From conversation to action: BIMA I&D Council and Beyond

March 18th, 2020

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Earlier this month, Kate Rand, Group Employee Experience & Inclusion Director at Beyond, was confirmed as a member of BIMA’s 2020 Inclusion and Diversity council. Here she shares her thoughts on why the Council’s role is so vital - and why she can’t wait to get started.

Having applied to become a member of BIMA’s 2020 Inclusion and Diversity council back in late 2019, it was really exciting to have my place confirmed alongside 15 other inspirational industry leaders. My excitement is two fold, and I wanted to share this, and some of the context behind why I joined the council.

Origin story

My own story of why DE&I is so important began during my career in hospitality. As the first female manager at general and regional level for many years, I paved the, at times, physically demanding path for the next ones. Next I moved to more “normal” companies where I quickly found myself one of a handful of senior individuals without a degree or the only one in a room without a private education. On a personal level, with a father who suffered from depression at a time when people believed being sick went as far as having a broken leg, I saw the impact that this has on someone and their family. All of this has spurred me on to do more for others in those situations and to be more empathetic in my current role. I also have so much to learn, because, let's face it, my “origin” story pales into insignificance compared to some peoples’ experiences.

Fast forward to the last three years, and my role at Beyond, and I often say that spiderman had it right. The phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” is a constant reminder to me that I’m responsible for the wellbeing and environment for 200 people. As an AgileHR community trainer and public speaker, I have a duty to ensure I am always an open, respectful role model around DE&I. I need to make it OK to talk about uncomfortable and gnarly topics, so others can follow. 

What better way to evolve my own knowledge and meet this head on, than to be on the council.

BIMA Inclusion & Diversity Council

BIMA has a multitude of councils, each aimed at a particular focus area. The expectation is that the council will create annual thought leadership, and practical solutions for its members. Last year, the I&D council released this report about Inclusion & Diversity in the tech industry. Findings included details around rates of depression in the industry being 5x greater than the UK average and that career progression was impacted negatively by mental health, gender and neurodivergence and ethnicity. The council’s purpose for 2020 is to “Create a real and sustainable impact on the inclusivity and diversity of the digital industry. We hold members accountable and inspire them to act”.

Creativity unites us

I’m extremely passionate about creating a space of belonging. And so is Beyond. We have a large tech team and are a digital agency. The sectors we span have a long way to go in our DE&I efforts. At Beyond, our people team mission is “To create a progressive agency that facilitates a space of belonging for everyone”. But this goes deeper. In fact our name “Beyond” was derived from the concept that we were a group of individuals with diverse backgrounds, who came together to create great work. 

A great example of this is Charlie Lyons, Beyond’s Managing Partner, who has championed progressive approaches to inclusion in his studio for many years. He and I spearheaded the people centric frameworks that Beyond open sourced, because he too believes that inclusive people practices are not competitive advantages, they are an imperative for the community. As an HR practitioner (although don’t call me that to my face - I won’t respond!), I’m lucky to have such a progressive organisation to effectively “user test” different initiatives on, making it a great test bed for other organisations to learn from, without the risk. I’m always looking for ways to give back, using our platform at Beyond and sharing what we’ve been able to evolve here.

Make it better

The prospect of collaborating with other passionate individuals in this space is something I’m thrilled about. So often we see conversation over action. And we need action. At the end of our first introductory call in late February, I felt humbled after hearing everyone’s reasons for championing such an important topic and honoured to be amongst such an inspirational group. 

I’m always keen to learn how to improve the working environment for our people. We’ve won awards for our work at Beyond, but I’m also worried about being complacent. Aiming for the goal of belonging, means constant evolution and improvement to processes and the environment, as it flows with your workforce. To be in a think tank with such credible people and to be able to collaborate on making our industry better is an amazing privilege.

During that first call, one thing we all unanimously agreed on was the need for tangible action. We also talked about the lack of support for HR practitioners in the industry, people who are often handed DE&I goals or initiatives to take care of with little real support. The majority of council members are from outside of what is traditionally seen as “the people function”, which is a great starting place to help educate organisations that this is more than just an HR responsibility. 

BIMA I&D Goals for 2020

The council has set three goals in addition to the creation of thought leadership and guidance:

  • To address under-representation or lack of representation based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or mental health by creating toolkits and practice guides to help more organisations understand not only the changes they can make, but how to make them.
  • To use BIMA events to increase understanding of mental health and wellbeing in the digital workplace. The events will explore flexible, tailored work practices, remote working and other ways of ensuring all voices are heard and preferences are met so everyone can deliver their best.
  • To use a series of roundtable events to educate digital business leaders on the business imperative that underpins I&D.

You can read more about this here

Summary

We have our second meeting pencilled for the end of March, and I’m already working on one stream with Nancy Rowe and Mo Lishomwa to create some toolkits. I think it’s going to be a fruitful year for the council and a lot of learning for me and for Beyond. We continue.