Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Tag: allyship

Stonewall – staff survey now open!

Nicole Robinson, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant & Jake Orros, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Project Officer at KCL share how to get involved with this year’s Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.


At King’s we are committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment where all members of our community can achieve their potential. This includes our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer colleagues. To support our journey to being a truly inclusive employer we have worked with the charity Stonewall since 2016.

This year we are taking part in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index and we need your help!

As part of our submission to the Workplace Equality Index we want to hear from you. We are calling all staff at King’s College London to take part in Stonewall’s employee survey. The staff survey is your chance to tell us how we’re doing as your employer. It asks about your identities and about your experience working at King’s. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to have your say and honestly share how we are doing as an organization. Together we can create a more inclusive university.

Whether you’re LGBTQ+ or not, we want to hear from you!

You can take part in the survey here.

Stonewall is a charity  that stands for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and ace (LGBTQ+) rights everywhere. Over the last 30 years, they have helped create transformative change in the lives of LGBTQ+ people in the UK and around the world.  The charity has also been at the forefront of making workplaces inclusive for LGBTQ+ people for more than 15 years through the Stonewall Diversity Champion scheme.

King’s has proudly taken part in the Diversity Champion scheme since 2016; the programme empowers LGBTQ+ people and allies to step up as leaders, role models and activists in the workplace. As truly global institution the Champion scheme echoes King’s vision to develop and empower individuals to lead and make the world a more inclusive place.

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion:  “This independent Stonewall survey is a good opportunity for all our staff to feedback on our LGBTQ+ inclusion journey and success to date. King’s has come a long way since we became a Stonewall Diversity Champions in 2016. I myself have come out as Bi whilst working at King’s.

Since 2016, we have seen all of the Senior Management Team undertake structural inequality and Trans Matters training, updated our trans inclusion policies,  improved the provision of gender Free toilet facilities and we are currently creating an allyship toolkit to support all members of our community. I would encourage all staff at King’s to get involved and complete this years workplace survey.”

Organizations from across the UK take part in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index, each receiving a score as a measure of their actions to build an inclusive workplace. The Index is our chance to celebrate our achievements, understand where we need to make progress and benchmark ourselves nationally as an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace. This year we’ll be sharing with Stonewall our updated Trans inclusion and Dignity at King’s policies, as well as sharing our work on socially responsible procurement and Trans matters training delivered to senior leaders.

Our submission is divided into 2 parts:

  • Firstly, we are measured across 8 areas of employment policy and practice.
  • Secondly, all staff are invited to take part in the online survey run by Stonewall.

Both parts of our submission are independently reviewed by Stonewall who will announce the latest Workplace Equality Index early next year.

We want to say thank you for supporting our Stonewall journey and for participating in the survey. If you would like to know more or if you have any questions you can get in touch with the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion team via email at diversity@kcl.ac.uk

Take part in the survey here

Frequently asked questions:

  • The survey takes 5–10 minutes to complete.
  • The survey is open to all staff at King’s – not just members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • The information you provide is anonymous and completely confidential. All of the information gathered by Stonewall is fed back to King’s in an aggregated way, without any personally identifiable information.
  • Survey closes on 5th November 2021.
  • 16th February 2021 top 100 and Gold, Silver & Bronze employer awards are announced.

Useful links & additional information:

Note: If you don’t work at King’s College London, why not reach our to your employer and find out if they are taking part in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index this year. The Survey is open for all organizations taking part until 5th November 2021.

Ace and Agender – Turning Discomfort into Confidence

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.   

The Significance of Sponsorship

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Demand for Difference

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Groupthink can encourage harmful or detrimental ways of thinking

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

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

Seven steps towards Transforming Women’s Leadership in our Business Schools

Writing for the Chartered Association of Business Schools,  in this blog, Professor Sally Everett proposes steps to make female leadership more equal across business schools.


I was in tears on Saturday 7 November – moved by emotion, excitement and sheer relief. Watching the first woman ever to be elected to the office of Vice President of the United States of America was to me, one of the most momentous and important historic events I have witnessed in my lifetime. As Kamala Harris spoke, it gave me hope for women and the future of leadership (in all its forms) everywhere:

“Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before“ (Kamala Harris, 7/11/20)

photo of kamala harris

Kamala Harris, who was recently elected as the first ever black, Asian, and female Vice-President of the United States of America.

It got me thinking; what might this ‘dreaming with ambition’ look like for women (and especially women of colour) seeking leadership in our business schools? How might women be able to lead with conviction and pave the way for future female academic leaders, history makers and ultimately help realise equity and genuine diversity within our leadership communities?

As a member of the Chartered ABS Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee it seems an opportune moment to suggest some actions that might deliver improved female representation and diversity across all levels of leadership. At the time of writing, 43 business schools have a female Dean/Director (out of 120 Chartered ABS member business schools) and although 35.8% is perhaps a more encouraging statistic than some other faculties and schools, it hides some glaring inequalities in terms of equality of pay, opportunity, and recognition as reported in a Chartered ABS research reflection on HESA data and Hewitt for HEPI (2020).

I propose we consider seven areas of action that could make a positive difference and shift the dial towards greater female representation in all forms and levels of business school leadership. For ease, I have summarised these as ‘Seven Ts’ for transforming women’s leadership in business schools. I am most grateful to the Plus Alliance working group and work of the Chartered ABS EDI Committee for planting seeds in me; seeds and shoots that will continue to grow over time and inform my entire career.

I offer seven steps to gender equity in our schools: tone, transform, talk, togetherness, transparent, talent, and targets.

  1. TONE: We need the ‘tone from the top’ and be convinced that our leaders care about this agenda and are prepared to act. Not because of how it might look, or that it might help secure research funding, but because they ‘get it’, understand the urgency of it and want to champion gender equity for the sake of the whole community. University and faculty leaders must set the tone through their actions, their language, and their policies. We look to our leaders for guidance and inspiration. Much like we know gender parity will not happen on its own in the boardroom (Thorne and Konigsburg writing in HBR 2020), leaders at the top of our institutions need to actively and visibly empower women. Who are they appointing to the executive council and board? Are they our school’s/university’s equality and diversity champions? Are they sponsoring female colleagues?
  2. TRANSFORM: In reframing leadership we need to ensure invisible work (often unhelpfully called ‘admin’ or ‘service’) is valued. For many, academic leadership has become synonymous with invisible administration, long hours and under appreciation. Schools need to foster a culture where academic citizenship is rewarded and recognised in probation, promotion and professorial criteria. Female faculty will often take on a disproportionate amount of this work (see Guarino and Borden, 2017 who found women took on 30 more minutes per week of service than men and 1.5 more service activities per year than men). How are Business Schools complicit in this? For example, student support interventions at programme level that retain students can be worth millions of pounds in fee income, or the development of a new course can secure significant sums of recruitment income, yet an external research grant worth a fraction of this is often more openly celebrated and regarded as more critical for promotion. We also need to ensure there is parity in how we treat research and teaching – when a colleague secures a research fellowship or sabbatical, someone covers their teaching. Who covers someone’s research when they secure a teaching fellowship?
  3. TALK: as we have seen in the recent Black Lives Matter movement, we recognise that silence is compliance. We all have a duty to champion our colleagues and ensure we call out sexism, address gender inequality, and expose misogyny where and when we see it. Many of us have seen committee papers and research written by female colleagues skilfully repurposed to remove their input; we need to expose such behaviour and start talking to others when and where this happens. It cannot be left unsaid. We need to be the cheerleaders of our female colleagues in our business school meetings.
  4. TOGETHERNESS: we need to create ties and come together in networks. In developing a growth mindset where we bring each other along (and elevate up) leaders become navigators to those seeking guidance and support. Echoing Granovetter’s groundbreaking sociological study ‘Strength of Weak Ties’ work (1973), we know women generally develop deeper relationships and less ‘loose ties’. We need to develop communities of practice where we nurture links, share experiences, and build a sense of belonging. In my own business school, I was struck by some of the career isolation many of female colleagues shared with me, so developed ‘Women@KBS’ as a network of sharing ideas, support and reflections. It has become a place of nurturing and empowerment.
  5. TRANSPARENCY: we need to reward and recognise where the work is happening and hold our schools to account by publishing data about equality performance. We need to go beyond traditional measures of leadership and be more transparent in what is measured, why and by whom. For example, perhaps we should openly acknowledge who is at the table in terms of equality and diversity at the start of our meetings, and report the number of women and faculty from under-represented groups in our annual reports and in our committee minutes.
  6. TALENT: we need to identify talent, create a talent pool and sponsor the development of colleagues. How might we expose female colleagues to ‘doing’ leadership through vertical shadowing, peer mentoring, and bring women to the executive table as part of succession planning? The recent Chartered ABS mentoring scheme was an important step in this direction. By creating explicit pathways to leadership and recognising work with titles for their CV e.g. Director of X, Lead of Y we create opportunities for those around us to emerge and to excel. Consider having female colleagues shadow the Dean for a period of time in rotation, or think about what role titles could be used for colleagues involved in academic administration tasks that fall within the cracks of an ineffective workload model, e.g. Academic Lead for Community Engagement.
  7. TARGETS: ensure equity-based KPIs are woven into performance reviews. Peter Drucker famously said, ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’. We need to be transparent in how we use data and be ambitious in the targets we set ourselves and our schools. We need to measure impact quantitatively and publish data at school level (as we see in the Athena Swan approach), but also ensure we capture impact qualitatively through personal stories, lived experiences and people’s reflections.

Equality in our business schools will not happen by chance –We need to be pro-active and fill the spaces where decisions happen in our schools with a dialogue of diversity and inclusion. As a Vice Dean of a business school I have a strong sense of responsibility to pay it forward and to create a ripple effect. We know that everyone benefits when women are included. It will be about evolution not revolution, but we need to commit to the the legacy we wish to build, and start now. As we look at female leadership, I am inspired by global figures like Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Jacinda Ardern who have sought to advance others through strength and empathy and lead others through kindness, decency and respect.

‘Women belong in all places where decisions are being made’ (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)

 

References

Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American journal of sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380. Available from : https://www.cse.wustl.edu/~m.neumann/fl2017/cse316/materials/strength_of_weak_ties.pdf

Guarino, C.M., and Borden, V.M.H. (2017) Faculty Service Loads and Gender: Are Women Taking Care of the Academic Family?. Research in Higher Education 58672–694 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-017-9454-2

Hewitt, R. (2020) Mind the gap: gender differences in higher education, HEPI Report 2020. Available from:  https://www.hepi.ac.uk/2020/03/07/mind-the-gap-gender-differences-in-higher-education/

Thorne, S. and Konigsburgh, D. (2020) Gender Parity in the Boardroom Won’t Happen on Its Own in Harvard Business Review 12 February 2020. Available from: https://hbr.org/2020/02/gender-parity-in-the-boardroom-wont-happen-on-its-own

World Economic Forum (2020) Mind the 100 Year Gap. Available from: https://www.weforum.org/reports/gender-gap-2020-report-100-years-pay-equality


Professor Sally Everett is a Professor of Business Education, and Vice Dean (Education) at King’s Business School, where she leads on the development, implementation and promotion of the King’s Business School’s education strategy.

Dignity at King’s – Bullying and Harassment Policy Published

Dignity at King’s – Bullying and Harassment Policy Published

We have developed a Dignity at King’s – Bullying and Harassment Policy which supports the entire King’s Community. This replaces the previous Dignity at Work – Statement of Commitment and applies to the whole of the university. We are doing this because we know that, like all large institutions, we have problems with bullying & harassment at all levels. This new policy is designed to ensure we tackle this sensitively.

The policy has been developed based on wide ranging research of HEI and public sector best practice, alongside consultation with many across the College. It is now available and can be accessed in the Governance Zone.

This policy sets out the responsibilities of those within the King’s community in addressing inappropriate behaviour, clearly defines conduct that is not acceptable and outlines where to go for support for anyone who has witnessed or experienced bullying and harassment.

Importantly, it also makes clear that managers and senior leaders need to support our community and engage with and address behaviour and issues related to alleged bullying and harassment as they arise. This is key to fostering and enabling an environment free from bullying and harassment and ensuring that the policy is embedded within our ways of working and culture at King’s.

Bullying and harassment are organisational issues to be addressed. This can only be done when there is commitment from senior leadership. Our senior leaders have made it clear this is a top priority for them. Evelyn Welch (Provost & Senior Vice President (Arts & Sciences)), Richard Trembath (Senior Vice President and Provost (Health)) and Steve Large (Senior Vice President (Operations)) have identified this as a joint priority and are determined to ensure that the right systems, symbols and behaviours are in place so that the highest quality senior leadership around bullying and harassment is modelled and implemented within the university.

The development of the policy is only the start. Planning for a significant programme of work is underway, led by HR King’s senior leaders, with examples of work including:

  • Developing further guidance and resources for managers
  • Working with Vice Deans Research to embed further support within the research community
  • Developing a package of training, including being an active bystander for staff
  • Reviewing and updating subsequent policies and procedures related to this policy

These packages of work will also be informed by the practical, applied anti-bullying and harassment work within faculties.

Useful resources that are available now:

Training

Below are some useful training resources available on KEATS. The following Skill Boosters videos are recorded for a variety of different audiences and environments. They are useful in considering the key learning points and approaches that provide support in any environment including our own University context.

Their content comprises of Short Films, Micro Courses and Courses, their respective lengths are outlined below. You will need to enroll via KEATS to access the courses.

Banter in the workplace

Bullying and Harassment – Effective Interventions

Creating and Environment Based on Respect

Understanding and Confronting Sexual Harassment

The full length course for this training is 45 minutes long. We recommend you complete this as a part of a group or in a facilitated session. If you would like support from the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team in facilitating this, contact diveristy@kcl.ac.uk

Challenging Behaviour

This course is 60 minutes long. We recommend you complete this as a part of a group or in a facilitated session. If you would like support from the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team in facilitating this, contact diveristy@kcl.ac.uk

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.

© 2021 Diversity Digest

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑