By Abi Lasebikan, Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Network Coordinator
What are Workplace Equality Networks (WENs)?
As Network Coordinator I see the WENs as a place for people who identify with a protected characteristic group and/or have an interest in matters relating to a particular diversity strand (i.e. gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race, religion/belief, age, pregnancy/maternity, sex, marriage/civil partnership and disability), to come together to:
- give and receive pastoral care;
- share information relating to equality; promote equality issues related to their group;
- access learning opportunities to build skills that will help individuals develop personally as well as in their career, and
- act as critical agents for change within the organisation.
Who are the WENs open to?
The networks are open to all Assembly Members, AMSS, Commission staff and employees of our on-site contractors to join as either members or as allies, as they recognise that anyone, not only those directly affected, can have an interest in a particular equality issue. This interest can exist for many reasons, including because of a connection to someone who is affected e.g. a child, spouse or relative or because of the belief it’s ‘the right thing’. Allies are welcome because to achieve real Diversity and Inclusion requires a collective effort involving everyone.
What are the benefits of the WENs for the individual?
For an individual the networks can:
- Provide informal peer support and advice.
- Offer a platform for discussing issues affecting members of the networks.
- Enhance career development and progression for staff, through various programmes, including mentoring opportunities.
- Present networking opportunities.
- Give members the chance to identify and advise the Assembly Commission on the issues which affect staff, through impact assessment of policies.
What are the benefits of the WENs for the organisation?
Because of their access and insight these networks can help us to:
- Understand the value in managing and harnessing the potential of an increasingly diverse workforce.
- Recruit and retain the most talented people.
- Provide the best service to stakeholders.
- Make a positive difference to the working culture of the Assembly.
They do this because the collective intelligence of the WENs:
- Make it possible for us to understand what it is like to work in that environment from the perspective of the members.
- Enable us to understand our diverse service users.
- Serve as effective consultative and advisory bodies on diversity related matters.
The networks input leads to better policies and procedures which means happier employees who can be themselves, resulting in an organisation that performs better and is therefore better able to attract and retain top talent.
The Assembly recognises that the networks are instrumental to the organisation in its aim to achieve a safe, inclusive and diverse working environment for all. It supports the networks and would encourage all Assembly Members, Assembly Member Support Staff (AMSS), Commission staff and employees of our on-site contractors to support and enable their staff to participate in and engage with network activities.
Our current networks are:
EMBRACE – our disability network. It is open to disabled people, those who support disabled people and people with an interest in disability equality. Within EMBRACE are subsidiary dyslexia and chronic pain groups. Chaired by Abi Phillips
OUT-NAW – our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) network. It is a closed group for LGBT people, it is open to LGBT people as members and people with an interest in LGBT equality as allies. Co-chaired by Craig Stephenson and Jayelle Robinson-Larkin
TEULU – our Working Parent and Carer network, is currently a virtual network that operates mainly online. New network members and network allies are always welcome. Co-chaired by Holly Pembridge and Joel Steed
REACH – The Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage network is our Black Minority Ethnic (BME) network. It is open to BME people as members and people who support race equality as allies. Co-chaired by Abi Lasebikan and Raz Roap
The Networks have contributed to and raised the profile of the organisation in a variety of ways. They have:
- Input into many impact assessment of policies and projects, such as the Accessible Car Parking policy, Human Resources Priority Postings policy, EFM refurbishments projects, etc.
- Attended events, like: Pride and Sparkle, Stonewall Cymru’s Workplace Equality Index Awards, All Wales Annual Race Equality Conference, Mela, etc.
- Participated in community incentives, like collecting for the Cardiff Foodbank.
- Produced a range of blogs, factsheets and guidance on a variety of topics, such as: Ramadan, Cultural Diversity, Invisible Disabilities, Bisexual Awareness, Mental Health, etc.
- Worked closely with other public sector organisations, such as Gwent and South Wales Police, Welsh Government, Cardiff University, to promote diversity and inclusion.
That is just a flavour of the impressive achievements of the networks. Further information on the networks can be found at: http://members/networks.
Championing the WENs
A senior champion is someone who openly supports the WENs at the highest level of the organisation. They are vocal about the achievements of the network and how it benefits the organisation as well as willing to lend the weight of their leadership to the network. I am pleased to say that both Dave Tosh and Craig Stephenson are not only champions for BME and LGBT issues respectively but have agreed to champion equality issues as a whole on the Management Board.
“As the BME Champion I can act as a voice, at Director level, and work with the network to help support our BME staff to address some of the issues affecting them”. Dave Tosh, Director of Resources and BME Champion
The Champions can also be a beacon to others that the organisation is truly an inclusive organisation that recognises talent, irrespective of whether the person belongs to a protected characteristic group.
“It’s very important that there are visible LGBT people at all levels within the organisation, and also that people see that being from a minority group hasn’t hindered peoples’ ability to reach more senior levels. Personally, I think that if you have reached a position which gives you visibility, and if you can inspire someone else, if you can lead by example, you should.” Craig Stephenson