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Leading the way: advancing staff equality to advance the sector

Published: 19/03/2015

David Ruebain considers the need to recognise those institutions that are leading the way in staff equality and diversity

It was my pleasure last night to present a Guardian HE award to the University of Essex in recognition of their work Advancing Staff Equality. The Essex LGBT Alliance has made tangible differences for staff, built partnerships across 18 different organisations and led to a 28% increase in staff disclosing their sexual orientation. Congratulations are also due to runners up University of Birmingham, whose work, including an Advancing equality in employment initiative, has improved the promotion opportunities of underrepresented groups.

This is the second year that ECU has sponsored the award for staff equality and diversity; we believe that this continues to be a key challenge, and should be a priority, for the sector. The Department for Business, innovation and skills highlighted this in their 2015/16 funding letter to HEFCE, calling on the sector to ‘go much further to seek out and harness the diverse talent available’. BIS focused on senior level appointments, but this is true all the way through our institutions. Without supporting and promoting staff at all levels, where will these senior leaders come from?

We feel that it is important to recognise the institutions that are investing in equality and career progression for their staff. While many have realised the benefits reaped are much wider than individual gain – that there is positive impact on institutional achievements, reputation and impact – some are slower to catch on. Celebrating those that are embedding an understanding of equality into their HR practices, into their senior management mindset and into their mission may just help those lagging behind to up their game.

Details of the winners’work will be on the Guardian University Awards website shortly.