Connecting Psychological Safety and Inclusion

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

Speaking out is of course the act of saying what needs saying in the workplace, however unpopular.  But anyone who has had the desire to say the ‘right thing’ and bottled it will know that to call out something or someone is not so easy when it feels like there might be repercussions for one’s career.  I have recently witnessed this in a heavily male-dominated group, when women shied away from expressing their honest opinions, even when prodded.

Yet as team leaders, we want to hear from everyone, even if their contribution might sometimes be uncomfortable.  The trade-off is that when we ensure everyone feels comfortable to speak their mind, we will be the beneficiaries of valuable nuggets of information that might not be disclosed if people feel that not all their contributions will be welcomed.  If we have to play a game of roulette with our contributions, the chances are we will opt not to play.

So how do we ensure people feel encouraged and welcomed to state their opinions at all times?

Psychological Safety

The answer is psychological safety.  A concept introduced to us by Professor Amy Edmundson of Harvard University, psychological safety is an environment conducive to speaking up about one’s mistakes and concerns as much as one speaks up with new ideas and questions.  The ‘safety’ element arises when people believe that they will not be penalised or humiliated for this contribution.

The elements of psychological safety

Amy argues that, in order to create psychological safety, we need to do 3 things:

  1. Framing

Framing requires each (team) leader to reframe the idea of reporting mistakes or ‘failure’, as an integral part of the job.  Bringing up mistakes should be seen as an opportunity to improve the service, not evidence of incompetence.  Even in high stakes jobs like medicine, it’s important to acknowledge that mistakes are going to be made, and that, if we ignore them or try to sweep them under the rug, we will not learn from them.  This will increase the likelihood of more of the same or similar mistakes being made instead of reducing them.   Framing focuses on the purpose of the service – let’s say saving people’s lives – and owning and speaking up serves this purpose well.

  1. Inviting challenge and contribution

Once we’ve (re)framed how we see contributions – positive and negative – it’s important to start asking for them.  The team leader can, for instance, openly invite team members to challenge his or her views, enquire into their reasons for thinking a certain way and ask for a number of different perspectives.  It’s important to allow for some conflict to arise, always reminding the team that the aim of the conversation is to serve the purpose of the service (e.g. to save lives), so a little bit of friction is a small price to pay for a better discussion and result.  One way to deal with the creation of friction is to ensure everyone can respect everyone else’s right to have their own opinion and to voice that opinion.  It’s also important to convey that there is no expectation of consensus – not everyone is going to agree, and that’s OK.  What’s important is that everyone feels free to speak up.

  1. Productive Response

Of course, once people do start to speak up and to own up to mistakes, leaders will need to know how to respond.  Responses must not be punitive; they should be productive.  Thanking the person for their courageous and honest contribution, the next step might be to discuss what can be done to correct the mistake and/or ensure it does not happen again.  In other words, how can we make the mistake work for us and serve the purpose we’re aiming for?  If we talk about medicine again, while some mistakes can be fatal, by learning from them, we can ensure that other people’s lives are saved by not repeating the error.

What it is not

It’s important to ensure that people also understand that psychological safety isn’t the same as being nice, or that all ideas and contributions will be commended.  It’s also not an excuse to complain or slack off, or to create intentional conflict.  Psychological safety is designed to create an environment that is conducive to strong team performance and, for this reason, must co-exist with other high standards for performance, such as hard work and commitment.

To conclude, psychological safety is essential for the creation of an inclusive environment in which people feel that they can take interpersonal risks.  Managers who embrace our 8 Inclusive Behaviours and aspire to improve in each one are most likely to lead psychologically safe teams that are also strong performers.


An Inclusive Leader’s Mantra

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

In exploring our Inclusive Behaviours(SM), so far we’ve worked on the following areas:
  • exercising our empathy muscle so we can better understand those who are different from us
  • being a better listener to invite the contribution of different perspectives
  • being aware of and mitigating our own biases in the workplace so that we can be more meritocratic
  • understanding our personal values so that we might understand the values of others
  • being  humble and vulnerable in order to create a trusting bond with others in our teams
  • valuing their different perspectives even if they are vastly different from ours
  • using inclusive language so that others can begin to feel a sense of belonging.

Now that we know what to do and how to do it, it’s time to invite others to follow suit by speaking out.

This responsibility falls first and foremost on leaders.  Team and other leaders set the tone for culture; what they say goes – even if they don’t realise it. As Simon Sinek has said, when a leader speaks, a whisper becomes a shout.  The words leaders use and the things they do have a massive impact on whether others take Diversity and Inclusion seriously or see it as just a box ticking exercise.

I want to share with you a few themes that each leader should be addressing on a regular basis in the workplace:

 1.    It IS broken!

Managers often hear from others (and sometimes think themselves) that their businesses and teams are doing well, that there is no need to fix what’s not broken.

Of course, it would be fine to believe this if things were to remain static.  But we know that organisations and society are evolving and changing at an unprecedented pace.

Just think about these examples:

  • 5 generations in the workplace
  • a smaller and closer world than we’ve ever had
  • an over-abundance of information at every person’s fingertips
  • complex political, economic and legal environments that make transactions enormously complex
  • a change in how society perceives work and life
  • a large and highly educated workforce emerging from India and China.

This level of change requires teams that are prepared to embrace unpredictability and global trends.  Are you sure your team is ready?  Do you have the relevant diversity to address unpredictable and quickly moving challenges?
The team might not be broken, but it isn’t fixed either.  It almost certainly needs more diversity and more inclusion, so it can be better prepared for the future.  Can you afford to stay static and do nothing?

2.    It is hard! But what worthwhile quest isn’t?

Another common theme leaders will hear is that Diversity and Inclusion is too hard!  It requires so many changes on how we behave, how we work with each other, how our processes work.  In some cases, even the very business model doesn’t lend itself to greater diversity and inclusion.

It’s difficult to argue with this.  That said, what leaders should remind themselves and others of is the fact that many business changes are hard, like a new computer infrastructure or a reorganisation, an acquisition or divestment of a business.  Yet the fact that these things are hard to achieve were never good enough reasons to abandon a worthwhile change.

Just like any other important – one might even say, game changing – venture, Diversity and Inclusion cannot be set aside on the basis that it is difficult to implement, or that it requires sacrifice and change that our workers are simply not prepared for.  It’s up to the leadership to set the tone for this change and ensure that everyone gets behind it if that’s the right direction of travel for the organisation.

3.    There are more advocates and champions for D&I among us than there are nay-sayers and  detractors.

Let’s face it.  We humans like to focus on the negative.  No matter how many compliments we receive, if there’s one negative statement among them, that’s the statement we will dwell on for hours, even days.  Our brains are wired to focus on the negative more than the positive – it’s one of our many cognitive biases.  This is also true when it comes to hearing negative views about Diversity and Inclusion.  But the reality is, when we look at the entire population of our workforce, we notice that the nay-sayers are lone voices these days.  and statistically speaking, we expect 15%-20% of the population to disagree with any change management proposition!

If we focus on this small minority, we can be derailed and distracted from our purpose and mission.  Therefore, as leaders, we must focus on the other 80% that still needs us to show them how to do this right, to believe in us and see us clear the way for greater diversity and inclusion.   We also need to make it clear to our peers and colleagues that the group of people who speaks out against the change is marginal; that most people understand and want to embrace this change and that, perhaps when they see others embrace it, the negative minority might engage with it too.  But, irrespective of that, the change and the journey must go on.  We cannot hide from the future, and the future demands a different approach to humanity and to business.

It’s important for leaders to advocate on behalf of Diversity and Inclusion frequently and regularly.  Leaders need to be able to communicate the business priority of Diversity and Inclusion in the same way as they would communicate a new strategy or mission. Without this mantra, D&I strategy will not succeed.

It goes without saying that leaders must first understand all this and know what to say, when to say it and how to address cynicism and objections.  These are important aspects of any good D&I strategy.  Have you been speaking to your fellow leaders about it?


Time to Act. The Power of Now

By Inge Woudstra

To know what you can do, you need to know what inclusion is, and what it looks like. That way you can start behaving more inclusively.

Our Inclusive behaviours℠ theme this month has been Use of Language, and we generally find that the language around inclusion itself and what it looks like can be very confusing for people.

Those passionate about and those working on diversity and inclusion think it’s all clear. In reality, when we work with clients, we find it’s anything but. Only recently, I was working with an executive team, and each team member shared what they thought inclusion was. Answers included: fairness, making people feel welcome, no discrimination when recruiting, recruiting the best talent, celebrating a range of holidays, not working in silos, non-hierarchical working, making sure all can contribute freely, and looking after people’s mental health.

So today to help you start acting on inclusion, we would like to share with you what real inclusion means, where you can start and what to watch out for when you start acting so you can use the power of now to create real inclusion.

What does real inclusion mean?
When we talk about Diversity we mean diversity of thought; making sure that you have a wide range of perspectives around the table. Inclusion is tapping into that diversity on your team. That means you want everyone in the team to contribute their thoughts, so that you hear a wide range of perspectives. People only share those thoughts when they feel safe. They share their ideas when they know they will not be dismissed because they are the youngest, happen to be female, or speak with a different accent.

In other words, as Verna Myers says, “Diversity is being asked to the party, Inclusion is being asked to dance®”.   And remember, people will only say yes to joining you on the dance floor if they know others will not laugh at them, regardless of their dance moves. Looking at inclusion like this shows that inclusion is something everyone in your team needs to do.

Where to start with inclusion? 
Because everyone in the team needs to act inclusively, when we work with clients we start at the top. People learn about behaviour and what is and isn’t acceptable by looking at their leaders. When leaders behave more inclusively and speak up about behaviour that could be more inclusive, others follow suit. So, the executive team needs to know what inclusion looks like and what they can do to role model inclusion. That’s where you need to start.

What to watch out for when we start with inclusion? 
When we start working with the executive team, we start where they are. This is often hard for those championing diversity and inclusion, in HR and D&I teams and in ERGs. The executive team is usually just starting on the journey, and they might have some catching up to do. This can easily lead to unhelpful conversations, and those are the ones we need to watch out for.
Let me give you a few examples from our workshops, so you can avoid the mistakes others have made.
Recently, a male senior leader said, ‘I see women feel undervalued and unseen, but really, they should just learn to blow their own trumpet more and put themselves forward’. The women in the room audibly sighed and rolled their eyes. The senior leader felt dismissed, and still didn’t understand the issue. He was a few steps behind the others.  So we helped him and others understand, by sharing stories and examples of common biases in the workplace and how they contribute to women feeling undervalued and unseen.

Another white, male senior leader said, ‘I feel uncomfortable about this topic, as there doesn’t seem to be space for men anymore’. The HR partner, who is a woman of an ethnic minority background, dismissed this remark out of hand. After that, the senior leader felt uncomfortable to contribute to the conversation. I therefore pointed out that being inclusive means welcoming all perspectives, even if one disagrees with them. Once I carefully made this point in the workshop, the conversation opened up again and we had the chance to openly talk about the journey each one of us is on.

Yes, people may have a point of view that is vastly different from ours, but it’s vital we include them on our journey and take them along with us.

It’s time to act! Now is the time to start working with the executive team. And if that’s not within your power, then start by being aware of how inclusive you are in your own conversations. Are you open to those who disagree with you on inclusion? Do you take the time to listen, truly listen, to those who aren’t as far along on the journey as you are? Listen to them, because they may well have a valid perspective and you can use your insight into that perspective to help them understand the need to be more inclusive. After all, only by listening to everyone’s point of view are we ourselves being truly inclusive.


use of language - 2 silhouette heads surrounded by coloured question marks

One Language. Two Standards

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

Ever think about whether we talk to men and women in the same way – at least when we intend to?

This month, we’re exploring Use of Language, the 7th of our 8 Inclusive Behaviours(SM).   Today, I want to share some research that shows how, even when we believe we’re being meritocratic, our words betray us:  what we say to (or about) women tends to be something very different to what we say to (or about) men.

As the renowned American psychologist and linguist Noam Chomsky said: The structure of language determines not only thought but reality itself.   Meaning, the words we use don’t just betray our thinking, they also shape reality around us.

What we say in performance evaluations
Research has shown us over and over that the way we evaluate the performance of women (and other members of underrepresented groups) differs significantly from the way we evaluate the performance of men.  For instance, men tend to be assessed on potential whereas women’s experience appears to outweigh potential.  As an example, we might say in a man’s performance appraisal:  He hasn’t had the opportunity to experience this role, but we are confident that he has all the capability to succeed.  In contrast, evaluating the performance of a woman, we might say: She has not had the opportunity to get any real experience, and so it is a gamble to put her in that role.

Similarly, when it comes to judging people’s mistakes, countless performance evaluations show that people of colour are nearly twice as likely to have a previous mistake mentioned in the assessment than white people.  And we know it’s not because they make twice as many mistakes.

As a result, women (and members of other underrepresented groups) tend to fall behind when it comes to career advancement and compensation.

What we say to our female entrepreneurs
Another well-documented divide is how we think about women who run businesses.  As this HBR article shows, the different way we think about women and men running businesses is betrayed by the words we use to describe their capabilities.

A hidden recording of conversations within Venture Capital (VC) firms reveals that female entrepreneurs are perceived as less credible, less trustworthy, less experienced and less knowledgeable.

When describing an average male entrepreneur, the following sentiments were captured:

  • young and promising
  • arrogant but very impressive
  • aggressive but a really good entrepreneur
In contrast, the average female entrepreneur was described in these terms:
  • young and inexperienced
  • lacks network contacts and in need of help to develop her business concept
  • enthusiastic but weak
In other words, the language that accompanied the description of female entrepreneurs was peppered with negative assessments of attributes that were seemingly the same in both genders.  These biased views had a direct impact on how capital was invested, with female owners in this case receiving less than 18% of the available funds.

These two examples show how our societal biases are reflected in the language we use.  The good news about this is that although language can propagate bias, it can also help us to uncover it and flush it out.  By recording assessments, we are able to uncover these biases and right the wrong they do.

The first step to building more meritocratic systems is uncovering the bias within them – and words are extremely helpful in doing so.


3 Phrases to Lose

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

I want to share three common phrases that most of us use casually, without suspecting that they might land very differently from the way we intended.  The aim is to become more aware of the impact that our words might have and choose them more carefully with this awareness in mind.

The starting point to this discussion is context.  Context is the first consideration we ought to have when using language.  Think about it: if you were asked to tell a joke, would it matter whether the audience is a group of 10-year-olds or a rugby team?  Of course it would.  Context matters.

Similarly, when we talk to a person who is likely to have been on the receiving end of microaggressions (e.g. a young woman, a person of colour, or anyone from an underrepresented group), we ought to hear our words from their perspective.  Consider the following 3 phrases and how they might land.

1. “Where are you (really) from?”
In the past, this question would have been a staple in my conversational toolkit, especially if I detected an indication that the other person isn’t from the place in which we are speaking.  After all, I think it’s wonderful to have been brought up elsewhere!  I have a natural curiosity for different cultural norms and customs and am keen to hear about them.  So asking someone where they’re from seemed the most innocent, well-intentioned question.

But I should have known better.  Being on the receiving end of this question, I have not always felt welcome when I was asked where my accent is from, where I’m originally from or what ethnicity am I.

The fact of the matter is, no matter how well intentioned, these words convey an acknowledgement that the person is not like us.  Whether this question is perceived positively or negatively depends on the experience of the person being asked.  If, for example, you’ve grown up in the same country as the well-intentioned, curious asker, but they assume (on the basis of appearance, for instance) that you must have originated somewhere else, this benign question can feel alienating.

“So, what can we say instead?” I often get asked?

The answer is: say nothing.  Think about it.  Do we really have to ask this question?  And if so, why?  Often, this question is asked for purely selfish reasons: to satisfy our own curiosity.  If that’s the case, would it not be better to err on the side of caution and exercise patience?  Chances are, if we’re really curious, continuing the conversation is likely to disclose more information.

I have now banished this question from my casual conversations.  I also know of a large organisation – a global financial institution – that is training its staff not to ask it.  Hopefully, we’re not the only ones.

2. “You’re so tanned!  Is this your natural skin colour?”
Some of you might cringe at this, but you will be amazed at how many people utter these words, thinking nothing of them.  And why should they?  After all, they think they’re commenting on something positive.  They’re commenting on the beautiful skin colour of someone who perhaps has had to endure lots of negative treatment because of it.

A positive comment about someone’s racial characteristic is still a racial comment.  Is it possible to imagine what it feels like to hear this from the other side?  How often do you hear people commenting on white skin?

Similarly, phrases like My gay best friend or I have lots of black friends or I love your accent betray the fact that we think of these people as different from.  In this way, these phrases border on what we call othering.

Othering is when we put people into boxes that don’t fit our own definition of societal norms: people who are not like us and, as a consequence, should not be treated like the rest of us.  Phrases that could be perceived as othering can feel alienating, even when well-intended, so we should be extra careful with them.

3. “He’s the Black Sheep of the family.”
One of the most difficult changes to make is to understand that the colour black has a negative connotation in our society.  Think of phrases like blackmail, blacklist, blackballed. From a young age, we’re brought up with imagery that tells us black is not as good as white.

This is a hard truth to swallow. Nevertheless, it appears to be the case, as this devastating experiment with children demonstrates.  So, let’s do everyone a favour and minimise the use of these phrases in our language.

Language is a minefield.  It is so easy to misstep and say something that creates a tiny rift between people.  Tiny cracks grow larger and have the potential of becoming crippling.  And that doesn’t serve anyone.  So, if we can become slightly more conscious of our words and how they might be perceived by others, we have the potential of making our interactions more positive and reap the benefits of the trust that we can create with our language well into the future.

a collection of different people in zoom call grids

Five D&I terms that every leader should know and use

By Inge Woudstra

September is the time when we pay even closer attention to Inclusion as we celebrate National Inclusion Week – this year from the 26th of September to the 2nd of October.

We heed Inclusion by improving how we behave towards each other.  This month, we focus in particular on the Use of Language, the 7th of our 8 Inclusive Behaviours(SM).

When it comes to the Use of Language for leaders, we believe that leaders who are not yet in the habit of utilising terminology that reflects Inclusion run the risk of getting stuck in the past.  To help ensure that doesn’t happen, we offer you 5 terms that should become part of your vocabulary toolkit in the workplace.

1. The Diversity Bonus

Coined by Scott E. Page in his book of the same name, Page explains that the challenges businesses are facing, and therefore the necessary solutions, are becoming ever more complex. We know that, when it comes to solving complex issues, a team beats an individual. However, a diverse team beats a non-diverse team. 1+1=3, but only if the 1 and 1 are different. That’s when your team gains its Diversity Bonus.

Many people believe that there is a trade-off between diversity and excellence. Page argues that is not the case. Diverse teams bring excellence. Diversity isn’t just about being fair and equal; it isn’t just the right thing to do; Diversity is an actual asset that gives your team a competitive edge over others.

As leaders, using the Diversity Bonus both as a team and as a way of thinking will bring Inclusion to life and make it easier to embed any existing D&I ambitions.

2. Resistant Capital
A group of diverse individuals brings excellence because each person contributes with their diverse experiences and perspective. But there’s more! Leaders from underrepresented groups don’t just bring that different perspective; they are also likely to contribute with their ‘Resistant Capital’.
Resistant Capital are skills a person develops as a result of being part of a community that actively challenges inequality and oppression. One prominent example is Greta Thunberg. Gretha grew up as a neurodiverse person and found it challenging to be understood by peers.  As a result, she has developed skills that help her deal with adverse challenges in a creative and tenacious manner; skills that others, growing up under more conventional circumstances, would not have had the need to develop.  Similarly, leaders with Resistant Capital are going to be better equipped to deal with the volatility and complexity of today’s business environment – something that every leader should bear in mind.

In fact, according to Dr Tara J. Yosso, there are 6 other forms of capital that people from underrepresented groups stand out for.   Those looking for emerging leaders amidst their teams should be adding these additional forms of capital to their list of requisite leadership skills.

3. Culture Add
Now that we know about the Diversity Bonus and Resistant Capital, we can start substituting the term ‘Culture Add’ for the term ‘Culture Fit’.  Culture Add describes the additional benefits and skills that people from underrepresented groups offer, whether they ‘fit’ with the existing culture or not.  We now know that when we look for Culture Fit, we tend to hire people similar to those already in the team.  But when we’re after Culture Add,  we start looking out for different traits, skills and talents in potential hires.
4. Psychological Safety
A diverse team is not enough to achieve excellence and reap the Diversity Bonus. To make the most of all those diverse views, people need to feel safe to express them – safe from career-limiting repercussions or views.

When people know they don’t have to fear humiliation or retribution, they are more likely to speak up even if their view might be unpopular. They are more likely to share an idea, even if it seems a bit weird or impossible, and they are more likely to do something in a different way, even if it’s not how it has always been done.

A team in which members contribute in this fashion all the time is a psychologically safe team.  Leaders need to learn what they need to do in order for team members to feel valued, respected and  psychologically safe.

5. Safe spaces
Some topics are harder to discuss than others, especially at work. Emotions and emotional experiences are topics that fit into this category. Yet it is vital to share these in a team at work, as they do influence how people feel, talk and perform.

A safe space at work is an environment that creates a feeling of freedom to openly express concerns and deep thoughts, and find a sense of acceptance and understanding.  People are in a safe space when they know that this form of self-expression and exposure will not jeopardise their respect or worth.

During the pandemic we have seen that those who were offered a safe space to share their vulnerabilities were able to build a stronger bond with their teams.

Safe spaces do not always involve the leader being there; sometimes it is necessary to involve a person from outside the team to create that safety. It’s up to leaders to ensure team members have these spaces, to allow our diverse teams to share and bond.

When we talk about the Diversity Bonus and Resistant Capital, we start conversations that show the value of diversity.  When we then talk about Culture Add, we help attract that diversity of thought.  When we then learn to create psychological safety in our teams and provide safe spaces for difficult conversations, we truly bring out the best in our people.  For this reason, leaders who are D&I-minded ought to make these terms part of their routine business vocabulary.

Guest Blog: How Covid-19 brought an unexpected opportunity to a small business

Guest Blog By Nina Assam

Covid helped me to diversify professionally, in a way I never thought possible. The pandemic was a critical event that shifted the whole world. Anyone reading this will know the toll it took. That one single change has created a new path for my future and set a pace for the work we are very thankful to continue to do today. At a time of limited avenues for so many, it was time for us to kick into gear and diversify.

My story 

Originally born in vibrant Baghdad before moving to Scotland at the age of 5, my early life held much in the way of inspiration, while preparing me for the many challenges ahead. A gift of a camera from my brother at age 15 would help pave the way and build a vision, and my drive to help others built a substantial career base. Eventually I would travel and explore the world, holding several jobs in places like Dubai and America before starting my career in photography. These experiences would later translate into extensive knowledge for Soora, a corporate photography business, and then for PAPP, my Product and Packshot Photography service.

Soora has been running for well over eight years now, holding a rapport with many companies from all over England, and becoming a go-to for anyone wishing to update their professional profile photo. Although the job of taking headshots might appear straightforward, a level of social understanding and a commitment to diversity can reflect positively on those you photograph. Our favourite instance of this actually came from International Women’s Day in 2022. We’d walked into IFM, a renowned investment company usually fronted by men, and were pleasantly surprised to find we were photographing almost exclusively women, of all ages, all creeds, all abilities.

I then started PAPP because of Covid, in May 2020. I had just made the decision to move into a commercial studio after working from home for 15 years, and I signed the contract in February 2020. I finally had a larger studio space and presented a more professional front of house! However, shortly after moving in, the first lockdown happened, making it impossible to continue working face to face with people. Luckily, I had the vision to pivot and move into product photography, and establish a new offering that didn’t require the physical presence of my clients. The new business was therefore covid-compliant and has proved to be a very worthwhile undertaking.

The value of a different perspective 

With so much of the commercial photography industry being male-dominated, it’s so important to hold a space for those who are less advantaged. We often don’t think of the visual difference gender can bring to photography either. Since the details can be so easily overlooked to outsiders, shoots done by men and women might not look much different to the eye, but to the client and our subjects, it can mean the world. Fashion and design in particular need an attentive eye from a prospective buyer, and many companies would do well to look into outsourcing labour to those who would actually have an interest in the product.

Despite the success female photographers hold now, photography in the late 90’s carried a very different atmosphere to it. Burly men hauling around hefty equipment were the norm, so getting booked as a woman – let alone a woman of colour – could almost be seen as impossible unless you could fit the exact requirements of companies. Two small feminine people (my assistant and I) walking into a building, skirt pockets full of tech and carrying the heaviest equipment across central London, of course we got some curious looks.

Valuing diversity 

It’s refreshing to be able to tell everyone that times are indeed changing. And I still encourage this within my business, giving job opportunities to those who might otherwise be overlooked due to their identities and characteristics.

I’ve now had the absolute pleasure to have worked with and mentored three assistants. The most recent assistant I’ve taken on is Rayne Daeva, who has said,  “I’m proud to say my work with Nina has easily been the highlight of my working career so far. Not many people are willing to give accommodations to autistic non-binary workers, but with Nina there wasn’t even a question about it. With so much kindness and understanding in her approach to other people, there’s a constant communication that has nurtured my own growth more than any other workspace.

“When I first met Lauren, Nina’s previous assistant, who also falls on the neurodivergent spectrum, I was keen to know her experiences too. It’s not surprising now to recall how positively Lauren spoke of her time at Soora and PAPP, recounting all the valuable lessons she’d picked up, and even teaching me her own tricks that Nina had passed down. Alongside her incredible work ethic, Nina manages to balance family as her priority all while managing two successful businesses. Anyone would be lucky to be provided with the opportunities I’ve been given, and I sincerely hope the industry makes people like Nina shine.”

This testimonial makes me as proud as the commercial success we have achieved.

Nina has been working as a professional photographer for over twenty years. She has worked with large corporations such as American Express and Royal Bank of Scotland to leading brands such as Lidl and Boux Avenue. She enjoys helping people meet their marketing objectives, from large organisations to start-ups.

Contact Nina on 07905 818028. Email:

lightbulb moments

Diversity & Inclusion Lightbulb Moments

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

As we approach the height of summer, we look back over the past six months.  Voice At The Table has been busier than ever, working with many incredible people to shift the needle on diversity and inclusion in their respective companies.

Here’s a taster of the type of clients we have worked with and the kinds of things they have been focusing on:

In the video games sector, we have worked on embedding inclusive behaviours, discovering and articulating company values and helping leadership focus on the most impactful D&I initiatives for their studio.

With one of our Life Sciences clients, we worked on building momentum towards greater diversity and inclusion for the entire company as well as enabling team managers to see and address common biases in the workplace.

With another Life Sciences client, we have been working on inclusive leadership within their European leadership team, to help them get the most from the diverse experiences of their senior leaders.

One of our clients – a global members’ organisation – needed us to bring awareness and tools on how to address diversity and inclusion into each level of the organisation, starting at the very top with its leadership team, through to its staff and the wider global membership.  In this case we used many different tools, including workshops on common biases, training on inclusive behaviours, the development of an inclusive behaviours framework that shows how to live the organisation’s values, and short video modules that bring diversity and inclusion to the minds of their members everywhere.

On an extended engagement with a global energy company, we have been working closely with its senior leaders – both at its HQ and in its biggest regions – to facilitate an understanding of how they can achieve their global and local D&I targets, and how to motivate and create company-wide enthusiasm for this transformation.

In all of these engagements, we have noticed that people are generally positive about D&I.  They understand the need for being more inclusive and the benefits that diversity brings.  What stands in the way is knowing how to make it happen – and that’s where we come in.

Throughout these engagements, we observed some wonderful breakthroughs in people’s thinking and I’d like to share with you a few lightbulb moments from their journeys:

  • A senior woman: My boss told me that my next hire should be a woman. I told him that for me it’s all about the best credentials for the role. Now that I have been to your workshop I realise it’s both; a woman who has the requisite skills will also offer a more diverse approach and perspective to a mostly male team.  I see now that this is an additional skill that I hadn’t appreciated before.  So now I will be looking out for a woman to join our male-dominated team.
  • A woman of Indian background: I have now realised that in my circles, diversity is seen quite narrowly and that, in most circumstances, I was ‘it’.  I now know that diversity is much broader than an ethnic background; it’s also about gender, age, educational background and so on.  I see now that others who may not seem ‘diverse’ might very well feel they too are from an underrepresented group.  So I will now put more effort into better understanding others and being more inclusive.
  • A male board member: We had this tension about whether to have more diversity on the board, with wide ranging views of what that might look like. The conversation was about representation, as our membership is 80% male and 90% white, some of us thought we were already representative. Now we realise that, in order for us to take good decisions for all our members it’s not just about representing them proportionally but about bringing in diverse thinking, bringing in people with a range of experiences and backgrounds, not just people with finance or legal background, like all of us currently have.
  • An HR Leader: We thought our progression processes had a clear, transparent structure, but now we see that was the case at the junior levels only.  At more senior levels the process is much more discretionary. Considering the biases we human beings have – and that we have just realised we have all experienced – that means it’s not as fair and objective as it could be. We are not the meritocracy we always thought we are.  It’s no wonder our gender pay gap isn’t reducing.  We need to have a meeting to get all those actions in place!
  • A senior male manager of a mainly male engineering project team:  I like working with women and I do try to hire them into our teams, but I was convinced that our specific roles are not attractive to women.  They are demanding and require quite a sacrifice – and that’s difficult when you’re responsible for your children as a mother.  So naturally I understood that women didn’t want to apply.  But what I realised in your workshop is that my assumption about women was no longer current or true.  Lots of women and men share responsibilities for their children and lots of women do want to work on our demanding projects, with the travel requirements and longer days.  We now realise that the reason they aren’t applying is not that they don’t want to, it’s that we are not doing enough to attract them.  This has changed my view on what I need to do next.
These are but a few of the wonderful shifts that we have been privileged to observe during our work.  Our work continues to open minds, challenge assumptions and improve work culture for more people, all the while making use of the opportunities that existed in plain sight and yet were not acknowledged or seen.  This is challenging and highly rewarding work and we thank you, our clients and supporters, for going on these journeys with us.

I hope you bear in mind that, if we haven’t worked together yet, we can help your colleagues break through some of these invisible walls, too.  All you need to do is reach out and tell us what you see at work.  We will be happy to give you our thoughts on how you might be able to do address it.

For now, though, we take a little breather from our work so we can begin with refreshed vigour in September. We hope you do too.