School of Science

Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity

"On being a Diversity Ally" by Eugenie Hunsicker, Director for Equality and Diversity, School of Science, Loughborough University

This year the Equality and Diversity Committee from the School of Science is excited to be launching an initiative called Diversity Allies, which offers a new perspective on diversity that is relevant to everyone in the school.  The focus in this campaign is to encourage people to consider how they can support people from a range of diversity groups in our school and community.  Whether you consider yourself as part of a diversity group or not, there will be groups you are not part of that can benefit from your support.  We have worked on putting together a list of tips on how to be a good diversity ally, and we have assembled a set of resources to help.  We really hope that people in the School will take on the challenge, and that together we can make the School a more inclusive place for everyone. 

As we launch into this, I thought I would share some personal reflections about being a diversity ally.  And the first is that I find it hard, and most of the time it leaves me feeling awkward.  I worry that my overworked colleagues will get sick of me banging on about yet one more demand on them when they are already barely managing to juggle the 1000000 things that seem to be in their job descriptions.  I also worry that members of the diversity groups I am trying to help will find me condescending, like I think I know more about what it is like for them than they do, or that I know better than they do what will help.  As someone trained in evaluating evidence before acting, it makes me uncomfortable to be trying to develop policies and actions without a clear research consensus about what interventions will actually make a difference (the vast majority of research on diversity focusses on identifying problems rather than solutions). 

I am not saying that being an ally doesn’t have its rewards, and when I feel that we have been able to make a difference, it is great!  Additionally, although I worry a lot, my experience has been that the people I am working with appreciate my help and are welcoming and happy to help me learn more about them and how to be a better ally.

So although would certainly be much easier and less stressful to focus on ticking boxes than to push for people and culture to change, to do this is to leave my colleagues and students from diversity groups to deal with their experiences on their own, and I know I owe it to them to try.  There are undoubtedly people who are much better at this ally thing than I am, and maybe for them it always feels empowering and positive.  But I expect for me, it will always involve feeling stressed and awkward.  And probably, if I stop feeling that way, it is a sign that I am not doing it right.

So, I hope you will join me in this awkward, floundering, frustrating, but rewarding process of being a diversity ally, and hope with me that together we can make a real difference.

Allies resources

Here are some resources on diversity and inclusivity suggested by members of our Equality & Diversity committee: