Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Tag: gender equality

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.   

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.

Allyship

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

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

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

Why?, you might say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will help?

Shifting individual attitudes and behaviours.

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

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

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

Making organization-wide commitments for more diverse and equal workplaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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