Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Author: Jake Orros (Page 1 of 6)

Refugee week reflections

Refugee Week is a UK – Wide event marked annually since 1998. The week celebrates refugees creativity, resilience and contributions to society. The week coincides with World Refugee Day which is observed on the 20th June.  In this blog we reflect on how King’s marked the week and look at some of the practical ways you can support refugees throughout the year.


Refugee Week at King’s 

The theme for 2022’s Refugee Week was ‘Healing’. To make the week King’s hosted a series of events to connect, educate and listen. You can explore some of the events that were held here. Highlights included:

King’s Sanctuary Programme

‘The 10-year vision of the Sanctuary Programme is to realise the educational potential of forcibly displaced young people.’

In 2015 thr Sacnctuary Programe was formed in response to the huge issue of forced displacement around the globe, impacting more than 100 million people. The aim of the programme is to deliver projects that create positive opportunities for young people who have has their education disrupted due to displacement.

The programme is an umbrella for a number of projects at King’s College London. Initiatives Include:

STAR (Student Action for Refugees)

STAR us a student run organisation that is part of KCLSU. The student group raises awareness of issues affecting refugees and promotes the integreation fo refugees and asylum seekers into society.

The group offers a number of volunteering and campaigning opportunities. You can learn get involved with STAR here.

Make a difference 


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Women of Windrush

Windrush Day is marked annually in the UK on the 22nd June. Vanessa Bovell-Clarke (she/her) who works in Student Support & Wellbeing Services at King’s College London,  reflects on the women in her own family and the sacrifices they made so that those who followed them do not have to.


Vanessa sat looking out to sea at the Family House in Barbados

Vanessa at the Family House in Barbados.

For many people, the word ‘Windrush’ often brings to mind images of sharply dressed, young black men and women setting sail for new opportunities and a new chapter of life in the United Kingdom. More recently, the word has become more synonymous with this same generation as well and even their children being forcibly sent away from the UK, labelled as illegal immigrants by the very same government who first requested their help to rebuild a post-war Britain in the 1940’s.

With both my paternal and maternal grandmothers no longer living, I often wonder what they would make of the Windrush scandal having worked so hard themselves to build lives and plant roots in what I now call home.

Clotelle Eudene Roach (or Granny Clo as she was known to me) was born in Black Rock, St Michael on the island of Barbados in 1937, one of four children. Orphaned by the age of 15, Clotelle quickly took on a maternal role and played a huge part in providing for her siblings along with her older sister, Sylvie.

Granny Clotelle passport photo.

Granny Clotelle.

To make ends meet, she worked jobs in catering and as service staff, in the homes of the wealthy (and mostly white) in Barbados. The remnants of British colonisation were clear to see across the island, with limited opportunities for many black Bajans and much of the island’s wealth circling amongst direct decedents of plantation and slave-owning families.

In 1958, Clotelle set sail for the UK in search of a new destiny once her husband, Ricardo had travelled to London ahead of her (as was often the case for couples at that time) and found and prepared a place for them to live. Once settled in East London, Clotelle came into her own and took on a plethora of roles including seamstress and school lunch lady as well as offering her skills in baking and sewing to private clients and friends in the local community.

Further across to the west side of the Caribbean, Hermine Gertrude Morrison (aka Granny Babs) was born in Cave Valley, Jamaica in 1941, the second youngest of 11 children. In a similar fashion, Babs came to England after being ‘sent for’ by her husband, Lesley after he had settled in London in 1963. Just like Clotelle, Babs also threw herself into multiple jobs including work in a shoe factory, wig making, catering and hairdressing.

Granny Babs pictured on her wedding day.

Granny Babs pictured on her wedding day.

Growing up, my grandmothers were the physical embodiment of home, stability, family, strength and damn hard work. I witnessed them prepare gargantuan feasts of brown stew chicken, rice and peas, fried flying fish and cou cou (a cornmeal-based dish, also Barbados’ national dish) for crowds of family, friends and even neighbours on a regular basis. Both were regular attendees and very much involved in the church; some of my core memories include Sunday services and church fetes. They did this all whilst working multiple jobs and fulfilling the role of mother in an era that viewed parenting as very much a solitary and gender-conforming role.

It was only as I grew older, that I recognised the gravity of what they had accomplished. As part of the Windrush generation, being amongst the first in their families to move their whole lives to an unfamiliar country was a massive feat in itself. Facing daily racism in said country was an additional struggle; my Granny Clotelle told us of a time she was stopped by a white woman in the middle of a market, who tugged at the back of her skirt and said, “Let’s see your tail then?!”

This generation faced an untold number of difficulties and struggles most of which were steeped in racism, despite being such an integral part of rebuilding the UK economy, filling roles in nursing, catering, manual labour, hospitality, cleaning and much more.

I wonder about the mental health of my grandmother’s, the burdens they had to bear, the pain behind smiles and the silent struggles that were shared with no one but God. Throughout all of this, they were able to bring such life, culture and happiness to their families, which I will forever cherish. Their struggles and personal sacrifices serve as a reminder to me that I do not wish to and nor do I have to, continue to be ‘strong’ at the expense of my wellbeing. I am lucky to have multiple paths that lay ahead of me that do not necessarily include children and motherhood, but where I am encouraged to speak my truth about injustice and my pain.

November 2021 Barbados Independence Ceremony. Left to right: Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Dame Sandra Mason, Rhianna, Prince Charles.

November 2021 Barbados Independence Ceremony. Left to right: Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Dame Sandra Mason, Rhianna, Prince Charles.

In 2021, Barbados became a republic, officially denouncing the UK and it’s Queen as Head of State. Jamaica, alongside many other Caribbean countries are set to soon follow. This true independence feels like a poignant reflection of the next generation, as we prepare to live life to the fullest, honouring the Windrush legacy as we do so.


References/Relevant Articles:

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Windrush Day – King’s Legal Clinic Q&A

To mark Windrush Day we met with Shaila Pal, Director of King’s Legal Clinic to find out more about their recent work to support members of the Windrush Generation. 

The King’s Legal Clinic aims to further the education of KCL law students and promote social justice. The Legal Clinic has allowed King’s students to help victims of the Windrush scandal in practical and proactive ways. You can find out more about the Windrush Justice Clinic’s award winning work in this article


 

Tell us about yourself and your role at King’s. How did you get involved with this work?

I am the Director,  Supervising Solicitor and Senior Lecturer  at King’s Legal Clinic (the Clinic) which is part of the Dickson Poon School of Law.  The  Clinic aims to promote social justice and educate our students by providing them with experiential learning opportunities.   Our students work on legal cases and research projects under the supervision of lawyers either as part of an assessed module or on an extracurricular basis.   I teach and supervise clinic students and oversee the running of the Clinic, this includes developing new partnerships and clinics.

When the opportunity arose to develop a Windrush Justice Clinic (WJC) for King’s it seemed a perfect opportunity as  it aligned with the Clinic’s aim to proactively engage students in equality and race issues through experiential learning. Following the brutal killing of George Floyd , as a Clinic we had begun to  reflect more deeply on what our social justice mission means. The Clinic has long recognised the link between the hostile immigration environment and racism and have developed a range of immigration advice services to counter this. We also have an active strategy to work with marginalised  communities both in the UK and internationally.

I led on developing the WJC at King’s with great support from the Law faculty, the Clinic team and more widely at King’s.   There have been challenges along the way, but it has been a positive experience and really brough home how much my own values align with King’s. In the first part of my career I worked as a legal aid solicitor specialising mainly in refugee and immigration law. I had always been committed to working with marginalised  communities and   enabling   access to justice, the transition  to teaching  and clinical legal education was quite a natural one.

 

When we talk about the ‘Windrush scandal’, what do we mean?

People arriving from the commonwealth from 1948-1971 are commonly referred to as the Windrush Generation.  ‘Windrush’ derives from the ship ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ which brought one of the first groups of Caribbean people to the UK in 1948.   Many of the Windrush Generation were invited  by the British  government to the UK to take up jobs, for e.g in the newly formed NHS,  where there were shortages in the aftermath of WW2.     The people of these colonies or dominions , as there were then then known,  were given a type of citizenship   and were British subjects.  This accorded them a right of free movement within the empire and an ability to transmit their status to their children.

The essence of the scandal is that the Windrush generation , and their children,  who arrived in the UK  were residing here lawfully, they were either British or had  settled status. However the Home Office issued no formal paperwork  in many instances, as there was no legal requirement to do so.

In 2010,  the Home Office destroyed landing cards and other records  belonging to Windrush migrants, making it is difficult for Windrush arrivals and their families to prove their legal status following  changes in the Immigration system and notably the Government’s  2012 hostile environment policy.  The hostile environment policy aimed to make the UK uninhabitable for undocumented migrants by  tasking landlords, employers, the NHS, banks and many others   with the function of enforcing immigration control.  This meant that many of the Windrush Generation were  unable to prove their lawful immigration status , some were  detained and deported, lost their right to work and rent, access to bank accounts, claim benefits and access to healthcare etc.

In 2018, the UK government finally accepted that it had wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights to the Windrush generation.  Following acknowledgement of the scandal,  to date more than 12,000 people have received documents from the Home Office confirming they are now legally living in the UK.   In April 2019, the government established The Windrush Compensation Scheme (‘WCS’) which aims to provide victims with recompense for their suffering.

The WCS scheme has been extensively criticised and whilst attempts have been  made to improve it,  many consider it not fit for purpose. In November 2021, the Home Affairs Committee on the  WCS  found: ‘Instead of providing a remedy, for many people the Windrush Compensation Scheme has actually compounded the injustices faced as a result of the Windrush Scandal’.  There are numerous issues with the schemes;

  • Low uptake, only 5.8% of the people who are believed to be eligible for compensation have received a payment.
  • Complex application process requiring detailed calculations, supporting evidence and information.
  • Hostile approach to assessment of evidence.
  • Inadequate legal advice provision. Legal aid is not available.
  • Delay in decision making, for e.g. 23 people have now died without receiving a decision.
  • Low amounts awarded.
  • Inadequate appeals system.

Initial estimates had suggested the scheme could be forced to pay out between £200 -500 million and that at least 15,000 applications would be submitted.  Thousands of people have been affected by this scandal, but many are reluctant and often frightened to ask for help.  The estimate of eligible claimants has been revised down by the Home Office and current stands at 4,000 to 6,000 claims.

 

What does the Windrush Justice Clinic aim to do?

The WJC is a collaborative partnership made up of community organisations, law centres and university legal advice clinics striving;  to help victims of the Windrush scandal receive the compensation they deserve;    research  the accessibility  and fairness of the compensations scheme; and share and  disseminate the WJC  clinical  legal education  model of  collaboration.

King’s joined the wider WJC collaborative partnership  in  October 2021.   King’s part-funds a solicitor at Southwark Law Centre and 20 King’s students have been involved in;  supporting community outreach sessions to raise awareness of the WCS and build trust in the elderly Windrush community in Southwark;  and provide casework support to the SLC solicitor in complex cases involving vulnerable clients.

The WJC has carried out  preliminary research, led by the University of Westminster,  into unmet need for legal advice for people making claims under the  WCS which  found the process was to complex for claimants to navigate, legal assistance was required, the current advice framework in inadequate and there is considerable unmet legal need.

 

Have any of the cases you’ve worked on surprised you?

I have been struck how the Windrush scandal has impacted a wide variety of people from all walks of life and ages. King’s  WJC is representing clients from a variety of countries in the Commonwealth, including those with  Jamaican, Dominican,  Indian, Nigerian and Canadian heritage.   We have younger client’s who are victims of domestic abuse,  experiencing  serious problems  in accessing housing support due to the inability to prove their lawful residence.  An older client who’s highly successful  career in creative industry  was  stalled for a number of years,  which  had a  devastating impact on his life including  health issues, financial issues and the  resultant breakdown of significant relationships.  A daughter who  experienced  significant delays returning to the UK to care for her elderly and unwell mother. Many people’s lives have been impacted and it is humbling to hear about their experiences.

 

What lessons do you hope we have learnt from the treatment of the Windrush generation?

There is much to reflect upon and learn, this is something we are planning an event around to take place in either September or October 2022, so watch this space!  For  me the following are critical as a starting point:

It is important  to assess the root cause of   any  problem and  we have to address   the historic and ongoing racism which permeates immigration legislation in the UK.   Whilst there  has been some acknowledgment ,  there does appear some resistance.    It was recently reported that   the Home Office is  suppressing the release of   a government commissioned report  which finds racist legislation led to the Windrush scandal.

Public sector equality duties must be carried out in a meaningfully and robust fashion.  In 2020 the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the Home Office has acted unlawfully by not properly considering how it’s hostile environment policies  affected black members of the Windrush generation.

A functioning and effective legal aid system is vital to protect people’s rights and keep a check on government.   When the hostile environment immigration policy was introduced, large parts of immigration advice was removed from the scope of legal aid,  therefore Windrush victims  were unable to access to   vital free legal advice.  Many Windrush victims  currently need legal  assistance with their  compensation claims in light of its complexity and the historical trauma suffered, legal aid is not available and this  is another reason for the low uptake in the compensation scheme.

A government compensation scheme should  be administered by an  appropriate  department  who is not viewed as the   perpetrator of the harm by the victims.  Distrust in the Home Office  has been cited as a reason for the low uptake in the scheme, the  rules of the scheme itself require a level of evidence which perpetuates the culture of hostile environment:

“From my experiences with the Windrush Compensation Scheme / Home Office, and their responses to my claim, it is almost like they are telling me the following: “We are really, really, sorry for punching you in the face, however, we are sure you’ve recovered now, it wasn’t that bad of a punch, so here is another punch in the face, but don’t worry about that one, because you’ve already recovered, please accept some tape and cotton wool to make a plaster out of.’” Windrush victim testimony provided to Home Affairs Committee

 

What is the future of the work of the WJC?

The WJC has been  great success so far ,   it won Best New Pro Bono Activity Award at the 2022 Law Works and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards.  Most importantly we  are supporting clients and providing our students with a valuable learning experience, where they can develop  an understanding of structural inequalities in society and work with clients from diverse backgrounds.

We want the WJC to help as many people as possible through casework  in partnership with Southwark Law Centre, build capacity in other Clinic’s and organisations across the UK,  and carry  out  further research on unmet legal need and systemic issues  with the compensation scheme.


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The Windrush Generation – Britain’s Builders

To mark Windrush Day, Hannah Gordon, a first-year English student at King`s College London, remembers the legacy of the Windrush generation and their contribution to Britain.


 

Picture of the ship Empire Windrush.

The ship Empire Windrush.

Waving hands and smiling faces spill out of the Empire Windrush as it approaches Tilbury Dock. A new generation of hopeful arrivals determined to make their mark in the ‘mother country’ and build a better life for them and their families back home. Unbeknownst to them, they would face racism, inequality and discrimination that would define British race relations for years to come.

The Windrush generation, as most are known, have become the face of the dynamic global hub, which is Britain. In 2018, the Windrush Scandal became headline news with numerous cases of wrongful detentions and deportations of these migratory pioneers, who were invited by the British government to live and work. This scandal prompted widespread condemnation but more importantly, a conscious drive to honour the contributions of the Windrush generation. Subsequently, every year on the 22nd of June we celebrate Windrush Day commemorating their indelible sacrifice to Britain.

Both my grandparents were part of the Windrush generation. My grandmother was a night shift nurse in the NHS for 40 years and lived in Ladbroke Grove during the Notting Hill riots. My grandfather was an auto- electrician and then a machine operator- spanning 30 years. So, as we approach Windrush Day, what better time to learn more about the effort, resilience and duty of this generation who helped mould Britain into the cultural powerhouse it is today?

Lord Kitchener (calypsonian)

Lord Kitchener (calypsonian).

Contributions to the Public Sector

Picture of two nurses from the Windrush generation.

Picture of two nurses from the Windrush generation.

The NHS is a cultural institution to Britain. It embodies ideas of equality and accessible rights to all – regardless of circumstance. No wonder it took a staring position at London`s 2012 opening ceremony- think Britain think NHS. Today, 20 % of the NHS’ workforce is from Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds and it is the most diverse workforce in the whole of Europe. Caribbean nurses from the Windrush Generation played a massive part in building the NHS helping to fill the labour shortage. Despite experiencing racism and discrimination, they pursued in their roles demonstrating dedication to their job, family, and Britain.

Many of the Windrush generation also worked in Transport for London. Transport for London actively recruited in the Caribbean and by 1956 they had enrolled dozens of workers – both men and women. Around 20% of TFL workers are still from Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds today. This transport network, iconic to London, still bears the Windrush imprint.

Contributions to Music
Large sound system.

Sound System.

Music has been long associated with the Windrush generation. From the sound systems, which became a vocal point for black youth seeking identity in hostile Britain, to genres like Reggae, Dub and Ska. Dub, which remixed records, became the premise for modern day genres like drum and bass as well as house music.

Contributions to Literature

As the conversation surrounding race in fields of education and literature becomes more prominent. Writers like Zadie Smith, Malorie Blackman, Sam Selvon and Benjamin Zephaniah are more widely recognised. Walk into waterstones and their books are in some of the most noticeable displays. The influx of diverse literature was a massive contribution of the Windrush generation. Writers like Sam Selvon helped popularise the creole voice in writing and his subversive style is often adopted by ‘contemporary figures like Zadie Smith’.  Other mobilising movements, like the Caribbean Arts Movement and the Caribbean Voices helped attract an audience to these new styles of writing.

Sam Selvon sat at a desk holding papers.

Sam Selvon

I have only scratched the surface of the Windrush Generation’s achievements. There are so many more exciting stories and experiences to share. We must continue to read, educate, and honour the debt they paid for this country as Britain`s builders.


References

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Pride Month Reflections: Proudly King’s

Paul Webb, Executive Chair of Proudly King’s offers his reflections on Pride month and looks at some of the work that has been happening at King’s College London


Proudly King's taking part in a pride parade with a decorated London bus.

Every Pride month, the problem of ‘Rainbow Washing’ rears its technicolour head. For those unfamiliar with the term, when companies appropriate the Pride flag during the month of June but do nothing of pragmatic value for their queer customers, that’s Rainbow Washing.

But it’s not just companies who offer nothing in return to the LGBTQ+ community who receive backlash. You might remember Marks and Spencer launching a Pride month sandwich in 2019 – the Lettuce, Guac, Bacon and Tomato. They declared the sandwich ‘packed with flavour’ and donated £10,000 to AKT (the UK’s leading LGBTQ+ homeless charity) but it still left a bad taste in people’s mouths.

So, what is it about Rainbow Washing that provokes angry community leaders and a month of social media outrage? Perhaps it’s about money. Yes, Marks and Spencer gave a healthy sum to AKT, but I’m sure they made a few quid for themselves by jazzing up a BLT and selling it for £4.45. But let’s be realistic. Companies are about profits, and the margins need to be worth it.

Maybe lack of creativity is to blame.

Since 2016, Skittles have ditched their signature rainbow colours for Pride Month, selling white sweets in white packaging because ‘only one rainbow matters [during] pride’.  Like M&S, they donate a portion of proceeds to deserving charities.

They might have made it impossible to find the purples and avoid the greens, but the public responded more favourably to a campaign promising to ‘give the rainbow’ rather than take it purely for commercial gain. Skittles went further than adding some arbitrary guacamole to a British lunchtime staple.

They build on their campaign year after year, and in 2021, they colourised black and white images of LGBTQ+ history for the first time, bringing attention to queer heroes without whom we wouldn’t be celebrating Pride in the first place. Surely that’s a worthy Pride campaign.

Then again, Mars Inc (owner of Skittles) must have profited, because the rainbow-less confection is back for the seventh year running, and it’s difficult to believe a multi-billion-pound company runs on altruism alone.

If I had to guess what makes a good Pride campaign, I’d say it’s about authenticity. I can’t define authenticity (which I appreciate isn’t very helpful) but I can tell you about some of the things Proudly King’s are doing to celebrate Pride Month 2022:

  • We’ve organised social and educational events. Both are important. We’re particularly excited about ‘Stories of Queer Poland’, a joint event with Warsaw University on Wednesday 22nd June at 5.30pm, online and in person.
  • We’re continuing our allyship campaign, encouraging colleagues to pledge to the LGBTQ+ community in order to receive a beautiful progress lanyard and wear with pride. So far, we have over 400 pledges. You’ll see some of them at the bottom of this blog.
  • We’re flying flags from Strand, Guy’s, Waterloo and Denmark Hill campuses. The buildings at Denmark Hill are illuminated with rainbow colours. There’s nothing wrong with visible celebration of Pride Month as long as that’s not the only thing you do.
  • Most importantly, we’re continuing our year-round work. We’re marching at London Trans+ Pride in July and attending UK Black Pride in August and Bi Pride in September. We’re continuously working with EDI and Senior Leaders to improve the LGBTQ+ experience at King’s. I’m sure you’re all aware (because we haven’t stopped banging on about it) that King’s was awarded a Stonewall Gold Award in February 2022 and Proudly King’s was a highly commended Staff Network. That’s a testament to our institution’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion.

There’s no rule book on ‘How To Do Pride Month’. To be honest, I’m not always sure what’s right and what’s wrong. But I do know that authenticity (however you define it) goes a long way.

This year, I emailed Estates and Facilities colleagues around King’s to ask about flying Pride flags. They responded almost immediately, with kindness and enthusiasm, to tell me they’d be up on the June 1st. They didn’t need reminding.

So yes, they’re just flags, but they symbolise King’s coming together to support and celebrate our LGBTQ+ colleagues.

That’s what Pride means to me.

Proudly King’s Allyship Campaign Pledges

Below are some pledges that members of the King’s community have shared with Proudly King’s as part of their allyship campaign.

As a white cis gay man, I’ve had a lot of things pretty easy, but even so I still think twice before holding my husband’s hand in public. I’m going to support + the LGBTQ community more visibly, promote equality and challenge prejudice in my work, volunteering and my personal life.
I will work towards incorporating more inclusive events and LGBTQ+ representation within the Refreshers and Welcome to King’s projects, expand our support and offer guidelines to services and faculty events.
I will engage in self-directed learning and active listening so that I can better understand the issues impacting the community.
I pledge to display the Proudly King’s banner as a symbol of my allyship for the LGBTQ+ community and to indicate my openness to having conversations with students and staff about issues they might find difficult to talk about. Being open about my allyship is an important step for me.
It starts at home. I champion this within my family hoping that changes in the way they speak and describe members of the LGBTQ+ community would lead to changes in interactions within their own social circles and so on.
I’m going to try and be more of a visible bi role model in my department and continue to support others in having challenging conversations. I also hope to introduce pronouns to more student activities for the projects I oversee.
I’m going to speak out against transphobic attitudes when raised by friends and family. I’m going to look at ways we can be more inclusive for young learners in our widening participation programmes.
I will stand up against negative, harmful and discriminatory comments and behaviour. I will continue to educate myself – and know this is my responsibility. I’ll model good behaviour but will own my mistakes and learn from them.
I will be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community by ensuring that all of our processes and policies within the Business School support equality, diversity and inclusion. I will try my best to encourage all of the diverse voices and views within the School to be heard, and to speak up when homophobic, transphobic or other intolerant views are expressed in my presence.
I pledge to proactively learn more about LGBTQ+, through books, films, tv shows, listening to podcasts, talking to those who identify as LGBTQ+ to better understand the existing barriers and challenges. I hope that this will not only allow me to be informed but will also enable me to learn how to become a better ally.

 

You can get involved by visiting the Proudly King’s website, and dont forget to follow them on Twitter & Instagram

 


Where you can seek support

For members of the King’s College London Community:

External support available to all: 

  • Galop is a charity that supports LGBTQ+ people who have experienced abuse.
  • Switchboard LGBT+ helpline offer free, confidential and impartial advice and support.
  • Stonewall are a leading LGBTQ+ charity.
  • Mermaids offer support to transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse young people and their families.

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Carers Week 2022: a story of 1 carer, 3 family members, and a blog post that nearly wasn’t!

Carers week is marked annually between the 6th and 12th June. This year we spoke to Julia one of our amazing colleagues here at King’s College London, who is also a carer and member of our staff network NEST. Julia has kindly agreed to share her week with us and her experience of caring for others.


Portrait of Julia.

Julia

Hello I’m Julia. I have worked at King’s for nearly 14 years and for most of that time I’ve supported my partner (let’s call him A) who has a degenerative spine condition that now badly affects his balance and mobility. Also for the last 4 years I have supported my parents, now both over 90, who live in a village about 4 hours away from me by Tube, train, and taxi. In January this year I realised that I’m a Carer. Since then I’ve joined the NEST Committee and often share snippets of my caring activities with the NEST team, which I agreed to put into blog form for Carers Week. This is a very much abbreviated version of what Carers Week 2022 brought for me and why this blog, which was meant to be posted at the start of this week, nearly didn’t happen.

Sunday: I’ve stayed with Dad for an extra day to see Mum who returned to her care home last night from hospital where she had been since Wednesday. After 30 mins Mum suddenly becomes unwell again and, as her medical condition falls in a grey area for her end-of-life arrangements, the Duty Nurse and I decide to call an ambulance. Mum and I wait in in the ambulance and A&E all day and evening; I finally make the decision to get the last train home as I can’t leave A alone any longer with a Tube strike tomorrow. Mum remains in A&E all night diligently looked after by the wonderful nurses.

Monday: As I arrived home after mid-night I arranged with my kind and understanding manager that I could take a day of A/L. At 7am A and I were woken by call from Dad telling me he was heading to A&E concerned about his own health. All day I’m either on the phone checking on Mum and Dad or catching-up with the many household jobs that A is unable to do due to his disability. Both Mum and Dad arrive back at their respective homes by early evening. I ‘help’ A to cook dinner as lack of balance makes cooking difficult and unsafe for him, although he still enjoys it.

Tuesday: My ‘Spidey-sense’ tells me to take a second day of A/L (thanks again to my manager). Mid-morning Dad rings to say that he has fallen and has called for an ambulance. Dad is ok but the Paramedic speaks with the hospital and asks me to stay with Dad in case this stops him calling the emergency services unnecessarily, just until a social support package can be put in place. I grab my bag and work laptop and run to the station in the hope of catching an off-peak train. I make the train and spend the journey speaking with Dad’s GP, his weekly Support Worker (N), Social Services, and Dad’s Solicitor (to find out if I have Power of Attorney for Dad as well as Mum).

Wednesday: I agree with my manager that I can take 2 days Dependent’s Leave to get Dad’s social care set-up (phew – just looking after Dad can leave little time to work when I’m there). Dad, N and I meet with his GP, who confirms that his health problems are caused by poor medication compliance; Dad agrees grudgingly to a trial of daily care visits in addition to N’s weekly visits. As soon as the GP leaves, I join the NEST Carers Week panel where Ginestra, Lorraine and I aim to raise awareness of the range of family members carers support and different types of caring; I am just pleased that I can join and not let down the other members of the NEST Committee and panel.

Thursday: This is beginning to feel like a TV ‘challenge programme’. I manage to visit Mum, set-up the arrangements for Dad’s social care (co-ordinating with his GP and N) and get Dad’s shopping and a range of outstanding household tasks done for him. I must get back to London tonight as A has a hospital appointment tomorrow morning. Due to a concert and train delays, I leave for London later than planned but finally can write this blog post in the station and on the train.  It is only Thursday and who knows what the rest of Carers Week 2022 will bring. I love my work at King’s and can’t wait to finally have the chance to catch-up with some urgent tasks before Monday. Thankfully not every week is like this but, as many colleagues at King’s know, life as a carer can be very unpredictable.


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Global Day of Parents 2022

Global Day of Parents is observed around the world annually on the 1st June. In this blog Safyan Rahman an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Project Officer here at King’s and Natasha Awais-Dean, co-chair of NEST our parents and carers network, reflect on out  commitment to ensuring parents can flourish in all areas of their lives.


In 2012, the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly declared the first-ever Global Day of Parents.  Held annually on 1 June, the day was created as an opportunity to honour families around the world, in all their diversity. It recognises that although single parent families, same sex parents, mixed race families and families from various cultures, countries and ethnicities experience unique challenges, they ultimately share the universal experience of being a family. It particularly recognises the universal challenges all parents face in as they nurture and protect children within a family environment.

In the 1980’s the UN began to focus more on issues related to the family, based on the growing belief that the conditions in which a child is raised in their family branches out into other spheres of global development. This paved the way for resolutions such as marking 1994 as the International Year of Family and declaring 15 May to be annually observed as the International Day of Families. This increased appreciation for the experiences of families across the world set a precedent for the Global Day of Parents.

This day has provided a day of reflection for workforces in all sectors to consider how meaningfully they understand the challenges faced by staff members who are parents and carers, and how effectively they plan to support them.  Organisations such as UNICEF and UN Women have acknowledged the importance of introducing family-friendly workplace policies and practices, and how this puts companies and institutions in a stronger position to provide systematic support to employees, particularly those who are parents and/or carers.

King’s has been one of the many institutions to take part in this global conversation and actively reflect on ways in we can support parents and carers through the challenges they face in the workplace, particularly in the context of the pandemic. More recently, many families have experienced considerable challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only have parents had to home school their children, potentially shield their children and care for other members of their family, but they have had to do so while managing their mental health and continuing their work responsibilities. We are proud that our senior leaders took a strong ‘family-first’ stance early in the pandemic, strongly championed at senior levels of the College by NEST (the Network to Engage, Support & bring Together Parents and Carers) We know that this approach meant so much to those who found their home and work lives colliding in an instant. As an institution, we understand the challenges of being a working parent and so we have a wide range of resources and means of support for staff to access:

  • The Parents’ & Carers’ Hub provides staff and managers with easy-to-access information about the support and benefits available to parents and carers. From our ‘Shared Parental Leave & Pay’ policy to our ‘Childcare’ policy this page covers a wide breadth of the internal support we have put in place for parents and carers across the organisation. Further support on flexible working can also be found.
  • The Carers’ Career Development Fund is a scheme designed to help parents and carers with additional costs associated with work events that fall out of normal working hours (such as conferences and networking events).
  • Consider joining NEST (the Network to Engage, Support & bring Together Parents and Carers). As with all of our staff networks, which aim to provide a sense of community for all staff by connecting them with Colleagues with similar lived experiences, NEST is for all those with parenting or caring responsibilities. The network holds a range of events, offers a thriving online community through which you can connect with colleagues across the organisation, and can offer guidance and representation at strategic and policy level.
  • If you work, or are interested in working, flexibly, then you may be interested in the Flexible Working Group at King’s. FWG has been campaigning over the last few years to support flexible working for all, including playing a key part in the College’s Athena Swan Silver Award submission. You may have contributed at the start of 2020 to our Flexible Working Survey, the results from which have been useful in advocating for better understanding of flexible working. Members of the FWG have more recently come together to create resources and guidance to support you in this area. Please take a look at the Flexible Working SharePoint site, which includes lots of information, useful links, case studies and some handy hints and tips. If you have any ideas for content or notice something is missing, please let the group know. This is a living resource, which will be regularly reviewed and updated, so your feedback is highly valued.
  • The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) as a free support service for King’s staff and all immediate family members. It provides independent expert advice on a range of issues such as family matters, debt management, wellbeing, relationships, personal development and life events.
  • External resources and support can be found with Working Families. It’s one of the UK’s leading work-life balance charities and aims to remove the barriers faced by parents and carers in employment. As members of Working Families, we can provide staff with additional support (such as an easily accessible toolkit for parents and an advice form ranging many issues) to help create a more supportive culture to embed a flexible, high performing workforce).

On this Global Day of Parents, let us celebrate parents who balance work and personal commitments alongside family responsibilities (sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing) and let’s re-affirm our commitment to ensuring parents can flourish in all areas of their lives.

 


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2 years on – reflecting on George Floyds murder

Jennifer Hastings, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Manger here at King’s College London reflects on the 2nd anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. 


Today marks the anniversary of the murder of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer. George Floyd was not the first (or last) victim of police brutality, however his death acted as a catalyst for protests and campaigns across the world. Organisations and brands joined in, many making a financial commitment or enacting race equality action plans with renewed vigour. Popular narrative also changed, as people with influence developed a greater understanding of what it means to be “anti-racist” (and how it’s not just a synonym for “not being racist”).

King’s senior leadership team released a statement committing them to addressing racism at King’s, and we developed a Black Lives Matter Plan as a sub-section of our Race Equality Action Plan. As EDI manager, and a white woman, I recognise that there is still a lot of work to do. I also acknowledge that King’s does not exist in a vacuum but in a world built on systemic racism where, in many parts of the Western world, whiteness is the invisible status quo. Campaign zero has developed a live tracker that puts into stark focus how pervasive police brutality is across America and, in recent events closer to home, a 15 year old Black school-girl was strip searched by police prompting a safeguarding review that concluded “racism was likely to have been an influencing factor.” We saw the Covid19 pandemic disproportionately impact Black and Asian people and extensive research illustrates how Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities are more likely to experience various forms of poverty, from overcrowded accommodation to unemployment. The ethnicity pay gap persists yet organisations are not currently required to report on it in the same way as they are for gender.

Back in 2020, so many people promised to do better. Fast forward two years and there’s still resistance to the term “white privilege” and questions of whether race equality work is even necessary. Only last week the Chief Executive of Advance HE wrote a piece in defence of its Race Equality Charter following criticism of “egregious wokery”.  I’m sure there are various reasons why someone may denounce the existence of racism, however the term “white fragility” seems particularly apt. In a paper published in the International Journal of critical Pedagogy in 2011, Robin DiAngelo defines white fragility as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.

The work to be anti-racist, both as an individual and as an organisation, was always going to be challenging. Raising awareness has its place but we mustn’t shy away from the less palatable side of activism. Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matters movement reminds us that Every successful social movement in this country’s history has used disruption as a strategy to fight for social change.” And, in the midst of the hashtags, we mustn’t forget why Black Lives Matter was set up; Trayvon Martin was 17 years old when he was killed by George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty. His mother, Sybrina Fulton said: I want the world to know that my son was unarmed and he was 17 years old. He wasn’t committing any crime. Trayvon’s only crime was the color of his skin … which is not a crime.”

The ability to debate the existence of racism is a marker of white privilege and, for many members of the King’s community, the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder will be a particularly difficult time. If you teach, consider how a student’s engagement with their course may be affected. If you line manage people, be mindful of how this day may impact the mental health of your team.

Students can access support via the Counselling and Mental Health Support Service and staff can access the Employee Assistance Programme. We recognise that these services may not meet the needs of everybody and have signposted to further options below.

  • Black Minds Matter UK is a registered charity that connects individuals to Black therapists. Their aim is “to make mental health topics more relevant and accessible for all Black people in the U.K., removing the stigma and remodelling the services to be relevant for the Black community.”
  • The Lambeth and Southwark branch of Mind has a directory of mental health services that you can filter according to your requirements, including to connect with counsellors who share the same ethnic background with you
  • Rethink has a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic factsheet that includes a directory of services
  • For those who want to educate themselves further, take a look at our anti-racism resources

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International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia Reflections

In our latest Diversity Digest Blog, Jake Orros (he/him) an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Project Officer here at King’s College London reflects on IDAHOBIT DAY. That’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia which is marked across the world on the 17th May.  He explores why the day is needed in 2022 and signposts to how you can make a difference and also access support. 


Jake Orros standing on the 8th floor balcony of Bush House with Views of Westminster in the background as the sunsets.

Jake Orros, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Project Officer.

IDAHOBIT Day – that’s International day against homophobia, transphobia & biphobia is marked this week. Now observed annually across the globe on the 17th May since its inception in 2004. The 17th of May is significant because it was on this day in 1990 the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. This year’s theme is “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights”.

In 2022 some may ask ‘why IDAHOBIT is still needed?’  And the same question could be asked of pride events and other LGBTQ+ observances.

After all it has been 32 since years since the UN declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder. And from a UK perspective; sexual activity between men was decriminalised in 1967. The ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces was first lifted in 2000 and remnants of legislation removed in 2016. In 2001 the age of consent was equalised. Section 28 was finally repealed in 2003. In England & Wales the first same-sex civil partnerships were entered into in December 2005 & marriage followed in March 2014, with Scotland & Northern Ireland following (although it took the latter until 2020 and with a nudge from central government in Westminster). Trans people have been able to change their gender since 2005. LGBT people can build their own families and adopt children. All these stops on the journey to finding true equality, belonging,  acceptance and inclusion should be celebrated, despite arriving with much delay at each of these!

In 2022 IDAHOBIT Day is still very much needed. Despite all the advances listed from a UK perspective – more needs to be done, both at home and abroad. The fight for true equality, acceptance and inclusion is still very much in progress, and now is not the time to ease off the accelerator in the battle against homophobia, transphobia & biphobia globally. Here are some examples:

From a UK perspective

Conversion Therapy – The Government has still not banned harmful conversion therapy, 4 years after promising to do so. There have been repeated delays and U-turns. In the recent Queen’s Speech the government proposed a bill to be passed this parliament to ban conversion therapy, however, the government has indicated this legislation will only protect LGB individuals and not members of the Trans community. This is deeply worrying, with many including the British Psychological Society expressing concern that not all members of the LGBT community will be protected by this new legislation. Any legal ban on conversion therapy must be inclusive of all forms of supposed ‘therapy’ and must be implemented without further delay.

Hate Crime – Instances of reports of hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ+ community have been on the steady rise, more on this can be found in this article. Additionally, the figures collated by the charity Stonewall make for a sobering read on their LGBTQ+ facts and figures webpages. A combination of factors are likely to be behind the increased reporting of instances of hate crime against LGBTQ+ people. 1) A real terms increase in instances where LGBTQ+ people are target; 2) the true extent of the problem is being revealed as more feel able to share their lived experience. What is clear is that LGBTQ+ people in Britain are still targeted because of their sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.

Global perspective

Legislation – approximately 69 countries still have legislation on the books that criminalise LGBTQ+ people. Let that sink in. By simply living as their true authentic selves’, individuals risk prosecution or worse. According to the Human Dignity Trust 11 jurisdictions currently impose or have the sentencing option to impose the death penalty on those engaging in consensual sex between same-sex individuals in private. And 15 jurisdictions criminalise transgender peoples expression/gender identity. Some may say that prosecutions of LGBTQ+ individuals in many of these jurisdictions are low/non-existent. This argument misses the point. This legislation stigmatises being LGBTQ+; it creates a hostile environment that legitimises homo/bi/transphobia. The impact & burden on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ+ people should not be underestimated.

In the shadows of historic legislation – In countries where legislation no longer remains criminalising members of the LGBTQ+ community, the laws that once stood can cast long shadows over the community. Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and fear may remain engrained in cultural norms and collective societal behaviours. It can take time for social acceptance of LGBTQ+ people to become the main narrative.

An example of this has recently come to light in the UK press in response to Her Majesty’s government’s proposal to send refugees landing on the UK’s shores to Rwanda. Many have questioned the Home Office’s proposals and the impact it would have on LGBTQ+ people. The Home Office acknowledges that there are indeed concerns. Stating in their own Equality impact assessment of the new partnership that ‘Homosexuality was de-criminalised [in Rwanda] in 2010. At this stage, investigations point to ill treatment being more than one off, but it does not appear to be systemic.’ Coupled with this the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website issues the following guidance to LGBTQ+ travellers to Rwanda – ‘Homosexuality is not illegal in Rwanda but remains frowned on by many. LGBT individuals can experience discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities. There are no specific anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT individuals.’

What is clear in this instance is that it can be a mixed bag abroad. Lack of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation does not equal universal acceptance or safety. It should be noted that individual experience can differ for those living in a country and for those visiting temporarily for work or holidaying. There can also be regional variances and wider rural vs urban considerations to take into account. The takeaway here is that we can use IDAHO day to highlight both the archaic legislation that remains on the statute books across the globe; and the homo/bi/transphobic views held or perceived to be held by a significant minority that may persist long after decriminalisation.

Personal perspective

Homo/bi/transphobia does not always manifest itself in large overt attacks on an individual or community, often it is delivered via small actions that may be best described as microaggressions. These low intensity actions delivered over numerous occasions have an accumulative effect that can be equally hurtful, harmful, and damaging.

Earlier this year I visited a friend who lives outside of London. The weather had been beautiful, and we were heading out to grab some locally produced ice cream to wrap up what had been a brilliant day. At some point on our hunt for ice cream we started holding hands. Such an innocent act. In 2022 two men holding hands in public should not be revolutionary or an act of defiance. Everyone should be able to hold hands with the person of their choice and feel safe, feel confident and feel free.

As we approached a pub, an individual sitting outside made eye contact with myself and my friend, they turned to the person they were sat with and brought their attention to us. Both locked eyes on us and our connected hands as we approached. We continued walking. Then came an inaudible comment from the individuals sat down, clearly about us, about our connect hand, delivered in a tone that was certainly not welcoming. We did not let go but tightened our grip as we glanced at one another, decided to avoid confrontation, and walked on towards ice cream. I was stunned and angered by their small but overt act. Their microaggression.

Do people make comments about mixed-sex hand holding? Imagine holding hands with someone of the same sex and walking down the street and being met with multiple mini incidents like the one I recently experienced. Sure, you can shrug it of once, twice, three times – these microaggressions accumulate. It can be exhausting. It can be isolating. This is why we need to tackle all incidents of homo/bi/transphobia no matter how big or small. Regardless of size it is not acceptable.Power of Love IDAHOBIT Day Poster.

IDAHOBIT day acts as a rallying point to call for an end to abuse, stigma, and discrimination. The day also acts as an important opportunity to recognise and celebrate LGBTQ+ identities, individuals, and the wider community. Celebrating who we are is important; it grounds us, gives us renewed purpose & determination and reminds us why it is so important to continue to push for a world free of injustice, intolerance, and hate.

In the past month there have been several stories that should be amplified and celebrated;

  • Firstly, this week Jake Daniels has become the UK’s first openly gay male professional footballer to come out in 30 years whilst still playing. He follows hot on the heals of Australian player Josh Cavallo who publicly came out last October. Jake’s public action at the start of his career is courageous. There are already many out players in women’s football and there are countless other LGBTQ+ players who are not out publicly. I personally hope that we will reach a point where the idea of ‘coming out’ is not a news story and that people are simply accepted for being themselves. This said the fact that Jake feels confident and able to share his story and use his influence to enact positive change should be applauded. Now let’s focus on his sporting prowess and not his sexuality alone.

 

  • Secondly, the Netflix book adaptation of Alice Oseman’s ‘Heartstopper’ has recently hit the screens. The show has received phenomenal reviews for its wholesome portrayal of teens falling for each other. The show is hugely relatable. The show and comics were written about teenagers with teenagers in mind as the primary audience; the show has gone on to attract a much larger audience. Twitter has been full of LGBTQ+ people commenting that they wished they had a show like this, characters like this and a plot like this when they were younger. It is brilliant to see authentic & relatable LGBTQ+ stories for all audiences entering the mainstream.

 

  • Thirdly, the UK now has a dedicated LGBTQ+ museum called ‘Queer Britain’; it has just opened its doors to the public in its first physical home 4 years after the museum was founded, it is situated near King’s Cross. The museum sets out to document and celebrate LGBTQ+ histories & identities that have often been forgotten or not given the attention they deserve in the mainstream. The museum will act as a rallying point and showcase the diverse stories of the community.

What you can do to help

We all have a duty to stand up to hate. We all have a responsibility to counter homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. We can each take steps big and small to tackle hate & injustice and celebrate amazing LGBTQ+ individuals.

Here are some things you can do to make a difference:

  • Visit the IDAHOBIT Day website.
  • Donate to an LGBTQ+ charity tackling hate – we have listed some in the section below.
  • Write to your MP to support a trans inclusive ban on conversion therapy. You can do this really easily via a charity like Mermaids.
  • Volunteer with an LGBTQ+ charity or event or help fundraise for them.
  • Report hate crime via the independent charity Crimestoppers.

For members of the King’s College London community you can:

  • Visit our LGBTQ+ allyship toolkit.
  • Get involved with our LGBTQ+ staff network Proudly King’s.
  • Attend one of our upcoming training courses:
    • Request Trans Matters Training for your team.
    • Attend Microaggressions training.
    • Check out our Diversity Matters training, including the new e-course.

Where you can seek support

For members of the King’s College London Community:

External support available to all: 


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A day in the life: Sarah Guerra

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

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


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

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

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

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

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

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

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

That week’s committee meetings were

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stonewall gold celebration

Kirsty McLaren, Sarah Guerra & Paul Webb.

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

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

is what I absolutely live for.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s my week in 1500 words.

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


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