Hannah is an inspirational advocate for equality, diversity and inclusion. Many of you will have had the joy and privilege of meeting them at workshops and events in Oxford. Here they share some of their career highlights and reflect on what motivates and challenges them.
Hannah’s long career at the University has led them most recently to join the MPLS ED&I team, with a portfolio for training and development. They facilitate numerous workshops on ED&I themes, such as Intersectional Allyship, Anti-racist Allyship, Effective Bystander Interventions, Supporting Neurodivergent Staff and Supporting Disabled Staff. They also work closely with MPLS departments, supporting them with ED&I related pieces of work as well as broader pieces of organisational development.
Hannah spent 20 years working with People and Organisational Development (originally known as the Institute for the Advancement of University Learning and then the more snappily titled Oxford Learning Institute) latterly working as an Organisational Development Consultant supporting MPLS.
Hannah enjoys all aspects of their new role: “I love my team, and I love working in an area I am so passionate about and I love the feeling of making a difference. It is a privilege to work in a division that is really committed to making changes and prioritising ED&I. It means a lot to me that I am able to bring my whole self to work and that this is encouraged, supported and appreciated.”
This personal experience very much informs and motivates Hannah’s ED&I work. Although not everyone likes labels, Hannah is proud of theirs and has collected quite a few! “I have been disabled since I was aged 11. I have since acquired some other disabilities. I added Queer to my set of labels many moons ago. In 2021 I added Autistic (just after my 41st Birthday) and non-binary. I think the addition of labels shows that our identities continue to develop.
“There is still a lot of stigma and unhelpful stereotyping around in relation to all sorts of identities, but in particular non-visible disabilities. I hope that by being open about who I am and how my ‘labels’ manifest in the workplace I can encourage others to open up about who they are. And to feel confident asking for adjustments in the workplace.”
In 2020, Hannah was deservedly recognised for their diversity work, winning Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity Awards in two categories: Champion or Role Model and in the Inclusive Culture category for the LGBT+ Role Models and LGBT+ Allies workshops they facilitate on behalf of the EDU.
Hannah’s other career highlight is their work with students who have experienced recent or historic sexual abuse: “In 2018 I received some specialist training and joined the newly formed Sexual Violence Support Service (within Student Welfare and Support Services), as a Specialist Advisor. It’s not an easy area to work in, but it is hugely rewarding. Being able to provide students with a space where they are listened to, respectfully, without judgement is an invaluable thing to be able to offer.”
Although rewarding, Hannah acknowledges that working in ED&I can be challenging on a personal level. “It is an emotive area of work; it can be hard hearing about and indeed experiencing first-hand some of the ongoing challenges people face. I feel hugely honoured that people feel able to share their experiences with me, but I’ve also learned that I have to manage and mitigate against the impact it has.”
To help deal with this, Hannah works with a metaphor which helps them enormously: “I proactively think about my resilience bucket! The levels go up and down, and that’s normal, but I have learned to really pay attention to signs in myself that my levels may be dropping too low. I think about how I can top it up. Different things will work for different people, but some of the things that top mine up are: time in nature, watching the birds come to the feeders in the garden, listening to them chattering to one another and spending time with my dog Essie.”
Immersing themselves in the natural world is Hannah’s sanctuary outside of work. “Essie means I have the perfect excuse to go out in literally ALL weathers, every day of the year and find solace in nature. It helps to keep me grounded. I’m also an avid reader and love losing myself in a good book.”
For more information about Hannah’s work in MPLS, see their training programme.