This is my first Medically Speaking blog as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor for Wessex Institute. I thought it would only be fitting to write about inclusion in the workplace and some of the work we have undertaken at Wessex Institute.

For me, inclusion in the workplace means “I can bring my whole self to work”, somewhere I feel comfortable to speak about my cultural values, my faith without editing things for fear that others might view me differently; somewhere I am respected and valued and feel a sense of belonging and add value.

Over the past six months one of the focuses has been considering ways to promote this in the workplace, celebrating our differences and acknowledging the value we bring as individuals into the workplace. But most importantly connecting with each other.

I’ve delivered a series of workshops, which staff have engaged in, focusing on culture, race and disability, and provided opportunities to learn about different faiths, such as Eid and Diwali, through people’s lived experiences.  I have also shared practical tips for all of us to adopt in our day to day work, such as using pronouns in our email signature.

For the first time, Wessex Institute celebrated National Inclusion Week, and participated in Black History Month with UoS Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Staff Network and the John Hansard Gallery, raising awareness of the impact of racism on individuals, and now UK Disability History Month raising awareness of hidden disabilities through people’s lived experiences.

For me, the “Impact of Racism” workshop, attended by Professor Mark Smith President and Vice Chancellor of the University, and Professor Diane Eccles, Dean of Faculty of Medicine including other senior leaders, proved to be a very emotional and monumental moment – Professor Smith saying that the University still has a long journey to travel towards race equality and pledged his personal commitment to driving change; me realising that no matter how long ago my experiences of racism took place, it is something that I carry with me for the rest of my life and other colleagues who shared their personal experiences during this workshop and expressed how difficult it was for them, evoked a lot of emotion.

I would like to ensure that we have a support structure for everyone which is clear and accessible. We now have a WI EDI Committee, which oversees EDI work in all areas, including policies and processes, and an EDI Staff Network which identifies the needs of the underrepresented and connects with the wider University staff networks. We also have a trained Harassment Contact and a team of First Aiders for Mental Health to support our staff.

Everything we do connects us to the University, to NIHR, the EDI strategy and most importantly to each other. It is a step in the direction to building an inclusive culture, where people are the centre. We hope this will attract diverse talent, reflective of the wider community, who will innovate, develop, and support the continued success of the organisation.

What inclusion in the workplace means to me by Aysha Rahman

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