• Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

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North East diversity experts share lessons to boost businesses

North East diversity experts are coming together to share how they are helping change the workplace in a new programme aimed at helping more companies reap the benefits.

The Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Management Programme has been developed by north east based 50:50 Future. A range of leaders will be sharing insights from the telecoms, construction, and higher education sectors, including BT Openreach and engineering consultancy Cundalls.

Jill Newman is a Senior HR Business Partner at BT Openreach, among her responsibilities is connecting with 14,000 field engineers across the UK to engage and involve them in diversity and inclusion.

Jill says her previous experience in male dominated sectors like the police has helped, but what has made a massive difference in Openreach has been the commitment and buy-in of the executive leadership to D&I.

“Currently D&I is genuinely top of the agenda for us,” says Jill. “The focus of the business is on improving every aspect of it, from recruitment to communications, and there is very visible leadership from the top on all the issues. Leaders sometimes don’t realise what a huge influence they have on hearts and minds, and they are critical to D&I being seen as something essential for everyone, not just a tick box exercise or legal requirements.

“We have trained our managers to be able to deliver D&I training to colleagues in the field and what’s been most effective has been the way that’s been delivered – it’s real and authentic, and all about being inclusive, it’s something that touches everyone.”

Kieran Thompson, Head of Talent, Diversity, and Inclusion at Cundall, is also one of the experts on the 50:50 programme. Kieran says, “There is this idea that it is incredibly difficult to get senior leaders to endorse a D&I strategy. I’m not sure how true this is. Getting leaders to endorse an idea rooted in fairness and equality is relatively easy. The real challenge comes when they are asked to make the effort to change how they behave and communicate every day. To respond to this, we created a targeted programme structured around the principles of inclusive leadership. This programme is developing confidence among our leadership team to understand, discuss, and enact these principles.”

“We have also taken a bottom-up approach through our internal communities. We have networks created and run by staff, focused on gender, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ and neuro-inclusion. They each have a budget, set their own agendas – and also get a voice at the top table, so have influenced how we do things.”

The Leadership Management Programme has been developed by north east D&I training experts 50:50 Future, run by Lyndsey Britton-Lee and Lynsey Harbottle. The online only programme is aimed at HR professionals to gain the confidence and expertise to champion D&I in their organisation, taking away essential tools and resources to do so.

There are a limited number of places left for HR professionals and those with a D&I remit to join the programme, for more information and to sign up go to

Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Programme