By Liz Healey, Baringa’s Senior D&I Specialist
I came to Baringa early in 2021 as a D&I Specialist – the company’s first. It was also the first time in my career that my responsibilities were focused solely on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This was so important to me, as in previous roles it’d been something of an add-on, not always given priority by leaders and colleagues. 18 months in, and I’ve been blown away by just how authentic and universal Baringa’s commitment to their people really is – Baringa wants to be the absolute best in D&I. People want to learn, and Partners and sponsors really engage with their responsibilities, providing practical support and encouragement to get everyone involved across the business.
Different opportunities, same potential
Looking back, my passion for promoting equality has always been evident. From a GCSE English project on Martin Luther King, to an A Level study of LGBTQ+ portrayal in the media, to a dissertation on the gender pay gap, I’ve always been driven to address differences and inequalities. Growing up, I had a unique perspective into understanding the different nuances across social backgrounds. My brother went to private school whilst I went to a girl’s state school and it’s safe to say - the experiences were very different. I saw how the opportunities open to my sibling were enhanced by the networks and social circles he became included in. This just wasn’t the case at my school with its ‘one size fits all’ approach, although my experience was arguably richer in terms of the diversity of people I learned to work with.
My dad worked in insurance before becoming a taxi driver, a job he held until retiring. As a child I thought it was amazing that he could choose his own hours, but of course the long hours and hard work weren’t quite as appealing to him. There was always an understanding between my brother and I (both spoken and implied), that we needed to succeed to make our parents proud. And so, it’s my own experiences and beliefs that have fuelled my passion for helping people from every background feel included and capable of achieving equal success.
Today my role is focused squarely on people, ensuring both that we improve the diversity of people represented at Baringa and that we develop and support our people in a truly equitable way. I’m proud to work alongside my amazing team - many of whom are represented in this series - in embedding real and lasting change.
Let’s normalise asking questions – we’re all still learning
One of the easiest ways in which we can work towards a more inclusive environment is to ask questions. This can be such a pitfall, particularly for those more senior who want to appear as experts all the time. But the thing is, if DEI is my job, and even I ask a million questions a day to ensure I’m up to date in this field, how can we expect others to learn if not by asking questions too? Sometimes it can be as simple as asking a colleague how their name is pronounced – it might feel awkward, but far better to ask than forever get it wrong and have that person feel disrespected every time.
We’ve developed a number of learning modules to help equip our colleagues with the tools to ask these kinds of questions and ultimately feel safe doing so – this includes our Psychological Safety & Inclusive Working Practices. Building this module was a hugely collaborative task, I asked each of our networks to contribute and create cheat sheets that explained the quick wins and easy pitfalls for DEI in their group, which we then shared as part of the training as well. Ultimately, our aim is to create safe spaces at Baringa that allow everyone the chance to share their experiences and learn from each other.
Creating inclusivity needs us all to continue learning
A huge amount of time and effort has been given to extending our learning programme to equip everyone with the skills and knowledge to be more inclusive. Helping colleagues recognise behaviours that should be called out and teaching the skills needed for this. Holding ourselves fully accountable to “Putting People First”. We want to make this more than a D&I or L&D agenda – where instead it empowers everybody to develop and learn with, and from, each other.
Where there are gaps in our understanding, or areas that our people are passionate about, we work on building a solution together. Passionate consultants in our Embrace Network (LGBTQ+) and Gender Diversity Network designed a fantastic Gender Identity module this year, and we have more being developed and shared all the time. This is an entirely new opportunity for us at Baringa where our networks are given the tools and support to create learning modules for the wider business – we really are trying to walk the walk when it comes to elevating the diverse voices we have to create authentic and impactful learning experiences for our people.
Individual differences are our collective strength
We all bring unique strengths and experiences, shaped by our own personal journeys – our diversity is truly something to celebrate. I see lots of inspiring people at Baringa, most of whom would feel a little uncomfortable being described as role models because they feel they are ‘normal’ people. And that’s the point – we can all be role models, we can all support and encourage others, amplifying the voices of those who don’t always get heard. Whilst we’re not exactly where we want to be, we’re making great strides forward.
The D&I journey continues
We have built a firm foundation of inclusivity through our networks, 10 commitments to anti-racism and learning programmes, but there’s always more we can do. This year we’re launching our refreshed Female Leaders Programme and will be launching our ‘Shine Where You Are’ programme for our Black, Asian and ethnically diverse colleagues by the end of the year.
On top of this, we continue to work to create a well-embedded structure that defines accountability and responsibility across geographies, sectors and teams. So, whilst we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, Baringa really does feel like a place where we’re all striving for the same goals. And for that I’m both grateful, and immensely proud.