Emma Dennis FICRS - Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Gowling WLG

How did you get into CRS, and why did you choose this profession?

I've had a mixed career and my first insight into working in Diversity and Inclusion came when I was helping develop some unconscious bias training from a technology perspective.  My career had previously been focused on learning technology up to that point and a role came up in the Diversity and Inclusion team at the firm I was working with at the time, so you could say the stars aligned.  I've always been interested in people and how we can ensure we get the best out everyone and ensure everyone has the chance to reach their full potential  Therefore when a full time role focused on this became available it was clear that this was the direction I wanted my career to take.    

Describe a typical day in your current role

I am sure this answer is typical of many who work in this field, but there is no typical day in my role.  It is such a varied and vast area of work that one day I could be hosting a parenting café with our people and another I could be preparing something for the board.   If I look at my role as a whole, my days include things like project planning, strategy development, facilitating conversations, producing training and guidance, coaching and mentoring and much much more.  I think that it what makes working in this area so unique, that there is so much variety in what I do. 

What do you need to do your job brilliantly? 

I think there are a number of different skills you need to be good in this field and I personally didn't come into it from a "typical" background so have no qualifications specific to CRS.  I think what has really helped me is creativity and curiosity.  You need to be curious about people, their stories, experiences, what makes us who we are and our biases and cultural references.  These skills help you understand why people behave in the way they do and what measures can be put in place to mitigate this.  I also think creativity is key, you need to be able to come up with new ideas and ways of doing things and engaging people. 


What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your role?

My favourite has to be the people and the different perspectives and knowledge they bring.  I spend a lot of time talking to our people and understanding their stories, concerns and ideas for what more we could be doing as a firm.  My least favourite part is that progress is slow.  There is not a magic bullet for making firms diverse and inclusive; it takes hundreds of actions to see change happen and unfortunately change doesn't happen overnight.  This however is offset by the passion and dedication of our leadership and people and knowing that we are all working towards the same goal.     


What is the most challenging part of your role?

I personally find it most challenging that there is so much to do and I want to do it all now.  I don't think I've ever had a role where my to do list consistently grows so much.  It's always a balancing act to prioritise where to focus energy at specific times and this inevitably leaves you with the feeling that you should be doing more.  However when you see the impact your work is having on the experiences of individuals within the business it makes all the juggling worth it.  


What do you think are the most important skills for working in CRS?

Number one would have to be perseverance.  As I mentioned before progress can be slow and there can be set backs on the way, so you need to be really good at knowing you are in this for the long haul and that at times you might need to dust yourself off and keep going.  I also think you need to be good with people.  Fundamentally diversity and inclusion is about people, whether that's enabling people to bring their whole selves to work or breaking down barriers others are putting in the way of inclusion.  A lot of this is done by talking to and understanding people, so you need the skills to have open and honest conversations.

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