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Parliamentary group hears from University of Sussex on employee networks

Alison Field (second left on the panel) represented Sussex at the Women and Work APPG in July 2019.

A cross-party group of MPs and Peers has heard from the University of Sussex about the impact of staff networks at Sussex.

This year the Women and Work All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), which is supported by a number of organisations including the University of Sussex, is examining how intersectionalities affect a person’s experiences of employment.

The latest meeting of the group on Tuesday (9 July) looked at the importance of staff networks in the workplace.

Extensive evidence shows that these networks (also known as “affinity networks”) improve recruitment and retention of under-represented groups by offering them opportunities for mentoring and support, in an environment where they may be in the minority.

There are currently four such employee networks at Sussex:

  • LGBT+ Staff Network, for all staff and PhD students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex or asexual
  • TransNonbinary Staff Network, for all staff or postgraduates who identify as transnonbinary 
  • BAME Staff Network, for all staff who define themselves as belonging to a minority ethnic group
  • Staff Disability Network, for all staff who have a disability.

Full details are available via the University’s EDI Unit.

Chichester MP Gillian Keegan, who chaired this week’s APPG discussion, introduced Alison Field, Senior Communications Manager and a founding member of the LGBT+ Staff Network at Sussex.

Alison explained that employee networks can support staff in three main ways:

  • through peer-to-peer support, providing a space for staff to spend time with people who understand their experiences
  • by raising awareness and improving visibility
  • by acting as a critical voice, for example by scrutinising the University’s policies and processes and feeding back any concerns.

She said that networks usually come from the grassroots, where a need is felt, but that resource and leadership buy-in are also needed.

Joining Alison on the panel of speakers were Samuel Okafor, co-chair of a global diversity group at NatWest bank (part of RBS), and Paulette Mastin, chair of the Black Solicitors Network.

The Women and Work APPG was set up in 2016 in response to an increasing public and political focus on the role of women in the workforce and the acknowledgement from government that the UK economy underuses women’s talents and misses out on a “huge economic prize”.

Lenny Rolles, Head of Public Affairs, was also at this week’s meeting. He said: “The APPG has enabled the University to highlight research and share practice at Sussex, contributing to discussions related to government policy, and it provides a good opportunity to increase awareness of Sussex and the work we are undertaking in Parliament.”

The next APPG meeting in October will look at allies and advocates.



Posted on behalf of: Public Affairs
Last updated: Thursday, 11 July 2019


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