UHR Awards 2020 Winners

Category: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion


WINNER: University of Bristol

Personal stories are a simple yet powerful way to engage staff in appreciating the value of difference and to create empathy to bring to life our vision of a truly inclusive workplace where staff can be their true authentic selves. ‘TheirStories’ uses storytelling as a vehicle for building workplace inclusion, improving employee engagement, challenging bias and developing a culture of belonging. Individuals from across the organisation are invited to share their personal stories to whatever degree they feel comfortable. This is helping to change our culture as staff connect with each other as individuals and as human beings, learning from and being inspired by the authentic life experiences of a diverse range of speakers. TheirStories requires our speakers – and in particular our senior leaders – to be vulnerable. There has been a great deal of research around what leaders gain by being vulnerable which in this context does not mean being weak or submissive. Rather, it means having the courage to be yourself, engaging with staff on a human level, building trust and engagement through authenticity. TheirStories is also an effective tool for training staff. Learning from the lived experiences of those from marginalised groups galvanises people to work harder to ensure that our workplace is welcoming and inclusive: a place where we can all belong.


JOINT RUNNERS UP: Northumbria University

At the heart of Northumbria University’s Strategy 2018 – 2023 is a recognition that our people play a crucial role in enabling the University to achieve its ambitions, as set out in our Strategic Objective ‘Exceptional people empowered to achieve shared ambitions’. The HR Team has developed several work streams within the HR Delivery Plan to help the University’s senior leaders and managers to create and promote a visibly inclusive environment. The Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity and Inclusion Scheme was one of many initiatives. It focuses on accelerating EDI momentum across the University by encouraging colleagues to be proactive and consider how they can make a difference, and then empowering them to do so with projects that interest them. It also fostered opportunities for colleagues to collaborate. All projects have individually and collectively contributed to creating an inclusive environment. It has increased the awareness and importance of EDI across the University and, more importantly, has created an interest and excitement by all involved in what is possible with some imagination, motivation, financial support and trust to deliver fantastic projects. 

JOINT RUNNERS UP: Teesside University

Team Teesside - LGBT+ Inclusion

Teesside University has taken a proactive approach to ensuring that LGBT+ staff and students feel supported and engaged as part of Team Teesside. HR and the LGBT focus group have worked in collaboration to deliver, an ongoing programme of events, ally scheme and changes to policy and practice in addition to one off activities that enhance LGBT+ inclusion across the University. Local partnerships have been established with organisations such as the police, NHS, colleges, football club and charities, to share best practice and enhance the learning and development offer. Key policy changes have included the use of gender neutral language throughout. At a senior level the commitment to LGBT+ inclusion is evident in the hands-on approach taken by the University’s LGBT executive champion, Juliet Amos. The combined, collaborative work at institutional level to embracing diversity and LGBT+ inclusion has led to greater awareness and acceptance of lesbian, gay, trans and non-binary staff and students at the University. The impact of the work is evident in the inclusive culture, and in numbers of staff willing to declare their sexual orientation at recruitment and whilst in employment, in addition to the external recognition through consistent upward progress in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. 

Shortlisted Nominee: University of Bradford

The University of Bradford has produced a comprehensive initiative to support employees and line managers with managing the menopause and hormonal changes in the workplace. This initiative includes information sessions and documentation to support workplace discussion, as well as supporting women to help manage their symptoms including preparing for discussions with their GPs. We have tailored our approach to be culturally sensitive and inclusive. 


Shortlisted Nominee: University of Brighton

In 2019 the University placed 72nd in the Stonewall Top 100 for our commitment to LGBT+ equality. We are incredibly proud to be part of Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers and to be recognised for our progress advancing LGBT+ equality. We are dedicated to nurturing a diverse community, including being a university of choice for LGBT+ staff and students and honouring the vibrant LGBT+ community within our region. This is the first time that the university has featured in the list and comes on the back of a programme of initiatives at the institution which has seen us increase 124 places from our last submission in 2017. This achievement was a recognition of our on-going commitment to LGBT+ equality, including extensive research and community engagement activities in this area, an active and impactful LGBT+ Staff Network Group and a systematic approach to this programme of work that has been put in place since our last submission. 


Shortlisted Nominee: University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow has been on a gender equality journey since 2013. The Public Sector Equality Duty, and the overall University strategy at that point, gave the organisation the launch pad to fully define and embed our gender equality priorities. Over the past six years the University has seen significant progress in relation to a wide range of areas, having a tangible, positive impact on both our staff and students. We have developed and delivered a range of ongoing activities to support gender equality, including our Early Career Development Programme (ECDP) to support early career academics  progress through the promotion system, Academic Returners Research Support, efforts to achieve a leadership gender balance and our participation in the Athena SWAN awards. We are also carrying through our gender work into our policy development space, having recently launched a new Carer Support Policy and re-launching our Flexible Working Policy, helping support staff – particularly women – in enabling them to develop and deliver in the work environment while undertaking commitments outside of work, and achieving a more positive work/life balance. 


Shortlisted Nominee: Solent University

 In 2017 we completed our first gender pay gap which was a median of 13.7%. Since then we have introduced initiatives to improve our Gender Pay Gap position. This has seen the median pay gap reducing to 12.3 in 2018 and 11.1 in 2019. We pride ourselves on the People Experience and equality and diversity is an important part of this and is supported by the Equality and Wellbeing Committee which is a joint committee for staff and students. We aspire to become an employer of choice and reducing the gender pay gap is an important part of this and has been addressed number of improvements as follows: 

  1. Promotion of Solent Values and Leadership Behaviours 
  1. Changes to our recruitment practices 
  1. Introduction of Career Pathways 
  1. Work to establish an employer brand and positive role models 
  1. Introduction of a Women Achievers Network.

We are proud that these initiatives have reduced our gender pay gap. These initiatives have had other positive benefits on the organisation as in a similar period we have had an increase in employee engagement scores 57% in 2015, rising to 59% in 2016 and 62% in 2018. This is against a backdrop of change within Higher Education and shows that the impact is wider than just an improved gender pay gap and has an impact on the whole organisation.  



Read about all the shortlisted nominees for the UHR Awards 2020 in other categories:

Business Effectiveness and Organisational Performance

Organisational Development and Culture Change

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Exceptional HR: our ‘Team of the Year’ category