Interview with Hayley Bennett

Posted in : HR Interview Series on 6 March 2020 Issues covered:

Hayley Bennett

Name: Hayley Bennett 

Position & Organisation: Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, Brook Graham from Pinsent Masons

Number of Employees: Brook Graham has 8 full time employees with dozens of associate consultants around the world.

Time in Post: 2 months

 Previous Job: Senior Diversity & Wellbeing Adviser at Business in the Community

Tell us about your business in a sentence

Brook Graham is a D&I consultancy partnering with businesses globally to unlock the commercial rewards of developing diverse and inclusive cultures. 

Give us an idea about your early life and career.

I first started working whilst I was still at university studying Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies. I began my career as an intern at Kick It Out, football's equality and inclusion organisation. It was my dream job – combining my love of football with my passion for equality. My first ever project was a women's mentoring event at Manchester City which paired mentors working in different roles within the football industry with mentees looking to break into non-playing roles in football.

What inspired you to work in D&I? 

My interest for D&I grew when I developed an online course in D&I awareness with Southampton Solent University. It was a six week course specifically for people working in the football industry. Because it was reflective and linked to the football organisations the candidates worked in, it had a huge impact and the feedback was amazing each time. I left the football world to get a broader understanding of D&I, with the idea of bringing the knowledge back in at a later time in my career. Since then I have changed my mind as I feel I am making a huge impact in the work I am doing, but I still find ways to champion inclusion in sport outside of my day job.

In your view what is the best thing an organisation can do to drive diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace?

The best thing an organisation can do is to look at fixing its policies, processes and culture. It can be really tempting to create a number of initiatives focusing around attracting and developing people but this has limited impact if barriers to inclusion exist.  

In your opinion how do you get diversity and inclusion to permeate throughout a company?

At Brook Graham, our approach to diversity and inclusion is to position it as a change management process. We partner with clients to apply change management principles to embed diversity and inclusion for our clients. We also focus our approach on driving the commercial benefits of building diverse and inclusive environments – this helps everyone to understand the role they have to play.

How does being a woman of colour inform your thinking around D&I?

Being a woman of colour definitely impacts the approaches I take to D&I work. My lived experience has proven to me that it is essential to take an intersectional approach to solving diversity and inclusion challenges. Intersectionality is a term Professor Kimberlé used to describe how different forms of discrimination can interact and overlap. It captures the idea that individuals may experience multiple forms of prejudice at the same time. This informs not only any analysis of employee data that I carry out, but also the recommendations and solutions I put forward to clients.

What made you create Nutmegs?

Nutmegs was set up in 2019 following a conversation I had with a friend who shares my passion for football.  We wanted to create connections between more women of colour and non-binary people of colour through football as we know the power that football has to do this. The issue is a lot of people are put off from football due to the culture not necessarily being inclusive or attractive to them. Mainstream venues are not fully inclusive spaces for enjoying the game so Nutmegs is a safe space where we prioritise people feeling comfortable and included.

How many women are now involved? What do you hope will happen?

We started off with eight of us watching a game in a hotel last March. Less than a year later we have had 3 other screenings and organised meet ups for members to come to live games at Wembley, Stamford Bridge and the London Stadium. We even made it to the FIFA Women's World Cup in France where we watched USA v Chile and took part in the FARE Ethnic Minority Women in Football roundtable made up of women from all across Europe.

After successfully collaborating with Chelsea FC and their LGBTQ+ Supporters group, Chelsea Pride, I hope that more professional clubs support us. My ultimate goal is to take Nutmegs international, and see if we can bring women of colour and non-binary people of colour from all over the world together at a major tournament.

Tell us more about ‘Spirit’ and any aims you have achieved.

I was fortunate to be a youth advisory panel member for Spirit of 2012, the London 2012 legacy charity. As someone who is from the epicentre of the 2012 games, I am passionate about recreating the buzz that communities across the country felt during that time. The youth advisory panel was empowered to make specific funding decisions on behalf of Spirit – one of these was extending funding for the Verbal Arts Centre in Northern Ireland to fund Reading Rooms: Beyond the Walls, a literacy project for young ex-offenders.

Everything in the news recently seems to point to racism in football being on the rise again. Do you have any thoughts on this and how we could make greater progress?

I am really interested in behavioural science and believe that it could be useful in understanding why we are seeing this level of abuse in football. This would allow us to examine why people behave how they do, and use evidence-based solutions to challenge this behaviour. At the moment, a lot of the work being done has not been proven to actually work.


Diversity & Inclusion - A Practical Guide

Hayley is speaking at Legal Island's event Diversity & Inclusion - A Practical Guide for Improving Your D&I Package in association with Pinsent Masons and Brook Graham on the 2 June at the Hilton Hotel, Belfast.

Find out more about this event:

This article is correct at 06/03/2020

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