Inclusion in the Workplace With Guider People Network
Reuben O'Connell
7 minutes
September 13, 2022

On Thursday 8th September, we held our first in-person Guider People Network event; a fireside session on inclusion in the workplace.

Run by our Community Manager, Danika, the event brought together professionals from a wide range of industries to discuss the key challenges, and solutions, to creating true inclusion at work.

It was a fantastic event. We were so impressed by how engaged everyone was and the ideas that came out of the session. To celebrate, we’ve put together the key learnings from our three fantastic speakers’ fireside conversations.

The Speakers

Priyaneet Kainth, Global DE&I Manager at Haleon 

Our first fireside speaker was Priyaneet Kainth who spoke to us about managing inclusion during periods of transition. She is a strong leader in D&I, delivering the global strategy for Haleon that has advocated and influenced change for those with differences, so their voices are heard.

Marcel De Jonghe, D&I Consultant at Capita 

Marcel De Jonghe, CMgr MCMI spoke to us about creating opportunities for groups who previously haven’t had the chance and privilege. Marcel is a D&I Consultant at Capita, who helps to challenge the norms to ensure that all colleagues have a safe space.

Chloë Gillard, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Manager at Version 1

Chloë Gillard was our final fireside speaker who spoke on how leaders’ roles are key in advocating for diversity and inclusion. Chloë has been working in the D&I space for about 6 years across various sectors and is passionate about the work she does.

Danika introducing the fireside event in front of a welcome slide

The Event

With a great turnout, we welcomed guests before digging straight into a group exercise. Each group was asked to identify key challenges in workplace inclusion that they face or are passionate about, before identifying what can be done about them and how.

As the groups moved around the tables, it was clear that everyone had plenty to say about the challenges and solutions to creating inclusive workplaces. After a networking break, it was time for the fireside chat with our panel of experts.

Below we share the highlights from each speaker’s presentation:

Priyaneet Kainth on ‘Managing Inclusion During Periods of Transition’

First up, we heard from Priyaneet, a DEI professional that transitioned from advocacy work to a full-time role in DEI. From her own experience she’s learned how to navigate the world as someone living with an invisible disability but it’s not always been easy. This is why she is so passionate about her work in DEI and how she can support others.

She kicked off by sharing that, during periods of transition, the first key point is the importance of getting senior sponsorship.

During her personal journey, Priyaneet volunteered to manage the UK disability network in her organisation. This was fulfilling but challenging as she had to push her own passion to management and get them on board. She now works closely to influence senior leaders and get their buy-in in order to drive inclusion.

Priyaneet also recommended mentoring and coaching as key ways to support inclusion during transitions:

“It’s all based on an individual’s values and beliefs on how you move forwards. Our stories are so different and there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s about being inclusive and not judgemental to understand people’s different perspectives.”

This leads to a wider point: it’s in everyone’s interest to work on inclusion, across departments, particularly when managing transitions it’s important to get buy-in from across the business.

As someone that transitioned herself from activist to DEI professional, she’s learned the importance of self-awareness to the process. You need to understand where you are on your journey and where your values and beliefs lie. This means checking your unconscious bias and prejudice, so that you can put your own feelings aside and focus on what’s right for the company.

“DEI is an enabler for our culture, not an add-on, it’s not a nice to have. It needs to be in the DNA of culture.”

She reminded us that we’re making a culture for future generations. You have to learn your company’s culture and values to drive change, instead of relying on your own. Avoiding emotional exhaustion as a DEI leader is important and a valuable lesson.

Thank you to Priyaneet for sharing your expertise with us in an interesting and insightful talk. 

Marcel De Jonghe on ‘Equity and Privilege’

Marcel’s talk focussed on privilege and how this informs equity. He began by defining privilege and asking us all to think about what areas of privilege we each have.

While conversations around privilege can be uncomfortable, particularly if someone misunderstands the conversation as an attack, he reiterated that understanding your privilege is important for seeing how you can help others.

“Privilege is the birth lottery. There are things which you are given that you haven’t asked for. The best way to explain is that it’s an unearned benefit. Some things we can change over a lifetime but for some we can’t.”

Using the metaphor of a hand that you’ve been dealt, Marcel talked us through examples of the different types of privilege we can have.

A graphic of a selection of cards identifying the different types of privilege: white, religious, gender, heterosexual and socioeconomic

Firstly, he reiterated that white privilege is not an attack, it is a fact that white people have privilege in our society and acknowledging this is not shameful. Similarly, we still live in a predominantly Christian, Anglican country, so there is a religious privilege to following this faith over others. We also know that gender privilege grants development opportunities and affects salary, among other things, meaning being born male is a privilege. There are also heterosexual and socioeconomic privileges, to name a few.

A lack of privilege then perpetuates. So, how can you push through the barriers placed around you and how can you change your cards? Well, that’s where privilege can actually help.

By understanding our own cards, we can use them to help others. Marcel told us to look internally, acknowledge our own privilege and understand that we can use that to empower other people. This is in turn means other people can break through barriers.

So, what do you do with this privilege? 

A graphic of how to pay privilege forwards: introductions, sponsorship, participation, education and elephant.

Thank you Marcel for a fascinating talk – we encourage everyone to take a moment to think about what privilege they have in life, and how to pay it forwards. 

Chloë Gillard on ‘How a Leader’s Role in Advocating is Key in D&I’

Our final speaker of the evening, Chloë Gillard, followed on nicely from Marcel’s talk about privilege and delved into a leader’s role in advocating.

Chloë is a global Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging lead for the tech company, Version 1. Her path into this wasn’t through D&I or tech but she began her career in sport and exercise science and, like many people, ‘fell’ into D&I.

Her first point was just that; D&I shouldn’t be something that’s lumped in with HR or one team, it shouldn’t be a niche that you fall into. It should be driven and filtered down across every team within an organisation.

“We might be the owners of D&I but that doesn’t mean the responsibility lies with just us. It is the responsibility of every single person within an organisation and until that’s the case it is not part of the culture.”

Getting company-wide buy-in on this takes a lot of difficult conversations. She said that a big thing as an advocate in D&I is that we have to understand our own privilege to be able to empower the voices of others.

“If you are a true advocate for D&I, you are not the one doing the talking. You’re the one holding the microphone so that others’ voices can be heard.”

This means that as an ally, you haven’t given yourself that label but it’s given to you through the actions that you are willing to take. Chloë also used the analogy that she is the train driver whose job is to keep the train on track. Her message ties in really well with the other speakers and shows how integral self-awareness and understanding your privilege are in D&I.

She then went on to make three key points:

  • That our role is to change the system, not to ask people to change to fit the system. To get that narrative up to the higher echelons of an organisation is really hard, but when it starts to truly filter into people, that’s when change really happens
  • When you start to understand your own privilege you realise that, to walk in someone else’s shoes, you have to take your own off. That level of self-awareness is needed to understand the work you need to do
  • As a D&I leader, your role is to lead from the back in what’s called servant leadership. It’s also important to understand that not everyone is ready to speak yet, but that when they are, it’s your job to ensure the mechanisms are in place to support them to be heard

Finally, Chloë reminded us that we need to embrace disagreement with empathy. We live in a world filled with unique people and D&I is not just a cherry on top but an essential. By leading with empathy we can create inclusive, psychologically safe workplaces.

Thank you Chloë for an engaging and memorable talk. 

We want to say a big thank you to all of our speakers and everyone that attended the first of many in-person events. Thank you to Danika, our Community Manager, for organising such an interesting event. We hope to see you all again soon!

Want to join us? The GPN is open! If you’re interested in joining a community of like-minded professionals across HR, L&D and D&I, then sign-up today

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