Diversity and inclusion networks: What are they and why do organisations need them?

by Chloe Shaw & Will Saville, 27 February 2019
Chloe Shaw and Will Saville

Cambridge Assessment set up its first diversity and inclusion network in 2016 and now has six active groups: BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic), Disability and Neurodiversity, Healthy Mind, LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), Parents and Carers Together, and Women in Leadership. Beyond diversity and inclusion, we also have an active Environment Network looking at how we reduce our organisation’s environmental impact.

Two colleagues involved in the diversity and inclusion networks – Chloe Shaw and Will Saville of Cambridge Assessment English – reflect on why they are important for Cambridge Assessment.

How long has Cambridge Assessment had diversity and inclusion networks?

A couple of years ago, some of us had been working very closely with our colleagues in HR to look at diversity and inclusion more widely. As an organisation, we actively support diversity and inclusion and really want to create a culture where everyone feels valued for who they are and the contribution they make.

Pretty early on in our diversity and inclusion journey we decided to set up staff networks, which are made up of colleagues from across Cambridge Assessment with a shared purpose. They are run by staff for staff and they help to enable colleagues to derive maximum benefit and enjoyment from working here.

Our first network, Women in Leadership, was set up in November 2016 and this was swiftly followed by LGBT+. Our other networks sprang up over the next two years, with our most recent addition being the Disability and Neurodiversity network.

Why do you think they are important?

Staff networks are a really good way of promoting diversity and building a sense of community. They provide a safe space for colleagues to support each other and raise issues which affect them at work.

As an organisation we are also keen to attract and retain a diverse group of colleagues, and staff networks help with this. We also have a duty to reflect the diversity of our learners and ensure that our products and services meet their needs.

What has your involvement meant for you personally?

As network chairs, we’ve both enjoyed meeting people from all different parts of our organisation and seeing things from a slightly different perspective. It’s also been very rewarding to see people take steps they may not have taken without the support of their network colleagues – people coming out at work, for example, or taking the decision to submit a flexible working request.

What’s next for the staff networks?

The organisation is really committed to staff networks and there is a big piece of work taking place on how we can continue to build upon their success and engage with even more of our colleagues – particularly those who are based internationally or outside of our headquarters.

The networks are going from strength to strength, with a lot of support internally and a growing membership. We expect to see more networks forming over the coming year and even more senior sponsors coming on board to help drive forward actions.

Chloe Shaw
Head of Alliance Management at Cambridge Assessment English and retiring Chair of the Women in Leadership network

William Saville
Business Development Manager at Cambridge Assessment English and retiring Chair of the LGBT+ network

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