? Does it piss me off that there is no discretionary funding or scholarships to support carers to do postgraduate research and that we are competing with straight A students, with no space to disclose our circumstances? Why yes, it does!

After a few years I decided not to be angry and to find my own way through academia, and I am happy! I found my niche and my tribe, people who share the same view of academic working style and research outputs. I no longer feel inadequate and excluded when someone talks about their 60 hour week as a lecturer.

I have started to develop a research methodology and output that engages with diversity and has public engagement impact on diversity. This is one hundred percent related to my experience of raising a child with a life-limiting illness, brain injury and disabilities that meant he was often hospitalised, sometimes in intensive care, frequently excluded from school until he was sent to a residential boarding school and lived in a children’s home setting from Monday to Friday, and from the violence I have experienced from him.

But for now I have managed to keep my sense of humour and my health. I love my son, I have a supportive supervisor, partner, dog, and a strong network of like-minded researchers, I take my daily anti-depressant, I am happily plodding along with my never-ending PhD, I enjoy my new career as an hourly-paid lecturer in my unique and ground-breaking multidisciplinary specialty (I put that in twice on purpose, makes me feel good to say it), my son is staying safe and out of hospital, his seizures are under control … it never ends.

 

#WomenofKings: Kyla Jardine

To celebrate Women’s History Month and #WomenofKings, we have invited Kyla Jardine (News & Events Manager  for Arts & Humanities, Social Science & Public Policy) from our Gender Equality Network, Elevate  to reflect on the launch event, the wonderful speakers and what we have to look forward to. 


Elevate exists to provide a formal networking platform for professional services staff at King’s. The Network aims to address and challenge issues of gender inequality at King’s, providing an integral platform for staff to share their experiences and by informing KCL policy and strategy.

Elevate’s aim is to empower staff to reach their potential through events, mentoring and training, and to act as a community who provide support both personally and professionally to one another.

Elevate is inclusive to all individuals and specifically addresses the challenges and barriers faced by those who identify as women and as non-binary; staff can join in this capacity, or as an ally.

When we decided to launch on the eve of International Women’s Day, we wanted to host an event that would be both insightful and useful and reflected the diversity of our staff at King’s.

For our panel discussion on, ‘How to Find Your Own Leadership’, we wanted to demonstrate that leadership exists at every level and grade within an organisation, especially one as complex and varied as King’s, and that paths to leadership can be more than achieving an executive or senior role.

It was also important for us to connect with King’s other networks, and our panellist reflected this breadth of experience and interests.

Our speakers were:

It was a pleasure to have Tessa Harrison, Director of Students & Education officially launch Elevate as our senior sponsor and an advocate for our cause.

She rounded out her speech by displaying and iterating some core leadership attributes: understanding how our own social privilege can create blind spots and knowing that every person has something of value to offer:

I learned something about the importance of recognising my privileges – I recognised with some discomfort that to some I am no different to the very privileged white men who have been the butt of my endless challenges over the years. It’s an uncomfortable truth that each generation becomes unreconstructed in the face of the next generation.

So, my ask of all of you engaging in this new network is to be kind to each other as you start working through the issues and ideas that each of you have.

Over the course of the evening, we explored what leadership means, shared advice for aspiring leaders, and looked at how we can navigate challenges. We also discussed how to access support and opportunities within the College, including the importance of becoming an active member of King’s networks, like Elevate.

Afterwards, we all enjoyed the opportunity to meet and chat over drinks, surrounded by the stunning exhibition ‘Visualising the Margins: Gendered Perspectives’ in The Exchange.

Thank you to everyone who supported the launch and has become a member of the network so far. Don’t forget to tell your colleagues and sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with our ongoing activities, including our upcoming event on the 4th April. Stay tuned for details.

Kyla Jardine, Elevate Committee Member

#WomenofKings: Sarah Guerra

I’ve said it before, and I hope to be able to say it always! I love my job. The last week culminating in International Women’s Day, March 8th, has been such a buzz. I have had myriad opportunities to reflect, listen and learn about women’s equality.

I started last week sharing a platform with the amazing Ihron Rensberg, former Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg, leading an inclusive leadership session for on personal power and influence in a volatile world with King’s Senior Management Team. The middle of the week was co-hosting the D&I and Global Institute of Women’s Leadership International Women’s Day Inclusivity at King’s event and last night we launched Elevate, the new King’s Gender Equality network.  Sadly I wasn’t there as I had a long-standing night booked out with my own personal ‘network’ – 9 women who I count as sisters and my mum.

Fittingly enough we were at the theatre seeing 9-5 – Dolly the musical.  

Then on Sunday I watched RBG, a lively documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the US Supreme Court Justice, whose work transformed the legal landscape for women.  All through this I have been reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming – which has provided a daily dose of wisdom and inspiration as well as reducing me to tears on every commute. If you haven’t read it, stop everything NOW and go buy it.

Last week I opened the Inclusivity at King’s event with a passage from Ms O – page 284 for those interested. The event featured many, many amazing #womenofkings (check it out on twitter or on our intranet) on the platform and in the audience. The two that impacted me most were Professor Funmi Olonisakin, King’s Vice Principal (International) and Tessa Harrison, Director of Students and Education.

Funmi combined her academic field of expertise with personal insight to inspire women in the room, while Tessa shared incredibly honest and personal reflections about her own struggles to come to terms with how her feminism is perceived. The entire room showed what really listening to each other with a willingness to learn can do and how that can help us deal with our 21st century equality challenges. The event closed with me getting the thrill of sharing a platform with Julia Gillard as she talked through why we  as a society would want to do the right thing for diversity. Now that was a real career high!

My thoughts really crystallized watching 9-5.  For those unfamiliar it is a musical based on a film that features 3 female office workers and their male chauvinist pig boss. It was originally made in 1980 and is on at the Savoy Theatre now. Some might think it’s a parody, it is funny and light but also incredibly uncomfortable to watch and realise that this was the reality for many women. These 3 women each compete with and snipe at each other – resenting and judging each other for looks or status while all being demeaned, diminished and held back by their boss and work place standards.

I was a teenager in the 80s. Many of my friends that I was at the theatre with were young women in the workplace in the 80s, as obviously was my mother. They all recognised the play as being what was normal then. We reflected that we are grateful that in many places that things have changed. Watching RBG provided further evidence of how far we have come  – as a result of so many fighting so meticulously and vehemently to get here! We can take heart that looking back it really is unbelievable what the norms were, and I wonder what my daughters (26, 24, 15 and 12) will think when they look back on this time? What will they will find scary, hilarious or unbelievable?  However, testimony at our own International Women’s day event tells us we haven’t yet reached nirvana – women at King’s still experience gender-based discrimination, making it hard to make our lives work so we can succeed professionally and balance our other commitments.

Putting Michelle Obama, Ihron Rensberg, IWD, 9-5  and RBG together, I have been inspired by how positive people have been about King’s and the many practical suggestions. I have been reminded that to make change we need to follow Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s lead of working step by step and see the big picture and we need to start with ourselves.  We must understand our own identity, we must think about what we want and how to get there. We must recognise how we have been socialised, what privileges we carry, which ones we acquire. This takes work. This can be uncomfortable and scary. 9-5 reminded me that I have had to work hard to shake off a learned behaviour of judging other women (and myself) by the way they look, by other’s opinions of them, that these  tropes are patriarchal norms that I have absorbed. These breed unhealthy competition, they breed fear and suspicion – yet when we open our minds and our ears, when we listen respectfully and reflect and work collectively, collaboratively we achieve so much more.

I ended the Inclusivity at King’s event urging people in the room to be vocal and demanding. We here at King’s, women in the UK, in London experience some challenges but we have also achieved so much progress in gender equality but that isn’t consistent at King’s and it certainly isn’t something women everywhere enjoy. Change comes when we notice and agitate. Lets all play our part in making the world a better place with by never settling for less than we are worth. As my pal Michelle says, “Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?”

When in doubt – ask what Michelle Obama would do!

#WomenofKings: Em Flemming

To celebrate International Women’s Day and #WomenofKings, we have invited the panelists who will be speaking at our Elevate – Gender Equality Network launch, to reflect on finding their own leadership. Em Flemming, one of our Parents & Carer’s Network chairs, speaks about leadership as having a vision of success AND a strategy for everyone to be able to be part of it.

I never planned on finding myself in an official position of leadership, so sitting down to write this feels both exciting and a bit scary. Imposter syndrome’s whiny little voice loves to ask me why I think I have the right to hold forth on, well, any topic really but this one in particular is a doozy. What do I know about leadership?

I know what I value in a leader – someone who knows where they want to go, and is committed to bringing others along with them. Someone who can see the bigger picture, and communicate it clearly to those around them. Someone who is excited for the future, for change, but doesn’t forget that everyone will be at a different stage in the journey.

It’s a leader’s job to get to the top of the hill, check out the view on the other side and shout back to the whole gang to come and see how amazing it is. It’s their job to work out how everyone is going to get up there, and down the other side. Even the people who really hate walking up hills. Especially the people who really hate walking up hills. Good leaders look out for those guys.

Leaders are those people who see when things aren’t working so well, and bring people together to make them better. King’s vision is to make the world a better place, and mine is to make my bit of King’s a better place – whether that’s for my immediate team, for the part of the university I work in, or wider as part of cross campus initiatives like the Parent & Carers network.

So perhaps I didn’t plan on becoming a leader, but I know what kind of leader I want to be. And I was brought up in the Pennines, so I’m pretty good at getting up hills. Watch this space!

#WomenofKings: Chenee Psaros

To celebrate International Women’s Day and #WomenofKings, we have invited the panelists who will be speaking at our Elevate – Gender Equality Network launch, to reflect on finding their own leadership. Chenee Psaros, a founding member of the LGBTQ+ Staff Network, speaks about leadership as understanding one’s own positional power and using that to promote others.

I think great leadership is having an understanding of how our systems of power marginalise and disenfranchise people. It is understanding that individuals should be considered through multiple lenses; they do not exist separately from their class, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability or gender. It is understanding how our own social privilege can create blind spots where we can disregard others without careful thought. Leadership is knowing that every person has something of value to offer.

As one of the founding members of Proudly King’s, the King’s LGBTQ+ Staff Network, I am proud to work alongside people who share similar views to mine.

We work tirelessly ensuring that in our institution we are equal, culturally as well as legally. We want to make sure that queer people feel comfortable enough to bring their whole selves to work, knowing that they can share who they are without fear of intimidation or discrimination. We also think it is important to enlighten and inform others of the obstacles queer people may face at work.

I believe that everyone has it within their power to be a leader because as a leader you don’t always need to do something great, you just need to do something brave. Standing up for something you believe in or challenging someone with more power when you think they are wrong are small acts of leadership. Leadership is knowing who you are and what you stand for and being open enough to change your mind.

It Stops Here: Intersectional Allies

To celebrate It Stops Here Week (25th Feb – 1st March), our wonderful Projects & Communications Intern, Riana Henry, has written a blog on the importance of engaging with our student community.

The theme of It Stops Here Week 2019 is “intersectional allyship”

But what does this mean and how does this support the vision of the It Stops Here campaign? 

Intersectionality is all about recognising the connection between different types of stigmas and oppression in our society. Allyship is all about supporting one another in our community.

“Intersectional allyship” can happen once we educate ourselves on the connection between the different stigmas prevalent in our society and how we can actually support those who are affected by them in a variety of ways.

Recently, KCL Sexpression ran the “Don’t Be a Prick campaign”. They posted information online about consent, sexual harassment and being an active bystander and then challenged students to be quizzed on this information. If students answered correctly they were rewarded with a cactus.

The aim of the campaign was to educate students and raise awareness about the issues we face in society around attitudes towards sexual harassment.

I was initially sceptical about how much of an impact this would have on solving such a massive problem.

However, after talking to students that came along to stall I was proved wrong. There were some students who had completely misunderstood what consent was, putting themselves and others at risk. Through the campaign we were able to do something about this and help to combat harassment before it had the chance to happen by educating and raising awareness.  

I remember one student mentioned it was ridiculous that we should have to run campaigns like this to educate adults on what consent is. Whilst it is shame this type of education is not prioritised in schools and it is terrible we live in a society so ignorant to these issues, we have the power to change this one step at a time.

The “Don’t Be a Prick” campaign is one small step, It Stops Here week another and if we can continue to take these small steps without being deterred by the complexity and vastness of the problem, I honestly believe we can achieve the ambitious aims of the It Stops Here campaign.

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