Creating Space for Everyone - Diversity and Inclusion


Creating Space for Everyone - Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity is a broad topic, particularly within the workplace, it is what makes us different from one another. Whether it be gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, how you choose to identify, socio-economic background, abilities, beliefs, skills, the list goes on. Inclusion embraces all people no matter their background or identity and provides them with equal access to opportunities and resources. I feel passionate about shining a light on best practice to inspire other organisations and hopefully attract talented and innovative people into the sector who may, at the moment, feel disadvantaged and as though their opportunities are limited because of who they are.

Whilst I feel incredibly lucky that I have not faced direct discrimination during my career, I do fight a slightly daft battle with an irrational fear of sharing my age. Yes, that’s right, I am in my early 20s and I do not enjoy sharing my age. This stemmed from my first ever job and condescending comments made from older colleagues and stakeholders. Despite being the same or an even higher level of qualification as other older members of staff, I felt like my age held me back because I would be underestimated or patronised. Still to this day my friends think I am bonkers for holding onto such an insecurity! Diversity, not just with age, within an organisation is so important, it creates diversity of thought and problem solving which in turn produces excellent (happy!) teams.

This month I reached out to people and organisatioins within the Life Sciences network and asked them if they could send me their thoughts and feelings about what diversity means to them as an individual and why it is important to them. Initially, I felt some responsibility to do something to promote and support pride month, an incredibly important month for so many that celebrates the beginning of the movement toward equal rights for those that identify as LGBTQ+. I have lots of wonderful friends and family members who identify as LGBTQ+ and it would break my heart to hear that they, or anyone, felt their career opportunities were limited because of this. The more I started to explore this, the more I was recognising just how important it is that we are normalising the discussion on all different types of diversity.

One Nucleus host a series of Employer of Choice sessions; during each of these sessions, whether it has been about gender, disability, flexibility of working etc., they have all emphasised the benefits and importance of having a diverse workplace, particularly for companies seeking investment. One of my favourite webinars so far has been the ‘Working with Parkinson’s and Embracing Neurodiversity’, which highlighted the importance of focusing on strengths such as innovative thinking, creativity, observation skills, depth of thinking and many more can have when you employ neurodivergent people into the workplace and that there is a huge risk of losing touch with the skills above because it is easy to focus too much on the challenges that it imposes from not understanding the individual fully. You can watch this webinar on-demand.

I want this piece to champion and promote diversity and inclusion within the workplace and I truly hope those reading this believe that it reflects that.

Emilie van der Gronden, BioProcess Scientist, eXmoor Pharma Concepts Ltd

A diverse workforce is one that includes different backgrounds and different interest. To make this work, I think, people need to be open minded and non-judgmental. Once everyone feels like they can be themselves, they can come to work without feeling limited. This creates a great atmosphere and stimulates teamwork.  

With a diverse workforce, you must pay more attention to make sure everyone feels included. Socials in the UK for example almost certainly involve alcohol. But what if you don’t want to drink alcohol? Maybe you just don’t like it or maybe it doesn’t resonate with your beliefs. This means you either must adapt to the British culture or miss all socials. Here at eXmoor we make sure that our socials are not all built around drinking alcohol, and I think that is great! I think it’s good to have a balance between keeping British culture, because we are still in the UK, but we also have to make sure there are enough additional occasions to include every other culture.  

As a Dutch gay woman, I don’t feel limited or restricted in any way at work. I consider myself very lucky and I am grateful for the people that have worked very hard for this. Outside of work I don’t always get the same experience. Therefore, I continue to join LGBTQ+ activities to raise awareness because I want everyone to feel like they can be themselves. 

Nas Yusuf, Service Transition Manager, Digital Workplace Experience, Abcam

I was born into a large Turkish-Cypriot family in North London, an extremely diverse setting. When I was 9-years old my parents decided to move us out of London to a small village on the Norfolk / Cambridgeshire border in order to give my brother and I the safest possible upbringing, and for that I am eternally grateful. 

On the first day at my new primary school, full of hope and excitement, I was racially abused. I remember feeling sick, empty, not good enough, diminished. Sadly, this set the scene for the rest of my childhood and much of my adult working life. It’s for this reason that I value diversity and inclusion so dearly: no one should ever feel less because of who they are. I believe that a person should only be judged on their behaviour.

I’ve been with Abcam for just over a year. In that time I have seen like-minded passionate individuals launching several Employee Resource Groups, and formulating an amazing Diversity & Inclusion plan. Abcam is committed to providing a safe environment for us all so that we can be the best version of ourselves. I’m extremely proud to work here and am very excited about Abcam’s commitment to D&I.

Joanne Conway, Diversity & Inclusiveness Associate Director, EY

Diversity and inclusion are key priorities for EY. The business is working hard to create an inclusive culture where all its people feel they belong.

This culture of belonging is helping EY accelerate its focus on diversity and inclusion – supported by the launch of a new D&I strategy in 2019, which includes bold targets to double the proportion of female and ethnic minority Partners in the UK to 40% and 20% respectively by July 2025.

Last year EY went one step further, with a series of new anti-racism commitments to accelerate the pace of change. This included a target of 15% of its ethnic minority Partners to be Black by 2025.

In addition to these ambitious targets, EY is continuing to increase its investment in targeted programmes for high potential female and ethnic minority talent, including its Future Leaders Programme and Accelerate@EY.

Future Leaders is a one-year organisational change programme combining leadership development for high-potential ethnic minority senior managers and their allies in the business. Accelerate@EY is a leadership programme for senior female talent, which is designed to support women to lead successfully using their own existing skills and talents.

EY also has an active group of employee networks which address different aspects diversity. For example, the Women’s Network is dedicated to empowering individuals to reach their potential. EY Ability supports people with disabilities, while EY Unity - which celebrates its 26-year anniversary in 2021 - connects LGBT+ communities.

EY has clear objectives, based on the knowledge that a diverse and inclusive firm, where people feel they belong and can be their true selves, is not only the right thing to do, but will also result in a more successful and sustainable business. EY uses targets and governance to help drive accountability throughout the business and closely monitors all of its talent processes to ensure there are equitable outcomes for its people, from recruitment through to promotions and utilisation on client projects. However, while metrics and targets are important, EY recognises that building an inclusive culture of belonging is absolutely key.

EY is proud of the progress achieved so far, by maintaining a sustained focus on diversity within recruitment, recognition and retention, but acknowledges that more still needs to be done, at pace, to increase diversity across all levels. EY has committed to fostering an environment where all differences are valued, practices are equitable, and everyone feels a sense of belonging.

Claire Thompson, CEO, Agility Life Sciences

We are committed to building diversity by design in our organisation, so much so that one of our values is “Give people an environment in which they can succeed”. That starts with recruitment - all roles are advertised as part time or full time, and the majority of roles are work from home. This gives the greatest flexibility for all family situations and abilities.

I’ve seen so many women, including my wife, whose careers have been stifled by lack of flexibility in their roles or by their employers. For that reason alone, we offer 26 weeks full pay for maternity/parental leave from day 1. We need to empower and enable women not just to survive within their roles, but to thrive.

For more information on how Agility Life Sciences empower and support their employees you can check out the What is ESG and Why is it Important to Attracting the Best Talent blog and panel discussion on the One Nucleus YouTube Channel.

Elisabeth Goodman, Founder of RiverRhee who are advocates for Neurodiversity. She is also a coach, facilitator and trainer.

Professor Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions and a Campaigner for Neurodiversity, recently shared 20 tips to aid communication at work.  Neurodiversity was a term coined by Judy Singer in the 1990s.  It recognises and celebrates the fact that we are all 'wired' differently, and will therefore bring different ways of thinking, feeling and doing to our work and to our lives.

Communicating with each other in a way that combines openness, dignity and respect can be challenging at any time, and can be made more so by our Neurodiversity. And yet this skill is pivotal for creating a sense of inclusion and belonging at work.

Every team leader, manager and individual within an organisation has a role to play in raising awareness of and championing our Neurodiversity, in every aspect of our work.  Encouraging discussions about the approach to communication that will help each of us be at our best is a great place to start.

Seb York, Talent Lead, Cat Sci

Disability discrimination is a well-covered topic and employers, and employees alike know what can be considered as discriminating. The Equality Act 2010 requires employers to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that disabled job applicants and employees have equal access / opportunities as other employees do. This, however, only applies if the employer knew or could reasonably have been expected to know that the applicant/ employee was a disabled person.

The provision itself, despite aiming to eliminate inequality, is very limiting and does not put enough pressure on employers to create truly inclusive environments. While disability discrimination is being focussed on in details, disability inclusion is nowhere near where it should be.

Under the Equality Act 2010, you have a disability if you show a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ (more than 12 months’ time) negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. This, however, does not fully cover neurodivergent individuals. A concept of neurodiversity considers the range of variances in human brain function and behavioural traits as normal variations. Though often used to refer to the autism spectrum, some classifications may include learning disabilities and even mental health conditions. Human neurodiversity such as autism, dyslexia, and ADHD have long been considered as medical disorders. Subsequently, a person’s neurodivergence may be regarded as a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

And here comes the main issue, if the workplace is not truly inclusive and does not support its employees across all hidden and visible disabilities, despite having ‘official’ processes to assist people with apparent disabilities and eliminate disability discrimination, inclusivity will not be achieved. Many people might not feel brave enough to talk about their disabilities if they do not feel that employers would support them. Employers need to openly address the question of disability inclusion, offer support to teams, train their managers and hold regular activities that embrace diversity of the workforce. The other issue is the wording ‘disability’ on its own. I much prefer the phrase ‘differently abled’. For example, why someone with ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) who is not the greatest at social communications but fantastic at logical conundrums is labelled disabled but me, great at social interactions and very personable but absolutely hopeless with riddles, is not? What if the person is aware of their strengths and disadvantages but do not want to be classed as disabled? Change in language is needed to help end stigma against people with various disabilities, unconscious bias as well as encourage others to talk openly about their struggles. This is the only way to fully understand our workforces and create an inclusive and supportive environment.

The journey towards ‘different-abilities’ friendly workplaces is a long one and each business is at the different stage of it, but further considerations need to happen soon. The UK Government’s Disability Confident scheme explains what actions are necessary to show and sustain a certain level of commitment towards ending disability inequality and what additional steps should be or could be taken. It is not an exhaustive list but a great place to start. Every business can be disability confident. It is all about making changes wherever possible, not everywhere. In practical terms, a person with physical disability might not be able to do certain type of jobs, however the employer can still be inclusive by making sure that other disabilities are not excluded by a wide ban of ‘we cannot do that’. Steps towards equality, diversity and inclusion of the workplace should never be seen as extra paperwork or burden on the business. By promoting and working towards a better culture, employers can only win and become stronger.

Please go and check out one of Seb’s most recent blogs all about the use of pronouns and why it makes a positive difference the more we normalise the use of pronouns on social media – Displaying pronouns on your LinkedIn profile or email footer

Blog by Jasmin Bannister, Events and Communications Administrator, One Nucleus

Co-Authors: Emilie van der Groden, Nas Yusuf, Joanne Conway, Claire Thompson, Elisabeth Goodman, Seb York