Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Tag: allies

Bias or No Bias? The EDI Question

This blog is part of a series from Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sarah Guerra, where she will be addressing the whole picture’ of EDI, why it is important, and how we go about making effective, systemic change.


Often EDI is reduced to conversations about unconscious bias training, which was seen as a panacea when it first arrived. Like much in the EDI arena, it is a useful tool and mechanism, but is not in itself a complete solution to complex and interconnected structural issues.   

The purpose of providing Bias training is to create awareness, in individuals and groups of employees, about the concept and reality of implicit bias.  

Implicit attitudes are positive and negative evaluations that are much less accessible to our conscious awareness and/or control. Essentially, they are thoughts and beliefs that shape what we think and how we act, which we are unaware of.  

Bringing in the perspectives of others and creating self-awareness helps to highlight thinking and/or behaviour that is done unwittingly, provide ways of adjusting automatic patterns of thinking and eliminate discriminatory behaviours. It also highlights what behaviour is expected in the workplace. This training can take many forms, from e-learning programmes or PowerPoint presentations to in-depth workshops with interactive talks and exercises, the latter having the greater impact on building awareness and helping to change behaviour. At Kings this kind of training is a key component of our strategy. We have developed Diversity Matters and Trans Matters training which we deliver and tailor to staff teams of 5 – 20 people on request. In parallel, we support and build communities through our staff networks, which provide peer-support for staff with particular protected characteristics, and the More than Mentoring programme, which pairs staff members who share personal characteristics to enable a deeper understanding and connection between participants. Please follow the links above and get in touch if you are keen to engage with any of these projects! 

For training programmes to be effective, they need to dovetail with other initiatives so that employees see training as part of an ongoing journey in changing behaviour and creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. This is why Kings has an ongoing programme of senior leadership development in relation to EDI and our management and leadership passports. To ensure that awareness continues long after training is completed, we encourage activities such as asking participants to share stories on social collaboration channels where we generate ongoing discussions. To join the conversation you can follow us on Twitter and our internal intranet pages or join a network 

Throughout the organisation we need to provide communication that helps all teams to build empathy for, and understanding of, the experiences of minority or disadvantaged groups. Success comes when the responsibility and accountability for diversity is clearly part of the organisations leaders’ objectives. This needs to be coupled with active encouragement and systemic support for people to share any instances of bias, and crucially for these to be followed up and dealt with effectively. At Kings we are doing a variety of things, these range from introducing cultural competency modules to ensuring we have an Anonymous Disclosure Tool which staff, students and external visitors can use to anonymously disclose incidents of bullying, harassment, sexual misconduct or hate crime. 

Job adverts are an important area to consider when addressing bias. There are two types of bias in job adverts, explicit and implicit (as with everything else). Explicit biases are those that we can control or be clear about, such as levels or types of qualifications, particular audiences and types of candidates. In contrast, implicit biases are unconscious perceptions, stereotypes and beliefs that have been developed from past experiences and influences. These can be very powerful and are much harder to pinpoint.   

Much work has already been done at Kings to make job adverts more inclusive. We have tried to address gendered words, remove jargon and ensure straightforward titles that specify the role, skills and experience required.   

Like many organisations we are taking major steps towards becoming a more welcoming and inclusive place to work. We take the opportunity to demonstrate this in our job adverts by stating our commitment to be an equal opportunity employer. This positive step shows our commitment and the importance we place on it. 

Another tool for reducing bias is a name-blind recruitment process. This removes information, such as age, gender, name, education and even the number of years of experience from CVs, which might otherwise prejudice an application. This is a proven way to overcome unconscious bias and promote greater diversity. It has increased in popularity over the last couple of years after a series of studies, including one by Nuffield Colleges Centre for Social Investigation, showed that people with ethnic names needed to send out 60% more applications than job seekers with white’ sounding names before they got a call back . Name-blind CVs encourage the recruitment of new employees without identifiable information, so that personal bias doesnt creep in.   

To implement a name-blind recruitment process well, an organisation should start by determining the absolute necessities an applicant must possess to fill the role and remove the information that has no bearing on a persons ability to competently carry it out. If needed, the extra information can be collected but separated from the application process. The success of your name-blind hiring would be captured in diversity recruitment metrics by measuring the statistics for shortlisting, testing, interviewing, hiring and retention before and after blind hiring. When I first arrived at Kings the concept of name-blind recruitment was felt to be near impossible at a University. Whilst we have not yet implemented it, people now regularly ask me why we are not doing it – this shows how times change.   

So, Ill end as I began – training and awareness on unconscious bias is an important part of any EDI strategy, as is understanding where and how it shows up in practice. So please all take all the opportunities available to undertake training and build your awareness. But the critical difference is made when you a) apply that learning and b) use that learning to develop a real curiosity as to why inequalities exist and persist.   

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Significance of Sponsorship

This blog is part of a series from Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sarah Guerra, where she will be addressing the ‘whole picture’ of EDI, why it is important, and how we go about making effective, systemic change.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Power of Partners

This blog is part of a series from Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sarah Guerra, where she will be addressing the ‘whole picture’ of EDI, why it is important, and how we go about making effective, systemic change.


As I write this, it is not long after a surprise (well, at least to me) government announcement aimed at addressing needless bureaucracy that potentially significantly shifts the tectonic plates in HE around chartermark participation and value. This paper indicates a change that means NIHR funding will no longer be dependent on holding an Athena Swan silver award. The impacts and outcomes of that are not at all clear at this point, so this blog is more about my general opinion and knowledge of external forums and chartermarks. Later in the blog series I will dedicate more time to the chartermarks we participate in.

Getting involved with external forums and partners is a way for network leaders, organisation leaders, HR and EDI practitioners to gain and share good practice, and to interact with others to expand understanding of equality, diversity and inclusion issues across organisations.

There are many forums and organisations. We at King’s belong to several – Advance HE (who administer Athena Swan and the Race Equality Chartermark), Working Families, Stonewall (who create the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index to indicate how good an employer you are for LGBTQ+ people), the Business Disability Forum (who provide a self-assessment) and Radius.  These types of organisations are collectively on a mission to drive inclusion investment, build expertise, spread good practice and ultimately, change mindsets and public policy through the gathering of sector-wide experts. They often commission research and seek to share knowledge.

External networks and forums which King’s belongs to

External benchmarking is an important step to understand how an organisation is performing in context, as well as identifying new opportunities for improvement. We at King’s, in common with many across the sector, have taken part in the Athena Swan Gender Equality Chartermark since 2007. We will shortly be submitting our 2nd institutional application, hoping to reach Silver level. We were also one of the pilot organisations to join the Race Equality Chartermark. We recently succeeded in renewing our Bronze level award.

Taking part in external forums and benchmarks helps demonstrate an organisation’s commitment to diversity, showing that they want to listen, learn and share, and that they are prepared to go beyond their own boundaries and personal interests. It is a way of showing a willingness and enthusiasm to be involved in both the research and embedding of activity that serves diverse groups. It also makes economic sense for many. For smaller organisations, the cost and risks of investigating and resolving EDI related issues can seem overwhelming and sharing this with others can make it more achievable.

I have found our memberships and partners a great way of augmenting internal expertise and filling knowledge gaps, by bringing leaders together with their peers for a shared learning experience.

Participating and collaborating with external organisations and undertaking benchmarks can, without a doubt, be time consuming. That is why I am very selective about which ones I work with and how I spend my time.  (I get several emails every day and many calls a week trying to entice me into new relationships – on a strictly work-related basis!)  I find it is important that I understand what I want to achieve, and so select the partners and events that can help with that. In times of limited financial resources and personal time, this becomes ever more critical.

An example of some of the resources and benefits you can make use of when you join an external forum. Here is a snippet from the Business Disability Forum website.

The other danger with external forums is you increase the pool of uncertainty. EDI is not a simple issue, and there is no one answer. It is possible for wider discussion across organisations to increase confusion and stagnation. Again, this for me is about choosing the right partners and investing internally in high-quality EDI experts who will not be waylaid like this.

Please do take some time to familiarise yourself with our partner organisations – most of these have access to membership areas which anyone with a kcl address can register for and access. They are a tool and resource available to people that can help development and delivery. I’d also love feedback on how much value people feel these offer as well as suggestions for new partners.

As I reflect on the years that have led me through public policy making, to activism and then to being an EDI practitioner, I have learnt that social justice change, which is what EDI is at its heart, doesn’t come easily. The ability to talk and learn from others, to share ideas and gain support, are all critical instruments in making change happen. The ability to measure and objectively understand how well you are doing (compared to others) is invaluable. Internal measures and judgements can be very narrow, and it is hard to break away from the status quo without evidence. So, I personally am a big advocate of careful and strategic participation in external forums and benchmarks, but also I recognise that to make that meaningful change, one must commit time and effort, and we should be under no illusions that these provide a quick fix – that elusive silver bullet!

Baldwin, The Velvet Rage and Philadelphia: a Pride Month Trifecta 

EDI Director, Sarah Guerra, pens a blog about her reading of some important pieces of LGBTQ+ literature and cinema. 


My recent book group book was Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, and by coincidence, my next book was The Velvet Rage: Overcoming The Pain of Growing up Gay in a Straight Man’s World. By even further coincidence (as we, in lockdown, working our way through my 16 year old daughter, Kaela’s, must-watch film list), we watched Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a novel, a self-help book and a movie all about the intricacies of gay men’s lives, and the barriers and prejudice they face almost every day. It’s been quite the trifecta in provoking my thinking.  

James Baldwin is an author I have dabbled with and keep meaning to get serious about and read his entire back catalogue. For those who don’t know, Baldwin was an essayist, playwright, novelist and voice of the American civil rights movement. He was born in Harlem in 1924. He is acknowledged as one of the 20th century’s greatest writers. Baldwin broke new literary ground with the exploration of racial and social issues in his many works. He was especially known for his essays on the black experience in America, and is an author who might really help us all as we work more and more on tackling systemic racism (take a look at the EDI team’s anti-racism resources page here).  He also broke new ground in the novel, Giovanni’s Room which tells the story of an American living in Paris with a complex depiction of homosexuality, a then-taboo subject.

James Baldwin, author of Giovanni’s Room

Baldwin was open about his homosexuality and relationships with both men and women. However, he believed that the focus on rigid categories was just a way of limiting freedom and that human sexuality is more fluid and less binary than was often expressed in his lifetime.  

Giovanni’s Room has a wide variety of themes, and is not just a ‘gay book’ (whatever that is). What really struck me was how the narrative fitted unbelievably neatly with The Velvet Rage where the author, psychotherapist, spends time exposing the nature of the intrinsic shame that he identified in himself and others as being encoded into gay men from an early age. 

Giovanni’s Room gives us an insight into David’s mind, his internal conflicts in relation to his family’s and society’s expectations, and his confusion about who he is attracted to and what is ‘ok’. It is particularly striking in its exploration of age, particularly the young gay men characters being spiteful and contemptuous about the older ones. The reader however can see that this is really their own fear of either becoming or not becoming like the older men. The novel is aanatomy of shame, of its roots and the myths that perpetuate it, of the damage it can do. There is something about the narrative that to me felt  both freeing and exposing of the horrifying self-loathing that some gay men feel. There’s a passage, just before David  meets Giovanni (his lover), where he observes a group of effeminate gay men. He describes them through a series of animal metaphors, first as parrots, then as peacocks occupying a barnyard. Finally, David says of a young man in drag that “his utter grotesqueness made me uneasy; perhaps in the same way that the sight of monkeys eating their own excrement turns some people’s stomachs. They might not mind so much if monkeys did not – so grotesquely – resemble human beings.” His seeing those around him as inhuman because of their different expression and his own self hatred was heartbreaking. 

Downs coined the phrase ‘The Velvet Rage’ to refer to a very specific anger he encountered in his gay patients – whether it was manifested in drug abuse, promiscuity or alcoholism – and whose roots, he feels, are found in childhood shame and parental rejection. “Velvet rage is the deep and abiding anger that results from growing up in an environment when I learn that who I am as a gay person is unacceptable, perhaps even unlovable,” he explains. “This anger pushes me at times to overcompensate and try to earn love and acceptance by being more, better, beautiful, sexier – in short, to become something I believe will make me more acceptable and loved.” 

The Velvet Rage, by Alan Downs

Downs outlines how feelings of worthlessness can be created in childhood quite unintentionally, and these lead gay adults to search for an unachievable perfection.  

Downs identifies many manifestations of “Velvet Rage” dealing with depression, self-harm and suicide, body dysmorphia and eating disorders – illnesses which are four times as likely in gay men as their straight counterparts.  The book went on my reading list as a recommendation from a colleague who described it as one of the first books he had read where he really felt seen. I am grateful for the recommendation. Recommendations like this are how we all become better allies.  

In Philadelphia, we see an Academy Award winning performance from Tom Hanks, telling the story of a high performing lawyer on a fast career track who suddenly finds himself firedHe takes his employer to court and proves the case that the sacked him unfairly and only because he had AIDS. The movie uncomfortably shows us the reality of the 70s and 80s and how open and accepted homophobia was. It gives us a live and far more modern demonstration of what Baldwin wrote about and illustrates the elements expressed by Downs.  

Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington

One of the things I particularly liked about The Velvet Rage was the very practical ‘skills for life’ section that helps any reader become more self-aware, better able to recognise how to set boundaries, how to recognise what their own needs and responsibilities are and ultimately better engage with the world and build relationships. The skills are based on the various theories that Downs puts forward of the barriers that are created for gay men which really gave me pause for thought, and I would encourage people to read both books to deepen their own insight.  

I am someone who sees myself as and wants to be an LGBTQ ally. It is all too easy to let those letters roll off the tongue. These books and the film made me really stop and think: how good a job have I really done over the years? I think the fact that I have lots of gay friends gave me a false comfort. How much have I really done to understand their experience? How it might present barriers each and every day to their success and inclusion in the world? No doubt not anywhere as much as I could do. So, allies, as we find ourselves in Pride month, get out there, get reading and watching, and join Proudly King’s who can help you on this journey and tell you what will really help our LGBTQ staff and students feel more included. I’ve particularly enjoyed the new Proudly Pod and am looking forward to Virtual Pride on Friday . 

 

Allyship

I have been doing equality-related work in one form or another for what seems like forever. One of the perennial issues I have faced is how to get a wider audience ‘in the room’; how to get those that don’t see themselves as affected to join in. After all, gender equality is not a female issue. Race equality is not a person of colour’s issue. Rather, they are social and economic imperatives. Over the years, the process of getting buy-in and support from those ‘outside the group’ has come to be defined as building ‘allies’.

Whichever aspect of equality we are looking at, the issue remains the same. Recently, we celebrated International Women’s Day — a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women, raising awareness against bias, and, crucially, acting for equality every day.

More recently, we celebrated International Trans Day of Visibility. Soon it will be Pride Month and then Black and Disability History Months. These occasions mark opportunities for everyone to celebrate and show support for these groups, yet we do not often seen enough of the ‘majority’ participating in these celebrations in my view. This is a key challenge I want to address in the work we do.

Why?, you might say.

As we are still close to International Women’s Day (and closer to International Trans Day of Visibility), let’s consider the subject of gender equality.

It is vital that we include men in these conversations, not least because they make up about half of the global population — and (still) hold the majority of leadership positions globally. In 2018, men held 77.5 percent of Fortune 500 board seats, while women held just 22.5 percent of board seats. Indeed, women are typically underrepresented at every level of leadership and management in large organisations.

It stands to reason that the best way to move conversation to action is to include all of us in the equation.

What can men do to be more effective allies? Allyship is a deeply personal issue. An ally is someone who asks — and doesn’t assume — what another person needs. Men can listen to women and pay attention to the specific ways in which we want to be supported, learn when to step back and when to step in.

Individual actions make an enormous impact, but equally – if not more – important are systemic, organizational efforts that support women and advance gender equality. Equality is a leadership opportunity. Men, as I have said, hold most leadership positions in the world at the moment, so they have the unique opportunity to take action and spearhead change.

A university like King’s has a unique ability to shape and influence gender norms. Where shall I start? We are a community that is 30,000 strong. We do global research that impacts so many areas. We educate the leaders of the future from across the globe and every sector. Yet despite these opportunities I don’t feel we are quite realising our potential and there’s little guidance on how to effectively engage men. So, I’ve been reflecting on what I have learnt over the years

What will help?

Shifting individual attitudes and behaviours.

Of course, many men support gender equality, but some may feel threatened by it or even actively oppose it. My experience suggests three reasons why some men may not engage with the issue:

1) “apathy,” or feeling like gender equality isn’t critical to the success of the organisation or society,
2) “ignorance,” or the perception that gender bias doesn’t exist in the workplace, and
3) “fear,” either of saying the wrong thing or losing out, such as the idea that asking for parental leave will reduce their chances of promotion.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution but we address these challenges through raising awareness – through blogs like this, our events and things like our Diversity Matters training, and soon our mutual mentoring programme (watch this space for more info). As an ally you can be proactive. Get involved with these things!

Making organization-wide commitments for more diverse and equal workplaces

For real impact, we need actions that support individual shifts in attitudes combined with broader, institutional commitments that enable equality and inclusion to thrive. This requires that leaders clearly articulate how gender equality is core to an organization’s overall success and actively support efforts on strategic, cultural, and policy levels.

At King’s we have been doing many of these things. I urge all those that see themselves as allies to:

  • notice what’s going on, recognise the role they play in equality and advocate for them;
  • make clear, time-bound, public commitments to engage men as allies, as part of pursuing an equal and diverse workplace – for example through our networks and Athena Swan work;
  • model inclusive behaviour “from the top”, demonstrating leadership skills such as curiosity, cultural intelligence, and collaboration – for instance by our entire senior management team undertaking a structural inequality development programme;
  • take steps to show commitment to understanding different perspectives – through surveys, focus groups, reverse town halls and reverse mentoring programmes;
  • implement “every-day,” organization-wide changes that everyone upholds to help build an inclusive culture for example by ensuring that big projects have gender-balanced teams – our efforts to equality impact assess REF and commitments for the future are pertinent here;
  • ensure our policies tackle structural barriers to gender equality by, for example, developing specific policies that enable staff to undertake care-giving, including paid and non-transferable, gender-neutral parental leave and flexible working arrangements;
  • foster a safe and respectful workplace for all genders, demonstrating that we don’t tolerate sexual harassment and mistreatment, that we address gender beliefs and stereotypes that contribute to harassment, and ensure that reporting systems are in place.

Policies around flexible working or parental leave can even the playing field for all of us. However, blanket policies impact individuals differently. What would it be like if we had an approach where our team could choose where and when they worked so long as they produced excellent work on time? Those of us who have had the benefit of working with a fully flexible, dispersed team in which they can tap into a wide talent pool of motivated and engaged people looking to balance work with other priorities in their life, know flexible working makes excellent sense. The idea that this is just not possible in some roles has often held our thinking back but look at what’s happening in this time when globally we are being forced to think and work differently. It’s amazing what turns out to be possible, after all.

There is no single answer for any equality challenge, so engaging men as allies is not a silver bullet. We need men to build on women’s efforts and organizations, not replace them. We need men to find and act on their own motivations for achieving gender equality. Without a doubt though, effectively engaging men as part of broader, intersectional approaches to creating more inclusive workplaces gives us the opportunity to tackle long standing power dynamics and create long-term, systemic change. Our community working together for gender equality will ultimately bring benefits to all genders , to our university business and to society.

On International Women’s Day I urged our community to keep the spirit going every day. I challenge each of you, regardless of the gender you identify with or the position you hold, to commit to one action to advance equality. It can be as small as listening, or as big as changing organizational policies, but I promise you that its impact will be enormous. This is allyship.

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