New Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Two more key appointments have been announced for the team developing a strategic and sustainable approach to further foster an inclusive environment across the University.
Professors Iyiola Solanke and Louise Bryant are the University’s inaugural Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Professors Iyiola Solanke and Louise Bryant are the inaugural Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).
Working in partnership with the Interim Head of EDI, Shelagh Prosser, and fellow leadership team members, Louise Banahene and Linda Mortimer Pine, the new Deans will be instrumental in driving forward our vision to create an inclusive environment that attracts, develops and retains the best staff and students from all backgrounds, and from across the world, supporting them to achieve their ambitions and, in so doing, contributing to our institutional strategic aims.
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, said: “Equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our University mission, and I want to see Leeds become a place where everyone, regardless of their background, feels like they belong and can achieve their full potential. It’s only by doing this that we can ensure excellence across our research, education and societal impact.
“Louise and Iyiola are fantastic colleagues and I’m delighted they will now provide academic leadership for the EDI agenda across the University. I’m looking forward to working closely with them and Shelagh to develop a bespoke EDI strategy, in line with the University’s academic strategy and its key elements of culture, community and impact.”
Outstanding track record
Both Professor Solanke and Professor Bryant were recently honoured with Women of Achievement awards, recognising the significant contributions and impact they’ve made across the University and beyond.
Professor Solanke is Chair of EU Law and Social Justice within the Law School at Leeds, with an outstanding research track record in the fields of EU and anti-discrimination law. Alongside research, she’s an international advocate for anti-discrimination, diversity and equality, within and beyond the University, including being Chair of Leeds 11, the University’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff network, as well as a founder of the Temple Women’s Forum North and the Black Female Professors Forum.
She’s currently principal investigator on a £2.5 million UKRI-funded project looking at the impact of covid-19 and discrimination on practices of wellbeing and resilience in BAME families and communities in the UK.
Of her new role, Professor Solanke said: “Having worked at Leeds for 10 years, I’m delighted to have been appointed an inaugural Dean of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
“We have a challenging task ahead of us and I look forward to working with the VC, my co-Dean and all colleagues to tackle the virus of discrimination and ensure safety, wellbeing and belonging across campus and in all University activities.”
Professor Iyiola Solanke is an international advocate for anti-discrimination, diversity and equality, within and beyond the University
Making a real difference
Louise Bryant is a Professor in Psychological and Social Medicine, Associate Dean for EDI in the School of Medicine and the University’s Academic Lead for Gender Equality.
Professor Bryant’s inspirational leadership and drive played an integral role in the School of Medicine’s Gold Athena SWAN Award in 2019 – the first medical school in the UK to receive the accolade, which recognises progress towards gender equality within higher education. She also led the recent institutional Bronze Award submission with colleagues across the University.
Professor Bryant continues to raise the profile of equality, diversity and inclusion through her roles, and through research that challenges health inequalities experienced by people with a learning disability.
Professor Bryant said: “These new roles underline the VC’s commitment to equity and inclusion for all students and colleagues, and the valuing of diversity of thought and experience.
“As a Leeds graduate, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to work in an area of personal importance to me, and of such strategic importance to the University. There are many challenges within this area of work, but I’m confident there has never been a better time for us to meet them and to make a real difference.”
Professor Louise Bryant has continued to raise the profile of equality, diversity and inclusion through her roles
Working alongside the new Deans is the recently appointed Interim Head of EDI, Shelagh Prosser.
Her expertise as an EDI leader and change maker has been gained through a combination of senior in-house roles and independent consultancy commissions in the public, private and voluntary sectors. These have included Head of Inclusion and Wellbeing at the Bank of England; Associate Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust; and Deputy Director Equality and Inclusion at the Office of the Prime Minister.
Shelagh said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to help shape how the University moves forward on its EDI ambitions. I look forward to working with Iyiola, Louise and others to build on the brilliant work already underway across the University to advance EDI.”
Shelagh Prosser’s expertise as an EDI leader and change maker has been gained through a combination of senior roles
The way forward
Having launched our Equality and Inclusion Framework 2020-25, one of the team’s main tasks will be to draw on the superb commitment and work already underway across the University to develop a new EDI strategy, which will feed in to everything we do at Leeds.
This is grounded in the belief that the foundation of our global community is equality of opportunity, respect, fairness and inclusion. Indeed, these are vital enablers of the aspirations set out in our University Strategy 2020-30 – Universal Values, Global Change.
One of our five University values is inclusiveness. We believe every member of our community should be treated with dignity and mutual respect. We should all be part of a learning and working environment that’s free from barriers, regardless of age, caring responsibilities, disabilities, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity status, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
The EDI team will work closely with colleagues throughout the University to achieve these aims, especially the Equality and Inclusion Unit. Previously the Equality Policy Unit, the recent name change reflects its broadening remit and responsibilities, as well as its equality, diversity and inclusion agenda, which have expanded substantially in recent years.
Sense of belonging
As well as speaking to our core values, we know that enhancing equality and inclusion is advantageous on an individual and organisational level. It supports the wellbeing of our staff and students and improves the sense of belonging for everyone learning, studying or working at Leeds. This, in turn, encourages commitment, performance, creativity and innovation, strengthened by a wider range of perspectives and experiences contributing to key decision making.
By fully embracing and valuing equality and inclusion, we will ensure our long-term relevance in a fast-changing world, and our already considerable global reputation and impact will be further enhanced.
Our actions and commitments will need to be developed against the recognition that bias and discrimination have existed and still exist, both in society and throughout higher education. We acknowledge our own responsibilities in this regard. We will address these issues locally and also seek to provide leadership and best practice more widely across the sector.
Further reading | Vice-Chancellor’s blog
“It is clear global gender equality is still on the distant horizon. But to achieve it we must first cease the ubiquitous delusion that discrimination doesn’t exist.” Read more about the Vice-Chancellor’s views on the issue of equality in her recent blog – Gender discrimination: we need to see it to fight it.