Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Author: Tyler John (Page 1 of 3)

It Starts With You – Mutual Mentoring and Data

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

diagram showing the progression of how data is collected and used

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

And it starts with you.  

To submit your Equal Opportunity data today:  

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

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

 

Ace and Agender – Turning Discomfort into Confidence

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-racism Reflections – what does our report card look like?

In this blog, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sarah Guerra, reflects on the progress we’ve made in making King’s an actively anti-racist university, a year on from the murder of George Floyd. 


This last week I have been able to return to fitness classes at the gym (4 in one week to get my sluggish body moving again – go me!).  Most of my classes have been taught by Fiona – who has been motivating us by saying ‘success is finishing the class wanting to come back.’

This has really struck me as I reflect as an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) practitioner on the anniversary of George Floyd’s tragic, very public and utterly preventable murder.

It is a cliché to say it has been two years like no other. A global pandemic that has seen us all in the UK, as far as possible, confined to our homes. A period where collective and social responsibility has meant that social contact has been fraught with danger. And then, if the pandemic was not already intense enough, we add to that the recognition by many that we have a similar level of dangerous toxicity in the form of racism.

2020 and 2021 has been a time when the world seemed to be collectively galvanised to address racism in a way that I have never seen before. I am still curious as to why the death of George Floyd, whilst horrific, was so catalytic.

What was distinctive about this event that motivated people so differently?

The systemic racism that enables everyday violence and exclusion of people of colour – particularly Black people – was not news to those of us that make up the Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority community or, in fact, the global majority!

It is something that those of us who experience racism have been highlighting forever and an issue that many professionals and activists have been seeking to address for a long time. Whatever it was – something about the confluence of events and experiences in 2020 and 2021 – it led many more people in the world to realise and accept that as a global community we were moving too slowly to combat the toxic, pervasive, all-consuming virus that is racism.

That eruption of world feeling was felt very strongly here at King’s. On June 9th 2020 , we held a powerful leadership summit where we made a commitment to being an anti-racist university. This, alongside the growing access to educational resources and increased attention, created a window of opportunity for a change in pace in achieving anti-racism outcomes. At least, that is how it has felt to me.

Now, in my 4th year at King’s as Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, I experience almost daily a mixture of conflicting feelings that fluctuate between pride and shame, pragmatism and ambition, fear and frustration. I am proud that we, collectively at King’s, are taking our equality, diversity and inclusion ambitions and particularly, our commitment to being anti-racist, seriously. Yet, I am frustrated with the pace of change. I am vexed that the good work we do often rests in siloes and isn’t something enough people are aware of or involved in.

I know that there is a widespread lack of trust, general suspicion and dissatisfaction amongst many, particularly those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. People tell me that they don’t believe there is a real commitment to King’s being anti-racist. They tell me that progress is too slow or non-existent. This is very understandable but also upsetting and demoralising.

I find myself questioning and second guessing myself? Have I sold out? Am I institutionalised? Am I too lenient on those around me in senior leadership? Am I out of touch? Do I even know what I am talking about? Am I letting people down, particularly people of colour? I know it’s not about me and that no one person can make the difference needed by themselves, but as the lead professional in this space, I feel the weight of responsibility and take our lack of progress and the resulting community feeling very strongly.

What I have witnessed here at King’s tells me that we are an organisation of enormous heart and ambition, but that our complexity and desire to be collaborative also makes us slow and ponderous. That can be perceived as resistance.

I have worked with many organisations to get leadership to pay attention and act, being forced frustratingly frequently to prove the point that race, and other inequality exists; laboriously and repetitively identifying the evidence of inequality and its impact. I know many individuals, practitioners and networks still face this daily, and maybe it is what many at King’s are experiencing.

As we continue this battle against racism, it is more important than ever that we all proactively support and prioritise our personal wellbeing, especially in this week that might be particularly traumatising for the Black community. You can find some links to wellbeing support here, these resources having been researched for Black people and for non-Black allies.

However, for me it is still – disturbingly – refreshing and frankly surprising when those in power at King’s don’t require repeated proof. Where instead they are willing to examine and tackle the roots of all inequality, and they take on the work themselves – something which in 2020/1 seems to have shifted us significantly forward. For example, every area of professional services has taken forward activity to tackle racism, and every faculty has an EDI committee and set of priorities. You can find out more about the breadth of our anti-racism work here.

So, as an experienced practitioner, I judge there to be something qualitatively different here at King’s to what I have experienced before. But, I also realise how intangible and ephemeral that is; that it may be invisible and to some extent makes no difference to those suffering on a daily basis. I also recognise that many people have become so frustrated and fed up that they refuse to make any more allowances for our slow progress.

This is where Fiona’s ‘success is finishing the class wanting to come back’ really strikes me. In each conversation we have and activity we run around race equality and developing anti- racism, I feel the need to strike a balance between identifying the issues and empowering those around me to take action, by building their confidence, capability and commitment. This is a fine judgement to make, though.  How hard do I push? How strong do I make my language? I want them to ‘want to come back’. I want them to grow and engage – I don’t want them to withdraw. When I first started here at King’s, one of our most senior leaders told me I had to judge all my actions carefully so that I wasn’t rejected by the ‘immune system’ of the organisation. I found this both useful and telling – was this advice given to white/male people starting too, I wondered? The reality though is this is the line I walk as a practitioner – as a bi woman of colour, each and every minute.

The anniversary of George Floyd’s death gives me and us a good point to reflect and consider: have we made all the progress it was possible to make this year in being anti-racist, in our ambition to be intersectional by default? I doubt it, but what has stopped us? What are we doing that is working and what we should magnify? What can we do better and faster in this coming year?

I am keen for all members of the King’s community to engage with those questions and send us in your reflections and ideas. So, please do take some time to reflect – perhaps the inordinately long time of 9 minutes and 29 second that Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck – and let us have your thoughts and views. You can share any thoughts and reflections you have with us via email, at diversity@kcl.ac.uk.

 

 

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.

‘hOmOsexual Armageddon’: Mark Tricklebank on being gay before and after decriminalisation

Mark Tricklebank is a Wellcome Trust Career Reentry Fellow in the Department of Neuroimaging Sciences. He is a committee member for Proudly King’s. For LGBTQ+ History Month, he writes about his experiences coming to terms with his sexuality before and after decriminalisation.


The greatest achievement for the LGBTQ+ movement has undoubtedly been the decriminalisation of sexual relations between consenting adults. As a young boy enrolled at a C of E school, trying to come to terms with same-sex attraction, the path to damnation was clear enough. The glint of golden hairs on the suntanned arm of a classmate that made me feel deliriously happy and incredibly curious about what the sun reflecting off his delicious legs would look like, were dangerous dreams that at this age would only introduce me to the word “pervert”. My headmaster committed suicide in his study for “interfering” with his pupils.  

The word homosexual was muttered with emphasis on the “O” in the BBC English of the time. My world was a world of spies and Germans. Philby and McClean were ‘hOmOsexuals’ who were intent on surrendering our country to the evil Russians. My aunty was a nurse in Winson Green Prison, and she had spoken with the spy Klaus Fuch who had warned her that Armageddon would soon be released on the West whose governments were full of traitors and upper-class hOmOsexuals. But what was a hOmOsexual? I had no idea until puberty was released on me. At ten I realised that my perceptual set was tuned to pick up the slightest hint of sexual interactions between men. The occasional television play that carelessly incorporated a hint of something not quite right in the interactions between male characters; an insistence for shirt cuffs to be folded absolutely properly; the Brylcreemed hair and perfectly chiselled features all provided an aura of things not being quite right.  

The idea that hOmOsexuals were perverts who hid their true nature and desires – like Soviet spies – was common sense. Handsome police officers were stationed on watch outside public toilets, ready to catch out returning commuters lingering at the stall for the briefest sight of a male member gloriously standing to attention. Avoiding the glances of Constable Dixon, ready to exert the full force of the law on anybody showing interest, these men scurried off home to wives, families and the safety of their typical British sanctuaries, content with their Philby-like performances. 

There was no need to label yourself a pervert when it was easy to obtain training to hide your deviant desires by simply reading the newspapers or watching the television. If the keeper of the Queen’s pictures could do it, why not Joe Bloggs on the 5.30 to Effingham Junction? That way, Winson Green’s promise of hOmOsexual Armageddon could remain safely out of sight, hidden by the chimneys still belching smoke. Until an episode of intense temptation would defeat even the most stalwart of spies, and the whispering would start: “I always thought there was something odd about the way he dressed,” or, “he always needed to visit the gents before getting on/off the train”. Deceit and denial were the order of the day until the door closed and relief could be obtained in private behind the locked door. The scrawled messages on the walls and doors of what others could provide serving as pornographic stimulation to ensure relief was rapidly achieved.  

Yes, things have changed so much for the better. Now, we can just say, “so what I’m gay, just get over it.” But even today some cannot. It might be incredibly easy to hide your true desires from family, friends and employers, but at what cost? Those adverse childhood experiences will return to impede our achievements of happiness and contentment in the form of midlife depression, anxiety and stress-related illness. And what about those coming from environments where Colonial-era laws are still rigorously applied? What about the refugee children imprisoned, separate from any role models or positive adult interactions to offer advice and support. Those adverse childhood experiences will come back to limit and harm all of society with a vengeance.  

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.


EDI is underpinned and driven forward by good quality, broad and deep data. Data is the starting point and can often be the biggest barrier to progress – whether you have it or not.

The critical role of data collection and analysis is to understand current challenges and opportunities in terms of EDI across the organisation. Data helps us to address questions and look at how we should be planning for the future. It empowers us to understand what we don’t know and so encourages credible research to clarify and demystify the current reality. It also serves an important role in evaluating outcomes – is what you are doing making any difference? Are you being successful?

Getting and using data involves a variety of aspects:

Systems: having the ability to collect the data safely and efficiently. If you are a staff member at King’s, have you checked out our PowerBI dashboards?

Expertise: once you have it, being able to analyse and understand what it means. At King’s we have many amazing teams to help us do this – People, Data and Analytics and EDI in HR, our Business Analytics colleagues and the What Works Unit to name a few of the key players.

Disclosure – getting people to give trust you and give you their data. Check out this short video that helps you understand how and why we collect data at King’s.

Reporting – telling people what you have found out. The EDI team makes regular reports to Council, SMT and our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Forum (EDIC & EDIF). Additionally, we also have our Annual Reports – check out our most recent one.

When pulling these together, it is important that we are clear about why we are collecting data and what we are going to do with it. Being explicit about our purposes means people are more reassured and trusting. We must show that we have learnt something from the data and importantly that we have done something. Feedback and communication are essential here.

The various charter-marks we use can seem unbelievably laborious and indeed recently, the government has called into question their ‘unnecessary bureaucracy.’ However, they help us gather relevant data, help us understand it and identify actions, and force us to assess what the impact has been. Charter-marks warrant a blog of their own, so watch out for that one!

My practitioner experience tells me that it is all too easy to put any number of programmes and initiatives in place to show that something is ‘being done’ by an organisation. Spending the time diagnosing the problems, thinking through options and designing solutions takes longer and is harder – but the focus and clarity it provides is worth it. It also requires patience and self-belief because it can feel like you are talking about the ‘doing’ for a long time. This diagnosis and design are so much harder without good foundational data.

It is critical to start by understanding where you are now – the baseline – to determine targets and areas to improve. This is why one of the first things I did when I arrived at King’s was work, in partnership with our amazing Business Analytics colleagues, in particular, Richard Salter, to create the PowerBI diversity dashboards referenced above. These dashboards capture and bring together all sorts of EDI data on staff and students, for easy comprehension and interrogation. It also collates data, such as who has joined us, either as a staff member or a student, when, to do what, under what terms, how successful they are and when they leave.

Diversity and Inclusion dashboard on PowerBI

Another element of data which provides insight is equal pay analysis and transparency on pay gap reporting. At King’s, as required by law, we report on our gender pay gap annually. Organisations are required to publish their gender pay gap analysis annually in the UK if they have more than 250 employees, concerning data collected in the same year. The requirement is to calculate and publish statistics on pay gaps between male and female employees, measured by hourly pay and bonuses, as well as the proportion of male and female employees in each pay quartile. In recent years, we have also chosen to calculate and report our ethnicity pay gap using the same method, as far as is possible.

Being transparent and sharing this analysis provides a clear measure of how fair our workplace is. Understanding whether the pay gap is rising or falling helps us determine whether our EDI programmes are helping to create a fairer, more inclusive workplace. Pay gap transparency is an opportunity to listen to ideas from across the organisation, hear about things people have learnt from elsewhere and enable our community to feel they are contributing to changes for the better.

Monitoring of starting salaries is a critical and straightforward tool in pay transparency. Most organisations, and certainly we here at King’s, have a minimum and maximum (or band of) pay rate for employees performing a particular job or function. However, as people join, local managers have some flexibility as to what rate of salary people are appointed on, often taking wider factors into consideration. There is quite a lot of research that shows women and people from certain cultures or backgrounds are less likely to feel confident to negotiate on starting a role. So, where there is discretion and flexibility, it is essential that what is happening is monitored.

The pay gap is not a perfect measure. There may be instances of the pay gap widening, or of no improvements being made across the year despite several activities being in place. This doesn’t mean they are the wrong actions, but perhaps that they need longer to take effect or they need more commitment behind them. It is critical to be open about pay gaps, where they are in the organisation and what causes them.

A critical area to capturing data in is recruitment. This provides a wealth of information, including: helping us determine where most candidates are entering the recruitment process; what job boards, social media sites, mobile hiring apps or referral approaches are the most effective; what resources are bringing a greater diversity of candidates. The introduction of our new HR Digital services has been a game changer for us at King’s in terms of being able to get this kind of information. Once we have had it up and running for long enough, we will have a veritable gold mine of data to access and learn from.

An example of the Equal Opportunities form through HR Digital Services

In addition, data collection during each stage of the recruitment process provides an in-depth look into the hiring process. Looking at proportions in terms of applicants from diverse backgrounds applying, compared to the number of interviews, or the number of interviews compared to the number of jobs offers across the organisation and within each function, highlights any issues that may be occurring in the process. If you read our Race Equality Chartermark application, you will see that we have a lot of improvement to make in terms of the noticeably clear and disproportionate reduction of BME candidates from application, to shortlist, through to appointment.

There are many different types of data and many ways to collect it. It is important to collect qualitative data through: employee feedback surveys; focus groups; 1 to 1 interview; competitions and awards; staff and student networks, as well as the quantitative methods described above.

The best EDI practice allows us to create a baseline and then carry out a review after programmes have been put in place to validate changes or improvements made. As I have outlined, getting good data is not easy. You need the technical tools and the expertise. You need good governance to ensure data integrity and protection. The main purpose of collecting data is to answer questions, so it is critical that the data is correct and reliable. One of the approaches we take at King’s is making use of a balanced score card, which utilises a wide variety of agreed-upon measures to evaluate organisational success, ensuring that it covers the right measures for the organisation.

Balanced Scorecard on PowerBI, which summarises KPIs and targets at King’s

Without a doubt, data is one of the most important tools we have for EDI. It helps us build understanding of the starting point, helps us measure progress, and brings greater objectivity when making decisions on where to invest time and action. However, we should not be fooled into thinking data is neutral. It is actually something that can be very emotive, easily manipulated and provide distorted perspectives (to think further about this, I’d highly recommend Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez).

In being a massive data advocate and always prioritising evidence-driven EDI activity, my toolkit includes 3 things. Firstly, with any data, notice what emotions it provokes, so you can be clear as to your own objectivity and bias. Secondly, examine the context – where has this data come from, from who, and why? Finally, be curious – what does it not tell you?

Please take some time to look at our dashboards and to fill in your own information on Core HR so that we have the most up-to-date and most reliable data possible.

We Will Ride: Making Transport Accessible

This week, we share a blog from Savitri Hensman, Patient and Public Involvement Coordinator for Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) South London, based at IoPPN, which details a look back at the Campaign for Accessible Transport protests in London in the 90s. Thanks to Ruth Bashall for images.


‘We will ride’: making transport accessible

Getting to King’s College London, and around our city, is easier for many disabled people than it would have been a few decades ago. Public transport is far from fully accessible, especially the underground. The pandemic has added to problems. Yet much has changed, thanks largely to direct action by disabled campaigners.

Thirty years ago, buses were generally impossible to use if one was unable to climb on board and were without written and audio announcements of stops. Even the limited access to the tube which now exists was not in place. Though members of the public, many disabled people could not get around on what was meant to be public transport. Calls for change were largely disregarded. But in 1990, the issue became hard to ignore, as protests brought traffic in parts of central London to a halt!

Wheelchair users waiting to board buses as part of the protests to make London more accessible

The Campaign for Accessible Transport (CAT) protested in high profile locations such as Oxford Street, for instance halting a bus as a wheelchair-user symbolically tried to get on. They explained to impatient passengers that, while their journeys were delayed, some people had been waiting for years to get to their destinations.

Activities were carefully organised, with plenty of photo opportunities for the media. Some protestors chained themselves to buses. A number of people were arrested; being willing to take this risk often involved a fair deal of courage, especially since police tended to have no training in how to move disabled people safely and getting into police stations and courts often meant being carried up flights of steps.

I was young and non-disabled back in those days. But friends who were involved in organising the events roped me in to be present as one of the legal observers. I was not part of the protests but was one of those who observed, kept note of who got arrested and police behaviour and, in general, helped to protect the rights of protestors. I had no legal training but I did have experience at anti-racist demonstrations, which offered useful opportunities to practice staying calm amidst often violent chaos. So on perhaps a couple of occasions, I showed up, looked on and kept jotting, on the sidelines of the action.

Image of protestors

Wheelchair users waiting to board buses as part of the protests to make London more accessible

Singing was often a feature, including a song by an American activist, ‘We will ride’, which was adapted to the UK context.

These protests contributed to a broader shift in how disabled people were viewed in Britain, as those previously seen as helpless took bold action (though there is still a long way to go in tackling negative and disempowering images). In other ways too, disability rights activists – some of whom involved in diverse social movements for justice – were changing attitudes and practices.

Change did not happen immediately. But after CAT came DAN (Direct Action Network), with some overlap in membership. Newsworthy events happened in London and elsewhere, drawing attention to injustice in transport and other areas of life.

In 1995 a Disability Discrimination Act was passed, though tackling lack of access in transport through the law was a slow process. However some transport authorities were improving access; it was clear that disabled potential users were not willing to let the issue be forgotten. From 2000, the new Mayor of London introduced what was, for a while, probably the largest accessible low floor bus fleet in the world. Changes were also introduced in the underground and overground train network, though a new leadership did not keep up the momentum. Nevertheless the improvements had major effects on people’s ability to study, work or volunteer and be part of the community.

Making change happen often involves much lobbying and negotiation. But sometimes direct action may be needed, as happened so memorably all those years ago.

Map of the London Underground showing step-free and wheelchair accessible stations

The Significance of Sponsorship

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.


Senior level sponsorship, sometimes called ‘championing,’ is a critical step in ensuring sustainable change when working toward EDI goals; without this support organisations would not be able to sustain changes made in their behaviour.

A wide range of research  plus my personal experience tells me that is the number one indicator of the success of any equality, diversity, and inclusion activity in an organisation. The phrase can make some feel uncomfortable, with concerns of patronage or nepotism, but the reality is far from that. Executive sponsorship simply recognises that what those in charge of an organisation care about and put their energy into, gets done! This is because those across the organisation also then see the work as important, and that they will be rewarded or better regarded if they too care about it.

Executive Sponsors have several duties in demonstrating active support. They are people appropriately placed in an organisation, who have significant influence on decision-making processes or structures. They can advocate for, protect, and positively drive EDI activity, and act as inclusive role models for the organisation.

Executive (sometimes called Programme Sponsors) provide visibility and access to decision-making environments and reduce the risk that individuals from underrepresented groups face. Sponsors can provide challenging conversations to support new and progressive activity. A key part of their role is to demonstrate their belief in the potential of the programme outcomes and help build that belief in others and so act as ‘the face of change’ for the organisation. They will utilise their voice to champion the activity in question challenge bias, as well as shield those in less powerful or more vulnerable positions from harm or undue criticism. A Sponsor’s role is to demonstrate the case for change, and to always champion building a positive culture.

Sponsors can help ensure that the equality, diversity and inclusion activity relate to the organisation’s overall aims. They can help by helping others see the connection between the EDI goals and the organisation’s wider goals. They can use their personal skills, positions of influence and power to overcome resistance from others or to help unblock tricky areas. Sometimes it is a question of resources and sometimes it is a question of organisational culture or attitude.

At King’s we have a whole variety of sponsors and champions. Some of particular note have been: Prof.  Ed Byrne in his overall sponsorship of EDI;  Prof. ‘Funmi Olonsakin and Prof. Evelyn Welch, who have both taken positions of leadership for REC and Athena Swan;  Prof. Reza Razavi, who has really pushed to improve the work culture in our research areas. Recently, Prof. Richard Trembath has become the sponsor for our programme of work around disability inclusion. The work of all these as Sponsors has included: chairing working groups; advocating very powerfully across King’s to get things moving; working quietly behind the scenes to lend their expertise and knowledge; providing mentorship, coaching and importantly access to themselves as a means of opening doors for others. They and many others have demonstrated a willingness to speak out on issues and educate others. They consciously sponsor employees from different backgrounds and challenge their peers to do the same.

Programme sponsors at King’s, who sponsor a range of programmes, including race equality and disability inclusion

The heart of executive sponsorship is realising and taking the many opportunities you have to highlight issues - be it at team meetings, executive meetings or during one-to-one discussions - to help ensure actions are in place, to raise awareness, to support diverse progression, and to mentor and coach others.

Programmes for inclusion work well when they are driven by senior leaders and shaped by their people. A successful cross-cultural sponsor relies on mutual understanding on matters related to race, culture, and inclusion. Therefore, they need to be visible, and willing to have sometimes challenging conversations about race with honesty, understanding and courage. We are helping build our SMT’s capability to be great sponsors and champions with our Mutual Mentoring programme sponsored by SVP Operations Steve Large. I am planning a separate blog on mentoring and reverse mentoring, so look out for that.

On the flip side, it is important to remember that equality, diversity, and inclusion is incredibly people-focused, and can raise a lot of sensitivities. A Sponsor’s presence at programmes and events will not only attract more employees, but it also speaks volumes about the importance of the issue on the organisation’s agenda. However, they must be people who others trust and feel comfortable with otherwise their presence and sponsorship may not have the positive impacts that are needed.

I would like to thank all our Sponsors at King’s. They exist right across the gamut of King’s. I would like to urge all of those in a senior leadership position to consider – what are you seen as sponsoring? If you cannot answer that question, then let’s have a chat as I have a long list of ways in which you can help advance EDI at King’s!

 

The Demand for Difference

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.


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of opening our Network summit in partnership with Radius, and earlier in the week, the privilege of attending the launch of our new Mutual Mentoring scheme. In doing so, I was able to reflect on how essential building empathy and understanding are, and the role which staff networks play in EDI success. Celebrating diversity and difference and building community is a critical component of our EDI strategy here at King’s. It is one of the reasons we have made a conscious and proactive effort to develop and support staff networks, partner with KCLSU, broaden our development approach to  More than Mentoring, and ensure that we continue to support network development and wellbeing via events like the Radius summit.

Celebrating difference is about recognising that each employee or student is unique and valuing that individual difference. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond tolerance, to fully embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions that a truly diverse community can bring. Celebrating cultural events across the year, whether it be Pride, Black History Month, Trans Awareness Week, or Disability History Month, which we are currently celebrating, helps to unite and educate, and allows us to better understand each other’s perspectives.

King’s College London’s Proudly King’s Network at London Pride

Through understanding a range of diverse backgrounds and experiences, we can all gain a sense of pride for the diversity of our culture. Celebrating and understanding varied backgrounds is crucial to personal and community growth.

There are so many benefits of celebrating differences and enabling people to be their true selves at work. For example, doing this helps us and our organisations overcome stereotypes.

‘A stereotype is an over-generalized belief about a particular category of people. It is an expectation that people might have about every person of a particular group’

Stereotyping, whether it be conscious or unconscious, is too commonplace. It has a negative impact on the way people see and behave with others who they perceive (consciously or unconsciously) as different. Stereotyping encourages us to make assumptions about others, which can be incorrect and hurtful, as well as hindering collaboration and teamwork. When an organisation celebrates differences, it encourages the dissolution of preconceived notions, breaks down stereotypes and helps us to see people for who they are.

Celebrating difference and counteracting stereotypes discourages racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism, to name but a few key things we must combat. These are often borne out of fear and ignorance. In the workplace, it could be a subtle joke or simply leaving someone out; either way it is not something we want to persist. With increased awareness and appreciation of different cultures and races comes increased respect for other people and their differences. Prejudice and stereotypes are removed through education and celebration and their removal is a necessity to discourage the ignorance that supports these ‘isms’.

People tend to surround themselves with people ‘like them’, as it is familiar and safe. Therefore, it is important to actively build cultural awareness of difference. Encouraging working with different cultures and backgrounds not only helps to educate others and build appreciation of other cultures and their histories, but it can also prevent ‘groupthink’.

Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group of individuals reaches a consensus without critical reasoning or evaluation of the consequences or alternatives. Groupthink is based on a common desire not to upset the balance of a group of people.

It is proven that having a more diverse set of people in the room prevents groupthink, leading to innovation, which ultimately leads to better decision-making. Increasing openness to difference helps create new ways of working, improves current processes and gives people the ability to make changes in the way they work, for the better. Once again, I recommend my AKC lecture to consider this in more detail.

Groupthink can encourage harmful or detrimental ways of thinking

In seeking ‘unity’ we must, at the same time, remember and celebrate individual uniqueness.  Without this we will not be enabling people to be themselves. We will instead risk forcing them to assimilate to ‘a norm’. Embracing and celebrating difference brings a greater breadth of ideas and solutions and builds a culture where everyone feels valued and appreciated. Developing this inclusive culture requires more sophisticated and capable managers, as increased diversity increases the perspectives and ideas that need to be reconciled and rationalised. One of the ways we are helping build this is via Cultural Competency, a set of behaviours which takes this thinking and embeds it into the curriculum and professional development for all students and staff.

I developed my own confidence and capability by learning about myself and my differences, and consequently, was able to move from feeling othered to feeling empowered and confident. This is why I believe that this celebration of difference and building of community is one of the most crucial requirements of being successful, and why I have embedded it within King’s overall EDI  .

Jessie Krish on Black Lives Matter & Race within the Arts and HE

Jessie Krish, who recently joined Equality Diversity & Inclusion as a part-time Project Assistant, and works outside of King’s as an independent curator, shares her reflections on the Black Lives Matters protests of the summer and how they inform work in the Cultural Industries and Higher Education sector. She recently co-edited a ‘Reader’ for e-flux journal on Loot and Looting.


After Minneapolis Police officers killed George Floyd, protests grew, and cities around the United States saw their buildings boarded with sheets of plywood: a defense against the threat of looting. With workers who usually inhabit these buildings absent due to Covid-19 lockdowns, the boards were there to protect commodities. Donald Trump’s command “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” was a violent call to protect property, even at the expense of human life.

Whilst it is crucial to maintain the distinction between political protest and particular instances of looting that occurred in the recent wave of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, it was looting in particular that escalated the protests, polarised public and political opinion, and contributed to the explosive impact of the BLM movement. Some viewed these acts of theft and vandalism as symbolic rejections of structures perpetuating state violence, systemic racism, and capitalist exploitation. But mainstream coverage in the United States’ media tied looting to people of color, and failed to connect these actions with the histories of systematic dispossession that Black Lives Matters activists protested, or the racialised extraction that subtends economic activity almost everywhere.

In the midst of the protests, American Artist presented an intervention at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s online collection, in which all digital images of the museum’s artworks were temporarily replaced with a plywood texture. The title of this project, Looted, pointed directly to the imperial legacies and colonialist practices of many Western museums, as well as activist and artistic institutional critiques in which the uncomfortable figure of museum “loot”, stolen from indigenous peoples and foreign nations and yet to be repatriated, is often central.

A screenshot of Looted on the Whitney’s website

Presenting Looted as an act of ‘redaction and refusal,’ the Whitney sought solidarity with activists, and to reframe the narrative around the boarding up of the museum’s building during this period. American Artist’s Looted highlights the extreme contradictions that cultural institutions must hold (for example, guarding looted national property, whilst developing convincing and inclusive postcolonial narratives) when they engage with decolonial work. Work which requires structural, material and cultural change.

The boarded museum and its website populated with squares of rendered plywood, is a visual reminder of the close proximity of current state violence to the museum’s stolen imperial acquisitions. Whilst they can feel worlds apart, the street, museum, and university are at close quarters, and activities in each domain stand to impact cultures, structures, and material outcomes across the board.

I’m writing following the recent publication of Universities UK’s report Tackling Racial Harassment in Higher Education (November 2020). Following the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s publication of evidence of widespread racial harassment on university campuses just over a year ago, this report calls on university leaders to acknowledge that UK higher education perpetuates institutional racism. It cites ‘racial harassment, a lack of diversity among senior leaders, the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student attainment gap and ethnicity pay gaps among staff as evidence’. Recognising that racial harassment is just one dimension of structural racism in the Higher Education sector, it acknowledges the depth of this problem and the breadth of work required, making detailed and evidence-based recommendations beyond the scope of the guidance, including the need to diversify predominantly Eurocentric and white university curricula.

Reflecting on a year in which the BLM movement has exploded and been met with the force of the state, racial discrimination has risen, and racial health inequalities have been exposed as a matter of life or death with grossly uneven outcomes for coronavirus patients of different ethnicities, I am heartened to see UK Universities addressing harassment so thoroughly. I share their positivity for the impact that the HE sector could have, with the potential to shape the minds and attitudes of 429,000 staff, and 2.3 million students, a generation whom, particularly in London, will be unprecedented in their diversity. Time to get to work!

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