New Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

A key appointment has been announced in the team developing a strategic approach to further foster an inclusive environment at the University.

Dr Kendi Guantai is the new Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Dr Kendi Guantai, Associate Professor in the Marketing Department of Leeds University Business School (LUBS), has been appointed Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). She succeeds Professor Iyiola Solanke, who leaves Leeds at the end of the month for a new role at the University of Oxford.

Working in partnership with fellow EDI Dean, Professor Louise Bryant, and leadership team members, Louise Banahene, Linda Mortimer Pine, Caroline Ackroyd and Professor Cat Davies, Dr Guantai will be instrumental in driving forward our vision to create an equitable, inclusive and diverse environment at the University. Our aim is to see Leeds become a place where everyone, regardless of their background, feels like they belong and can achieve their full potential.

Dr Guantai said: “Stepping into this role feels like a coming together of all I’ve experienced, learnt, done and become.

“I’m both humbled and delighted to be taking up this new position as EDI Dean. I look forward to using my lived experience, academic and industry expertise, as well as my ongoing research in authentic self-expression and sense of belonging, to play an active role in promoting anti-discrimination and creating a sustainable, inclusive community at the University and beyond.”

Empowered to succeed

Following the publication of our EDI Framework 2020-25, one of the team’s main tasks has been to draw on the commitment and extensive work already underway across the University to develop a new EDI strategy. Due to be launched later this week, the strategy will feed in to everything we do at Leeds.

Equity, diversity and inclusion is at the heart of our University mission and is an inseparable component of our 2020-30 strategy. We know that enhancing this supports the wellbeing of our staff and students, and develops a sense of belonging for everyone studying or working at our University. This, in turn, will improve student outcomes; benefit the wellbeing of our entire community; enhance our research and societal impact; and help drive the sustainable global change we all desire.

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 in 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.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, said: “Equity, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our vision at Leeds, and I’m delighted that Kendi can continue the work Iyiola and Louise have begun in providing leadership for the EDI agenda across the University.

“As we prepare to launch our new EDI strategy, I know Kendi will bring her own insights and expertise to help us fully embrace the cultural change we desire across our community. I look forward to working closely with Kendi and Louise to create an inclusive environment for all.”

Vision for the future

Dr Guantai joined the Business School in 2005 as a postgraduate student, after seven years working with government and private enterprise in her home country of Kenya. 

Having completed her Masters in Advertising and Marketing – followed by her PhD at Leeds in 2011 – Dr Guantai took up a Senior Teaching Fellowship, where she leads postgraduate modules in corporate communication strategy, public relations and reputation management.

Dr Gauntai’s work has impact beyond the University, and she designs and delivers entrepreneurship courses on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Programme. This provides women around the world with business and management education, mentoring and networking, as well as access to capital.

Dr Guantai was also a supervisor on the Shaping 2040 project – a ground-breaking programme run by KPMG International, in collaboration with Leeds, to challenge some of the best and brightest among the next generation of leaders to provide a showcase for their vision of the future.

During her time at the University, Dr Guantai has held a number of positions with professional, academic and third sector organisations, including Chair of the International Association for Business Communicators (IABC), covering Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as co-founding trustee and former Chair of the Leeds African Communities Trust (LACT). She’s also the current Co-Chair of Leeds ACTS! (Academic Collaboration with the Third Sector) and Vice-Chair of the Chartered Association for Business School’s Race Equality Action Group.

‘Local Hero’

In 2020, Dr Guantai was recognised as a ‘Local Hero’ by Leeds City Council for ‘outstanding and tireless services within the local community during the COVID-19 pandemic’. She also received the faculty Leeds Partnership Award for Equality and Inclusion last year.

Professor Julia Bennell, Executive Dean of LUBS, said: “Kendi is a tremendous asset to the Business School, and she has been influential in my journey towards understanding the challenges and opportunities of striving for greater inclusion and belonging in our community. 

“In this new role as EDI Dean, I have every confidence she will help us to embed an authentic sense of belonging, and better consider and recognise the contributions of all members of our diverse Leeds community.”

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