Conversations: Connecting Diverse Voices

Blog post by Laurence Ainscough and Tess Tinker

Thursday 18 October 2018

A fast streamer and a deputy director discuss their experiences communicating on LGBT issues as part of Conversations: Connecting Diverse Voices

Mutual Mentoring cropped

Laurence Ainscough, Communications Fast Stream

I’m one of those who have taken part in this year’s pilot of Conversations: Connecting Diverse Voices (CCDV), a bespoke initiative for GCS members encouraging discussion around all areas of diversity and inclusion. I put myself forward to explore new ways of communicating on LGBT issues and to learn more from senior leaders as I develop my own skills further. As laid out by CCDV, mutual mentoring provides the space for senior leaders to ask and learn from their match while sharing tips from their own leadership journey.

Paired with Tess Tinker, the programme has given me the opportunity to speak on issues that I have experience of, and others that I don’t. Our identified area of focus has been LGBT – we’ve discussed our experiences and what challenges people who identify as LGBT may face in the civil service, with my perspective and hers working to a bigger picture.

We have heard from individuals from across the civil service who have provided differing outlooks on LGBT diversity. Where I have not felt qualified to answer certain questions or represent parts of the community under the umbrella term of LGBT, I’ve invited others to speak to us both. These have been rewarding conversations, helping to fill some gaps in my knowledge and Tess’. From Tess’ work championing other diversity, we have seen how some subjects overlap and intersect, and how common difficulties may exist in unison across all areas of diversity.

CCDV is a good opportunity to meet with a senior figure you may not work with closely day to day. In the relatively connected world of GCS, this is a fantastic chance to meet others in another department, location or area of communications. Once paired, you agree together how to use the time as you see fit, with guidance month by month provided by the CCDV team. In this way, you make it work around your schedule.

It’s gone far to helping me consider other perspectives from inside civil service and from LGBT communities. We’re still thinking of ways this can continue into our usual ways of working, but in the meantime I’ve found it personally and professionally rewarding.

Not only this, but it has made me feel more authorised speaking about my own area of diversity in the workplace and beyond. I’ve seen how even as people progress to SCS, a sense of curiosity and willingness to understand others is vital. I’ve found the programme personally rewarding, encouraging me to get involved in other ways of working with LGBT communities inside work and outside of it.

Tess Tinker, Deputy Director, Strategic Communications and Campaigns, Department for Education

I am committed to building a diverse and inclusive civil service– but I wanted to do something to bring this to life and to make it more real and take me out of my comfort zone. So I signed up for the CCDV. I knew I was skilled at recruiting people returning from maternity leave and supporting progression for women in the workplace but I was far less confident in other diversity areas outside of my own experience.

I was matched with Laurence who was very passionate about LGBT issues and proactive in setting up some really interesting meetings to help me get under the skin of the issues. In particular, I really enjoyed meeting a representative from agender.org.uk. I got great insights into LGBT issues in the workplace which I had not considered before.

The partnership helped me to think about how to create a more inclusive culture and about volunteering to be an LGBT champion to support this agenda across the civil service.

I recommend that other senior leaders consider this scheme as an excellent way to get a different perspective on the diversity challenge and to gain a deeper understanding of the issues. It helps you to get behind the headline stats and unpack the problems and barriers that our colleagues face every day.

To sign up for the next round of Conversations: Connecting Diverse Voices, click here.

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