National Inclusion Week has never been more poignant than it is this year, with greater traction and awareness of the inequalities in our society and workplaces.
As I reflect on what inclusion means to me, I think back to the opportunities I’ve had to drive change and raise awareness with the people around me. While in my personal life I’ve always had the opportunity to talk about diversity and inclusion openly with my friends and family, it has always been important to me that I can continue these discussions at work.
As a young enthusiastic graduate at Centrica, it didn’t take me long to seek out opportunities where I could help make a difference, including joining the Women’s Network, LGBTQ+ committee and supporting the Ethnicity Network.
The mentoring experience
More recently I’ve had the opportunity to take part in a reverse mentoring programme, partnering up with the CEO of Centrica Storage, Greg Mckenna, to mentor on my experiences and thoughts on making Centrica more inclusive.
I’ve shared my experiences both inside and outside of work, including what I’ve learnt from being part of networks which have given me huge amount of insight into the challenges others face. We’ve talked about how we can be more inclusive as an organisation, what training our people could do to be more understanding of others, and what action really needs to be taken for everyone to feel included.
Some of my peers have had really powerful conversations around imposter syndrome, where “an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Many people who feel that they are a minority in a team can suffer from imposter syndrome, due to their lack of confidence perhaps as a result of their team not making a conscious effort to be more inclusive. It is essential to be able to have open conversations about these challenges that people have faced, not only to acknowledge their struggle but to educate others.
Having our voices heard
Being part of the reverse mentoring programme at Centrica has given us the opportunity to have our voices heard and drive positive change.
As a group of reverse mentors, we've helped to widen the discussion on inclusion, with both our mentees and our network. There have been group members who have been able to talk about race and how it feels to be someone who’s not white in a white dominated company, and the relief felt when being able to highlight how this can make an individual feel.
I have emphasised specifically to my mentee the challenges that can be faced by a female in a male dominated environment. There are also group members who have been neurologically diverse, explaining how they work and what management styles suit them.
Being an inclusive organisation means listening to people’s voices who may not always be shouting the loudest.
It also means acting upon those thoughts and feelings from these voices and acknowledging that change needs is needed. I would certainly recommend reverse mentoring to any organisation looking to make a difference to their inclusivity and culture.
We’ve certainly got some work to do at Centrica, but I am proud to be part of the conversation and helping to drive change.