Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

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Celebrating Gold

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

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

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

 


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

 

Stonewall gold celebration

Kirsty McLaren, Sarah Guerra & Paul Webb.

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

Kirsty McLaren.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Reflections from Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality Diversity & Inclusion 

Sarah Guerra celebrated with pride and trans inclusive nails.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lady Phyll said;

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

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

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

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

She ends with words that I fully subscribe to –

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

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

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

Let me tell you in his own words…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

 

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


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

Experiences of racial discrimination on clinical placements: A narrative analysis of medical student perspectives.

KCL Intercalated Bachelor of Science (iBSC) Primary Care Student Luckshi Jegatheeswaran is currently researching medical student experiences of racial discrimination whilst on clinical placements. Luckshi is inviting KCL medical & intercalating students, between the years 2 – 5 to contribute to the project by sharing their experiences.


Why is this study important?

The purpose of the study is to understand how medical students can experience racial discrimination – whether directed at them, other students, or members of staff and to understand the immediate and lasting emotional impacts of these experiences.

The NHS boasts the UK’s most ethnically diverse public sector workforce. Increasing awareness of the experiences of people of ethnic minorities within the healthcare team (from medical students to senior staff) is crucial. This will facilitate greater understanding of the experiences of these groups. It will also allow the identification of areas where measures that will empower and create safe workspaces can be taken, benefiting the well-being of healthcare professionals from ethnic minorities.

What is the aim of the study?

  • To understand how medical students can experience racial discrimination- whether directed at them, other students, or members of staff.
  • To understand the immediate and lasting emotional impacts of these experiences.

Who can take part in the study?

  • Medical & intercalating students between years two and five.

What is involved?

  • You will complete an anonymous survey. The survey will ask you to state your course and year of study. You will be asked to describe your experiences of racial discrimination on medical placements.

How do I take part?

  1. Read this participant information.
  2. Submit your experiences using this online form

For further information please contact Luckshi via email: luckshi.jegatheeswaran@kcl.ac.uk

 

Embedding wellbeing in uncertain times

Joy Whyte is Strategic Director, Education & Students, and the professional services lead for student mental health and wellbeing. To coincide with University Mental Health Day (3rd March 2022) Joy explores how we can embed wellbeing in uncertain times.


At the start of this academic year, the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Steering Group met in its newly configured form for the first time. I co-chair this group with Professor Juliet Foster, the academic lead for student mental health and wellbeing, with Wilna Gracias as the remarkably dynamic and knowledgeable Head of Student Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy.  

Joy Whyte leans against a stone rail, set alongside the exterior of a stone building. She is a white woman with auburn hair tied in a low plait and wears a teal top and jacket.

Joy Whyte, Strategic Director, Education & Students.

We started the meeting of the newly constituted group with a round of introductions, asking participants to share a time they were well supported and to describe the impact of that support. Rounds such as this – common in community organising practice, as a means of connecting group members – normally take 10 minutes at most. Ours took 50 minutes. In at an atmosphere of trust and confidence in one another, and a willingness to be collectively and individually vulnerable, we all shared stories of times when we had been challenged, and described the ways in which we had each been supported.  

Except for my own, those experiences are not mine to share, but anyone who has lived through two years of a global pandemic will have plenty of stories of their own: of isolation, of bereavement, of the difficulty of balancing work and family life (writ large as schools closed across the country), of caring responsibilities – both immediately and distantly, of health concerns and illness, of financial worries, instability around housing, difficulty in getting out to buy essentials, to name but a few. And sometimes a great many of these factors, in combination, exhaustingly set within a context of the intense ambient anxiety caused by a global health crisis.  

We also know that these factors have been felt differently – that black people and people of the global majority have been at greater risk from Covid, that women have carried a disproportionate childcare burden (affecting time for research, work, and rest), and that living arrangements have impacted in varyingly problematic ways for those who live alone, in shared accommodation, with a violent partner, or as a single parent.  

“More people have experienced a mental health crisis during the coronavirus pandemic than ever previously recorded”. – Mind, 2020.

The Prime Minister may think that we’re in post-pandemic times. But, even if you think the global health risk has subsided (and I believe only vaccine equity will assure that), the reverberations of living through such destabilising and precarious times seems set to be with us for some time. In November 2020, Mind revealed that “more people have experienced a mental health crisis during the coronavirus pandemic than ever previously recorded”. Mind warned of the risk of a second, mental health pandemic, and called for urgent action to mitigate the impacts of this, including investing in mental health services in the community. 

In February, the Office for National Statistics reported that 16-29 year olds feel significantly more anxious than the general population. 42% reported high levels of anxiety in the first half of February compared with 34% on average. Many King’s staff will be in this age group, and many more are directly supporting students who are experiencing these feelings of anxiety. The Student Minds Planning for a Sustainable Future report observed that “the human relationship between staff and students is still the key factor in the student experience and in supporting student mental health and wellbeing. How staff are supported becomes an important consideration.” 

In the 2018-2020 Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Report and Strategic Plan, we set out a pyramid support model. There are undoubtedly students – and staff – who need support at the uppermost levels (university specialist support services, and external specialist support services). Indeed, Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor UWE and President of Universities UK (UUK) noted in a One King’s leadership session on 24 February that “the increasing demands being made on Mental Health and Wellbeing both within university, NHS and 3rd sector agencies is significant. Universities are being expected to support high risk mental illness as the pressures on the NHS increase. This is being worked on by UUK working across Government Departments to encourage a joined-up solution”.  

Yet the base levels of the pyramid are equally important, and as King’s moves into the next phase of our strategic plan, the steering group’s focus is on illuminating further the Education Strategy’s ambition to “support positive wellbeing as a fundamental ethos of the university” and to “support and enhance the mental and physical wellbeing of students and staff through all aspects of the university experience”.  

Going back to our October meeting, individual stories about challenges sat within the context of the support we had each received – a meeting with a colleague or line manager in which we felt heard; a note left on a desk or in a locker by a co-worker; someone asking ‘how are you?’ months after a difficult event, and meaning it; cups of tea made; diaries cleared for a conversation; understanding and compassion. These were often seemingly small actions – of kindness, concern, and support – and they were profoundly meaningful.  

“Local factors play a significant role in staff wellbeing. Having a supportive team and a good direct line manager has been shown to be important for good wellbeing…” – University Mental Health Charter.

These experiences reflect the findings of Student Minds, whose University Mental Health Charter (which King’s is  working towards) states “Local factors play a significant role in staff wellbeing. Having a supportive team and a good direct line manager has been shown to be important for good wellbeing, in both the literature and feedback from staff participants in the Charter consultation.”  

Importantly, though, Students Minds note: “However, this can be precarious if not supported by the general culture of the university. This suggests a need for a combination of a general healthy culture and specific structures and practice, which ensure managers can and do support good wellbeing within their teams and respond appropriately to staff experiencing poor mental health.” 

For my own part, I think that whilst our individual experiences can catalyse change, by illustrating what support can work well (and conversely where an absence of support has heightened difficulties), the Education Strategy’s ambitions can be genuinely transformative. In the words of the King’s Community Charter we partly demonstrate our collective commitments to making the world a better place by “creating a culture that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing, and supports a proactive and holistic approach, whilst recognising the needs of the individual”. As a steering group, we look forward to sharing with you more details of what this means in practice, as we prepare the King’s application to the University Mental Health Charter.  


For guidance on mental wellbeing, and details of a range of sources of support, including Togetherall, see staff mental wellbeing 

Organisational Development are currently conducting a review of the support available to staff, with the outcome of the review to be shared in early May. If you’d like to share your views on King’s support for staff wellbeing, Organisational Development invite you to send your thoughts to OD@kcl.ac.ukusing the subject line ‘Wellbeing Review’. 

LGBT History Month Reflections from Professor Bronwyn Parry

Introducing Professor Bronwyn Parry, Vice President and Vice Principal (Service), King’s College London’s new Senior Sponsor for all things LGBTQI+.


Having been at Kings ten years this year (where did the time go!) I am delighted to say that this anniversary will also coincide with my elevation as KCL’s Senior Sponsor for all things LGBTQi+. The past decade has seen some very significant advances in thinking about such matters and there is much to celebrate in this year’s LGBTQi History Month.

Professor Bronwyn Parry

Professor Bronwyn Parry.

One of the most significant of these has been the inclusive ways in which we have worked to support members of the wider King’s community who are trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming. I remember very well how difficult it felt, in years gone by, to secure acceptance from colleagues and the wider community for anything that deviated, even marginally, from what was at the time, a seemingly all consuming hetero-normativity. And yet, here we are, not so many years hence, when I find that I can say that wonderful phrase ‘my wife’ without producing even a marginally raised eyebrow.

All of human life and behaviour undergoes continuous change and evolution. Ideas that some thought were completely unacceptable in the past (opening universities to people who came from working class backgrounds, for example) have now, thankfully, been fully revisited and our conceptions of what is fixed and fluid productively re-worked, as a consequence. By extending allyship to those in the trans community we create a safe space in which we can all reflect on the fluidity of what for many have been seemingly fixed categories. Transitions of all kinds, whether in gender or thought can be personally challenging, but also, consequently, highly generative of new understandings and approaches to matters that we thought, perhaps, long settled.

To help us with these ruminations, Proudly King’s has created a wonderful set of interactive events that that will open many new perspectives for all of us. I hope that everyone will take up opportunities that these afford to create fresh conversations and partnerships across and between our varied, staff, student and professional services communities in ways that help us improve understanding and knowledge of the experiences of all those whose lives do not directly mirror our own. This is, in essence, the promise of inclusivity that lies at the heart of all our EDI ambitions, one that I have, and will, work to deliver in my new role.

I wish everyone a very happy and productive LGBTQI History Month, one in which we come together to celebrate the strengths that diversity, in all its colours, can bring to the enhancement of life!


LGBTQ+ History Month Reflections from Professor Evelyn Welch

In celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month, Professor Evelyn Welch, Senior Vice President (Service, People & Planning) reflects on King’s College London’s commitments to our staff & students.



At King’s College London, we are committed to ensure that all members who identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella feel safe and welcome. We promote respecting equality, diversity and inclusion within and beyond our community.

Proudly King’s is our network for LGBTQ+ staff members and allies and has worked hard over the past 18 months to amplify the voices of trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people and campaign for their rights.

Last year, Proudly King’s created and distributed new progress flag lanyards for staff and students which include the colours of the trans flag, as well as black and brown.

In June 2021, Proudly King’s launched their Allyship Campaign, encouraging colleagues to make a pledge to the LGBTQ+ community. 333 people have pledged so far, and over half of you specifically mention support for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people working and studying in our community.

Proudly King’s has organised an LGBTQ+ History Month which focuses on trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming experiences. On Twitter, they will celebrate a trans trailblazer every day in February. Please sign up to their exciting events.

Both the Equality Act 2010 and our internal Dignity at King’s – Bullying and Harassment Policy protect individuals from being harassed or victimised because of sex, gender reassignment (without need for medical intervention) and sexual orientation.

At King’s, we are proud of our commitments to LGBTQ+ staff and students. We promise to empower:

  • all colleagues who identify as trans, non-binary, gender fluid and intersex
  • all students who identify as trans, non-binary, gender fluid and intersex
  • those who promote and protect trans, non-binary, gender fluid and intersex rights

We will support anyone who experiences discrimination, bullying, harassment or victimisation because of their trans, non-binary, gender fluid and/or intersex identity. We will address issues promptly and treat everyone with dignity and respect.

I invite colleagues and students to promote this ethos within our community and beyond.

Finally, our central Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team has created an LGBTQ+ Allyship toolkit on SharePoint which includes resources and advice on how to be a better ally to trans and non-binary people. Allyship is an active process and we must always strive to do more.

Professor Evelyn Welch

Senior Vice President (Service, People & Planning)


For more information you can visit our equality, diversity & inclusion webpages here.

Diversifying Leadership – StellarHE programme

Dr Margaret Kadiri is a Lecturer in the Geography Department here at King’s College. In Margaret’s blog, she shares some reflections on StellarHE – a programme providing strategic executive development for diverse leaders in higher education.


As an academic, I experience professional struggles and challenges that seem to come with the territory. However, as my career has progressed, I have realised that some of these challenges are particular as I navigate the professional academic space as a professional from an ethnic minority background. I was motivated to participate in the StellarHE leadership programme because it is uniquely designed to equip ethnic minority academics like myself with leadership competences and strategies to navigate the particular career barriers that we face, so that we can develop and effect change.

The StellarHE leadership programme is distinct from other leadership programmes that are designed on a deficit model which suggests that ethnic minority academics need to be fixed as a way of addressing the obstacles hindering leadership progression. There is a lot of publicly available data identifying some of the obstacles that have inevitably resulted in the persistent under-representation of ethnic minority academics, particularly black academics, in leadership roles across the Higher Education sector. Wider data indicates that a leak exists in the academic pipeline for the ascension of black academics in the sector, with their representation declining drastically as grades increase – only 0.67% of the 19,285 professors in the UK are currently black. We cannot grow the pool of ethnic minority academics in senior roles if there is no impervious pipeline of ethnic minority academics in lower and mid-level positions that can grow to fill senior roles.

In my view, the StellarHE programme is innovative in the way it equips ethnic minority academics and professional services staff in Higher Education institutions with the competences to draw on our diversity as a leadership strength and to implement strategies that reflect our unique challenges and experiences in navigating our environments to enable us optimise opportunities and fully realise our leadership potential. To this end, it provides transformational leadership training, networking opportunities and target capacity building.

The programme is one of self-discovery, development and growth. Personally, it has enabled me to become more aware, as an ethnic minority academic, of the additional distinctive qualities that I bring to my profession, and this has empowered me to move forward in my career journey while remaining authentic.

I would like to share two of the many key learning points which I gained from the programme drawn from the danger of a single story and the urgency of intersectionality, two exceptional TED conference talks that are pre-workshop preparatory materials for the programme, and I would encourage everyone to watch them in their spare time. The first point is on the importance of diversity for building our experiential knowledge of people and communities, and the second, is the need to emphasise that under-representation is not a blanket or homogenous phenomenon but exists across different planes.

Each year, the College funds a number of places on the StellarHE programme as part of its commitment to race equality and to provide a valuable opportunity to develop racially diverse talent. Professional services and academic staff can apply, and places are awarded on a competitive basis. More information on the programme, the eligibility criteria and how to apply can be found on the King’s StellarHE intranet page.

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.

It Starts With You – Mutual Mentoring and Data

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

diagram showing the progression of how data is collected and used

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

And it starts with you.  

To submit your Equal Opportunity data today:  

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

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

 

The case for diversity quotas in recruitment

In this blog Timothy Ijoyemi, Research Fellow and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Advocate at Durham University, explores the  case for diversity quotas in recruitment. 


Of the numerous ways to address BAME under representation in higher education and many other sectors, diversity quotas are among the most controversial. To suggest that a portion of roles within an organisation should be reserved for applicants from underrepresented groups is to invite accusations of unfairness, discrimination, and naivety. After all, shouldn’t a meritocratic society let people rise and fall on their merits? Isn’t it naïve to think that hiring on any criteria other than aptitude and experience won’t negatively impact productivity? This post outlines some of the arguments in support of quotas, as well as research findings that should give opponents pause for thought. 

The myth of meritocracy 

One powerful argument against the charge that quotas undermine meritocracy is that there’s no meritocracy to undermine in the first place. Power and privilege define the metrics of merit – however reasonable they might seem – meanwhile structural and implicit biases make it harder for members of underprivileged groups to convince recruiters that they satisfy these criteria. Ironically, by helping to level an uneven playing field, quotas could actually bring us closer to the very meritocratic ideal so often invoked to contest them. 

Softer methods of increasing diversity don’t always work 

Of all the levers available to recruiters wanting to increase organisational diversity, quotas are one of the most powerful. When implemented as temporary measures, they can kick-start progress that might otherwise take decades to achieve, or never materialise at all. There is ample evidence from corporate American, for instance, that ‘soft’ approaches to increasing diversity – including diversity training, hiring tests, performance ratings, and grievance systems – don’t reliably translate to more diverse work forces or company boards. By comparison, stronger “affirmative action” initiatives in U.S. college admissions have had considerable success in increasing admissions of students from underrepresented groups, with one study finding that students of colour were 23% less likely to be admitted to elite institutions in states where legal challenges had succeeded in banning these initiatives.  

While quotas don’t necessitate affirmative action – or positive action as termed in the UK’s  Equality Act 2010 – they would strongly incentivise recruiters to find and attract talent from underrepresented groups. They would also give a solid rationale for implementing positive action, such as preferentially hiring a candidate from an under-represented group over a non-minority candidate where the two are equally qualified. 

Existing BAME talent can meet organisational demands 

On its face, the concern that quotas would require lowering recruitment standards smacks of prejudice, seeming to rest on the assumption that members of underrepresented groups are less likely to possess abilities that make members of privileged groups generally more suitable for (particularly higher level) organisational roles. A more charitable take is that those expressing this concern know that structural and overt discrimination hinders attainment for many underrepresented groups, seeing differences in hiring rates as a regrettable, but inevitable, outcome. Aside from passing the buck for increasing workplace diversity to institutions dominant earlier in the pipeline (e.g., schools), this attitude reflects a poor estimation of BAME talent. Educational attainment at GCSE is now higher among many BAME groups than white British pupils, while the percentage of 18 year olds from every BAME group entering higher education has risen dramatically over time. Despite this, examples of under representation in the workplace abound. To take just one example, while over seven percent of first year postgraduate entrants in 2017/18 were black, only 0.6% of university professors belong to this group. Diversity quotas would help to close the gap between BAME educational attainment and success in securing commensurate workplace roles.  

Initial concerns dissipate after quotas are introduced 

Some argue that diversity quotas are simply too divisive to be used. While it’s true that quotas are generally viewed unfavourably by members of privileged groups in the UK, there’s good reason to believe that this is at least partly rooted in suspicion of the unfamiliar. Indeed, research conducted in the U.S. and Europe has found that attitudes of board members towards gender diversity quotas are more favourable in countries with quotas than without. And this doesn’t simply reflect pre-existing differences in opinion. In Norway, even company directors who opposed gender diversity quotas before they were introduced eventually came to view them positively. Far from seeing their fears realised, these directors said that increased female representation on boards had led to better governance and decision making. Considering the numerous benefits that accrue to organisations with more ethnically diverse employees, it seems likely that broader diversity quotas would also be viewed more favourably once their positive effects were felt. Sometimes bold leadership is needed to implement good but unpopular solutions. 

Diversity quotas are not a panacea for the barriers to employment that underrepresented groups face, nor are they without controversy. Nevertheless, delivered in a targeted, time-limited way, they could be the shock to the system needed to break through the diversity ceilings that more tepid approaches have failed to breach. 

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.

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