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3 tips to help set up an inclusion and diversity staff network...

Category: Diversity & Inclusion, Cambridge Assessment, staff support, Staff, Staff Networks, Higher Education, Top Tips

Diversity and Inclusion.

Ashley Capaldi

Deputy Head of Public Affairs | External Comms/Social Media/Digital Content Manager

At Cambridge Assessment, we are proud of how we recognise and support diversity and inclusion within the organisation. Through our staff-run inclusion networks (which include: BAME, Healthy Mind, LGBT+, Parents and Carers Together, Women in Leadership, and Disability and Neurodiversity), we are continuously striving to create a culture where everyone feels valued for their contribution.

When I took over as Chair of Cambridge Assessment's Women in Leadership staff network earlier this year, I was keen to build on the achievements of my predecessor Chloe Shaw, who built the network from the ground up.

It's important to be flexible and respond to the changing needs of an organisation, so we are looking to expand our remit, with a goal to achieve ‘fair gender representation across Cambridge Assessment’. We will be changing our name to the 'Gender Equality' staff network to reflect this, but our work to inspire more women to pursue the career they want is still a major focus. Already this year we have facilitated discussions around how to address gender equality in the first instance at the job advertising and interview stage, learnt from one of our new corporate board sponsors how to harness both extrovert and introvert leadership styles, and supported Cambridge University Library to launch an exciting new exhibition telling the stories of women from the University and the city throughout history (Look out for 'The Rising Tide' coming to Cambridge in the autumn). I'm looking forward to what the rest of the year has in store for the newly renamed Gender Equality staff network and am especially pleased to see more and more people recognising the benefit of diverse, happy teams.

For those looking to actively support diversity and inclusion in their own place of work, here are my top three tips for establishing your own staff network:

1. Establish the purpose of the group and who it is for

Firstly, ask yourself why you need a staff network. Look at the make-up of your organisation and see who needs more support and better representation. Use data and insights to ensure you are addressing the real issues. Be clear about the change you want to see and be open and honest about the purpose of the group.

2. Gain buy-in from your senior leadership team

Senior leadership buy-in is crucial. Having the support of our corporate board sponsors Fran Woodward, Jill Duffy and Neil Musk has been invaluable in giving the network a voice within key decision-making forums. Neil has worked on addressing gender imbalance in the finance industry in his previous professional life and is keen to recruit more male 'allies' for the network. Fran and Jill are two of our newly appointed CEOs - Fran for Cambridge Assessment English and Jill for OCR. It was Jill who wanted to share her insights into how introvert and extrovert leadership styles can be harnessed to everyone's benefit, and Fran has been especially supportive of our drive to attract more women to pursue the career and work/life balance they want.

3. Promote the group’s inclusivity to all staff

Finally, be 'super-inclusive'. Ensure that staff are aware that it’s open to everyone. Even if members don’t feel personally affected by your group’s concerns at that time, the more people you can educate means more awareness and understanding of gender equality and will ensure your network has a greater long-term impact. We have focused on welcoming more men to join our network over the past year, and have also made mutually beneficial partnerships with other networks, like Parents and Carers, which have similar aims.

I’d love to hear about your experiences around addressing similar issues in your own organisations.

You can read more about Supporting and inspiring women to pursue their ambitions and achieve their leadership goals in Angela Jukes’s blog on the Cambridge Assessment blog.

And thanks to Alana Walden for helping me pull together my thoughts for this post!

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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