Becky Slack is the co-founder and editorial director of LEAD: Leadership for Equality and Diversity. She is an experienced editor and journalist with expertise in business, charity, diversity and leadership. She gives us some insight into what members and readers of LEAD can expect…
I grew up in an ex-mining community in Derbyshire. My school was basically a wooden shed on concrete stilts that, rumour had it, would sink an inch each year due to subsidence from the old mine shaft underneath. Despite the lack of opportunity in the area (it was assumed most kids would go and work in one of the local factories), my parents always instilled in me that if I put the hard work in I could be anything I wanted to be. The idea that I couldn’t do something because I was female was never really something I came across until I entered the workforce.
I always wanted to be a journalist. When I was a kid, I used to cut up old leaflets and recipe books and stick them back together to make magazines, and according to my school Record of Achievement that I found in a dusty corner of the loft recently, I wanted to “investigate all the bad things that are happening in the world and write about them so that people can be aware and do something about it”.
So, you can imagine my disappointment when my careers advisor told me that “girls from this town aren’t journalists. Have you thought about being a nurse or a teacher instead?” Nursing and teaching are admirable professions but that wasn’t what I wanted to do. As it happens, I’ve ended up having a really wonderful and varied career in the media: I’ve worked in TV and radio production, I’ve raised funds for good causes (another way to help people do something about all those ‘bad things’ I wrote about as a teenager) and I’ve run a successful communications agency (indeed I still do), which, among other things, organised the Women’s Equality Party’s first ever party conference in November last year.
And, despite my careers advisor’s expectations, I became a journalist. I’ve written and edited for the Guardian, New Statesman, Independent, Evening Standard, a handful of women’s lifestyle publications and several trade magazines focused on charities and the public sector. I’m also a published author. I would love to go back and find that teacher and show her a little of what I’ve been up to.
I’m passionate about people being given the opportunity to fulfil their potential, no matter what their background. From the lack of aspiration of my careers advisor to the non-existent network of influential contacts I had when first starting out, I know that my class means I’ve had to work much harder to progress in my career than others from more privileged backgounds would have had to do. I also know that my gender has had an impact.
From sexual harassment, to having my knowledge and experience disregarded by older male bosses, to the countless times that I have been interrupted and talked over by male colleagues, there are many ways in which I have been at a disadvantage because I am a woman.
I don’t pretend to have experienced the same challenges as a black person, as a disabled person… But I can empathise, and I can use my skills to try and improve the situation.
LEAD: Leadership for Equality and Diversity aims to be a catalyst for change. We know that there is lots of progress being made towards more diverse and inclusive workplaces, but it is frustratingly slow. We know there are loads of great success stories within companies, the NHS, schools, charities, government bodies and more that need to be celebrated. We want to shine a light on best practice and give organisations and individuals the tools they need to accelerate diversity further and faster.
Members and readers of LEAD can expect us to provide them with expert opinion and analysis from people with first-hand experience; stories of both success and failure from the individuals and organisations that are paving the way to change in Britain and across the world; plus loads of practical information, case studies and support designed to help leaders be the best they possibly can be. In the last few weeks, we’ve had a glimpse of just some of the really excellent work that is taking place and know that we will have no shortage of interesting, informative content. Indeed, the challenge will be finding the time to fit it all in!
If you have a story you want to share about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, see here for how to contribute to LEAD.