Diversity and Inclusion: Empower your Employees

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Cassie Jane Buckley is Diversity and Inclusion Executive at Oxford University Press. In this article she reflects on her work and career development in diversity and inclusion at OUP.

It’s promising to see how many organisations are now sold on the business case for having a diverse workforce and inclusive culture. However, there are, unfortunately, so many ways companies can get it wrong. Whether it’s focusing solely on diversity, and not inclusion, or creating ‘tick-boxing’ strategies and training that isn’t fooling anyone, there can be real gaps in implementation that make a huge difference in how you’re viewed by employees. One link that can be easily missed is creating the space to empower employees to think, engage and act on diversity and inclusion themselves.

I joined Oxford University Press in July 2018, straight out of university. Not long after arriving, I was invited to a Pitching Session with my new team. Our objective was to present ideas for new projects or initiatives we could introduce to the organisation. This is when I proposed setting up a Women’s Network to facilitate the career progression of women within OUP.

When I joined OUP I was thrilled to see the focus on the conversation around Diversity and Inclusion. Up till then, the little career experience I had had mostly focussed on female empowerment. I had the opportunity of interning for a female networking firm in Australia which gave me incredible insight into the challenges women can face in the workplace, and what can be achieved through female support and collaboration. This experience inspired me to launch the Oxford Brookes Women in Business society in my final year of university.  I had been working on that for a year just before joining OUP so it was all still very much in my blood when the pitching session came round!

My pitch was met with an incredible response and I was told to write a proposal. At this stage, I thought it would only amount to a programme of monthly lunches. Of course I wanted more, but with being at the company for only a short while, I never imagined I would be given the opportunity to organise anything more than that. I was initially quite cautious with the ideas I presented, not wanting to push my luck, yet I was only ever met with enthusiasm and then encouraged and supported to think bigger. This support came from all levels of management, male and female. After I presented my initial proposal, I was told to put a budget plan together!

The OUP Women’s Network is now an employee-led initiative that facilitates the career progression of women within OUP. It is a global network that gives branches (across five continents!) the ownership and opportunity to shape their own programmes, made up of speaker sessions, workshops and networking opportunities – all in the focus of delivering personal and professional development for women. This all came from one idea that was supported and promoted by senior leaders who knew, more than me, the impact it could have.

I’ve been thrilled to see similar successes around the Press. Through the passion of other colleagues, we now have an LGBT+ Network, a BAME Network, and a Befriender Network that focuses on mental health. We are constantly collaborating, debating and making space for difficult conversations. We also have a number of employee Diversity and Inclusion Committees that specifically focus on the diversity of our content and ensuring we have inclusive recruitment practices. All of this activity gives us practical ideas and actions that we can take forward to senior leaders to implement.

My work with the OUP Women’s Network and the wider diversity and inclusion agenda has been the absolute highlight of my time at Oxford University Press. Being supported and pushed to make my ideas a reality not only makes me feel valued as an employee but has led me to making an impact and working towards making the company a better place to work. All it took was being given the space to do it.

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