Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Author: Jake Orros (Page 2 of 7)

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. 

The art of ‘eggcellent’ communication

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London reflects on a recent holiday to the United States and the importance of clear communication. 


I was in America recently. (For those who don’t know my fab partner arranged a lifetime dream trip to Seattle and DC for my 50th birthday.) The home of the amazing breakfast. So, to Busboys and Poets, one of the eateries in my Washington DC adventure. I ordered Eggs Florentine. For the uninitiated it’s a dish of poached eggs, on spinach and English muffins, covered in hollandaise – pretty luxurious. The perfect Florentine requires poached eggs that when you crack them open, a viscous but clearly runny, golden egg yolk runs out. The dish arrives – after quite a while. I excitedly break into my eggs. There is always the moment of anticipation – what will they be like? These were sadly too solid, not completely solid but definitely not runny. I ponder whether I should accept them and decide not. I call the waitress over and (in my view) explain that the eggs are overcooked and unsatisfactory. She says, ‘Oh I didn’t know that’s how you wanted them’. I feel puzzled about this – it is my common experience that the eggs need to be runny – I shouldn’t need to make a special request.

Anyway, I write it off as perhaps an inexperienced staff member or difference between Brits and Americans. I’m on holiday. I am determined to be joyous.  Anyway, sometime later the eggs arrive back. I excitedly crack in – imagine my shock and disappointment when the eggs are even more cooked than previously. (I should probably add in here that I absolutely detest hard boiled eggs.) I think about it for a while and at this point am also wondering if I should give up. After all at this point my ‘breakfast time’ has pretty much run out. Plus do I want the stress, confrontation and conflict? I am focusing on JOY!

I collect myself and call the waitress over. I say I think we have had a misunderstanding. These eggs are even harder than the first set. She looks at me. ‘Isn’t that what you wanted?’ I realise in that moment that one way or another, through either my assumptions or hers, my lack of specific words or her distracted listening – she has understood the exact opposite of what I wanted. She has in this situation done her best to meet my needs but has completely misunderstood them. And/or I have completely miscommunicated them.

This felt like such a ‘teachable moment’ for equality, diversity and inclusion.  What are our communications based on? They are based on our existing frame of reference, experience and set of assumptions.  This is what all the bias training that we all do has been trying to help us understand. It is also based on how well are we paying attention? How much are we clarifying and checking versus assuming and dashing to please or deliver.

That same day not long after the eggs resolution I had a very similar experience with my partner. In response to a question, he indicated a response that I instinctively interpreted in completely the opposite way to that which he intended.  We as is our way ended up bickering, both continuing from our perspective, understanding and assumptions. On another occasion we might have ended up nearly full out arguing. But based on the recent experience highlighting how easily I am misunderstood and how easily individuals misinterpret each other – I forced myself to step back and deconstruct the situation. This helped us both see how we were misunderstanding each other.

The outcome at the restaurant was finally a perfect eggs Florentine that I enjoyed very much. In my relationship it was (after 22 years) a revelation and deepening of our understanding of each other. When I think about it, I am hoping that the waitress (and my partner) both felt reflective and respected. I am hopeful that all of us in the future in that situation will think about how to check that we are understood rather than feeling aggrieved. I pride myself on being a quick thinker and someone who is decisive, but these two incidents really helped me to see how much better a listener and reflector I need to be if I am going to be the effective, collaborative, inclusive leader I want to be.

Celebrating Gold

King’s College London’s continued commitment to shaping an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ people at work was  recently recognised  with a Stonewall Workplace Equality Index Gold Award. King’s achieved 14th place in the Stonewall Top 100 Employer list which is compiled from the Workplace Equality Index, a benchmarking tool for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace. KCL ranked 2nd overall in the higher education sector. You can read the full story here.

To make this momentous occasion King’s College London’s LGBTQ+ staff network’ Proudly King’s & the university’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion team held a celebration event to recognise & thank all those who contributed to our Workplace Equality Index submission. 

In This blog we will be sharing some of the speeches and pictures from the evening, including reflections from Sarah Guerra & Kirsty McLaren.

 


Content warning: transphobia, queer phobia, racism, sexism, assault, sexual assault and suicide. 

 

Stonewall gold celebration

Kirsty McLaren, Sarah Guerra & Paul Webb.

Welcoming thoughts – Kirsty McLaren – on behalf of Proudly King’s

Kirsty McLaren.

Words drawn from Kirsty’s welcoming speech delivered at the celebration event. 

Welcome everyone and thank you for joining us to celebrate the Stonewall Gold Award. The last time we handed in our Workplace Equality Index submission, we were handed back a position of 250-something out of 400 employers. There wasn’t any disappointment or pushback, just a real sense of opportunity, because King’s is full of changemakers.

They’re our student-facing staff who work to allow students to have their identities recognised on our systems and the IT staff who implement it. They’re our procurement team who scrutinise the LGBT inclusion of countries and companies in their tender process. They’re our HR staff who make recruitment and onboarding processes inclusive. They are the 500 staff members who’ve worn a rainbow lanyard and pledged their allyship to Proudly King’s. They are every member of staff who’s attended diversity training. They are the EDI officers who led on the Stonewall submission. They are us – Proudly King’s – who welcome everyone bring people together and campaign for change. And every member of King’s who’s made these walls a safe space for people when there wasn’t one at home.

The important thing about us is that we are relentless, and we are never complacent. Even if we hit top marks on every charter mark or index out there, all of us will still be working to make this place even better, and even safer. While this is a celebration of everything we’ve achieved together it should also be a frank reality check for what people are still experiencing. Trans people at King’s and across the world have been cast as the subject of debates without invitation

I remember coming back from a trip in Cornwall and stopping in a service station. On the back of the toilet stall I saw a poster in the back of the toilet saying, “men can dress up as women to assault you, is that what you want?” It was a protesting the gender recognition act. It didn’t make me angry at the people who put it there, just sorry for them and the system we live in that keeps people in boxes and thrives off the vulnerable members of society hating each other. Within King’s, other universities and everywhere imaginable, people have debated trans issues. Universities have pulled out of Stonewall over the debate. Britain’s human rights watchdog has pulled out of Stonewall over the debate. This is debate over where trans people should and should not have space.

But the debate isn’t about space, is it?

It’s about women feeling so afraid to be anywhere in public without sharing their location with loved ones or sending them a quick “I’m home!” message. It’s about being told when you’re little that you can always trust a police officer, and respect what they ask of you, only to find out he’s used his position to harm you. It’s about the 1 in 5 women, the 1 in 6 children, the 1 in 20 men and the 1 in 2 trans people who are sexually assaulted. You don’t have an issue with trans people. You have an issue with the perpetrators. If you haven’t guessed by the statistics, are not trans people. A cisgender man who pretends to be a woman to attack people is not a trans person. Trans people have become the scapegoat for an issue that nobody in power is willing to address. Just this month we saw 80 charities and organisations boycott the UK Government’s first LGBT conference after it changed its mind on banning conversion therapy meaning that trans conversion therapy will not be outlawed. We can’t accept that lesbian, bi and gay folks are more deserving to be safeguarded from self-hate and suicide but trans people are not.

Ever since the start of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, we’ve had conflict within ourselves which only benefits those who have more privilege. The Stonewall Riots which launched the modern movement were started by black trans women who were sick and tired of police brutality. A few years later, they stood on stage at the pride parade to be booed off stage by white, gay, cisgender men and women who ousted them from the very revolution that they had started.

Fast forward four decades to our second ever Pride Parade with Proudly King’s and we are stopped in the blistering sun for two hours because white lesbian groups protested against trans people being included within the LGBT movement. Meanwhile, those who started the movement, black trans women, today have a life expectancy of 35 and it is simply not good enough. We no longer march in Pride in London because they do not protect or empower the most vulnerable members of our community.

Two weeks ago, my fiancé and I went on an impromptu pub crawl around our area. While we were there, we met Luke who is a trans man. Luke was organising a meet-up for a new LGBTQ+ association in our local area. He was sitting on a table by the bar scrawling notes about how to get the word out to people without publicising the date or time. I asked him why he wouldn’t just put up the signs because surely the queers would flock. He told me that this the pub was the only place he had ever managed to get a job, because everywhere else in the area rejected him when they learned he was trans. He said that the last time he had advertised something publicly, the pub was attacked, and he was abused. But he also said that he was questioned about what was in his pants by another member of the LGBTQ+ community at the previous meetup. The pub was the only place he could be safe because he wasn’t safe at home. And even in his safe space, he was targeted as a trans man by the general public and by his own community.

The ultimate goal of those in power in the world is to pull us apart. We are fed ideas by media, politicians and those who profit from keeping us separate and in conflict with one another. Because while we’re doing that, they can continue to thrive in a world that favours cisgendered people, that favours men, that favours able-bodied people and that favours white people. Working intersectionally and empowering every part of a person’s identity is the only way we move forward. Because those in power are terrified of what that would do to the status quo.

We can all do better by Luke regardless of how golden our awards are. This evening I invite you all to celebrate all our achievements and to continue being changemakers.

In this room we have Josh Pullen, who campaigned against the Honorary Degree of the Sultan of Brunei when the death penalty was re-introduced for gay people. Proudly King’s won that battle because he amplified the voices of queer people in King’s and beyond, and – importantly – the university listened.

We also have Professor Evelyn Welch and Sarah Guerra. I’m not sure whether the UK manufactures the size of boot that these women have left for someone to fill. Evelyn has worked at the most senior level to develop a focus on culture, inclusion and diversity among her many other roles. But she has somehow made time to be the Senior Sponsor for:

  • Elevate – our gender equality network
  • NEST – our parents & carers network
  • And our Race Equality network

As well as volunteering and championing our work in Proudly King’s.

Sarah Guerra has spent the last 5 years at King’s leading a team who’ve decreased the gender pay gap, increased the number of female staff at senior level, gained an Athena Swan silver award, a Race Equality Charter Bronze award and a small thing called the Stonewall Gold Award where we ranked 14th in the UK and 2nd among universities.

I want to thank everyone in this room for being here and being a part of making King’s a better place. You’re the reason I’ve never been afraid to bring my whole self to work.

 


Reflections from Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality Diversity & Inclusion 

Sarah Guerra celebrated with pride and trans inclusive nails.

Words drawn from Sarah’s speech delivered at the celebration event. 

It is such an enormous pleasure and privilege to be asked to speak here tonight. I am, as we all know, nearing the end of my time at King’s. I can say these 5 years have genuinely been some of the best working and life experiences I’ve had.

This Stonewall success has meant so much to me. It is the result of strong partnerships and collaboration as well as determination and commitment by so many. Kirsty outlined many of the ways we have worked together collectively to achieve this success. Many across the King’s community have contributed to this success and importantly to the safety and inclusion of our LGBTQ+ colleagues. Everyone here should feel their chests puff with pride.

I want to particularly thank Nicole Robinson, Tyler John, Jordan, Alex Prestage, Evelyn Welch, Paul Webb, Ryan Benjamin, Kirsty McLaren, Chenee Psaros, Josh Pullen, Vanessa Farrier who all have played a role in really driving King’s LGBTQ+ inclusion journey – not forgetting the IOPPN leadership who started King’s relationship with Stonewall before I arrived. They all need special mention for the roles they have played in leading King’s to this success.

While celebrating we must remind ourselves why it is important that we ensure a focus on LGBTQ+ equality. March 31 was #TransDayOfVisibility, and that gives us an opportunity to celebrate trans and non-binary people, and to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by the community worldwide. It also provides an opportunity for trans and non-binary people to feel seen through positive and realistic representation – and for allies to learn more about how they can stand in solidarity.

As I reflected on what to say today, I felt I couldn’t say it better than Lady Phyll that is Phyllis Opoku-Gyimah. Someone I’ve had the privilege to know for maybe 20 years. She is a LinkedIn ChangeMaker, Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust, CoFounder of UK Black Pride, A Human Rights Activist, a Community Builder and Organiser and an LGBTQ+ icon.

Lady Phyll said;

“We all have a role to play. Along with sharing trans peoples’ stories far and wide, make sure to support campaigns and mutual aid networks, so that in future trans people can be more than simply visible – they can thrive.”

All over the world we are celebrating the beauty and courage of our trans siblings. While today is a day of celebration and revelation, I want to start the day by highlighting the still very real rise in oppression that trans people are facing that seems to run parallel to their visibility.

With more representation than ever before, the general population are able to learn about the nuanced complexities of the queer community from their phones, televisions and newspapers in new and more informed ways. This being said, it has also armed an extremely vocal minority within our society with the necessary tools to identify and target some of the most vulnerable in our community. Anti-trans sentiments and violence continue to rise all over the world, and the recent ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in the United States serves as a reminder that this in turn breeds a redaction of our rights as human beings.

Trans day of visibility is a day of celebration, a day to reach out to and appreciate the trans people in our lives in admiration and respect.

She ends with words that I fully subscribe to –

“I genuinely do believe in the power that positivity and light can have on our community, however I also think that it is vital that the cisgender members of the LGBTQ community take stock of the very real threats that trans people face on a daily basis.”

I wasn’t at the march in London this weekend – but Lady Phyll and all those who came out remind us it is time for our allyship to manifest itself in action.

In looking through another lens as to why LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace is life changing and can be life saving I was fortunate enough that my brother-in-law brought our family a set of books at Christmas. One of these was called A Dutiful Boy – a memoir of secrets, lies and family love. By Mohsin Zaidi. The Guardian, GQ and New Statesman named it best book of the year. Mohsin grew up in a devout Muslim household and was confronted with the biggest decision he would ever make – to live the life that was expected of him or to live his truth?

Let me tell you in his own words…

(Sarah read a passage of book pages 274-276).

And the final lens – my own – those that know me will know I myself have come to know, accept and share my queerness as a bi Cis woman whilst here at King’s. It is still something I feel a bit weird talking about as I have been happily partnered with someone of the opposite sex for a long while now. I found myself often asking am I queer imposter? Particularly when I, say, see the twitter content that questions people who are in ‘straight’ relationships saying they are queer. Am I appropriating space? Am I jumping on a bandwagon?

No! I have learned more about romantic and physical attraction and their relationship to my sexual orientation -I get to decide for me who I am attracted to or why – not societal norms. As I started to share this news about myself I was interested in the range of reactions I got. From my brother-in-law saying ‘congratulations and welcome’ to a previous work colleague – someone who I felt was very open, saying ‘am I reading correctly that you have made some self-discoveries?’ Yes, I’ve realised I’m bi/queer but no real change in the day to day. ‘Hope your discoveries are not making life too complicated’ – to which I answered, ‘Why would they? I’m the same person’.

This is why I am so grateful for the relationships, conversations and support here at King’s underpinned by our Stonewall membership and our brilliant Proudly network that have helped me come to terms with and understand my own confusion and repressed feelings and experiences. Helped me understand who I am and be happy with that.

Tonight, isn’t about me but my experiences are a big part of why Stonewall membership and support is so vital it provides space, advocacy and education to reduce fear and confusion for individuals and to help organisations understand how to be LGBTQ+ inclusive. Getting this Gold award tells us we are on the right track and to repeat Mohsin’s words – ‘I am unwilling to give up on the idea that things can change’..

I so look forward to seeing King’s leading the conversation after my departure.

Thank you.

 

If you would like to watch some amateur footage of the speeches delivered on the night please contact the team via email (diversity@kcl.ac.uk). 


Gaining a Stonewall Workplace Equality Index Gold Award is not a destination. but a small step in our journey to creating a more inclusive world. To get involved with our work and to find out more explore the links below; 

A day in the life: Sophie Rust

This is the first blog in 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 Sophie Rust (she/her) an EDI Project Officer. 


Sophie Rust, EDI Project Officer.

My name is Sophie Rust and my pronouns are she/her. I’m an EDI Project Officer and I’ve been in the role for over a year now – time flies! Before starting in EDI I worked with lovely colleagues in the Careers & Employability Team. I worked for a charity previously and my (sort of) claim to fame is being the first employee of the now quite successful startup, Huel.  

I came to King’s as my friend, and now colleague in Arts & Humanities, Flo Cowan, told me it was a really nice place to work. She wasn’t wrong! King’s is full of hard working and creative people, who are kind and always ready to help. I’ve had a fantastic time working here, most of it during the pandemic where MS Teams became our new best friend. Shout out to my then manager in Careers Charles Kasule for getting us up to speed on Teams well before we really needed it – that was excellent timing! 

EDI has always been an interest for me before it became a job. My work in a human rights charity touched on equality in relation to cases before the European Court of Human Rights. When I was in Careers, an important question for me was how we can increase the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds in co-curricular programmes such as the King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship scheme. I also worked with Gya Niyazi to ringfence a percentage of the Student Opportunity Fund specifically for Black students to address the specific disadvantages Black graduates face including the awarding gap and in graduate outcomes. This eventually led me to apply for a position in the EDI team and I’ve not looked back. 

Every day is different in this role. I also split my time between the EDI team and the Faculty of Arts & Humanities which mixes things up nicely. I might be delivering some microaggressions training in the morning, and attending a Faculty Diversity & Inclusion Committee meeting in the afternoon, where we will be hearing from each department about different initiatives. I might be attending the Athena Swan Delivery Team meeting and taking notes on the implementation of gender equality actions, then I’ll be taking time to research disability inclusion best practice.  

I think one of the things I enjoy most about my role is engaging with staff and students. I had the privilege last year of supporting MA Philosophy student Ursula Blythe with a seminar series entitled Dis/ability & Dialogue. I learnt so much from hearing Ursula speak about activism and philosophy and the lived experience of disability. The four-part seminar series was grant-funded by the Arts & Humanities Diversity & Inclusion Grant which supports a number of local staff and student-led projects. It’s a pleasure to see the impact of these projects and the variety of activities undertaken.  

For International Women’s Day this year former student and Head of the Poetry Soc Karen Ng read a poem that she had composed based on visions of a more equal world contributed on our padlet by the King’s community. The poem was incredible, and you can read and listen to it here. I was lucky to be involved in the organisation of this event, which also welcomed Aleida Borges from the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership to speak about the Institute’s work and her own research on women’s grassroots leadership. It’s amazing to get to work with staff and students from all over King’s.  

Something I love about the EDI team is how collaborative it is. We don’t all work on the same projects, and considering the Projects and Partnerships Team are also based in faculties, we are sometimes quite separate. That’s why it’s great to come together for our weekly team meeting to brainstorm ideas, and get feedback on our work. We share best practice from our faculties, and I find bouncing ideas off the team always helps. We check in on our wellbeing and give each other feedback and praise. It’s a lovely ritual and I recommend including it in your team meetings if you can. 

When there is a pause in the day, I might be found drinking a coffee outside of the Terrace Café (Macadam Building) – a place I only discovered recently as I started to venture more to campus. You get a lovely view of the Thames. As you can see in this picture it was so sunny I had my sunglasses on!  

In my spare time, I’m learning German at the Modern Languages Centre and I’ve started bouldering. Both are great stress-relievers as you can’t think about anything else whilst you are doing them!


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

A day in the Life: Helena Mattingley

This is the first blog in 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 third ‘day in the life’ feature comes from Helena Mattingley (she/her), Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at KCL. 


 

Helena Mattingley, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion.

I’m Helena Mattingley (she/her) and I’ve worked at King’s for seven or so years. I started out in Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, and moved to Arts & Sciences, before moving in, and more recently out, of Human Resources. The work I do is a blend of strategic, operational and opportunistic, and requires attention to process as well as people.  

Each day is different, and I like the variety of skills I need to use. It’s that variety, as well as the purpose of my role and the people I work with which I find motivating.  

The EDI function has two main teams: the Consultancy team and the Projects and Partnership team. Each have skilled practitioners who will also be writing their ‘day in the life of…’ and you can read about their days here. I manage the Consultancy team. Together, with the EDI Projects and Partnerships Manager, we deliver the university wide programme activity, such as Gender Equality, Disability Inclusion, LGBTQ+ Inclusion and Race Equality. My team is also responsible for leading the Equality Analysis framework, and working as internal consultants on a range of EDI challenges. You can learn more about our work in our EDI Annual Report 

In addition to managing the Consultancy team, I am responsible for my own specific portfolio. I lead on gender equality, EDI data strategy and reporting, legal compliance, and a number of other pieces which need my input.  

I head into campus a day or two each week, and use the time to meet face to face. When I’m working remotely, I have a mix of online meetings and ‘desk time’. 

This morning, I’ve blocked out time to prepare for the HR Recruitment Review. I’m involved in the Operating Model workstream, and I need to be able to contribute constructively and flag EDI specific needs. It’s important for EDI to be embedded and well considered in university decisions, so being an active participant through working groups, or through connecting through strategic Equality Analyses and reviewing policies is important.  

After my preparation, I check in on some finance pieces. I need to make sure that I’m happy with the information EDI are contributing into the business planning round. The commitments King’s has made through Athena Swan, Race Equality and EDI action plans needs to be resourced, planned and aligned with Vision 2029 Refresh.  

It’s unusual for me to have a whole morning or afternoon without a call. So much of the work EDI do is collaborative, and it’s through connecting with our colleagues in a purposeful way which helps continually improve what we do. I like to have tea with me on a call, making a cup helps me switch task as I’m away from my laptop.  I’ve recently been working with AdvanceHE to inform their EDI data guidance, helping them see the implementation challenges from a university’s perspective.  

The EDI Function uses MS Teams as our main workspaces, we use MS Teams to share information, resolve issues, and collaborate online. I keep an active eye on notifications and new posts, so I can maintain oversight, seek/give input, and communicate information easily. MS Teams enables us to crowd source information from the EDI Function which helps with our transparency, effective working and helps us to smoothly cover each other if anyone is unwell. Using MS Teams helps us to be a team, and weather the unpredictability of our work. 

The Consultancy Team huddle twice a week. This is an informal short meeting where we do work which isn’t easily done over MS Teams posts. This could be debriefing, brainstorming, or supportively challenging each others plans, it’s a useful half an hour to come together and work through any issues.  

I take a break over lunch. I make bread once or twice a week, so cheese on toast is a fairly common lunch option. I prefer to use this time for my errands as it breaks up my day, although I appreciate I have the flexibility to plan my time to work to suit me. My partner is a teacher, so to get the most out of our evenings, I choose to work earlier in the day. 

After lunch, I’ll read the updates on MS Teams which require deeper thought or input, e.g. reviewing communications for More than Mentoring and the Disability Reporting Government Consultation. I’ll also prompt the EDI Function to input into our paper for Academic Board, and make sure it’s moving ready for the deadline.  

I am fortunate to have collaborated with many colleagues at King’s on a British Council funded gender equality partnership with five Indian institutions, called GATI. I provide steer to Tushti Kapoor, who leads on the coordination to make sure we deliver out project plan – so hearing that the Action Learning Sets are in calendars and that a missing meeting link has been solved helps me feel confident we are keeping to our timelines. The peer mentors from King’s who directly work with our partners are all fantastic, and the intention is for a mutually beneficial knowledge exchange.  

One of our shared practices as an EDI function is sharing ‘read outs’ from meetings, so as I join my afternoon meeting, I’m already thinking of what information I need to share, who may have useful input, and what we can offer as a team. I add my notes direct to a shared platform, and write a quick note to the team with a summary.  

I try and hold an hour each day to work on a specific piece of work, putting time into Athena Swan work, data or whatever needs my time. My days don’t always go as planned, but having a bit of time which can flex to demand helps enormously. I plan my time on outlook, and so as pieces come in, I rearrange to make the most of each week.  

At the end of the day, I look ahead to see what’s in store for the next day, and close my laptop. As it’s been getting lighter, I’ve taken myself out for a walk after work. Currently, there’s the late stage daffodils and blossom out and it’s a joy to see.  

Back at home, I really enjoy cooking; the kitchen is usually my favourite room in any house. With the radio for background, my partner and I will prep onions, garlic and chilli and talk about our days. I’m pescatarian, so Meera Sodha’s Fresh India or Sally Butcher’s Snackistan are frequently on the kitchen counter for reference.    

We’ll watch something together, do a bit of life admin, or read our respective books – typically something quieter on a school night. We see a group of friends on Fridays, which helps indicate the change into the weekend.  


You can learn more about Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London and get in touch with Jessica & the team by visiting our webpages. 
Content Warning: This blog contains references to racially aggravated violence.

 

 

 

Stephen Lawrence Day takes place annually on the 22nd April. It marks the date that Stephen was murdered in a racist attack in 1997. Following a public enquiry into the police investigation and the subsequent publication of the Macpherson report, significant changes to policing and the law were made. This included the scrapping of the ‘double jeopardy’ rule, which led to two of Stephen’s killers being jailed.

Created by Stephen’s mother, Doreen Lawrence, Stephen Lawrence Day is about developing a fairer society where every voice is heard and everyone can flourish. This year is particularly focused on the power of small, simple changes to make a big difference.

Service is a key part of King’s academic mission and captures our desire to have a positive impact, both locally and globally. Below are some suggestions for marking Stephen Lawrence Day, and we’d love to hear yours as well- comment below or tweet @KCLdiversity.

1 Watch and share the Stephen Lawrence Day video

2 Volunteer your time

Did you know, Kings’ employees are entitled to three service days per year? You can find out about volunteering opportunities via Kings’ Service or KCLSU. One example is Msaada at the South London and Maudsley Trust. It is a volunteering programme that supports people living with mental illness. Both volunteers and service users are from Black and Minority Ethnic communities.

3 Donate

You don’t need us to tell you that there’s countless charities deserving of our support. However, if you’re looking for inspiration, take a look at the Stephen Lawrence Foundation, which works to support young people from marginalised backgrounds through the classroom and community.

4 Tell us what you’re doing to advance race equality

We want to amplify the messaging on the Stephen Lawrence Day website, which talks about showing a commitment to creating a fairer society and how small changes can make a big difference. We are in the process of implementing our Race Equality Action Plan, which comprises of local and King’s-wide activity to progress our journey towards being an anti-racist university. However, we know that this plan won’t capture all the work happening within the university, particularly local campaigns and grassroots level activity. We therefore want to hear from you- whether you’re forming a departmental network or undertaking research on racial disparities, use this form to tell us about your plans. This will enable us to make connections across King’s and identify areas of collaboration. 

5 Engage with the King’s community

There’s so many ways staff and students can make a difference in the King’s community- even just being mindful of your own behaviour, or choosing to be an active bystander, can have a ripple effect on others.

  • Find out about our staff mentoring schemes. Even if this year’s cohort has already been selected, the schemes will reopen again at a later date
  • Get involved with a staff network
  • Students can check out KCLSU’s Make a Change page for a whole host of opportunities
  • We’re all at different stages of our EDI learning journey. Our flagship Diversity Matters session is designed to cover the basics- staff can sign up for Diversity Matters training via SkillsForge
  • We have developed microaggression training for staff and students. You can sign up via SkillsForge or contact diversity@kcl.ac.uk if you’d like us to run a session for your team or student group. Students can also email us if they’d like to attend an active bystander training session (staff should contact Organisational Development)

 

You can find out more about Stephen Lawrence Day, including ways to get involved on their website.

 

A day in the life: Jessica Cole

This is the first blog in 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 second ‘day in the life’ feature comes from Jessica Cole (she/her) our EDI Project Administrator. 


Jessica Cole, EDI Project Administrator.

My name is Jessica, pronouns are she/her and I started working as an EDI Project Administrator at King’s in January 2022.  

When I’m not commuting to the office, I usually start my day with some “at home exercises” which usually consists of weight training and strength building exercises to get my energy levels up, ready to tackle the day. When I am in the office, I enjoy the walk from London Bridge to Lavington Street, particularly as Spring is emerging. I will then have my breakfast, which would usually be an almond croissant or Belgian waffle.  

When logging into my computer, the first thing I do, is to say good morning to the team on our shared Project and Partnerships MS Teams Channel, then I check the Teams messages and updates I have missed to make sure I am up to date on my team’s activities. I reply to any messages I am tagged in and add any relevant actions to my To Do List. One thing I love about using Teams is that you can see what other members of the team are working on and share ideas, and feedback to the team. 

As the EDI Projects Administrator, I am currently in charge of dealing with inquiries that come though the Diversity Inbox. We usually get a wide range of different queries including, questions about eligibility and access to training sessions and general EDI consultation. We also get quite a few emails from external organisations hoping to arrange a collaboration with King’s or invite us to EDI events, workshops and talks across the country.  

If I am working from home, I like to spend my lunchbreak going for a quick walk round the block or catch up on some of my favourite Netflix shows (I am currently watching Peaky Blinders for the first time and loving it!). If I am in the office, I love to catch up with the team and then going for a stroll in London looking at the various shops, particularly independent stores. I always bring a packed lunch as I am saving to buy my own place, (so no cheeky Nando’s for me!). 

One of the important parts of my role is to assist in the management of EDI projects within the Social Sciences and Public Policy (SSPP) faculty. Each faculty has an EDI committee responsible for different workstreams, such as bullying and harassment or decolonising the curriculum. I usually assist in tasks such as helping to arrange training sessions for staff and students within the department, assisting with their communications plan and general administrative duties such as taking minutes and setting the agenda for our next committee meeting.  

As part of my day, I also like to work on any projects, or pieces of work I have been allocated. For example, I am currently working on a small communications project for the Employee Assistant Programme (EAP – a free programme that provides staff and their immediate family members with support, counselling and advice). To carry out the project, I have been having regular meetings with the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) to discuss my ideas. This includes a list of potential stakeholders and the next steps. I am enjoying this project as it gets my creative juices flowing, particularly as it is a programme that is very beneficial for all employees. 

My after-work activities differ from day to day. On a Monday, I attend my Wing Chun (martial arts) class for training. On other days, I might catch up with a friend for dinner, watch my favourite tv shows or enjoy a compelling book. I am currently reading “New Daughters of Africa” edited by Margaret Busby (an international anthology of writing pieces by African women). 


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

Why Ramadan is my favourite month

King’s College London staff member (Sustainability Projects Assistant) and former KCLSU VP Welfare & Community 2020/21, Tasnia Yasmin, shares what the Islamic holy month of Ramadan means to her.


Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “When Ramadan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened.”  (Sahih al-Bukhari 1898)

Every year I think the ‘not even water?!’ joke is outdated, but every year I get asked the same thing.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (we follow the lunar calendar which means Ramadan goes back 10 days every year) and is a month in which Muslims abstain from food and water and bad habits. From sunrise to sunset, we do not consume anything and engage in spiritual enlightenment.

sunrise is at 5am now so not as bad.

Spiritual enlightenment:

I saw something on Instagram recently about how sometimes an automatic reaction to someone asking about why we fast is to talk about food and the health benefits. There’s an abundance of research showing how intermittent fasting is beneficial, but that is not the reason Muslims fast.

We don't fast because of medical benefits- cellular repair or lowering rick of diabetes. We fast to please Khaliq. Let us not secularize our fasts. There is no freedom or liberty of the body, because our body is rooted Divine ownership. Bringing utility-driven models to our fasts only limits the horizons for our fasts. We imitate the unseen, the unveiled. Our amana, and Khilafa, surpass the secular limitations on worship and ritual.

translations – Khaliq (creator), Amana (fulfilling/upholding trust), Khalifah (leader).

There is really no other feeling that you get until the Holy month of Ramadan is here – when you dedicate all your time and attention on God; to thank him for what he has provided, to ask to get closer to Him and to pray for the less fortunate and the oppressed. It is a spiritual cleansing of the soul and a month where you dedicate your time and energy to bettering yourself and engaging in good habits.

Narrated By Abu Huraira : The Prophet said, “Whoever established prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven; and whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 1901)

Oh sadness! Depart from my heart for the grace of God has arrived! Oh heart! You should depart too for the Beloved has departed! - Mawlana Rumi.

Rumi has become completely secularized in the West, most of his poetry of love and devotion is about God and our relationship with Him.

Every Muslim is on their own journey through this Holy month. Many use it as a time of spiritual recharge, building habits that they can incorporate throughout the year, re-incorporating practices which they may have stopped. We do engage with these acts throughout the year, but the soul yearns for Ramadan – a special month where your good deeds are multiplied and where you are shown the mercy of God. What is brilliant about Ramadan is that no matter where your imaan is, as long as you talk to Allah and engage with him during this blessed month, He will give. Poor, rich, ‘Ramadan Muslim’ or a Muslim who engages with regular acts of ibadaah – we are all the same under the eyes of God. Ramadan equips me with the tools to continue sustain these habits, to become a better Muslims and to refresh my mind, body and soul.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” (Sunan Ibn Mājah 4240).

The enormity of my sins vs His Mercy.. My Lord, my sins are enormous, but a little of Your forgiveness is greater than all of them. O Allah, so erase with a little of Your forgiveness the enormity of my sins.

Charity:

When Maghrib hits, silence is met in households whilst everyone gulps down their water and stuffs dates in their mouth. But this month reminds us about the rest of the Ummah who are unable to be met with a fabulous spread of food and an array of choice. Muslims across the world are suffering because of the environmental crisis, war, Islamophobia and much more. In the UK alone, the cost of living crisis in the UK has meant that an estimated 50% of UK Muslim’s are living in poverty. One act of worship which is heightened in Ramadan is charity – giving to the less fortunate and those who need it most (one platform alone saw over £10 million in donations across the last 10 nights of Ramadan). Here is a list of food banks  and mosques to donate to and a charity initiative I’m working on (completing a school that we have built in Gambia – we raised over £60,000 over the last 2 years, mostly in Ramadan!).

Muhammad, upon him be peace, said: “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); a knowledge which is beneficial, or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (for the deceased).” (Riyad as-Salihin 1383).

And of course, to celebrate the end of Ramadan we have Eid-al-Fitr; it is a day of joy, happiness, getting together with family and friends and celebrating the month.

Over 100,000 Muslims praying the Eid prayer in one of the most holy sites in Islam, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestine.

To those who are celebrating, may Allah accept ours fasts, our good deeds and our charity. Ramadan Mubarak!

You can view the Ramadan timetable for this year here.

Key terminology

  • Ramadan Kareem/Ramadan Mubarak – how to wish someone a blessed Ramadan.
  • Fajr – the first prayer of the day (out if 5) just before sunrise – Muslims will wake up to eat their morning meal before this prayer.
  • Maghrib – the 4th prayer of the day at sunset and when Muslims break their fast.
  • Suhoor – the morning meal before Fajr.
  • Iftaar – the meal where you break your fast.
  • Ummah – the collective Muslim community.
  • Imaan – faith.
  • Ibaadah – worship.
  • Eid Mubarak – how to wish someone a happy Eid.

Trans Day of Visibility 2022

Trans Day of Visibility Banner, featuring 4 illustrated people holding pink, white and blue trans flags

 

International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV) is marked each year on March 31, and the day is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, the courage it takes to live openly and authentically, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society. Today, and every day, we support and celebrate our trans and non-binary members of our community. We see you, we support you, and we celebrate with you. We recognise your contributions to our King’s community. 

The first International Transgender Day of Visibility was held on March 31, 2009, and it has increased in visibility each year.  It was founded by Rachel Crandall-Crocker to honour trans people and is in contrast to the Autumn Trans Day of Remembrance which focuses on remembering the lives lost to acts of Transphobic violence/hate crime.  

In an interview, Rachel has said “I was upset that the only day that we had was Transgender Day of Remembrance… I wanted a day when, rather than talking about those who passed away, we could talk about those of us who were alive. And I wanted a day that would bring together trans people from all over the world.” 

For LGBTQ+ History Month, Proudly King’s celebrated a different Trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming person for each day of February. Take a look at the inspirational profiles on Proudly King’s Twitter here. 

 

Show Your Support 

You can show your support to trans colleagues on Trans Day of Visibility by: 

A day in the life: Jennifer Hastings

This is the first blog in 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 first ‘day in the life’ feature comes from Jennifer Hastings our EDI Projects & Partnerships Manager. 


Portrait of Jennifer Hastings.

Jennifer Hastings

My name is Jennifer (pronouns she/her) and I started at King’s in June 2021 as the EDI Projects and Partnerships Manager. The EDI function at King’s consists of two teams; the Consultancy team, managed by the Head of EDI, and the Projects and Partnerships team, who I manage. My team includes five Project Officers and one Project Administrator, who provide EDI support and expertise within seven faculties. I also lead on King’s race equality activity.

The way I start my day varies- thanks to hybrid working I have a choice between pre-work exercise, a lie-in or the commute to Lavington Street. If I am in the office, I always stop off at a coffee shop (hot chocolate, extra hot) on my way in. Tip: Coco di Mama gives you a free chocolate with your hot drink.

Once a week, my morning begins with a Project and Partnerships (P&P) team meeting (we now try to alternate between in-person and online). This is an opportunity to hear what is happening within the faculties, discuss current projects and support each other with any challenges. We also make an effort to provide feedback and praise on a regular basis, which is an easy way to help colleagues feel appreciated.

As the lead on our race equality work, I oversee the implementation of our Race Equality Action Plan (REAP). This formed part of our Race Equality Charter submission, which we received a bronze award for in 2020. Whilst we are proud of this achievement, the REAP reminds us that there’s still so much work to do to become an anti-racist institution. It ensures we continue to evaluate the impact of our interventions and helps us focus on systematic change.  The REAP belongs to everyone at King’s and actions have been allocated to various teams, including the P&P team. I have regular meetings with team members who are leading on a REAP project, such as the development of a race equality allyship tool. The purpose of these meetings is to ensure the project is on the right path and provide support when needed.

In between meetings, I catch up on emails and Teams notifications. Having used Zoom in my previous job, it took some time to adjust to Teams however I am now a convert! I find it makes collaboration and communication a lot easier (although I do miss the ‘touch up my appearance’ option on zoom).

Lunch is an obvious highlight of the day and I am a strong believer in making the most of my lunch break. If I am working from home that either means a walk to a local café, a spot of reading or catching up on Netflix. I’m also partial to some of the opportunities at King’s, such as a recent online Trustee fair that enabled me to chat with some brilliant charities.

In the afternoon, I may have some ‘desk time.’ The nature of EDI work makes my role really varied. I may be writing a committee paper, developing a mechanism for tracking race equality progress, or liaising with colleagues across King’s to see how we can collaborate. King’s is a complex organisation and so, since I joined, I have dedicated quite a bit of time to understanding the context of the REAP and the progress that has already been made.

It’s important for the function to maintain its expertise and keep on top of new EDI developments. One of our Project Officers has developed some microaggression training and so we recently had a ‘train the trainer’ session to enable the rest of the team to support with session delivery. This is one of my favourite parts of the role and I feel lucky to be surrounded by intelligent, passionate colleagues who help me become the best EDI practitioner I can be.

My plans after work vary. On a good day I might meet a friend to see some comedy. On less ambitious days I will catch up on whatever series I’m watching (my most recent obsession was Yellowjackets). EDI has been a passion of mine long before I started working in the area and so it’s not unusual for ‘work’ topics to spill over into other parts of my life, whether that’s my choice of reading material or a debate around the dinner table.

 

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