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Welcome to our Diversity Diary

I’m Nicky, I’ve worked in the People and Culture department of ISS UK since 2004 in a variety of different guises but some of you will know me as one of the Equality and Diversity trainers. I have been asked to share a monthly diary on a diversity topic that will engage, support and start conversations to make a positive impact on the ISS culture
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion impacts on every area of our life, not least our working life, so I feel really privileged to have been asked to write a diary on a diversity topic each month that will engage, support and start conversations.

We welcome your feedback so please do make contact via if you have any comments.

Thanks for reading.

This month's Diversity Diary surrounds International Men's Day (IMD), which is an annual event that takes place on 19 November to celebrate the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities, promote gender equality, highlight positive role models and raise awareness of men’s well-being and discrimination against men and boys.

On this day I wanted to share with you the story of a role model who really made me think about men’s wellness earlier in the year. 

Self-Told Story – Alli Abayomi, Financial Systems Analyst

Alli-Grad-300I contacted Nicky earlier this year because I really wanted to talk about my mum. I was an only child so my parents and especially my mum were really important to me. 

My mum was so quiet and reserved that my friends and I would often forget that she was there and talk utterly freely in front of her in a way that I could never imagine doing in my friends’ homes. We boys would often realise too late to stop or take back our inappropriateness and would then self-consciously joke about it afterwards but she never used any of it against us. She never fell out with anyone, but just quietly went about her own business.   

My mum was quite liberal and I could gently manipulate her, so when I was hell bent on moving to the UK from Nigeria after university my mum brought me the flight ticket even though she cried at the airport. 
I settled in the UK, met my wife and am raising my own family here but we visit Nigeria regularly. My ‘outpouring of pure love’ parenting style is very much influenced by my mum and history is being repeated in the sense that I would say that my two children have me wrapped around their cherished little fingers. Guess where we go for lunch when I’m in charge? 
Alli-Mum-300In 2014 my mum had a successful operation for cervical cancer, after which she would go for checkups every six months and we allowed ourselves to breathe a little easier as each year slipped by. 

Three years later, I’d travelled home to Nigeria in March and was planning to go back again at the end of the year but then on Father’s Day in June, I received news that my mum had fallen into a coma and was told that I might need to make arrangements to travel soon, so I moved my travel plans forward. 

Obviously I knew that she was sick but I had no idea how ill she had become because my dad downplayed her sickness and told the family not to tell me either so as not to worry me. It wasn’t until my uncle contacted me and was very obviously and audibly shocked that I wasn’t visiting sooner that I knew how grave the situation was. I totally understand my dad’s reasons for not telling me; he knows that I am a worrier like my mum and that I would carry a burden of helplessness that I was thousands of miles away even though there was nothing that I could actually do to help even if I were there. 

Alli-and-Kids-300A fortnight before I was due to travel, my seven year old daughter was being unusually slow at getting ready for school and out of nowhere she said, ‘Daddy, when are we going to Nigeria?’ We didn’t have time for chit chat so I hurried her along without answering and as we left the house my sister in law’s car pulled up outside. She had come to break the news to me in person that my beloved mum had gone which made me feel as though my heart was bleeding. 

I called work, was told not to come in and to forget my To Do list and a message was sent around for people not to contact me about work.  However, I couldn’t realistically travel any earlier than had been planned so Mum’s funeral waited for me and I was back in work two days later. 

My manager, Eustace sat me down and told me that I didn’t need to be at work but honestly, sitting at home would have made me depressed, my preference was to be out and about and working until I could travel home and I was relieved that this was accepted and honoured. 

My experience is that family life and time outside of work is really valued at ISS and as I packed away on the Friday before I was due to travel, Eustace asked me to leave my laptop and phone behind because he knows me well enough to know that I would be tempted not to switch off whilst I was away, even in the circumstances. It was a real comfort to me that  my colleague, Joanne Stevens messaged me on the day of the burial and said I know today is going to be very emotional for you but just know my prayers and thoughts are with you and your family. 

My dad is not usually an emotional man but he told me ‘you’re all I’ve got now’ and I know that we have to be there for each other like never before.  My dad and I now talk every other day and he send me prayers on WhatsApp every day. They sit there waiting for me to wake up and I know that he is thinking of me and sending me his blessings.  

On Mum’s birthday I would always stay awake so that I was the first person to text her but this year I just sat and cried and as the one year anniversary of her death approached, I just felt a strong need to talk about her and her love and selflessness – even in illness and death, she and Dad put me first.  

It’s been just over a year now. I am thankful that Mum attended my wedding, met her grandchildren and lived a happy and fulfilled life. My strong faith tells me that she has gone to rest in a better place but the scar of not being able to hear my mum’s voice anymore remains really raw. 
Recently I argued with my dad and was seriously vexed with him and I mean seriously vexed. I sat in front of my kid’s school seething for five minutes and then swallowed my pride, called him and made peace. One thing that Mum’s passing has taught me is to continually show your love to and make time for the people you love, as you never know if today will be your last chance. 

It’s good to talk

I wanted to honour Alli as a wonderful role model who is actively involved in raising his children with the same pure love that his mothers’ example provided and who felt able to come and talk to me about the intense love that he felt for her and his family and the grief that he was experiencing as the anniversary of his mum’s death approached. 

In doing so, Alli has rejected the societal expectation that men and boys should suppress their feelings, be perpetually strong and free of tears which is something to be truly celebrated given that this is believed to a contributing factor to the high rates of suicide amongst men.

Alli was really grateful that many of his colleagues took the time during his bereavement to ask how he was doing and give him the opportunity to talk and offer support, particularly when this came from people such as his Managing Director. 

Bereavement is something that we will sadly all experience and can be a key trigger for depression so on International Men’s Day and every day I hope that we all remember Alli’s example and that of his colleagues who didn’t shy away from asking him about his feelings and what support he might need.  We mustn’t forget to give men the opportunity to talk and express their feelings, fears and vulnerability too.  

What could you do to support, help, celebrate or honour the wonderful, inspirational men in your life?

The following organisations are available if you need additional help or support 

Talk about anything, any time

CALM - Campaign Against Living Miserably
Male suicide prevention charity

National Counselling Society

If you would like to discuss this or any diversity and inclusion topic further you can contact me: or you can contact

Thanks for reading. 


BHM-2018-blue-logo-150For thirty one years we have celebrated Black History Month in the month of October in the UK and with the Windrush generation very much on my mind and in the media, so for this month's Diversity Diary, I decided this year to seek out the stories of black employees who have long service at ISS and this took me to Homerton University Hospital in East London where I met Precious and Tony who kindly agreed to share their histories with us.

Precious-150Self-Told Story – Precious Wedderburn, Catering Supervisor

Mum and Dad had been living in England since the late 1950’s and I travelled with my sister from St Catherine, Jamaica to come and live with them when I was nine years old. 

My first memory was of the cold; it was snowing, freezing cold and my sister and I had travelled in little dresses with no coats. My mum of course brought coats with her to the airport but they didn’t seem to make much difference to our bodies which were used to the warm, Caribbean sunshine.  

Although I do not visit very often, I still think of Jamaica as home and remember the happy times living with my gran. My younger brother and sister who were born in the UK just don’t seem to have the same connection that our other sister and I have because of our childhood memories. 

So many of the Windrush generation worked in the NHS and my family were no exception.

Mum and Dad said that it was very hard to rent rooms when they first arrived to England because many landlords refused to rent to black families so what did they do? They saved hard from their jobs as Ward Orderly and Porter at Hackney Hospital and brought a big three storey house and had tenants themselves. I really hated that big cold house but I appreciated the home that we had together. 

Windrush-nurses-464There was nothing that my mum couldn’t do; she was so strong, loving and caring towards everybody and I miss her every day. She was my hero; she worked all of her life, looked after four children, kept the family together, made sure that we never went hungry and the bills were always paid. 

I would have liked to go into further education and be a secretary but I started working at 16 to help Mum out financially and I began working at Hackney Hospital when I was 18 years old and transferred two years later to the catering department where I have been ever since. 

I have worked directly for the NHS and for about five different contractors including twice for ISS at the hospital (which became Homerton University Hospital in the mid 1990’s) and I absolutely love my job, meeting people and seeing customers happy. Food is my passion; when I am cooking I put love into my food and I get to do that at work so I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I have been given opportunities to progress my career further but family has always come first and at 60 years old, as well as working full time and having high blood pressure and arthritis, I also look after my father who is 86 years old, completely blind and had a stroke ten years ago. The stroke affected him very badly, he couldn’t walk, move his left arm or leg or speak at all and was in hospital for almost a year before moving to a rehab centre for exercise and speech therapy. 

My motto in life is "after the storm there is always calm" and thankfully Dad is back at home now living with his brand new, much cherished great grandson who along with my children make up my absolute world.

Self-Told Story – Tony Small, Portering Supervisor 

Tony-Small-150My parents came to live work in the UK in 1962 and then sent for my siblings and I once they were in a position to provide a home for us to live in. I moved to North London from Barbados in the 1970’s as a nine year old, having travelled on the British Overseas Airlines Corporation (later to become British Airlines) with my brother and younger sister.

It was a transition I just could not understand, I arrived with no memories of Mum and Dad having gone from wide open fields and green grass to a place where every house looked like a factory to me and I was lost in a culture shock for about six months. 

I cried to go home to my gran and aunt every day and didn’t speak to anyone or make friends until I went to junior school and met my lifelong friend Brian Bovell who went on to become a well-known actor (starring in Love Actually and many British TV programmes including Hollyoaks). My mum and dad always seemed to be working so my friendships were extra important and as Brian had been born here, he taught me about UK life and helped me to adapt. 

Although it took me some time to adjust to them, my dad and mum were actually great and had a real ‘West Indian, proper English thing’ about them, my mum was a ‘real lady’. The community clubbed together to save and my parents who worked six days a week, were able to purchase homes for our family of seven sisters and two brothers and then help others to do the same – what could be more British than home ownership? They came to the UK in the 1960’s and made a life here in spite of the gross racism that they encountered but which my mum shielded us from. I now know that she was abused and spat at but at the time she would tell us that there is no such thing as racism, remind us that our great grandmother was Scottish and great grandfather was Irish and we were British. 

It seemed to me that black and white kids just grew up together and later we drank together and got into trouble together; believe it or not we would sneak out of school to go and take lessons in other schools like there were no borders between them.

Tony-as-a-young-man-150croppedMy life really started in senior school when I met incredibly interesting, great and ordinary people.  

I was under the wing of Bernie Grant for a while who went on to become a Labour Councillor for Haringey, I played football in the park with Laurie Cunningham who was one of the first black players to represent England and the first Englishman to play football for Real Madrid and we were neighbours with Lord Paul Boateng who became the first mixed race Cabinet Minister and Diane Abbot, the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons. 

I personally encountered racism that Mum had tried to hide from us, in my interactions with the police; we were never arrested because we hadn’t done anything wrong but instead they would take us to the park and give us a kicking which caused massive resentment. I lived around the corner from Cynthia Jarrett who died of heart failure during a failed police raid on her home which sparked the Broadwater Farm Estate riots. I wasn’t meant to be there that day and didn’t go to the police station with the others including Bernie Grant to voice our frustrations as I had other plans, but I ended up visiting a girlfriend on the estate, was trapped overnight and went to work the following day directly from the estate. 

Speaking of girlfriends, my seven sisters made sure that I always treated women well, I first met my wife when she was 16, we have been together for 35 years and the centre of our world is our 6 year old grandson Jaden. 

Every year we have a big family get together because family comes first but we were taught by our parents that everyone is family and respect goes a long way which is one of the things that I love about working at Homerton. 

There is a village mentality where everyone knows everyone’s first name, job titles aren’t important, the Chief Executive would have teas and coffees with me when I was a post room worker and whilst I am a supervisor, my philosophy is that am nothing without my team. 

Note from Nicky - why is Black History Month so important?

I have to confess that I am history geek which often means that I don’t always have an appreciation of how little many people know about black British history. 

We talk of the Windrush generation but many probably don’t know that our collective history includes black Romans, few people have heard of the Georgian’s Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho, Walter Tull from World War I, Learrie Constantine knighted in 1962 or the origins of the Notting Hill Carnival. 

You learned of Florence Nightingale. How about Mary Seacole? 

You’ve read about Rosa Parks and Montgomery, Alabama. How about the Bristol Bus Boycotts of 1963?

You will definitely know about Martin Luther King Junior and probably Malcolm X but what about Olive Morris and Darcus Howe? 

A twenty something year old friend of mine told me recently that they had not heard of Windrush prior to the recent immigration scandal which brought to my mind the well-known quote about history ‘you don’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been’ (I am singing it in my head so it’s definitely been a lyric as well as variations being used by Maya Angelou, President John F Kennedy, James Baldwin and apparently in the films Hitch, the Jazz Singer and Return of the Jedi). 

In the Windrush context, if you don’t know that the black British citizens of the Caribbean came to the UK to assist with the countries post war rebuilding efforts, at the behest of the government and made their lives and raised their families here in really difficult and very hostile circumstances then it is almost impossible to appreciate the disgrace of their recent treatment and make informed decisions about current political policies and how the future should be which is one key reason why Black History Month is so important.

Another can be found in the names I’ve provided in this diary. 

The list is specifically made up of people that I don’t consider to be especially obscure to try and highlight that in the UK we don’t always honestly and equally recognise or remember the valuable contributions and achievements of all members of our society and I challenge you to maybe find out a little bit more for yourself to provide context, true history and a fairer future path. 

If the names in my list don’t grab your fancy, how about Googling the stories of a couple of the people Tony grew up with or the Great British Achievers from below?


1. Diane Abbot
2. Dame Shirley Bassey 
3. Linton Kwesi Johnson 
4. Benjamin Zephaniah
5. Lewis Hamilton 
6. Ms Dynamite
7. Sir Lenny Henry
8. Sir Mo Farah 
9. Ian Wright 
10. Lennox Lewis 
11. Nicola Adams
12. Sir Trevor McDonald
13. Mary Seacole 
14. Linford Christie 
15. Kadena Cox

As it is Black History Month there are some great programmes on TV at the moment, lots of events around the country and David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History is a really great place to start if you like to read. 

It's good to talk

What do you think? 

If you would like to discuss this or any diversity and inclusion topic further you can contact me: or you can contact

Thanks for reading. 


Welcome to September’s Diversity Diary. This month's Diary is inspired by the United Nations' International Day of Older Persons which is celebrated annually on 1 October.

Ageing is something that we have all experienced, a thing that we will hopefully all continue to do for a very long time and eventually become an ‘older person’ one day. 

What exactly is an ‘older person’?

Well, that is entirely subjective. Did you know that research has shown that women are considered to be ‘older’ at a much younger age than men, whilst 15-24 year olds think that old age begins at 54, those in their 80’s think that the official start date of ‘old’ is 67 and your views of what is ‘old’ is impacted by the country you were raised or live in because of the differences in mortality rates and official retirement ages? 

With this is mind how do you go about asking a colleague to talk to you about older age without offending them? Turns out, I probably still don’t really know but thankfully Lindsay agreed to talk to me anyway! 

Self-Told Story - Lindsay Monksfield, Payroll Manager
I’m 62 years old, have worked for ISS for 19 years and when I received Nicky’s e mail asking me to talk to her about age I thought ‘you cheeky mare’. Then I read on and actually the primary focus of our discussion was my Dad who I’d spoken to Nicky about at lunchtime a few weeks ago, so I forgave her.   

LM-dad3When my mum was still alive my parent’s relationship was very traditional; she did all the cooking and cleaning whilst he did the gardening and DIY. Mum was then diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and spent the next three years getting Dad ready for independent living and teaching him all she knew in the kitchen so that he could look after himself after she passed and she did a pretty good job. 

My dad is now 86 years old and he still lives in his 4 bedroom house which he cleans himself, does all his own shopping, cooking and laundry. He also still drives (albeit not usually more than the 12 miles between his home and mine), tends an allotment and plays golf a couple of times a week. 

Dad has always been really active and healthy; he played table tennis to a high level for many years (a skill which he passed on to me), was secretary of a golf club prior to retirement, was a regular at the bowling green until his local club closed down and has always grown vegetables on his allotment at the end of the garden.

In 2014 he was very poorly with septicaemia which resulted in him being in intensive care and on life support for 5 weeks and what saved his life was that he was relatively fit. 

Since then he hasn’t been quite so active but he still plays golf a couple of times a week, usually with friends who are 20 years younger than him and he often still competes in mixed competitions although he uses his own golf buggy rather than walking round 18 holes. He is 86 after all. 

Dad was a management accountant so he is pretty tech savvy, he has a smart phone, IPad and laptop and helps out with the golf cards and competition results although like all of us he gets cross and impatient when things don’t happen as he expected them to.  He also does a couple of Sudoku puzzles most days and reads a lot. He is a regular at the library and on friendly terms with the staff who recommend and often save books for him.
Dad sometimes gets frustrated if he can’t do the things he used to do but he’s coped pretty well with ageing really. During the day he keeps busy with the allotment or golf, he sees his two great grandchildren at least once a fortnight and I see him twice a week but I know that since Mum died, the hardest thing for him is the evenings and being lonely. 

A few years ago my aunt had a sudden stroke and it was the small things that you just don’t think about in advance that caused the most hassle whilst she was poorly. She was in hospital from November until February and had a full £85 a month Sky package beaming to an empty house which they wouldn’t cancel without her instruction. In the end Dad got on his high horse and insisted on speaking to a senior person who would listen to what he was saying but it took all that time, a massive strop to sort out and was just one of a number of similar issues. As a result of this experience and Dad’s septicaemia, we have Power of Attorney in place so that we can act on Dad’s behalf if anything else happens to him. 

We haven’t really talked in detail about what we would do if he had another serious illness because there are so many ‘ifs, buts and maybes’. If it was just a case that he wasn’t able to cope on his own he would come and live with me as we still have the stair lift from when my husbands’ father came to live with us. But, if he needed round the clock care, my sister and I both work full time so neither of us would be in a position to look after him during the day right now. 

Dad wants to stay independent for as long as possible, fortunately longevity runs in our family and in another 4 years, I would like to go to part time hours or retire, so you never know, we could have three generations under one roof in a few years’ time as my youngest daughter still lives at home with no sign of moving out. 

Note from Nicky
I wanted to share what Lindsay had told me because her dad’s activity levels, interests and abilities reminded me that stereotypes of old age just aren’t necessarily true anymore and the conundrum of how to best care for elderly relatives stayed with me for many days after our original conversation.  

I know eighty year olds who are still travelling the world, over 4% of ISS employees in the UK are over the age of 65, it is estimated that up to a quarter of Britons are ‘unretiring’ and going back to paid work and we are increasingly working in intergenerational teams and with employees who are in the so called ‘sandwich generation’ because they care for their aging parents while supporting their own children. 

I had no idea that Lindsay was only 4 years from potential retirement or that she was a champion table tennis player but I do know that she gets lots of exercise taking her dogs to agility classes so I guess that she and her dad absolutely epitomise the George Bernard Shaw quote below: 
I don’t claim to have all the answers but here are some things that have been rattling round in my brain of late: 

  • How can I ensure that I am as active and playful as I can be physically and mentally for as long as possible? 
  • Should I be having a conversation with my parents and siblings about the future?
  • Should I simply be having more conversations with my folks? 
  • Could I do something to make an older person in my community feel less lonely?
  • Could I be more understanding about the quirks of other generations? 
  • Am I planning sufficiently for my own old age? 

It's good to talk

What do you think? 

If you would like to discuss this or any diversity and inclusion topic further you can contact me: or you can contact

For further information please see the Age UK website.
Thanks for reading. 



Welcome to August’s Diversity Diary. This month I am chatting to you about holidays and cuture in the countries we visit.  

It’s that wonderful time of the year when you are hopefully taking a break, spending time with loved ones, visiting new places, enjoying new experiences, recharging your batteries, making your way through your reading or ‘life admin / to do’ list and setting your resolutions for the remainder of the year (or is it just me that does the latter whilst I am on holiday?)

So many people I have spoken to recently have had some wonderful and inspirational travelling experiences so in honour of the season and our culture, I decided to talk to one of them. 

andrew-underwood-bike-ride-300Individual Self Told Story – Andrew Underwood, Head of Strategic Projects

I spent three weeks in Myanmar last October, which I wanted to visit because Myanmar is currently one of the least visited countries in Asia, but recently has started to open up and my wife and I try and travel to places that most people haven’t yet been to, in order to see the geography, learn the history and experience the culture of the country before it becomes a major tourist attraction. 

We are not inspired to visit places where everyone looks and dresses the same and eats the same food but instead we want to experience and learn from different cultures. 

You will probably have heard of Myanmar either from history books as Burma, a colony of Britain from 1824 until 1948 or because of the most recent refugee crisis involving the Rohingya people.

We visited the country at a time when the treatment of the stateless Rohingya Muslims was being heavily reported in the Western media and although it weighed on our minds we decided to undertake the trip as we know their economy needs whatever income it can get.  During our visit we were advised by our guides for our own safety not to raise the topic with Myanmar people. What we did manage to glean was that the Myanmar peoples’ love of Aung San Suu Kyi is unquestioning and whilst she is the figurehead of the country, she is no longer President and the military is still the main seat of power. This is really evident as you travel around and in one of the main citys – Yangon (formally Rangoon) – motorbikes (which are a main form of transportation elsewhere) were totally banned because a member of the military had been shot by someone during a ‘ride by’. 


We travelled for three days down the  River Irrawaddy,  which during the early mornings and late afternoons, as well as providing the primary route for  commuting, is also the main passage used to transport cargo of every shape and size from the north to south – all powered by ‘cast off’ Chinese Engines spewing out carbon monoxide and incessant noise. The experience reminded me of what the River Thames must have been like in the early 60s – having historical London evoked when you are thousands of miles from the capital and many years into the future is quite an experience. 

We did feel a British influence in the architecture of the country, especially in Yangon and Pyin Oo Lwin, which was a former British Hill Station 1,000 metres above sea level amongst the tea and coffee plantations and westernisation in technology; everyone including monks have iPhones and iPads and WiFi in the cities is better than at home, but one thing that we utterly loved was that the food was absolutely not westernised, even in Mandalay. 

One remaining challenge from the days of the British presence – their cars are mainly right hand drive, but they now drive on the right – which makes for good entertainment when overtaking.

I have a catering background and food is crucial to me during my travels, not just as a cultural experience but as something to take home with me. Everywhere we go we will return home and recreate the local dishes and the memories that come with them. 


On our travels we usually try to find the local food which is healthy and tasty and Myanmar, where the food was a ‘mixture of Indian, Thai and Chinese food with imagination’ was no exception. Meat is available, but as a predominantly Buddhist country, most food is centred around rice with vegetables, meat sauces and fresh water fish (from the rivers & lakes or ‘dried’) and my favourite dish was Tea Leaf Salad – a small dish of fermented tea leaves mixed with garlic, ginger, chillies and lime juice, garnished with crunchy garlic chips, toasted seeds, tomato wedges and the best peanuts I have ever tasted in my life.  Closely followed by the Deep Fried Cockroach!

I am a total but respectful atheist, but I loved visiting temples, pagodas and stupas; flying over the amazing fields of Bagan first thing in a morning was an experience I will never forget and I do think that the religions of a country drive a particular approach to life. I found the people I met in Myanmar to have inner peace, a lack of cynicism, happiness in the face of relative poverty and an overriding sense of community which included welcoming strangers, giving to others and a desire to be useful to each other and their community. 

In Myanmar they use all the resources they have available, their cows remain useful to the family for many years, broken things are repaired and there are limited plastic bags, but what they have they make them last forever.

There are also many imaginative ways of wrapping goods in newspaper or constructing a window from plastic bottle side, so as well as new tastes and food preparation techniques, what I always bring back with me from travelling is a genuine wonder as to why in the West we can’t survive with fewer things, use what we have better and if we did and we fostered a greater sense of community whether we would be happier.

Note from Nicky

When I was listening to Andrew, what struck me was how his experiences of travelling and my own are very similar but also, particularly towards the end of the conversation how his reflections in an utterly unprovoked way made me think about ISS’s sustainability and community ambitions which took me way beyond my usual ‘diversity and inclusion’ space. 

What resolutions do you make when you return home from your travels? 
What could you do today to recycle more waste or live and work more sustainably for the benefit of everyone?  

How could you get involved in a community project or give back to the community which you are a part of?

Will it make you happier? 

For more information please have a read of ThinkForward@ISS
It's good to talk

Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss this diary topic further or if you would be willing to share your experiences with ISS World. You can contact me on or you can contact

Thanks for reading. 



Welcome to July’s Diversity Diary. This month I am updating you about the many Pride activities which have been undertaken at ISS this July, including our historic first parade at Pride in London which at one stage had a wristband waiting list.  

Group-new-150I was asked earlier this year by a heterosexual, cis gender1 person whether Pride still has relevance in our society now that many of the laws that discriminated LGBT+ people have been repealed. Hasn’t equality been achieved? 

I was able to provide some examples from my friends’ experiences and from UK case law to demonstrate why I felt that discrimination still happens regardless of legislative improvements and which is why Pride remains meaningful to me. 

These included my best friend from university feeling unable for the first time in his working life to be out at work because he knew immediately that his new colleagues wouldn’t be OK with it and following this decision blatant and unchallenged anti-gay comments proved him right in his decision and he had a very unhappy few months. The case which I shared involved a transgender employee being harassed whilst working Primark by her being misgendered on various company documents, supervisors not calling her by her preferred name and laughing at her when corrected, colleagues saying said she had "a man's voice", making comments about her sexuality, calling her "evil" and "a joke" and telling an engineer there were no ladies in the female toilets even though they know that she was there.

If you are not actively involved with the LGBT+ community you may not be aware that one in five LGBT+ people have experienced hate crimes due to their sexuality, gender or identity; 19% of gay men and 35% of Lesbians surveyed are not out at work – this increases to 48% for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic LGBT employees, over three quarters of LGBT+ people don’t feel comfortable showing affection to their partner in public and 1 in 3 employers are 'less likely' to hire a transgender applicant. 

Living a life free from discrimination has yet to be achieved for everyone within the LGBT+ community and especially for people of colour and women and this is a reason that Pride in London decided their theme for 2018 would be #PrideMatters

Why did Pride 2018 matter to our employees?  

After our internal announcement that we were walking in the London parade for the first time I received several messages from people who weren’t able to attend but wanted to show their support. 

One really resonated and explains far better than I can why it is important for us to be involved in activities that demonstrate our inclusive culture to our current and potential employees, customers and the outside world generally: 

"I just wanted to drop an e-mail saying how happy it made me to read the email you sent about Pride. 

It’s truly comforting, reassuring, and actually quite touching to know how much people care about LGBT+ individuals. It has made me so pleased to know that I’m part of a company that truly does care about people such as myself, and that you will not stop until everyone is equal.

Once again, thank you so much – I can’t tell you how much it means to see this level of support."

Ian Traxler and Lisa Cornell who are part of the ISS Pride committee said this about their experience of attending Pride in London:

lisa-lexy-pride-matters-150Lisa – I am a gay woman who attended my last Pride parade 20 years ago and my first ISS Pride this month.  I am also Mum to my 19 year old daughter Lexy, who I was proud to walk with this year as she is truly my greatest ally and for whom this was also her first experience of London Pride. 

In primary school Lexy had no issues; in high school she felt that if people knew she had gay parents this would affect how they saw her, so my partner and I attended parents’ evenings separately to save her that potential conflict – she had to attend school daily, we didn’t. That all changed when she went to College and University and she felt ‘free’ to be open about her parents, but what I loved about our Pride day together was seeing Lexy engage with the crowd supporting us and really truly realise that there are allies all around us and that no-one who matters really cares about sexuality. 

I was lucky enough to talk to a lesbian couple (one of whom is an ISS employee) who are getting married later this year and want to have children, but were concerned about the impact it may have on them.  I was able to share my personal experiences with them and direct them to my wonderful daughter so that she could tell them from the horse’s mouth how life might be for their children and hopefully allay their fears. 

I made connections with people whom I would never have met but for Pride, colleagues shared their stories with me, I felt part of something big, part of the ISS team and I am really looking forward to attending Newcastle Pride with the great local ISS team there on 21 July 2018 which will be a smaller, more intimate experience that I think will more closely reflect my 20 year old Pride memories. 

One unexpected outcome of Pride in London was that Lexy had such a fabulous time, she has asked to come with me to Newcastle, which I of course welcome.  She has also now contacted her LGBT+ committee in her own workplace (a job she has only been in for 2 months) and is now attending Leeds Pride with her employer and really ramping up her involvement and allyship. 

What I want most for our LGBT+ colleagues – those who are out or are thinking of coming out or transitioning – is to know they have a home to go to, a safe haven and support which they can access to enable them to be themselves and comfortable in their workplace being exactly who they are – that is the wider purpose of Pride and why Pride Matters. 
pride-lollypop-150Ian – I transferred to ISS in 2004 and have 22 years continuous service. I worked at Buckingham Palace from the age of 17 years which was a very progressive and open environment so I have been out at work as a gay man since this time. 

I attended my first Pride parade in 1986 when things were very different for the LGBT+ community and the purpose of Pride was very much more about trying to get people to understand who we were and to demonstrate against laws like Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Section 28’ Local Government Act which barred local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’ and prevented schools from teaching that homosexuality could result in ‘acceptable family relationships’. We had specific reasons to march and things changed because we did.  

Today, Pride is much more about fun and inclusion although it is still has challenges to better include the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Transgender communities. For example this year I still heard and saw several people and organisation refer to it as ‘Gay Pride’ even though it was never just gay pride because trans people of colour were at the forefront of setting up the first Pride parades and I know that I need to be an ally to and fully include people who fall across the whole spectrum of sexual and gender identities that are reflected in the acronym of LGBTQIAP+2

I wanted to be actively involved in ISS’s Pride activities because I believe that to send a message that you can love whoever you fall in love with and be proud of who you are, is the right thing for the Company to do.  

It was very moving to be walking with the LGBT+ community of ISS, their allies3 and our competitors whom we have got to know via our involvement in the steering group of LGBT+ in FM, getting to know other people I would not have interacted with otherwise and to hear our name over the tannoy as we marched past. 

Being part of the first ISS Pride parade across the world in a company that I have worked in for many years gave me an enormous feeling of Pride.  
Krzysztof Dubicki, ISS Front of House told me this: 

It was my first ever Pride that I had a pleasure to attend as a marcher. 

I am very happy that ISS gave me this opportunity and from the moment I signed up for it I was really excited. 

A day before me, my partner and his sister were all pumped with the energy that I believe kept us going next day during the Pride Celebrating this amazing day with the person I love and with my colleagues meant a lot to me. It is important to carry on the legacy of the people who were and are still fighting for LGBT+ rights!

It is incredible that first London Pride took place in 1972 and 46 years later around one million people still honour the capital with their presence. 

I was lucky to have a supportive family who never treated me any differently because of my sexuality, and make my boyfriend so welcome in our family but to know that so many people still struggle to be themselves and that being LGBT+ in many countries is against the law makes me really sad. 

Events like Pride are really needed. It’s this one day that many of us can feel “normal” in the world when still many people think differently. I was proud to hold my partner’s hand during the march but I am not always that brave. This day gave me more courage and more will to fight against discrimination and hate on a daily basis. 

Seeing all these people waving at us and sharing our happiness, joy & freedom made me feel really special! There were so many companies marching among ours! We all felt like one big Family. Accepted, Beloved and Respected. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see what the real fun is! Marching in the Pride was one of the best experiences in my life. Thank you ISS! 

Lindsey Regan, an LGBT+ ally told me this: 

Pride Matters as it sends a message to individuals that no matter who you are, you are great! 

I felt that attending gave me a greater understanding of the challenges some people face and there was a fantastic feeling of unity and strength from the people I spoke and marched with. 

It is important for employers to attend Pride to add to the inclusive culture of the company. I can truly say that walking in the parade with my colleagues, representing our employer, made me feel so proud of ISS and the inclusive culture that we have created. 

ISS Pride 2018 

ISS Pride events have not just been limited to London.  We are planning to attend the Newcastle and Manchester parades and there is still time to get involved around the country, so do get in touch

Here is a quick round-up of the activities that have taken place and a powerful word from one of our CR Leaders, Gordon Johnston, Hairmyres:

Pride was something we wanted desperately to support since the CR team shared the idea with us but we were worried and nervous as we had never done it before and had no experience of what to do or how to approach it. So, we asked some employees who we thought might like to form a planning committee and unsurprisingly, they were very happy to be involved.  

Regardless of our fears of doing it wrong or offending people, we agreed to do some individual research, pull the information together, we pledged to ask lots of questions and learn and agreed to go for it regardless of our fears of making a mistake. 

Some of our colleagues who were part of the committee just wanted to have fun, others are openly gay but still feel they subdue their true feelings and for them there was great pleasure in seeing ISS as a company engaging with Pride. 

One colleague working at Hairmyres for over 20 years now feels fully supported and was delighted with being asked to be an advisor for our first ever Pride ideas. 

The management team all engaged in an online terminology quiz and honestly learned a lot from doing so, we decorated the Restaurant, wore bright colours and served colourful food to show visible support to Pride and we raised money with wristband and a guess the bear name. 

sunborn-double-150The Sunborn Yacht changed their logo, flew the rainbow flag and have introduced the gender neutral prefix of Mx as an ongoing option for gender non-binary guests. We believe that they are the first London hotel to offer this option.  


Birmingham-250Dublin-250Barclays-250SQB-250The Birmingham office held a fundraising event for Stonewall, the Dublin office raised money for BeLongTo, a charity supporting young LGBT+ people and the staff at South Quay and Velocity, Nomura, and Barclays held awareness raising, affinity events. 

Note from Nicky about hosting an event 

Our company culture is something that we all influence and two of our ThinkForward@ISS ambitions are 'building a diverse and inclusive culture' and 'recruiting from a broad talent pool which can partially be enabled by having and nurturing the former. 

Three days after we attended Pride in London, ISS UK and Ireland were presented with two awards by the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (enei) for the work that we all do to create an inclusive culture. 

It is massively important to acknowledge that a culture of ensuring that people feel respected as individuals cannot be achieved by any one department and every person at ISS has a part to play in this in the activities that we get involved in, the words we use, the behaviours we demonstrate, the questions that we ask, the jokes we call out and the kindness we show to each other. 

We can’t all be an expert in everything or please every member of our large and diverse community and nor can we expect to. 

Some people found the Stonewall quiz which Gordon used too basic, some LGBT+ colleagues don’t want to be involved in parades because marching is not their thing, others are very confident in their identity but don’t want to be involved in any Pride activities because their sexuality or gender identity is personal and private which is absolutely fine as long as it’s not our company culture that is making people afraid to be open and who they are.  

We can only do our best to create an environment that is as inclusive as it can be and the important things are to involve people from the community that you’re engaging with, listen carefully, do your research, be respectful, learn along the way and go for it. We didn’t have a perfect day at Pride in London (is there such a thing?), what we did have was a wonderful, fun, inspiring day where friendships were made and support networks facilitated and it was an overwhelmingly positive experience that made an impact far wider than simply to those who were present. 

pride-group-parade-150I encourage everyone to embrace the challenges and step out of your comfort zone like Gordon did, not just during Pride month and the LGBT+ community but in respect of all of the elements of our collective diversity.

Could you: 

start planning an event for Black History Month for October?  
consider holding an Interfaith panel discussion in November? 
suggest one thing that would make a difference to your disabled employees and visitors? 
make an extra effort to better include employees who don’t think or behave in the same way as you do? 
simply have a conversation with someone who you don’t usually engage with about their life?  

It's good to talk

Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss this diary topic further or if you would be willing to share your experiences with ISS World. You can contact me on or you can contact

Thanks for reading. 


1 A cis gender person is someone whose gender identity matches their anatomical gender at birth

2 *Lesbian, Gay, Gender non-binary, Gender fluid, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Agender, Pansexual +

3. Ally a (typically) straight and/or cis person who supports members of the LGBT+ community remembering that LGBT+ people also need to be Allies to others on the LGBT+ spectrum

Welcome to June’s Diversity Diary, which this month is focusing on the subject of Families and Flexible Working to coincide with Parents Day that was on 1 June and Father’s Day which was on 17 June 2018.

Fishing-150Flexible working isn’t just for people with families, employees with a disability might need flexible working as a reasonable adjustment, for example a person with Multiple Sclerosis or who has had a Stroke might benefit from working part time. 

Since June 2014 every employee with 26 weeks service or more has had the right to request flexible working regardless of the reason, the request could be to have more time for a hobby or pastime, to phase into retirement, for religious observance, to have more convenient travelling times or to care for a family member or someone they are responsible for, if you want to learn more about this. 

We think that through our working lifetime we all may need different levels of support, Wellbeing@ISS supports this thinking too. 

I remember a time, early in my career, when laptops and mobile phones didn’t exist, working from home was looked down upon by senior managers because you couldn’t possibly be working if they couldn’t see you, nobody in the legal profession or senior positions worked part time and you wouldn’t even try to get hold of people after 5.30pm because desks emptied at 5pm. 

Changes in legislation, demography and technology; the expectations of the workforce (Millennials are much more likely to expect to work flexibly); globalisation and customer demands have driven different ways and methods of working and as a result, flexible or agile working has become more common than ever before. 

Yet, whilst agile working has become much more normal and commonplace, I really struggled to find someone willing to share their story of flexible working with me. 

Many women that I have spoken to over the 13 months that I have been writing Diversity Diaries, have been reluctant to talk openly about their caring responsibilities because they don’t want there to be a negative impact on their career progression - they don’t want to be seen as a woman who might have childcare issues or isn’t committed to her career; one senior man I know really wanted to take several month’s Shared Parental Leave, but didn’t do so because he was newly promoted and felt that his boss wouldn’t support it and several men have said that caring for their elderly parents is a personal matter that they simply don’t feel comfortable publicising. 

Of course, people have a right to privacy and not to share their experiences but given that others have previously shared with us their stories of gender transition, cancer, religion, autism and sexual orientation; all of which are very personal, is this an indicator that as a society we have a way to go before flexibility stigma has been removed? 

If you feel like that there is stigma associated to how you are working, this diary is dedicated to you, the care giver, the flexible worker, the agile worker, let’s celebrate your way of working and be proud that we have an organisation that allows us to work in this way and if you are a leader reading this diary, may I encourage you to be an enabler of these people, let the person who leaves the office on time be celebrated, rather than the last person out of the office being celebrated, let the care givers drop their guilt and embrace their whole self and most importantly, let it be known that there is no stigma here. 

One person that was willing to speak to me about her experience was Mel Luff, who works in the UK Communications team. 

Individual Self Told Story - Mel Luff, Communications & Marketing Assistant

Mel-and-family-photo-150I’ve worked for ISS for 15 years and initially worked full-time in the Business Development Team. 

I have two sons who are now 19 and 12 and after my second son was born, I reduced my working hours to five per day and worked from 9am-2pm, five days a week. 

After about four years, my colleague was due to go on maternity leave and I was asked if I would consider working full-time again, but this time having a laptop so that I could work from home one day a week and have a more flexible start and finish time which I agreed to trial and here I am. I usually get into the office at 9.30 and am home at around 4.30 and I catch up on my e mails and work whilst I am travelling on my phone or after dinner and at the weekend. 

I was still part of the integrated business development team for a while and even though I was working the same hours as the rest of the team (often till 3am!), I did often feel guilty that I was not part of the in-office group ‘mania’ when we were working towards a bid deadline. 

I think perhaps I felt that I was leaving the others to cope in the office and ‘opting out’ – which was completely silly as I carried on working at home. 

I have to say that this was never driven by the team though, it was always my own internal reflections. And as time went on and we had less bids to actually print and more to just upload onto a client server, working at home was often the best way forwards as I could just get on with it!

On the flipside of this, I also felt guilty about not making every sports day and school trip (“Mummy, why can’t you come to the farm; why do I have to go with Rosie’s mummy?”) and the dynamics at home took a while to settle, because although I work full time, being at home from 4.30 means I naturally end up doing the majority of the cooking and children taxi-ing as my husband gets home much later than me. 

I still have to occasionally point out that I am working from home not just 'at home' when he asks me to do something! I should stress however that my husband is completely supportive of my working arrangement and does more than his fair share of jobs at home!

mel-and-gemma1-150v2I couldn’t wish for a better role than the one I currently have and whilst we are always super busy my manager (Gemma Williams) is really keen to ensure that I have a good work/life balance. If I hadn’t been able to work flexibly, ISS would have lost my experience and dedication at a time when I had lots more to offer and give. 

Why does removing flexibility stigma matter?

A 2016 survey found that flexibility was the most desired benefit that is 81% of respondents would look for before joining a new company. Our business will not win the ‘war for talent’ caused by the aging population, increasing job mobility and a shrinking labour force which is predicted to intensify post-Brexit, if we don’t provide the benefits that talented people are looking for. 

We all work in this culture and we must intentionally create an environment where we all agree to remove the stigma, let’s agree now that we are going to drop self-imposed guilt and celebrate an empowered working relationship, where we can openly discuss what flexibility means to us. 

If you need more convincing, the business benefit is that 87% of employees and a massive 92% of employers believe that flexible workers are just as, or more, productive than those who work so called ‘regular’ hours and other business and individual benefits include improved employee retention, reduced recruitment costs, increased morale and engagement and happier, less stressed employees, which sounds like a fantastic space to be in, to me.

Maybe there isn't a stigma?

Could it be that there actually isn’t actually a stigma about flexible working? 

Mel has highlighted that her guilt was internally driven and I have also experienced this. 

I certainly work in an agile way even though I have never needed to make a formal flexible working request. I work from home or a different location to my main office at least once a week, I start and finish early or late when the needs of the business or my home commitments dictate and whilst you will often receive an email from me ‘out of hours’, I try my hardest and am encouraged to take ‘time back’ too. This pattern has taken many years to get used to this and sometimes I still have the urge to be constantly present, ‘on’ or available and feel that I need to give more than I take but this is honestly and truly more of my own doing than that of my manager. 

Philip-Leigh-150v2Since moving to Velocity Philip Leigh, COO, has encouraged his team in the office to plan their work to suit both the needs of the business and their own personal needs. 

“I have seen many people starting early in the morning and finishing earlier in the afternoon. If that creates a better work life balance it has to be a good thing for everyone.” 

Herein lies the challenge for us all then!

If you’re being productive and working hard, take your time back and push any guilty feelings to one side. 

We should all talk about it more, tell people when we are working flexibly and make noise about not being available. If more of us do so maybe the self-imposed stigma will lessen. 

Consider the benefits to our people, our overall business and on ourselves of working in less traditional ways, enable these and reap the benefits.

It's good to talk

Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss this diary topic further or if you would be willing to share your experiences with ISS World. You can contact me on or you can contact

Thanks for reading. 


Welcome to May's Diversity Diary, which this month is focusing on the subject of Culture.

Today is the United Nations World Day for Cultural Diversity and I am beyond delighted to be writing this diary about culture. 

Not only does the word feature twice in my opening paragraph signalling that it’s very important to my working life, I am also utterly fascinated by the different cultures of the world, the diversity of culture within regions, within countries and how culture can change and develop over time. 

When I am visiting an overseas country, the first thing I do as part of my itinerary planning (holidaying with me is not a relaxed affair) is to find out what the traditional food and drink is and where I can go to sample the most authentic of it, followed by downloading local music, buying a novel written by an author who originates from there and watching You Tube videos of how to say hello, please and thank you, all of which are small steps towards discovering the overall culture of my destination.
One of the things that I love about ISS UK and Ireland is we have employees from 172 nations within our workforce so, if you had the time, you in theory could speak to a person who originates from a different country to you every two days for a whole year. How awesome is that?
Whilst that is something I may try and do one day; I needed to narrow it down a little for May 2018, so I looked at the top ten countries of origin of our employees1, chose the top ones within five different areas of the world and found that all were represented within our team at EY. We set a date and spent the most interesting and inspiring afternoon, eating scones and clotted cream and talking about some of the aspects of culture2 from our home nations. 
"Do you spread the cream and jam the Cornish or Devonshire way?"

Let me introduce and thank our wonderful contributors: 

  • Agnes Owusu is originally from Ghana, works in Food Services and moved to Poplar, East London with her previously estranged father when she was 14 years old
  • Geanina Scornea is from the capital city of Romania, has worked in hospitality since she was 14 and feels ‘lucky and blessed’ to have lived in England for 5 years 
  • Hugo Gil was  born in Colombia, works in the Space Team and has lived in the UK since he was three years old 
  • Kamaldeep Sandhu is from Punjab in North India, works in security and has been in London for 7.5 years 
  • Orlando Rosario was born in Portugal and has lived in England for 3.5 years and works in Food Services. Orlando’s parents are from Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony off the off the coast of Africa 
  • I was born in a mining town in the Midlands, England but I have considered myself a Londoner since 2002

As food is one of my favourite things in the world, we began the session by breaking bread / scones together, discussing the ‘cream or jam first’ debate (in Devon they spread the cream on the scone first and vice versa in Cornwall) and talking all things food.
Agnes: You will probably have heard of our national dish which is Jollof rice; a one-pot rice dish made with onions, tomatoes, chilies, garlic, beef, goat meat or chicken that’s that is very popular in many West African countries, but may not be aware that there is a strong farming tradition in Ghana. People live alongside their chicken, goats and other livestock and we produce the majority of the cocoa that is used in European countries. Apart from yams, fruit and vegetables were limited when I was growing up.
Geanina: In Romania, even in the city we have small gardens where we grow strawberries and salads which are eaten with lots of barbequed meat including Mititei – a herby lamb, beef and pork sausage without skin. We BBQ every weekend and if it’s raining, we BBQ under umbrellas and I would say that our traditional diet is very healthy with not much fried food, lots of fruit, natural foods, free range eggs and we still eat more home cooked than restaurant food. Our festival dish (and the dish I get cooked every time I go home) is called Sarmale which is a baked pork, onion and rice dish served with picked cabbage. 

Hugo:  Colombia is a farming country and you eat what you grow, especially root vegetables and potatoes. Our cuisine is heavily influenced by Spain and the Caribbean and we love vegetables, rice, chicken, stews and fried food. The national dish is called Bandeja paisa includes grilled steak (either ground or whole), chicharrón (fried pork rind), red beans, rice, chorizo, a fried egg, an arepa (corncake) and is usually accompanied by sweet fried plantains and a slice of avocado.

Kamaldeep: India and therefore the food of India is very multicultural and diverse. I was raised in a traditional farming village where we had our own dairy and poultry farm; we produced all of our own vegetables, rice, milk, butter and cream and the only things we brought from the town was spices. Our diet was mostly vegetarian but because we did a lot of manual work it was highly calorific. In the coastal areas they would eat mostly fish and rice in the past but diets are more mixed and hybrid now. 

Orlando:  In Portugal we love fish and our main dish is sardines. On every menu in Lisbon you will find sardine, octopus and sword fish served with potato which we love whether it comes mashed, boiled or fried. In the north, they really like pork and beef and you will always find plenty of cakes everywhere, especially pastéis de nata (custard tarts). 

Nicky: when I think of British food I think of fish and chips at the seaside; pie, mash and mushy peas with gravy because I wasn’t introduced to liquor (parsley sauce) until I moved to South East London; roast beef with Yorkshire pudding on Sundays; roast lamb at Easter, and Indian curry – the spicier, the better with lager. Dessert wise spotted dick, treacle pudding and jam roly poly all with custard scream childhood at me. 

Religion and Festivals 

Agnes: The religions of Ghana are Catholic, Pentecostal and Islam. My family is Catholic and attend church every week back home. 
Geanina: In Romania 90-99% of the population is either Christian Orthodox or Catholic which are very similar but have differences such as the way you sign the cross, christen children or burn candles. When I was growing up we went to Church every Sunday and Christmas and Easter is spent with family reflecting on what you have built in the year because the time we don’t spend together doesn’t come back and connecting with people is a blessing. 

One festival that I can think of is the Wine Making Festival when the grapes are ready to be made into wine in September and everyone dresses up. 

Hugo:  I have never met a Colombian who isn’t Catholic! I was talking to my mum on the way over here and it struck me that our daily language and phraseology such as ‘God willing’ and ‘if God wants it’ is steeped in religion. There wasn’t a big Latin community when we first moved to the UK so we used to travel to a Spanish speaking church in Stockwell, 45 minutes away from home. My parents are very superstitious and are horrified that the youngest of my four children has reached their first birthday without being baptised. 

Halloween is a big deal back in Colombia with candles lighting the streets. 

Kamaldeep: India is multi religious but I grew up in a predominantly Sikh community which I remain connected to because I like that it is a young, modern and peaceful religion which is based on Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. Sikhs view all people as equal within the human race including men and women who use the names Singh (for men meaning lion) and Kaur (for women meaning queen) to break down social hierarchies. The three pillars of Sikhism are meditation, sharing what you have and serving others and the Kirpan (one of the five K’s) or steel sword which Sikh’s carry is only drawn to serve and protect. 

The festival of the harvest in April is a time of great celebration and feast and Vaisakhi in April is when the New Year begins. 
Orlando:  Catholicism is also the majority religion in Portugal with a few Muslims. 

Nicky: According to the 2011 census around 60% of the UK identify as Christian, almost a quarter follow no religion and around 5% are Muslim - some of whom will be observing Ramadan at the moment.

Growing up, I went to Church most weekends; Easter and Christmas were a big deal religiously as well as culturally but my favourite services were Palm Sunday and the Christingle (especially the one where my little brother declared in his loudest voice ‘mum your hair is on fire’ having put the candle too close to her perm). One thing that our family did in the summer which is quite unusual because it is mainly a Derbyshire and Staffordshire tradition is going to see the well dressings which are elaborate pictures made from flowers to give thanks for the water. 


Agnes: Ghanaian music now has a lot of European and American influence. We had Highlife which is a combination of guitar, brass band and vocals followed by Hiplife which was hip hop in the Ghanaian local dialect with elements of traditional Highlife and now the younger generation prefer to listen to Afrobeat which is African but influenced by hip hop and house, sung in English and has computerised rather than real drums. 

Geanina: Everywhere you go in Romania, music is with you and we have a mix of everything although village music is slower than city music. I wake up to music, have music in the shower and am always listening to music because when people let you down and disappoint you – music stays and gives you happy vibes. When you listen to happy music, you listen to hear and dance and when you are sad, like if you have had your heart broken, you listen to understand.  

Hugo:  Latin countries and people cannot live without music, which is massive but quite regional. On the coast there is a lot of accordion music, Reggaeton (a mixture of hip hop, Latin American and Caribbean music) and Caribbean music and in the cities you will hear Salsa every day and see people dancing the Merengue on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

Kamaldeep: The different chapters of the Sikh scripture are divided by music so singing is very literally central to our religious practise. Our expression of happiness is singing and dancing and the actions within dancing are taken from our day to day work. I am always listening to music; anything with a beat, I don’t care what genre it is.  

Orlando:  Music is also big in Portugal but traditional music such as fado which in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists is getting lost and music is now very British and American.  

Nicky: There is no getting past the influence of America on the UK charts and I grew up on Motown, Northern Soul and Hip Hop as well as ‘Top of the Pops’. UK music for me isn’t just the Beatles, Brit Pop, the Spice Girls and Ed Sheeran but Garage, Grime and the Jamaican influence felt in UK Ska and Jungle music.
Language and Literature
Agnes: The official language of Ghana is English but there are around eighty languages spoken by the seventy ethnic groups of the country. I lived in the Ashanti region of central Ghana and spoke Ashanti which has different dialects that are also written slightly differently. Language will signify your difference from those around you and in my area, the other languages which are spoken are Ga (central Accra) and Fanti.  

When I came to the UK I only knew the basics of English and so was behind my peers in my schooling. School is an absolute privilege but when I was growing up were taught ‘useful’ subjects, like English – I never studied art. 

Geanina: We all speak Romanian but with different accents and dialects and I wouldn’t be able to understand someone from the mountains. Italian is very close to Romanian and I speak Spanish, which I taught myself and English, which I learned at school. 

We lived under a dictatorship until 1989 and life was hard; we didn’t have milk and no light after about 5pm but people would still read and go to the theatre, movies and libraries. After 1989 people gained more freedom, movement and confidence and I am teaching my children that what they have is priceless and they have to earn their privileges – I am very happy not to lose that tradition. 

Hugo:  in Colombia we all speak Spanish just with different dialects. Literature is a big deal but the arts are not for me personally. We are taught to be proud of José García Márquez and I know that in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s many people were writing about oppression after the fall of the dictatorships. 

Kamaldeep: There are hundreds of languages and dialects spoken in India. I speak Punjabi, Hindu and English and recently learned Urdu (which was the language of my grandparents but which has all but vanished since Partition) so that I could read the rich poetry of this language. In English there is only one word for love but in Urdu there are fourteen all describing different degrees of love as it grows over time.  

Tamil or Bengali are very strong languages and if you speak them, it doesn’t matter which caste or religion you are from, you automatically become part of the ‘family’. 

There is a lot of poetry in Punjabi literature from 12th and 13th Century onwards with many Bollywood songs coming from poetry but the Partition of 1947 had a huge effect on the arts and literature which moved into the background. Both parts of my family had to leave what is now Pakistan and move to India and it has taken nearly two generations for people to get back on their feet and appreciate art and culture the way it is supposed to be.

Orlando:  We speak Portuguese and because the written words are very similar to the same word in Spanish, Greek and English it is quite easy for Portuguese people to speak other languages.  My parents taught my brothers and I the Cape Verde traditions and the Creole language. 

My father only studied Portuguese, History and Maths but the man is a machine. Our parents are proper survivors, we are really fortunate and kids today are very lucky and should cherish every privilege that they have. 

Nicky: The main language of England is English (98%) with a minority of people speaking Scots, Ulster Scots, Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish and British and Irish Sign Language. The main immigrant languages are Polish, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Gujarati. 

There are a vast range of dialects in the UK and the East Midlands where I am from, is very distinctive with phrases and words that don’t appear in standard English such as ‘Ey up me duck’ (Hello my Duke), snidered (covered or infested – mostly used in our house to describe how much butter we put on our cobs (bread rolls), wassock (fool), mardy (sulky) and nesh (someone who feels the cold easily).   

Literature wise DH Lawrence wrote in a Midlands dialect and the poet Lord Byron lived near to my secondary school. In my teens I loved two of the Bronte sisters, Jane Austin and the Victorian writers generally and at university I was introduced to the dub poetry of Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephaniah along with the writing of George Lamming and VS Naipaul. Contemporary British writes that I can’t recommend more highly are Zadie Smith. Reni Eddo-Lodge and Nikesh Shukla. 

Note from Nicky

I could have spent many happy hours talking with the group which was bound together by a love of music, joy of life and the commonality of working for ISS. The EY team didn’t all know each other but the ones who did learned something about their colleagues or another culture and we all made connections we wouldn’t otherwise have had. 

Further information 

I can highly recommend attending an event hosted by Eventbrite.  I recently attended a Cultures Collide evening at the Muslim Welfare House, Finsbury Park and a fascinating lecture series on Black British Civil Rights Leaders. Just type in ‘Culture’ and your area and off you go. 

There are oodles of amazing books to be found here

Thanks for reading,


1. ISS UK employees top ten (non-UK) countries of origin:
2. An amalgamation of the various definitions of culture reads something along the lines of the learned social behaviour, norms, customs and traditions of society expressed by architecture, art, clothing, dance, festivals, food, institutions, language, literature, music, mythology, religion, rituals, science, social organisation and technology so we talked about some of these.

Welcome to April's Diversity Diary, which this month is focusing on the subject of Autism.

I have a triad of reasons to write about autism in this Diversity Diary, the most important of which is that I have been asked by several people to do so; it was World Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April and it is also Disability Confident Week beginning on 16th April 2018 so there is a real opportunity to focus on disability this month. 


ISS is ‘Disability Confident, Committed’ which means that we are committed to:  

  • ensuring our recruitment process is inclusive and accessible
  • communicating and promoting vacancies
  • offering an interview to disabled people who meet the minimum essential criteria
  • anticipating and providing reasonable adjustments as required
  • supporting any existing employee who acquires a disability or long term health condition, enabling them to stay in work and 
  • engaging in activities that will make a difference for disabled people such as Project Search, which is the subject of today’s diary

Project Search is a North and South Lanarkshire Council funded Internship Programme for students who are 18-24 years old with additional needs who are supported in work placements with classroom coaching, support and facilitation to enable them to be ready for the world of work. In addition to skills such as job searching, CV writing and interview techniques and practical work experience the students are also assisted with money skills, drug awareness and living independently. 

As part of our Think Foward@ISS strategy (recruiting from a broad talent pool strategic pillar), ISS supports the scheme in partnership with the NHS by making three separate three-month work placements available at Hairmyres Hospital to give the students valuable work experience and confidence in administration, catering, cleaning or portering. 

I went up to Scotland to see what a difference such schemes can make. 

TJ-porter-250Individual self-told story – TJ, Porter at Hairmyres Hospital

After leaving school and before Project Search, I really struggled to find work and was utterly lacking in confidence. Obviously I have my ‘Mondays’ like everyone else but my family has a strong work ethic so I didn’t want to just be going to the job centre and getting benefits; I wanted to work and be successful.  

I never thought that I would be able to work in a large hospital and I was very quiet and nervous when I joined Project Search at Hairmyres. In fact, I felt terrified because I didn’t know what to expect or how closely I would have to work with people and I didn’t talk to anyone for the first month or so. 

My first three month placement didn’t really challenge me too much as it was in the medical records office so it was very quiet and you can keep your head down and get lost in your ‘thing’. 

TJ-mailroom-250I then worked in the mail room which was ridiculously busy and I was responsible for co-ordinating the whole operation from receiving mail to the franking.

One of the portering staff ran the mail room and he suggested that I should give portering a go for my third placement. I was vehemently opposed to this because it involved working with patients, approaching different situations, looking after people’s families, coordinating with doctors, the police and other professional people and I simply didn’t want to work with the public.

I was somehow persuaded to give it a go and working with the close knit team of heavily bantering porters really brought me out of my shell; did wonders for my confidence and I desperately wanted to carry on being part of the team. 

To start with, they focused me on just doing small tasks like taking cardboard but then they pushed me harder, and made me go and collect patients and even though I was with someone else who could keep an eye on me, I would just think "noooooooo" and then, if I showed any nervousness it was brought up in a banter way to get me over it. My uncles told me that I needed to give as good as I get as I’m one of the boys now’ so I did and I found that being a porter was good for my soul because when I put my head on my pillow at night I knew that I had done good things for people during day. 

Before I met my stepdad when I was 15 I didn’t have a father figure and I wanted to fade into the background in some social situations; I wanted the ground to swallow me and crowds were a no go. This won’t ever totally go away and sometimes when I am approaching a nurse I have to take deep breaths, close my eyes and go for it but it does now feel more minimal than it ever has. 

The other thing is that you make friends at work, I now have the confidence to walk down a corridor and say hello to 20 people; there are people that you can talk to, like my supervisor who says "you can always talk to me pal" and this was especially important to me when my mum and stepdad were both diagnosed with cancer; if I had just been at home I’d have gone mental with the stress but I now have an army pf people that I can talk to. I once couldn’t bring myself to talk to people and now you can’t shut me up.

Thanks to the support of my family, Project Search and my close knit team at Hairmyres, I’ve been on a very steep learning curve; but I now have a permanent job at ISS and I am unequivocally a different person. I will always be a person with autism but I have genuinely surprised myself with what I can achieve; I look after people and the job looks after itself.  

The pinnacle of my journey has been taking a trip to Las Vegas with my friend. It’s not a city that I could ever have pictured myself going to and I’d never been on an aeroplane before but I was massively interested in the Grand Canyon and I thought to myself if you’re going to go abroad, you may as well really go for it and throw in a breath taking helicopter ride too! 

My message to any managers or CR Leaders who are thinking of operating a similar scheme to Project Search or employing neuro diverse staff is, be brave and give it a go; everyone has a learning curve and mine was huge but when you need to sink or swim; you definitely learn how to swim.

Individual self-told story – Gordon Johnstone, Risk Manager at Hairmyres Hospital

Project Search has been in operation at Hairmyres for four years and I have overwhelmingly found the students to be really good workers with great attendance rates and one of the unintended consequences of being involved in the scheme is that some of the adjustments that we have put in place for the students have helped other employees and it also upskilled our management team. Many had no experience of working with people with disabilities so this was an amazing opportunity to challenge some of the negative, old fashioned impressions that they had which in turn helped them to be more open to diversity generally. It improved their mentoring skills and really helped managers to have more honest conversations because they realised that not being totally truthful about the student’s shortcomings wasn’t helping them in the long term. 

One of the most rewarding aspects has been watching people go from coming in for their initial interview with no confidence and almost frightened to come in the door, to speaking to a hundred people at a dinner like TJ did. 

Almost every student is nervous at the beginning of the scheme and then relaxed and confident during their last presentation and some of this is assisted by the less formal ‘learning’ that is facilitated by the students taking their breaks with the rest of the staff and practicing their interpersonal skills. 

It is a bit of cliché but the project is simply a good thing to do and we actually make a wee difference to somebody’s life which is not something that you can say every day.

Individual self-told story – Peter Higgins, Training Manager at Hairmyres Hospital

Through our work on site here at Hairmyres with Project Search we have become more aware of the rights and needs of people with additional needs and learning disabilities and what the benefits can be for an employer if the students are given a chance to show what they can do.

Also the benefits for the students and their families as they are able to contribute to society and also obtain their independence.

Since being involved with the Project, my outlook and that of all other managers here at Hairmyres has changed and that is because we have seen what the students have done and are capable of doing.

The students and their parents have always been told that they can’t do this and they can’t do that, well I’m here to tell you and anyone that will listen, yes they can!

Also we have learnt from the students, we have identified hidden talents in our own staff as mentors; a role they have embraced as they can see they have a major part to play in the progress of the students.

Out of the 32 students we have had come through Hairmyres there is an 85% employment rate, between ISS, NHS and other employees. Unfortunately there is still a big problem out there of getting employers involved and showing them that employing a person with a disability is not a thing to steer away from but a thing to embrace as neuro diverse people can and are valued members of the work force.

Individual self-told story – Andrew Wightman, Site Manager at Scottish Power

There is a saying, "if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism" and I wanted to introduce you to one person with autism – my stepson, Jamie. 

Jamie is a high functioning autistic teenager who looks neuro typical and is more confident than a lot of peers. He will go into town by himself but he has a naivety about him and he’s bit weird sometimes which can make him vulnerable. 

In many ways he is a standard teenager; all of whom can be surly and non-communicative, but autistic people can have additional difficulties with communication and understanding instructions because there is often an extra impairment such as hearing or speech issues. For example, our teenager has no sense of smell which can be interesting and when he meets up with one of his best friends who is also on the autistic spectrum, they will often not speak for the first 20 minutes so standard interviews are going to be very difficult for them both. 

Jamie knows he wants to be independent, he competes in a swimming club and is looking to get a job and income with support mechanisms, clear structures and guidelines but not necessarily dealing with the public. To give you an example as to why clear instructions are needed, I once asked Jamie to fill the dishwasher which he dutifully did but I didn’t tell him to turn it on so, guess what happened to the dirty dishes? If he was a cleaner, I know that Jamie would walk past rubbish that a neuro typical person would pick up because it’s not on his task last but I also know that he would definitely work hard and attend work regularly and I really hope that in the future, when he’s ready that an employer will give him the opportunity to thrive. 

The quote that I began with, seeks to highlight that autistic people are individual, should be treated as such and may need to have adjustments in work that are specific to them but I also see this more in terms of a collective diversity umbrella that we should keep in mind for everyone because we all have strengths, weaknesses and quirks that are individual to us and when these are played to or accommodated we will drive the greatest success.

Further information 

Autism is not a learning disability, but there can be some commonalities and overlap so I wanted to inform you about Learning Disability Week, which will be held from 14-20 May 2018 in Scotland. More information about this can be found here and more information generally can be found here.

Welcome to March's Diversity Diary, which this month is focusing on the subject of Gender, coinciding with the 2018 International Women's Day.

Today, 8th March 2018 is International Women’s Day (IWD), a day that has been set aside to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe and throughout history and to press for further progress to be made in relation to gender equality and inclusivity.

This year’s IWD campaign is #PressforProgress, which aims to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and communities to think, act and be gender-inclusive by choosing one of the these positive behaviours to focus on:

PressforProgress-Image-464With today’s diary I am shining a spotlight on women in sectors that are traditionally dominated by male employees and celebrating their achievements so that it achieves #PressforProgress in two parts: challenging stereotypes and bias and celebrating women’s achievements.

Through this diary, I ask you also to #Press for Progress

See footnote1 for more detailed information about each of the positive behaviours. 

Women in Engineering – Pamela Hardie, Regional Operations Manager 

I went into engineering because I looked up to my Dad who was an electrician by trade and I wanted to be like him. 

I did work experience as a hair dresser but I knew that there would be more money and progression opportunities in engineering and because of my feisty personality my mum told me that I would hate an office job, so I decided to follow in my Dad’s footsteps, as did my twin brother. 

I started my career as an apprentice in Service and Maintenance engineering, which is a multi-skilled discipline that covers electrical, air conditioning and gas. 

We had block release from work to attend college for 5 weeks at a time and whilst I made some really great friends, it was my first time away from home and I was the only girl in the whole college so sitting in my room on my own at night was lonely. 

Although I felt like I was the ‘only one’ (because I was), I wasn’t bullied and got along well with most of my male counterparts because I didn’t go in there to change anything, I just wanted to fit in. The odd one would say ‘you’re just a girl’ but my results were really good so they knew I was holding my own and I was proud to be nominated for the Apprentice of the Year award. I didn’t win which was disappointing but I was also a little bit pleased that I wasn’t just chosen because I was their first girl. 

When I was considering becoming an engineer I was worried that I wouldn’t be physically strong enough but you actually don’t need brute force and if there was something that I needed help with, like lifting a piece of equipment then a man would have needed help too. 

In the workplace my colleagues were generally really pleasant to me and I loved being out of the road with them; I remember one plumber saying that he preferred working with me to my brother because I wasn’t scared to get my hands dirty. Imagine the ammunition if I had said no to dirty jobs! Not everyone was supportive though; one guy wouldn’t even talk to me the whole week I spent with him which was soul destroying but my Dad always talked me round when things got too much, telling me ‘get your trade’ or ‘it’s a good job’. 

When I first went into management in 2008, I was managing a team that I had worked with which is always difficult because you have been their pal and now you’re their boss but even the guys that were a lot older than me were really keen that I did well. 
Once, a customer wouldn’t believe me when I told him that something wasn’t repairable; he had to be told by a male engineer and new engineers who don’t know my background will sometimes try and pull the wool over my eyes and say something should be done a particular way and I take real pleasure in proving that I have the technical knowledge and ‘came off the tools’ too. 

I am mum of twin daughters that are 3 and a boy who is 4 and juggling three kids and a full time job is really challenging, tiring and I have very little time for myself but I remind myself that I work full time to provide a home, nice holidays and great experiences for them. I have lots of help from my mum but I do feel guilty when I have to leave the children with her when they’re poorly. 

When I became pregnant for the second time I think that I was written off and I was worried that if I had a career break I would never get back into it. I took 4 month’s maternity leave with Jack and a year with the twins and was dying to get back to my work. 

We have come a long way in society; I see a lot of dad’s dropping their kids at nursery, when it snowed last week one of my male engineers took a dependency day to look after his kids because his wife was working and we have a single dad in the team who has had support and flexible working. 

"My challenge to you is to question the societal assumption that women should be the main child carers and the stereotypes that a mum won’t be committed to her role, a dad will prioritise work over his family life and only parents will want or need to work flexibly." 

I said during my first management appraisal that I wanted to be a managing director but I didn’t have any female role models that I could look up to and think ‘I want to be like her’. Thankfully I do now in Kath Fontana the Managing Director of Technical Services and I am so pleased about it. I looked to my Dad for inspiration and my daughters and other women will see in me and Kath that they can do and be anything they want to. 

These days’ apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers as they once were and I am proud that I inspired and encouraged a friend who was working in an office to complete an engineering apprenticeship. She now works for BT in a role which has so many more prospects for her development and earning potential. 

If you’re interested in changing your career and would like more information about apprenticeships, click here.

Note from Nicky

Of course, Pamela is a wonderful senior, female role model within a sector of the company which is male dominated and her achievements are worthy of celebration within and of themselves but what I love about Pamela’s story is that it also shows the importance of male allies. 

I do not believe that gender parity can be achieved without the support, influence and desire for progress from 49% of the population (men) and Pamela’s story highlights this. The influence of Pamela’s Dad as her role model and mentor can’t be underestimated, before Kath joined the business, Pamela looked up to and aspired to be her male MD and her male colleagues were in the main celebrating her success when she studied alongside them and was promoted. 

We really need men and women to all #PressforProgress.

Women in Security - Gwen Mackenzie

I have worked for ISS Security for four years but I started my working life in ISS Support Services. I know I am a female in a male-dominated environment, but it doesn’t really feel like I am. 

I sat opposite the guy who ran security on my contract and he was constantly stressed. A lot of the things he was stressed about were the things that Support Services do really well such as people management and showing love and care for our employees so when he left I thought that I could merge the two roles together and generate some synergies. I plucked up the courage to call the Regional Director of Security and convince him that whilst I would deliver results in a different way I could definitely deliver them. 

Security is definitely male-dominated, with only about one in 300 security officers being female so I’m not sure that people knew what to think when I first started and there seemed to be a level of scepticism about whether I would be strong enough but I received a lot of support from my manager in building up my knowledge of the security sector and was shown the upmost respect for the way in which I operate. 

I think that security officers treat me more positively than they would a male manager, but I know that I also manage them in a different way than they are used to and it is easier for me to win people round because they accept without suspicion that my management style is different because I am a woman and also because I have my own authentic, management style. 

This is a really great industry which is undervalued at times and I would never have applied for a job in security if this particularly opportunity had not arisen as it does looks difficult from the outside.

"Now I am part of the team I know that it’s not that different to my previous role because most of our security positions are corporate, professional, support services type roles where IT and customer service skills are essential." 

What does Gwen's Manager, Dave Barkey say about Gwen?

Gwen is an incredibly successful security account manager who has consistently improved the employee net promoter score on her contracts including a 49 point improvement at Sunderland last year.

I did feel that I was taking a risk in appointing Gwen into a Security role, not because she is a woman or because of her ability to manage but because of the financial and cultural differences between Support Services and Security contracts. 

I have worked with women in security before with mixed success in the same way that I have had mixed successes with male security managers because the women I have worked with were simply female security managers, however with Gwen’s mixture of Support Services and Security experience she has brought a lot more to the party. 

Gwen’s fully embraced Service with a Human Touch when other Security Managers felt that it didn’t sit well in the sector and as a result she has softened some of the security officers’ approaches to the roles which they fulfil. Gwen is also results focused and competitive, she is exceptionally firm and stands for no nonsense at all and her blend of ‘nice and friendly’ with ‘strict and don’t cross me’ has been a breath of fresh air. She is most definitely a leader of the future. 

Women in Landscaping - Emma Blackburn, Assistant Area Manager

Before I worked for ISS, I worked in retail and 35 years’ ago I was the first Woolworth’s female store manager within the Northern region.

I’m not academic but I asked lots of questions, observed, learned and put my own systems in practice so that when he got promoted I was able to plant the seed in the area managers’ head that I could take over. I always remember the regional manager say “I’m so pleased we have our first female manager. Who does the shopping, cleaning and finance control at home? You do and in this role all you’re doing is running a big house’ I was absolutely confident in my ability to undertake the role and there is so much more to it that housekeeping such as organising staff, planning the visual merchandise, seasonal changes and business uplifts but the manager seems to feel that it was necessary to persuade me into the role in simplistic terms. 

My husband was proud of me when I was promoted to Store Manager but even though I was the bread winner in a much more demanding role than him, he still felt it was my place to stay at home to care for our daughter if ever she was ill. 

I have worked for ISS for around 10 years and have been an assistant area manager for around 3 years. I joined as an administrator as I knew someone that worked for ISS, my little boy was two and I was thinking of getting back into work but I didn’t want to go back to retail, and the role was part time which fitted my life perfectly. 

In my spare time whilst in my role as an administrator, I found myself looking through Sharepoint and realised that there were lots of things that we should be doing and weren’t and when I was put at risk or redundancy I put a case together and showcased to my manager how I would organise and keep all compliance within the contract up to date and becoming the Assistant Area Manager was a very emotional day for me. A woman (in what has always been thought of as a man’s world) at my age being given that trust. 

I have to be honest and say that working in a male dominated environment has been hard at times. I was in my late forties when I started at ISS but I was called the ‘office girl’ and I was resented when I became the compliance manager because I was chasing for paperwork; I would be ignored a lot and I don’t think there would have had the same reaction if I had been a man. I had to be strong, firm and doggedly persistent to begin with, and the guys accept me now but it was hard work.

"If I could give other women one piece of advice it would be – don’t shy away from any opportunity that comes up within what appears to be a male dominated environment, go for it, you may just love it like I do."

Note from Nicky

In many ways what strikes me about Emma’s story is that she was an unwitting trailblazer.

She didn’t set out to challenge gender stereotypes; she didn’t call out the manager who saw a lack of confidence in her that she wasn’t feeling or ask her colleagues to stop calling her a girl but she grabbed opportunities that presented themselves to her and she succeeded, thrived. Emma shows us that achievement comes in many forms and there is no one right way one be a role model. 

Have we achieved gender equality?

You may think we have, as there is so much in the press and there has been progress, such as:

Last month we celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the right of some women to vote in the UK, The some women, refers to The Representation of the People Act which was passed on 6 February 1918 which gave women over the age of 30, those over 21 who own property or those married to homeowners the right to vote. This equated to 8.4 million women with the remaining 60% of the female population gaining the right to vote some ten years later in 1928. 

We also saw the work available to women changed significantly as a result of the two world wars. 

We have had Equal Pay legislation since 1970 however, the World Economic Forum has estimated the gender gap2 is going backwards and will take 217 years to close, the gender pay gap in the UK; which is the gap between the earnings of the average woman compared to the average man, stands at around 18% for women because of unequal caring responsibilities, occupational segregation (women are more likely to be in low skilled roles), men making up the majority of the highest paid, more senior roles and discrimination which unfortunately remains common particularly around pregnancy and maternity.

The #MeToo campaign, originally created by Tarana Burke in 2007 and reignited in October 2017 demonstrated the prevalence of sexual harassment particularly in the workplace, this campaign, whilst giving a platform and voice to people affected and those who wish to stand in support, continues to help people and for that reason, we are making progress, but there is still work to be done, until such time as this type of campaign is no longer needed.

What steps can you take?

  • Read and sign the #PressforPrgress pledge and take the actions you are pledging to take
  • Expand your thoughts and reflect - visit the Fawcett Society
  • Ensure that men and women are paid equally for work which is broadly similar or is of equal value in terms of effort, skill and decision making. You may be surprised to learn that we have seen several women being paid less than men on contracts that have transferred to us (some doing exactly the same job but others doing work of equal value) which we have needed to resolve
  • We know that improved diversity drives productivity, innovation and profit (click here to find out more) so seriously consider whether a role can be fulfilled flexiblyThink about the language that you use, does it still perpetuate outdated views about the work available to men and women or is it inclusive? 
  • My favourite email last week was from a senior man in our business telling me that in their sector the common short hand of ‘Man & Van’ was going to be changed to ‘Van Clearance’, because he wanted to challenge the wording around such activities and support a more inclusive culture; I imagine Pamela will be pleased to hear that, the email made my day! Are you hearing language that you too could challenge?
  • Don’t interrupt people when they’re talking, take notice of and credit them for their ideas
  • Don’t assume that the female in the team will be the one taking notes


  • Be a visible role model to others, go and talk in schools and encourage girls and boys to challenge their thinking about jobs that they could do
  • Have confidence in your abilities and challenge yourselves to take on new opportunities. If you are not sure how to do that, think about asking for a mentor or someone to be your work sponsor


1. #PressforProgress detail

Maintain a gender parity mindset:
• question any lack of women's participation
• identify alternatives that are more inclusive
• nominate women for opportunities
• always include and support women
• think "50/50" as the goal

Challenge stereotypes and bias:
• question assumptions about women
• challenge statements that limit women
• always use inclusive language
• work to remove barriers to women's progress
• buy from retailers who position women in positive ways

Forge positive visibility of women:
• identify ways to make women more visible
• extend opportunities to women first
• assume women want opportunities until declined
• select women as spokespeople and leaders
• support visible women

Influence others’ beliefs and actions:
• supportively call-out inappropriate behaviour 
• campaign for equality in meaningful ways
• lead by example via inclusive actions
• be a role model for equality
• actively contribute to changing the status quo

Celebrate women’s achievements:
• believe achievement comes in many forms
• value women's individual and collective success
• ensure credit is given for women's contributions
• celebrate women role models and their journeys
• support awards showcasing women's success

2. The gender gap relates to economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment

Welcome to February's Diversity Diary, which this month is focusing on the subject of Cancer.

I have chosen the subject of Cancer this month because it was World Cancer Day on 04 February 2018 and one in two people will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime which is just an astonishing number that means we are all likely be impacted by this either personally or indirectly via a family member, friend or colleague.   

Individual self-told story – Lorraine Pemberton, ISS Soft Facilities manager at Macclesfield District General

Lorraine_Pemberton_200I found out about my cancer quite by accident. 

In 2014 I brought a new ‘slip over your head’ type of bra which irritated me and then when I reverted to my normal bras something felt uncomfortable and just not quite right in my left breast.  

After a couple a weeks, I visited the GP and was told by the nurse practitioner (without an examination) that it sounded like a gland infection which I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear. She gave me a two week course of antibiotics and I left the surgery with a massive grin on my face. 

The antibiotics didn’t work, my breast went hard and just wearing a thin blouse caused me a lot of pain. I went back and saw the same nurse who didn’t examine me again and this time gave me a six week course of antibiotics. She told me that I was being stupid for crying and thinking that I had cancer because “breast cancer isn’t painful”.

If you’re ever told this, don’t believe it or accept a diagnosis without an examination because after four further weeks of agony, I was finally physically examined by the nurse who ran out of the room to fetch the doctor who immediately sent me to the hospital breast unit.

I had an excruciatingly painful mammogram and seven biopsies that day and the oncologist held my hand whilst telling me that they were almost certain that I had advanced HER2 breast cancer and they wanted to perform a mastectomy within the next seven days.

I said no because “it would go away by itself” and was told that it was my choice but they would give me between 12 – 18 months. Initially I thought that this meant that I could have the operation in 12 months’ time until I looked at my husband, saw that he had tears running down his face and realised that I wouldn’t be alive in 18 months if I didn’t agree to the operation. 

Three days later I had a full left breast mastectomy and a lump the size of a tennis ball and the lymph nodes under my arm were removed. 

Once my scars had healed I was booked in every 21 days for nine rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and eighteen subcutaneous injections of the drug Herceptin.  

All of the veins in my arms and hands collapsed so I needed to have a Hickman line inserted between my jugular vein and heart to enable the chemo and Herceptin to be administered and I lost all of my hair, eyelashes and eyebrows and became very susceptible to infections, low moods and countless sleepless nights. 

Thankfully the treatment worked, I am now in remission and my hair is very slowly growing back. 

I thought that having boobs again was the ‘be all and end all’ so I had breast reconstruction surgery in March 2017 and whilst I do feel like a woman again which was really important to me and my clothes hang better and I can wear a lower cut tops without feeling self-conscious; I have no feeling in my back, left breast or under my arm and I struggle to find underwear that I feel comfortable in so the surgery was not the panacea for me. 

Working with Cancer 

I wasn’t employed by ISS at the time, but I carried on working after my diagnosis because I didn’t really want to admit that there was something seriously wrong with me and didn’t want to let go of the normality of work so I was usually at my desk the same day as I’d had chemo. 

I left my (non ISS) job when my manager had ignored my repeated requests for a day off to attend an MRI scan and then the day before the appointment she dismissively said “well I suppose you’ll have to”. Given how little time I’d had off when I was very poorly and how often I was physically sick at work I just couldn’t believe it and immediately wrote “I resign” on a piece of paper on, screwed it into a ball and threw it at her. 

I had a few months off and when I was ready to return to work, I went to London for an interview and was convinced that I’d got the job because the interview itself went exceptionally well and the interviewer ran after me as I left the building to give me a list of company cars to have a look at. A pretty positive sign I thought.  

I was open and upfront about my cancer but as I said earlier, my hair has taken its time to grow back so I still have some bald patches and the feedback that I eventually received was that I hadn’t got the client facing job because of the way that I looked! 

I was deflated and heartbroken but the week after this happened I had the interview with ISS, got the job and my managers and colleagues have been really supportive towards me generally and the time off I might need to attend appointments. 

When I was leaving for my reconstructive surgery operation a colleague, Amanda Grundy said to me, "don’t wear a scarf when you come back, you don’t need to, we’re all family here" which I really needed to hear, I haven’t worn it since and I feel much more normal as a result. It’s like it was the last thing that was holding me back. 

Lorraine’s colleague, Amanda told me this: "I met Lorraine about three months after she had finished her chemo treatment and she was always open about what she was going through which meant that we could provide support to her.

We became quite close and have always been able to speak our minds to each other so when she was going for reconstructive surgery I had not hesitation in telling her that she didn’t need the headscarf when she returned to work. I could see that it was a safety blanket for her but also that it was holding her back. 

She wasn’t wearing it when I went to see her after her operation but it wasn’t until she walked into work without it that I knew that she had moved on which it was lovely to see. She has told me what a difference my small comment made to her and it’s really nice to know that I had been a part of helping to make that happen and helping her to feel confident and supported."

Note from Nicky about working with cancer 

I am sure that you will agree with me that the way Lorraine was treated by her ex-employer and potential employer is utterly appalling.

Quite apart from the moral expectation that people should be treated with respect at work, cancer is considered to be a disability from day one of diagnosis and Lorraine was discriminated against because of her disability. 

Lorraine’s ex employer created an environment for Lorraine that was hostile, degrading and violated her dignity which is the definition of harassment within the Equality Act 2010 and the potential employer discriminated against Lorraine because of something which arose as a consequence of his condition, namely her appearance.

Where Lorraine’s ISS colleagues got things right is they didn’t let her cancer or her appearance because of cancer treatment prevent them from offering Lorraine a job, they have always supported Lorraine’s attendance at medical appointments and have treated her with respect and dignity and encouraged her to embrace her post treatment appearance.  

You can find more information about  this at Working with Cancer, this has lots of articles and advice for managers and employees including ‘What is ‘Chemo brain’ – and how can you support an employee who is affected by it?’ and ‘Returning to work after cancer: seven steps to success’. 

It’s good to talk 

Lorraine’s main piece of advice which applies not only to cancer but to a range of medical conditions and indeed to life, is to talk about it and not bottle things up. 

There will be someone out there who has had a similar experience and will be willing to lend an ear; be that a support group or a colleague. Please contact me at or if you need help in finding someone else in ISS who may have experienced what you’re going through. 

Talking doesn’t only apply to the person with the medical condition though. Lorraine told me about two things that happened to her whilst she was grocery shopping with no hair and her Hickman line showing. The first was that her husband ended up in a fight because a fellow shopper wouldn’t stop staring at her and the second was a checkout operator who made Lorraine feel acknowledged, understood and cared for when she said “have you been poorly, is it cancer?” so don’t be afraid to ask how someone is feeling and how things are – it will almost certainly get a better response than staring. 

smearforsmearThe last word 

Lorraine confessed to me that she hadn’t really checked her breasts regularly prior to 2014; in January 2018 it was reported that young woman are avoiding smear tests because they are embarrassed about their bodies; I read on 01 February that the take-up for breast cancer screening is at a ten-year low and I’m sure that we all know that early diagnosis is essential for prostate and bowel cancer survival.

Here are Lorraine and I encouraging you all with our #smearforsmear pictures! 

Click here for more information on #smearforsmear  

Thanks for reading,


Welcome to the first Diversity Diary of 2018, which is focusing on the subject of bias.

Are you biased?  

Please take a minute to think about your answer and maybe write it down somewhere.
You are probably aware that Donald Trump has recently said: “I am not a racist… I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed” and in saying this he is answering my question in the negative (more on this later). 

What is bias?

Bias is the inclination or prejudice for or against a person or group and is closely linked to stereotypes which are relatively fixed and oversimplified generalisations about a group or class of people, usually focusing on negative or unfavourable characteristics (although some stereotypes such as Asian people are good at maths can seem to be positive). 

Bias doesn’t have to be about the nine protected characteristics* it could be holding inclinations towards or against extroverts, introverts, people who are over or under weight, people of a different social status, education levels or regional accent to you. The list is probably endless. 

Holding bias and stereotyping people can be explicit, intentional and conscious – and we usually know this when we see it in action - but it can also be unconscious, unintentional, learned and activated by environment – which is much harder to spot, even by the person who has it. 

Both bias and stereotyping can have implications in the workplace and neither are generally readily admitted, as demonstrated by Donald Trump. 
Now you’ve seen the definitions is your answer any different? 

*The nine protected characteristics are age, disability, gender orientation, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation and religion or belief

My Story  

You know my job role and that I am passionate about diversity and inclusion. 

Based on an experience I had and things that I had seen on TV, I stereotyped people from a particular country as being loud, obnoxious and racist. I very much knew I had this bias, was reasonably vocal about it, I’d never had to work with anyone from here and when I met someone from this place on a group holiday, I made it my intention to avoid them and spend as little time with them as possible. I think this meets the stereotyping definition perfectly and will return to this story later.  

I am a woman, a feminist and childfree by choice. I have worked since the age of 13 and have enjoyed a really rewarding and fulfilling career so far. I have a strong mother who progressed from being a cleaning operative to social worker as I grew up and I’m surrounded by women whom I admire greatly at ISS and yet, in spite of all of this I have a strong implicit association or unconscious bias that links females to family and males to career. This is obviously not what I explicitly believe or would assert because it’s not the life that I live but the association and the bias that I have is automatic and implicit. 

I don’t know the exact reasons that I have this; it could be because a number of my family members and close friends are mums who have paused their careers to care for their children and that women are much more likely to do so in the UK than men with just 1% of new fathers opting for share parental leave, but having taken the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) on gender leadership several times, my results have been consistent and I have only met one person so far whose outcome has been ‘little or no automatic association with Female = Family / Male = Career’.  
My immediate reaction to my IAT result was that I was horrified and ashamed which is probably because we are taught that bias is bad and that good, open-minded people shouldn’t be biased and don’t  stereotype and I had no idea that I had this bias. We like to think we recruit, promote and make decisions about people on merit but it made me wonder whether I have ever acted on this association that my brain has made without my express and conscious permission.   

What I have learned since then, is that Donald Trump is wrong when he says he isn’t biased because we all are, our brains are designed to make intuitive decisions and categorise, it requires no effort (a little like driving after sufficient practice) and in many ways it’s necessary to how we organise our world – if we didn’t make implicit associations we wouldn’t immediately know who the safe person to hand over our money to in a shop (the assistant in a uniform). 

On the flip side of this, whilst it is natural and necessary, bias can also be really damaging. 

Bias in action 

In February 2017 the BBC sent CVs from two job candidates, "Adam" and "Mohamed", who had identical skills and experience to 100 advertised job opportunities (click here to read more).

Adam was offered 12 interviews, while Mohamed was offered four and from four job sites that the CV was uploaded to, Adam was contacted by double the number of recruiters. 

The bias, conscious or otherwise of the selectors means that the equally qualified Mohamed isn’t given an opportunity to a vacant role and the organisation is losing the potential to interview from a wider pool of applicants, to potentially increase their diversity and increasing their likelihood of a discrimination claim being made against them. 

My absolute favourite example of unconscious bias is the fact that within the American population only 3.9% of adult men are 6’2 or taller and yet amongst Fortune 500 CEO’s this percentage is 30% with 90% being above average height. 

Logically we all know that being tall isn’t a prerequisite for being a great business leader but in the words of Malcolm Gladwell “there is a sense, in our minds, of what a leader is supposed to look like." And it turns out that this is tall. How many shorter people are losing opportunities and might have been even greater leaders than the tall men who were chosen? 
More about bias 

The most common types of bias which can impact us at work are: 

Affinity BiasTwins_250
This leads us to favour people who are like us and can be seen in teams that are homogenous and alike. It can also lead to ingroup bias which is where a person has feelings of trust and positive regard for ingroup members which could lead to a reduced allocation of additional resources or promotional opportunities for people within the outgroup and maybe the person you are recruiting or giving that assignment to actually isn’t the best person for it just because they are like you. 

Bandwagon Effect / Group Think 

Humans will tend to ‘go with the flow’ of the crowd in order to fit in and conform; it can happen even in small groups of colleagues and causes behaviours and social norms to circulate among groups of individuals. The danger with this bias is that damaging ‘usual ways of doing this’ which are harmful (such as bullying or poor standards) can remain accepted and unchallenged. 

Confirmation bias 

Is the tendency to look for, interpret, favour and recall information in a way that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. In practice, this could manifest itself in comparing two CV’s, having a preferred ‘on paper’ candidate and then phrasing interview questions or interpreting the candidates’ responses such that it confirms our initial summary. 

Halo / Horns Effect 

This is when we observe a good / bad thing about an individual and this then affects our opinion of everything else about them. You can see the potential impact of this in recruitment, performance management, disciplinary decisions and promotional decisions. 

ISS_Logo_150Observational Selection Bias 

You suddenly start noticing things you didn't notice much before and wrongly assuming that the frequency has increased. Remember when you first heard of ISS and then suddenly began seeing this on motorways and restrooms everywhere you went?  That was selectional bias in action and a workplace application might be that someone points out mistakes being made by a colleague which you then begin to notice in excess. Have their number of mistakes really increased or are you simply more aware of them now? 

What can I do about my bias? 

  • Be brave and take the IAT tests. They don’t cover every possible bias of course but there’s a reasonably wide selection 
  • Recognise that biases are formed in part by your environment and your experiences and chose to change your environment 

    Nic_and_Suz_250Back to my stereotype from earlier, thankfully I did spend time with that person on holiday and I now have two close friends who are from that country who are not obnoxious and racist (although they are both loud and very outgoing) and I now no longer avoid people from their land in social environments. I could have missed out on two amazing friendships if I hadn’t got over myself. 

    More scientific research is needed in this field but there are so many things you can do to expose yourself to difference – chose diversity in the books you read, the TV and films you watch (although watch out for bias reinforcements too), the plays you go and see, the people you follow on social media and be friendlier to people who aren’t like you. It will make a difference. 
  • Wind_instruments_250Focus on strategies to prevent implicit biases from influencing your decision making 
    The most famous example of this involves several American symphony orchestras taking the decision in the 1970’s to add a screen between auditioning musicians and the selection committee, in effect conducting blind auditions for instrumental vacancies. 

    The results…the proportion of women hired had doubled from 20-40% by the 1990’s and is the reason that many organisations have removed names, sex and ages from application forms. 
    What this can look like in ISS is making sure you used the same interview questions for every candidate, not making people decisions alone and having a diverse panel when you are taking selection decisions.
  • Reduce fast thinking

Implicit association happens when our brains are in ‘fast thinking’ mode which increases when we’re stressed, under time pressure, rushing, under emotional load, physically tired, hungry or thirsty so when making people decisions try and avoid these triggers and also slow down your decisions and processes, consider your response, step back, examine the evidence and think carefully – did the introvert really give the poorest response in the redundancy selection interview?

It’s good to talk

I love talking about bias so please do get in touch if you would like to discuss this further or if you have concerns about your IAT results. 

You can contact me: or you can contact

If you want to know more on this topic I highly recommend Blink by Malcom Gladwell and Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony Greenwald.  

Thanks for reading,


Today is World AIDS Day, which has been an opportunity for people to unite and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS for 29 years

WAD-See-Red-logo-150x85On this day, people all over the world will wear a red ribbon with pride, without fear, shame or stigma and ISS UK is helping this to happen by making red ribbons available for sale in many of our offices. Any money which you give for a ribbon will be donated to the Terence Higgins Trust, the UK’s largest HIV and sexual health charity, whose theme this year is See Red; referencing the famous red ribbon and calling for people to work together to fight against and end the HIV epidemic and stigma. 

One of our colleagues has bravely agreed to share their story with us to explain why World AIDS Day and wearing a red ribbon is so important to them, but they have asked me not to share their name for reasons that will become obvious...

Individual self-told story – Anonymous

For as long as I can remember my dad has always been sick. 

When I was young, I knew that he was allergic to penicillin and he would have a problem with his lungs one day, a fall the next, a terrible chest infection the following fortnight and so on. My mum has always been good at giving my brother and I reasons for his various illnesses but never any real detail and it was a total family taboo to ask too many questions, so we didn’t.  

I recently went back to live with my parents to support my mum because Dad has been more ill in the past year with increased vomiting and fevers and Mum was finding it incredibly difficult to juggle his care and medical appointments with her work. 

Although Dad smokes and drinks, he eats nutritious food, is under 60 and isn’t the world’s most unhealthy person so it didn’t make sense to me for someone of his age to be constantly so ill and in and out of hospital, so about six months ago, I did a Google search of his medication and discovered that he has HIV. 

I’ll never forget the moment I found out, I was literally frozen to the spot and my brain was saying “Wait. What? We live with someone who has AIDS?! My dad, the guy who studied medicine, the Doctor?”

When my brother and I confronted him, Dad just shrugged, said “I’m surprised your mum didn’t tell you” and then stayed in bed for three days. It turns out that Dad contracted HIV from having unprotected sex around 15 years ago so the topic is doubly off limits with my mum and since that day we haven’t talked about it much; we know what’s wrong, support him and take care of him, but we don’t say the actual word or discuss the condition. 

It’s been a really tough few months because, on top of the anguish of seeing my fragile, skinny father unable to open a car door because the weight of it is too much for him, incapable some days of getting out of bed, getting drunk to cope with the pain and emotional turmoil and probably having less than a year to live, I have been forced to confront the shock that the stigma of HIV and AIDS remains deeply engrained; not just in other people but also and especially in myself. 

In the early days of knowing, I scolded my brother for refusing to let our Dad get out of the car in case people might see him and realise what his condition was and frowned at Mum when she made Dad hide away when she had visitors and yet I wouldn’t eat a meal that my Dad had cooked on one of his good days; I made sure that I washed his plate again after he had washed it, stopped storing my toothbrush in the bathroom and began massively overusing bleach, Dettol and extra rubber gloves when cleaning. All these years I thought that HIV held the same space in my mind as cancer and yet I can’t stop my brain from having these thoughts and guarding against infection from my own dad. 

I have had to tell my managers because I need their understanding about taking time off for Dad’s appointments and I hated lying to them, but I wrote it in an e mail because I couldn’t face telling them face to face. They have been really supportive, but I can tell that they also found it difficult to talk to me about it too. 

I know that my parents were trying to protect me and my brother by not telling us; Dad was embarrassed and given how we’re dealing with it right now, it would have been really hard when we were teenagers, but I’m also really angry because we could have spent more time with Dad when he had more energy. He’s not in a good place right now and we took the good moments that we had together for granted. 

One good thing to happen is that the relationship between me and my dad has got stronger in these last months, I’ve discovered that I haven’t really known him for all these years when I resented him for getting drunk and making Mum sad without knowing why. I have found out that we are actually really alike; we swap novels, watch scary documentaries, discuss philosophy and talk surprisingly comfortably about him passing away and his funeral preferences which I will fight for when the time comes. We now have a bond that never existed before and every day has become extra special, but my heart often gets too heavy to bear. 

Dad has up to seven medical appointments a month and we have to be ‘on him’ to make sure he takes his hated 15-20 tablets a day. This medication controls his physical condition to an extent but on the days he’s well enough and we all go to work, he’ll still stay in bed all day because he hasn’t dealt with the emotional side of things; he’s lonely, dealing with the condition and has no-one he can talk to. I have noticed that there is a tendency to treat the person differently but really they haven’t changed, they are still the same person deep down but they have moments of being down or really poorly and you just have to find a way to be there for them.

"I will be wearing a red ribbon today, because I am not as open minded as I thought I was and I’m challenging myself and the stigma about Dad’s condition every single day. 

I wanted to tell my story to try and process my feelings, but also to help open up conversations about something that doesn’t often get discussed."

Further information

There are approximately 36.7 million people who have the virus globally; 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. There were 5,164 new diagnoses in the UK in 2016 and more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

What our colleagues’ story demonstrates is that it is not just the people living with the condition who are affected by it. Their family, friends and work colleagues are also impacted by caring for their loved one or supporting someone who is but also the isolation that comes with the negative stigma and discrimination associated with it. 

It’s an expensive time of year, but if you can spare a pound or so this World AIDS Day, please buy and wear a red ribbon to join the fight to end the negative impact of HIV. 

The more we See Red, the sooner we will beat HIV.

We will use the hashtags #SeeRed and #ISSGreatPeople on social media.

November’s Diversity Diary is focusing on Inter Faith Weekwhich is a recognised week-long event created by the inter Faith Network for the UK.

Interfaith-Image-245The main aims of Inter Faith Week are to:

  • Strengthen good inter faith relations
  • Increase awareness and understanding of the different and distinct faith communities in the UK
  • Enable greater interaction between people of different backgrounds and
  • Celebrate diversity and commonality

The aim that really resonates with me is the final one because I believe that the things that you will have in common with a person who is different from you will be greater than those differences but that both should be celebrated.

I am really interested in people and learning new things and so to enable me to really increase my own awareness I asked some ISS people of a few different faiths to have a chat about their beliefs which was fascinating for all of us. I hope you will find this as interesting as I have.

I am really thankful to the contributors who are Krishna Chhetri (Hindu – Sanatana-dharma), Ruksana Choudhury (Muslim), Sarah Dixon (Mormon – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Robert James (Atheist), Sundeep Patel (Hindu), Mahendra Rai (Kirant), Kuljit Uppal (Sikh) Jean White (Christian – Salvation Army) and Chantal Young (Jewish – Orthodox). 

How long have you practised your faith or lack of faith and how religious are you?  

Krishna: I have been practicing Hinduism all of my life, I believe in God and pray when I have time.

Ruksana: I was brought up as a Muslim but Islam and my Bangladeshi culture were blurred together so when I was growing up I wasn't really sure which beliefs were influenced by faith and which were cultural traditions. During the past ten years I have connected with God through my own research and experience; I pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan and try to live my life in accordance with the rules and guidance of our religion which requires us to be kind, respectful and lovely human beings. 

Sarah: I have been a Mormon for most of my life; my mum was introduced to the Church when she was a teenager by a family friend, my dad joined the Church around the time they married and my sisters and I were brought up in the Church. I have been attending regularly since I was a teenager and my beliefs are a way of life and an everyday thing. My faith makes me who am I rather than being something I do just on Sundays. 

Robert: I have always been atheist and believe that being kind, generous, empathetic and considerate are not exclusive to those who choose to follow any of the hundred religious belief systems. 

Sundeep: I follow my Hindu faith, although I am not the most religious person. 

Mahendra: I was brought up on the traditions of Kirant but am not really religious at all.  

  I was born into the faith but I have been the equivalent of a baptised Sikh which is called Amritdhari since I was 16 years old. Amrit means life and during the ceremony you are given a sweet drink by five elders from the community and you agree during the baptism to follow the Dhari - the code of conduct. Only a small percentage of Sikhs are Amritdhari because some of the codes of conduct such as keeping your hair (kesh) are seen as a burden. 

Jean: My family are Methodists so I was brought up with Christian values but I wasn't raised in the Salvation Army and am therefore a first generation Salvationist. I was introduced at the age of 17 and committed to the church at 18 because I loved the style of worship and welcome that I was given. I have a deep faith, I wear Salvation Army uniform and sit on the leadership body of the local corps as well as attending worship on Sundays and other activities in the week. 

I was born an Orthodox Jew and I practice my faith religiously.
Assume people know nothing about your faith or lack of faith what are the main things that people should know about it? 

Krishna: Sanatana dharma is a term used to denote the 'eternal' or absolute set of duties incumbent upon all Hindus, regardless of class, caste, or sect. Different texts or Gita's give different lists of the duties, but in general sanatana dharma consists of virtues such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings, purity, goodwill, mercy, patience, forbearance, self-restraint, generosity, and self-discipline. 

Sanatana dharma was not created but was given by God. There are three gods in Hinduism; Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the protector of the universe and Shiva, the destroyer. 

Hindu-symbol-245The temple is the main place for prayer but we also pray ourselves from the heart and Om is everything - it is a sacred sound, a spiritual icon (see image) and a mantra in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

There are many festivals in the Hindu religion, some of which involve fasting for up to 24 hours. 

I believe in heaven and reincarnation so if we do something bad in our lives we may be reborn as a lower creature. 

We believe in one God who we call Allah. I read the Quran every day and as I said before, I pray five times a day (Salah) at various times from dawn until night time. Salah is my direct link to Allah.  

We believe in Heaven and Hell and we believe there will be a Judgment Day where our deeds will be calculated and this will depend upon how we have lived our lives. 

During the month of fasting which is called Ramadan, Muslims are called upon to give 2.5% of their wealth to charity to purify their own lives and to help others. From sunrise to sunset during this holy month we are not allowed to eat or drink anything unless we are sick or menstruating but we are expected to make up for any missed fast at a later date. Ramadan is a really special time because you feel part of a bigger religion and know that all Muslims throughout the world are fasting together and we feel closer to God. 

As well as wearing a headscarf I also choose to wear a jilbab which is a long loose fitting dress. I wear both out of choice, they are not insisted upon and women cannot be forced to wear these Islamically (although it may be a cultural expectation).

Sarah: Our 'Articles of Faith' are 13 short statements that describe the majority of the doctrine we believe and the way we practice our religion. They were written in response to a newspaper editor in the 1840's who asked the then Prophet what the Church taught. This leads me on to one of the main things; we believe in living prophets and apostles and that the leaders of the Church are divinely appointed. They are following direction from God for the running of the Church. We believe in a Godhead which is three separate beings; God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. 

Family is incredibly important to us, the Church encourages families to set aside one night per week to spend time with their family called 'Family Home Evening'. It is suggested that this take place on Mondays and the Church ensures that no Church meetings are planned for Monday evenings, allowing there to hopefully be at least one free night every week for every family. 

Atheism is not about focusing on or pleasing a deity but about living the best possible life guided by a set of morals that I believe are fundamentally and intrinsically human.

Sundeep: Hinduism is a religion that originated in India. It has no known founder and is a mix of diverse beliefs and traditions. Hinduism is considered the world's oldest religion and has approximately a billion followers, placing it as the world's third largest religion after Christianity and Islam. 

We have many gods represent different values and aspects of life and we also believe in Karma and reincarnation. There are many Hindu festivals including Diwali, Holi and Navaratri. 

Diwali is the festival of lights for Hindus and Sikhs. The celebration lasts for five days and is marked by sweets, fireworks and lights. It celebrates the triumph of good, light and knowledge over evil, darkness and ignorance. 

Holi is the Hindu festival of colors and marks the beginning of spring. Hindus build bonfires to help get the evil spirits out of the air and celebrate with gifts of food. It is a very happy time when Hindus are recognised as equals which is symbolised by people painting each other and throwing dye and colorful powder over their bodies. 

Navaratri is a fun, nine-day religious holiday in October when Hindus put aside their daily chores and prepare to honor three goddesses of the religion: Durga, the goddess of valor; Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth; and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. During Navaratri, some people fast or only eat fruit once a day and people who are not fasting can go to any temple in India at any time to get free food. Growing up, this was my favorite celebration; less for religious reasons and more because I got to stay up with friends and family later than normal. As I got older, it became a great way to socialise. 

Mahendra: Kirant is the religion of Rai, Limbu, Sunuwar and Yakkha; the four Kirant tribes who make up around 5% of the Nepalese population.  

Mundhum is the religious scripture and the word means 'the power of great strength'. We worship mother-nature, our ancestors and three pillars of home; one pillar is dedicated to women, another to men and the third to relatives and communities. Almost all sacred rituals are performed by Nokchho, the tribal priest. 

We have three main festivals; two coincide with the planting and harvesting seasons and New Year celebration. Kirants do not fast but we do believe that if you do good deeds you will go to heaven. 

Kuljit: Sikhism is a relatively new religion which was founded in Pujab, India around 300 years ago and is the fifth largest faith in the world. The word Sikh means learner and we believe that we're all a family and everyone whoís willing to learn is Sikh which reminds me of the Bob Marley song 'One Love'. 

There are three tenets that every Sikh should follow; those are prayer, working hard and charity. 

Prayer will mean different things to different people; for some that means reading the stories from our Gurus and for others it's having spirituality, sitting in a corner and thinking. I think that not taking time away from the 24 / 7 lifestyle that we have is why we have an increase of mental health issues, God is within everyone and taking time out to be grateful for whet youíve got and to listen to yourself is so important. 

Sikhs should give 10% of what we have but this could be money or time and helping someone else during your day. Something that is never highlighted in the media is that anyone can get a free meal at a Sikh Gurdwara (temple) 24 / 7 no matter who you are; whenever I see things about people using food banks I think "why donít you take your kids to the Temple?", you don't have to talk to anyone, no-one will look at you and you will no longer be hungry. 

The concept of Sant-Sipahi which means Saint Warrior is also a really important requirement and it means that a Sikh must pray, read, be wise and do community work (saint) but also must be able and ready to fight for a worthy cause and for the protection of righteousness and the weak (warrior). This comes from the circumstances that arose at the beginning of our religion when the Moghuls were invading India and forcibly converting the Hindu princes and kings so all of the kings came to the Sikh leader of the time asked for help and he started an army to do exactly that - defend people who were of a different religion because it was the right thing to do. 

Our holy book, Guru Granth Sahib is a collection of teachings and writings passed down to and compiled by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. It also contains poetry from Muslim scholars and sonnets from Hindu poets and is treated as a living being - the pages are called angs which translates to limbs and different people wake him each morning, read him from the start to the end of his day and put him to sleep with a procession each day. 

Jean: The Salvation Army was established by William Booth in 1865 in response to the living conditions which Booth witnessed in the East end of London. He wanted to give people respect and value and provide social programmes but also to improve people's lives through the prohibition of alcohol and drugs which remains a core value today. 

The Salvation Army remains the second largest provider of social services in the UK providing hospitals, children's homes and homes for the elderly. We are actively involved in banishing modern day slavery, providing safe houses for people who have been exploited and providing humanitarian aid in the name of the Gospel, wherever there is a disaster or major incident - we were on the front line with tea wagons during World War One and we are currently working in the Caribbean.  

The Salvation Army have a huge musical tradition with brass bands and choirs and we use military terms for our congregation such as soldiers, sergeants, and our ministers are called Corps Officers. We worship at a Citadel and I chose to wear Salvation Army uniform although this isn't compulsory. 

Chantal: I will do a very Jewish thing and talk to you first about food because we just love food. We are required to eat a Kosher diet which means that we donít mix meat and milk; we never have pizza and cheese or cheese on burgers and at Jewish schools we never serve diary. Only a trained person can slaughter an animal and we can only eat animals like cow, goats and lamb and only chicken and duck - no birds of prey. 

Sabbath is the day of religious observance and abstinence from work and we worship at the Synagogue on Friday evening (for men) and Saturday morning with the main aspect of Saturday worship being the reading of a section of the Torah - the Old Testament. 

Women are considered naturally holier than men so we are not expected to pray at particular times but men are obligated to pray three times a day; in the morning (at a flexible time between sunrise to midday), the afternoon (from midday until sunset) and evening prayer (after sunset). 

What is the best thing about your faith or lack of faith? 

Krishna: The thing that I love about Hinduism is the equal treatment of all living things – animals, snakes, humans, trees, dogs and cows all have value and worth. I am vegetarian like most Hindus although some will sacrifice animals to the Gods to gain power and victory in wartime. 

Ruksana: There are so many things I love about the religion but personally I love the fact that I can practice Islam by myself. It is a personal relationship between me and God. I always feel God around me and am in constant conversation with Him. When I am at home and it is time to pray Salah, I stop whatever I am doing for a couple of minutes, perform my prayer and reflect upon what has gone well in my life with gratitude and what hasn’t gone so well with hope.

Sarah:  I love it… so I guess I’m biased and find it be difficult to choose. Something that came up in a lesson yesterday was that we do not just believe the gospel, we live it and I think the Church does a very good job of serving others particularly with its incredible humanitarian efforts. Locally each congregation conducts service projects, members donate money, and the Church has vast storehouse of supplies delivered in humanitarian crises, you may have seen volunteers in Mormon Helping Hands yellow t-shirts  

  Not having a specific faith means that there is no added shame or persecution from the wrath of a spirit; you know when you have done something wrong and you focus on rectifying that feeling through your own actions. You have personal accountability for what you do.

Sundeep: What is wonderful about Hinduism is probably similar across most religions (I think) which is that is they bring family and friends together to celebrate as one. Helping to create bonds that may not have naturally happened. The learning and teachings from different god stories focus on good over evil and help to reinforce the messages of 'do right over wrong', 'help others in need' and 'treat your elders with respect'. 

The best thing about Kirant religion that there is fair and equal treatment of women which I truly like and appreciate. There is a history in Asian culture of women being oppressed, although it has now significantly progressed but it has never been the case in Kirant religion and culture. 

Kuljit: The thing that really appealed to me when I decided to become Amritdhari was that it’s very much about everybody, not Sikhs alone and charity is a main tenet because the more you volunteer the better you feel as a person so it’s not really selfless - reading to and shopping for the elderly makes us feel better about ourselves.  I also like the newness of Sikhism; with the older religions there have been so many iterations of what’s been written down that it’s become a bit like Chinese whispers whereas we can trace ours back to the original scriptures. I also love the poetry of Guru Granth Sahib which is very like Tennyson. 

Jean: My Christianity gives me a sense of purpose and motivation. I have a personal relationship with God and I am not being judged when I fail, but receive forgiveness to live a better life and on Sundays I am supported by like-minded people in Gloucester Corps. 

Chantal: The best thing about Orthodox Judaism is that we learn how to be good people, respect and be kind to others and to behave in the right way. 

How does your faith or lack of faith impact you in your daily life? 

Krishna: I respect people, I believe in people, I am very honest and if ever I reach a difficult part of my life I remember a mantra like om. I don’t need to go to Temple for prayer, I pray in my heart. 

Ruksana: As a Muslim you are expected to be a great human being on a daily basis. To strive to better ourselves every day by doing as many good deeds as we can in our homes, community and work. Don’t do anything half-heartedly but do the best you can. God sees everything we do and rewards us accordingly. 

Sarah: As a Christian my faith impacts my thoughts, words, actions… or at least it should! I can’t say I’m perfect, but I try to study the scriptures, pray, serve and a willingness to help others is probably also fostered by my faith. We each have ‘callings’ or responsibilities at Church and my current one can take a lot of time. I wouldn’t work on a Sunday if it could be avoided. I think the ISS values resonate with me because of my faith, especially honesty and responsibility. 

Robert:  having no faith doesn’t mean that life is missing something or that a person lacks compassion and I do not believe that religion is a prerequisite for happiness and charity.  I live my life trying to spend as much time with my loved ones as possible, to laugh when I can and to enjoy however much time I’ve got to be here. 

Sundeep: It really doesn’t, other than help you grow as a person with principles of respect, faith and belief in others. The only true impact my faith has had on me is to help me learn to respect others and to be a little more patient and tolerant with people who annoy me. 

Mahendra: I am not the most religious person and I do not want to limit myself to only one religion but overall Kirant religion and other religions teach you to treat others with respect, being kind, honest and generous to others and also nature. This is the guideline of what I live by on a day to day basis in my personal and professional life. 

Kuljit: I had period in my early 20s when I had started work, you get up, work 9-5, earn money, sleep and start all over again and I thought ‘is this what it’s all about?’ and it really made me understand why people without faith get depressed. Sikhism is very personal; I like an occasional cider whereas the majority of baptised Sikhs don’t but it’s not a rule that you can’t. I don’t think religion is meant to be 100,000 people looking and doing the same thing blindly following rules so I am able to follow Sikhism and live my daily life from my heart. 

Jean: My Christianity is reflected in the way I treat and approach other people every day with respect and valuing their contribution. I have a set of values that I won’t compromise on and hopefully this is reflected in my daily living.

Chantal: I can never work from sunset on Friday until nightfall on a Saturday, I pray every morning and evening, I observe different festivals such as Jewish New Year and I can’t go out to eat just anywhere because I keep a Kosher diet but overall my life is not that different. 

What do you think are the similarities between your faith and others? 

Krishna: The religions of Nepal and India such as Jainism, Sikhism, Hare Krishna are all very similar but with slight differences. Buddhism and Hinduism are very similar because Buddha was born in Nepal and his parents were Hindu although Buddhists don’t believe in animal sacrifices but Hindu’s do. I practice Hinduism but I will also attend a Sikh or Buddhist temple and they can come to ours. 

The Quran and the Bible contain stories which are very similar and as a result Muslims and Christians believe in many of the same Prophets such as Jesus, Moses, Noah and Abraham.  All of the people involved in this discussion agreed that our religions teach us to be good to each other and to spread love. 

Sarah: I would say, that no matter what God or leader or anything else that is believed in, most religions teach people to care for each other. I don’t know of any religions (in its design, precepts or tenets) that preach hatred of individuals or that we shouldn’t have honour, integrity, honesty, compassion.  

Robert:  I believe that fundamentally all people have the same moral compass and we are all the same. In general, I think that society as a whole would benefit from focussing on encouraging mindfulness and living positively for each other. 

I believe all the different faiths have the same principles of life, like right & wrong and respect. I believe in god but find it hard to believe that there are many different divine beings and I like to think that representatives from each faith were present in a circle when God explained his/her view. Humans being can only take in so much information and view things from their own perspective so when this happened none of the representatives got a full and true view of the divine being which lead to differences in views and information from each religion and as time goes on and humans being imperfect. God’s messages have been diluted and also misrepresented. This is represented by the picture below. 


Mahendra: The similarity between my faith and others is the golden rule, “to treat others as you would like yourself to be treated”.

Kuljit: The founder of Sikhism said there is no Hindu; there is no Muslim; there is no Sikh, we are all one people. Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Punjab is the holiest Gurdwara and is open for worship to all people, from all walks of life and faith and is designed with four doors on each side to show that it’s open to all parts of the world. 

I read a statistical paper on religion (from Pascal's Wager) which said if you don’t believe in a god that’s fine but statistically it makes sense to believe in one religion because if it turns out there is no religion then you’re in the same boat. 

Jean: The thing that strikes me is whatever our religious background our values, such as respect, integrity and being kind are the same. Prayer is very important to us all, we all pray in our own way and we each have a religious set of teachings which we follow and festivals which we celebrate. 

Chantal: There are lots of similarities such as our new year is at a similar time to the Muslim new year (Sep to Oct); lights are a big part of many religions - Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of light; a lot of different religions don’t eat pork and have a similar method of killing their animals.

It is very importance that children learn about other religions and customs and at the Jewish school where I work we have themed lunches to encourage this learning.

It’s good to talk

Kuljit believes that lots of people don’t ask him about his religion because they worry that he will be offended and he recognises and respects that whilst that concern comes from a good place he really wishes that they would just ask. In my experience, provided that you ask your questions and conduct the conversation respectfully; people of faith absolutely LOVE talking to others about their religion and in fact often have a religious duty to do so; in Islam the invitation to help people of all faiths (Muslim and non-Muslim) to understand Islam is called da’wah and evangelism is a strong Christian tradition. 

Faith is a very personal thing and like with many things that are outside of your own ‘norm’ it is important to remember that knowing one Jewish, Sikh or Atheist person means that you know one Jewish, Sikh or Atheist person; they do not represent the entirety of their religion so it would be more respectful and actually less offensive to ask your questions rather than to make assumptions. 

I was raised in a Christian home with weekly attendance at evangelical church services, youth group and community events where I developed lifelong friendships including with two of my best friends who are the children of a bishop and a vicar. As adults, my siblings and I have all strongly rejected religion but I’ve maintained great respect for the moral guidelines, comfort and sense of belonging that faith can bring which has been totally strengthened by writing this month’s diary. 

There is so much negativity about religion in the media and society as a whole that it is easy to dismiss it as being ‘the root of all evil’ but when talking to individual people of faith I find it equally easy to see the benefits to personal and societal wellbeing. Things such as coming together with others, having a strong sense of community, doing good, kind deeds and charitable acts, mindfulness or prayer and having a purpose in life (which of course aren’t exclusive to religious people) are a common theme between the different religions that have been featured in this month’s diary and I would argue that the benefits of these activities are universally acknowledged and should be encouraged.   

If your faith or beliefs have not been represented in this particular diary and you would be interested in being involved in a similar exercise in 2018 please contact me on or at 

Why not also consider hosting an Inter Faith Week activity on your site? It is utterly fascinating and genuinely brings people closer together
Thanks for reading, 

This October marks 30 years of Black History Month UK where the achievements of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities and individuals are celebrated in the UK.
This month Nicky Siddall-Collier has interviewed some amazing black role models from our ISS community who will tell us about their career path and who has inspired them along the way.
This week I have had the amazing pleasure of getting to know Selom Gbewonyo, the Catering Manager at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU), who looks after a team of 18 that feed around 300 people a day. Selom’s passion for food and family are so evident in her story that it is absolutely no wonder she has made her career in food and a family of her team. 

Here is Selom’s story...

About me 

Selom-1My family are from Ghana, West Africa where I lived until I was 8 years old. Ghana is a country that I love and I visit every four years or so.

My dad is a research scientist and he came to the UK in the early 1970’s to study at the Southbank University before going on to work at St George’s hospital in South West London. 

He was followed to London by my mum, who worked as a nurse at Dulwich Hospital and a ward sister at St Thomas’s. Both of my parents loved disco music like Donna Summer, Cliff Richard and the Bee Gees and I will never forget Mum’s midnight blue jumpsuit, glitter and afro. 

My brother and I lived with my grandma in Keta which is in the Volta region of Ghana until I was four years old and my brother was eleven and it seems that making a living from food is hereditary as my abiding memory of this time is of Gran baking bread in a massive clay oven to sell at the local market.

When I was four my brother and I moved to the capital city of Accra to live with Auntie Patience who is my ‘Ghana Mummy’, my uncle and our four cousins. We lived near to the beach so we ate a lot of fresh seafood and grew our own watermelons and mangoes on the land opposite the compound (which is an area full of houses where we lived with other families) where we lived. When we moved to London it was apples that were exotic and different to me and I still love to include them in my version of Waldorf salad which also includes cabbage, raisins and chives.

My dad would have loved for me to be a scientist like him but ultimately he’s responsible for my career path of choice because he would buy me a Readers Digest cookbook every month and I would practice my dishes on my family every Sunday. Baking is essentially a series of chemical reactions with a (hopefully) delicious outcome and I love to bake for family and friend’s celebrations as well as for my team members’ birthday. It just makes me so happy to give food to people and to see the enjoyment they get from the different dishes. My mum loves my Shepherd’s Pie which she considers to be exotic in comparison to her traditional African cooking such as Jollof rice, okra stew and Banku (a fermented corn and cassava dough) which is she the queen of.

Selom2-SP-300x300I have an enormous family because my paternal grandad had 5 wives and 27 children and we have family members spread around the world but especially in America and the UK. Before going to university I decided to work as a waitress at an insurance company in Aldgate, London to save up so that I could spend 6 months based in New Jersey with some of my U.S. family, travel around America and of course work in a pizza shop near New York whilst I was there. 

These travels and my heritage had a big influence on me and when it came to my gastronomy coursework at Uni, discovering the history of the Jambalaya of southern Louisiana and deconstructing Ghanaian Jollof rice were two of one of my favourite assignments. Red Jambalaya made with tomatoes is thought to have originated from the Jollof rice dish that was familiar to the African slaves who lived New Orleans and brown Jambalaya is considered to have its roots in Spanish paella from the time of the Spanish rule from 1762-1802. 

Likewise, being black isn’t just one thing; just like Jambalaya, my Ghanaian heritage is also more varied than you might think. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to use Ghana as a trading post in 1471, before the Dutch, Danes, Swedes and Brits and the result of this history is that my mum and auntie both had Portuguese surnames before they married.

My career and my heroes

I’ve worked for numerous contract caterers, ran my first site at the age of 25 and very often I would be the only black women in the wider management team but my work has always spoken for itself and whenever I have attended interviews I have been successful; even when I’ve felt intimidated by my pinstriped opposition at the assessment day. If I’m totally honest I have probably talked myself out of applying for certain roles because I don’t give myself enough recognition and having realised this over the last few years at ISS with the encouragement of different managers and leaders around me, I’m going to be more bold in the future. 

My parents are my ultimate heroes. They made a new life in a foreign country and were able to buy a three bedroomed home in one of the most expensive cities in the world whilst working hard to build a house in Ghana as well. 

I have always loved history and since I have been in my 30’s, I have been inspired by strong women so I’m going to say that my heroes are the Egyptian leaders and queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra who were both who were knowledgeable, intelligent, successful in a man’s world and famed for their beauty.

This will give you another clue to me because away from cooking and food, I love fashion and shoes and would have loved to be a stylist. I don’t save clothes for ‘best’ because life is for living and clothes are for wearing, not for a special occasion. It’s not always easy to be your authentic self though and I remember a time in the late 1990s before I worked for ISS when I had braided my hair before a trip to Ghana and my white manager said to me “oh that’s very ethnic”. We worked at the BBC World Service so it’s not like we were in a staid environment but she was personally conservative, I was her protégé and she wanted me to be just like her but I didn’t straighten my hair as she would have liked me to, I told her that this (my braids) is normal and I’m not you, I’m me. It is just part of my personality to wear bright colours and stand out and I’m glad that I was strong enough to be me because she realised straight away that she’d said the wrong thing and she continued to help me to progress my career. 

"...My tip for any manager or leader reading this is not to stereotype people; get to know individuals for yourself, let them be themselves and you will be really surprised at what you find out. It’s the small things that make people special and it’s up to you to find their strengths, weaknesses, what makes them tick and get excited and then to build on that..."

Nicky Siddall-Collier: my concluding thoughts on Black History Month

In addition to the Diversity Diaries I have also had the pleasure of attended many Black History Month events this October including a wonderful afternoon hosted by ISS at Morgan Stanley where 52 employees were utterly inspired by Joseph Mullings and Sidikie Karbo.

Joseph Mullings:

Sidikie Karbo:

You may have read about Sid’s work to facilitate education, health services, sanitary products and making dreams come true in his birth village of Sierra Leonne , in the last issue of the Together magazine but if you didn’t I strongly encourage you to visit Sid’s website.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about a few of our amazing role models this month. I’m pretty sure that you have because of the sheer amount of feedback that they and the People and Culture team have been given each time an article has been published. 

In case you missed any of them here’s a summary of the previous weeks’ diaries:

To begin with, I interviewed Ray who talked to me about his role model at the ambulance service who showed him that a black man could progress in a predominantly white organisation and Ray also told me about his own bravery (my words not his) in confronting discriminatory behaviour that he had observed in that organisation.

The following week I was blown away by Joseph, the work that he does in his local community to help his church congregation, prisoners, ex-offenders, with young people to divert them away from gangs and what can be achieved in the 168 hours that we are each granted in a week! (link). A colleague said to me ‘Wow, I’ve worked with Joseph many times and never knew all that!’ which just goes to show that it’s good to talk.

Then Eustace told us about his journey from a tough council estate in Bermondsey to the C-Suite (we’re all rooting for you Eustace!) via the London Oratory, Kings College and ISS and his experiences with personal and institutional racism along the way (link). Black history is British history and I yearn for the day that the contributions of black role models, leaders and historical figures are equitably recognised every single day of the year but until they are; we all have a vital role to play in challenging bias and dismantling and disrupting racism and discriminatory behaviour. Eustace told us about the very obvious prejudice he experienced and I am doing some work at the moment about unconscious bias which I will be writing about in December.

All of these stories are still available on this Diversity Diaries page.

Being black and living in the UK will of course be a different experience for every individual but the common themes that have run through all of the diaries are the importance of strong connections with family, community and giving time to these as well as to work; that racism is as battle that remains to be won and that we need to keep actively fighting; that role models and mentors are vital and whilst lots of us are uncomfortable with this moniker it is absolutely true that “Each person must live their life as a model for others” (Rosa Parks) and each of us can achieve something awesome if we are tenacious, brave hardworking (and talented). 

I’d like to end the month of October 2017 with the words of an ISS colleague to Ray that I would love to be the legacy of ISS Black History Month 2017 and all of the work that we do in the future relating to diversity and inclusion:

“Just wanted to let you know that I found your story really inspiring and great to share with the wider organisation – a proper testimony to the fact that if you think big and pursue your dreams, much can be achieved.

It is also hugely important to acknowledge, that we don’t let legacy thinking form our organisation, but allow for individuals that care and have ambitions.”


This October marks 30 years of Black History Month UK where the achievements of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities and individuals are celebrated in the UK.
This month Nicky Siddall-Collier has interviewed some amazing black role models from our ISS community who will tell us about their career path and who has inspired them along the way.
Eustace Xavier, is one of our most senior black leaders at ISS and is currently juggling the roles of Interim Managing Director and Senior Finance Manager with being the best father to 20 month old Jacob and he hasn’t yet missed a bath or bed time. 

Eustace’s Story 

My early life 

Eustace XavierMy Grandad came to the UK from Dominica after the end of World War Two when Britain asked people living in the Commonwealth to come over and aid the rebuilding of Britain. He once described his first day in the UK with people pointing fingers at him and ignoring his requests for directions at Paddington station. He and my Nan made a conscious decision for their children to be raised by their grandmother in the Caribbean so that they could have a better upbringing as their living conditions in the UK at that time were poor due to being low income earners. 

My mum and dad began dating in Dominica but they broke up when mum moved to the UK in the early 1970’s which made them realise that they couldn’t live without each other so Mum sent for Dad in 1978, and are still going strong. 

I grew up on a council estate in Bermondsey, South East London where lots of people live in single parent families and survive on benefits. A boy that I played football with was stabbed to death within 25 metres of my home and some people from my primary school and area have unfortunately spent time in prison but I wouldn’t change a thing about my fantastic upbringing. What rarely gets portrayed about ‘estate living’ is the massive sense of community and ‘heart’. A sense of community that means that neighbours; even those who didn’t have children, would drop me and my brothers to school to help out when my mum was suffering with a physical foot disability and Dad was at work. 

I was an average pupil until I was around nine years old when a teacher, Mr Murray, made school interesting and exciting by introducing us to the “Round the Twist” book collection, formed a school football team and would give me a high five when I did well in tests. As a result of his teaching style and my application to learning I peaked, obtained a high SAT score and was invited to study at the London Oratory in Fulham, South West London which has been attended by the children of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Harriet Harman, MP and former deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. 

I had never been taught Algebra and Latin so when we were tested to see what sets we would be placed in, I was bitterly disappointed to be assigned to the lowest class. My parents raised us to never be victims and told me to do something with my disappointment and ‘fix it’ so with a lot of determination and the kind of sacrifices that meant studying in the library when my friends were hanging out in the park during the summer months, I was in the top set in every subject by the start of the third year. 

I suppose you could say that I was boring but I had my priorities, I knew where I wanted to be, I believed in myself and my hard work paid off.  One of my proudest moments was walking through the gate of the school after being awarded the best student Foundation Award in my third year to the applause of the boys in the playground, many of whom came from affluent homes and a different social demographic to me. 

I am really blessed to have always got along with a wide range people and even though I was straddling very different worlds I never had any problems with the upper and middle class pupils that I played rugby and studied with or my old mates around Bermondsey; the people that I worked alongside when I worked in a cash centre to support myself through university, to be debt free on qualifying, or one of my favourite professor at King's College, the 5th Earl Russell who taught me that Lords were not necessarily snooty and were mostly OK.  

I did have two negative experiences growing up that I wanted to share with you for Black History Month in the hope that you will take something away from my experiences. 

I was only racially profiled by the police when I was wearing my school uniform and the only black kid among white friends I would be stopped and searched by an undercover police officer at Earls Court tube station whilst members of the public walked past. The difference which the police saw when they looked at me and my friends was spelled out in a visible, humiliating and degrading way that was also utterly futile on their part because of course, there was never anything to find in my bag apart from books and my smelly sports kit. 

The one thing that makes this memory less painful, is remembering the day that a white friend lost their patience with the charade, threw their bag to the police officers’ feet and shouted ‘search my bag, search my bag’. It actually changed nothing because I was still searched but it was comforting for me to know that someone had stood up and said this is not right. There was some debate recently about what to do if you see someone being racially abused but in my opinion if you see an injustice happening you should be the person that my friend was. Be William Wilberforce.

I was in a relationship with a white girl and for the early part of the relationship I was not allowed to go into her house because I was black and her father disapproved of mixed race relationships. I ended the relationship after a while because whilst she was accepted and integrated into my family, I was made to feel worthless, dehumanised and unequal. I knew that I wasn’t, but self-doubt was beginning to creep in and it took my girlfriend’s heartbreak to make her family see sense and her father asked for my forgiveness and over the years we became really good friends. 

My first two lessons from this event are that ignorant people can change. Racism is the toughest mental battle that I have endured and I would not wish it or any form of discrimination on anyone. However, I take hope from the fact that what I went through has changed the opinion of one ill-informed person. My final lesson is a reflection on my own silence, because I didn’t share my burdens about what was happening, how I was being treated by my girlfriend’s family and how this made me feel with anyone until after the relationship finally ended and I now don’t think that this is the right thing to do. Should anyone reading this article be suffering any form of discrimination, I strongly encourage you to seek someone who you can trust to talk to because the sense of self-doubt and worthlessness can quickly grow.

My Career 

When I was young I thought that I would go to Uni and then most probably work as a manager at the Council because that’s what the people around me with ‘good jobs’ did and I did actually obtain some work experience in the finance department of Lewisham Council.  By then, I knew that it was Finance or Law for me and having spent a summer at a top London law firm and witnessing a Partner crying and stressed out in her office because she was missing her family, the decision was made easy because I had more fun working in the finance department and numbers are my forte. 

I started my career in audit, where my strong focused work ethic was instrumental in me qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with first time passes. This was without doubt the toughest period learning wise because after working long days, I would have to motivate myself to study for two-three hours at night. After qualifying, I moved to Grant Thornton’s Mergers and Acquisitions team. This was a great experience for me to be more than just a “numbers” guy. I had the opportunity to pitch for new contracts in places like Cannes on a yacht, negotiate as well as having the opportunity to work on M&A assignments with some of the biggest businesses in the world. The hours were relentless where you could easily work 12 to 14 hour days and then go to networking events after that. At the time, I was single so it was not too much of a burden having to go to cool West End clubs in the name of work. During my first annual appraisal I was ripped apart by the team Partner because although I was one of the best performers among my peer group and had a successful year, he felt I was working within myself and not pushing myself out of my comfort zone. This feedback made me bitter for a couple of days but then I thought long and hard about what he said, and he was right. I changed my mind-set in the second year and started to look at the criteria for the job level above me and use that as my benchmark. I proactively made cold calls and organised meetings with new potential customers. One of which, we successfully agreed a mandate with. As a result of this change in mind-set, I earned two promotions within 12 months. 

I’ve worked at ISS for over two years and being here has changed my leadership outlook. Stephanie Hamilton has been the best mentor for me, in this regard. I will never forget walking with her around a site and she knew the names of each person, asked how they were doing, remembered the names of family members and just made them feel like they had their MD’s undivided attention. I have been privileged to have worked with very senior business leaders from some of the biggest companies in the world, who would struggle to make a connection like she does with staff at all levels. She will cringe but I will forever keep in my head her positive nagging for me to connect with and fight for my people every day. To be aware that the decisions we make as senior leaders impact families, the ability to repay mortgages, make dream holidays come true and can even stop people from facing eviction, the numbers mean much more than the report they are written on.

There are simply not enough senior black leaders within the UK workforce and my goal is the ‘C-Suite’ which is called this because of the titles of top senior executives in businesses which tend to start with the letter C, for chief, as in chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO) and chief information officer (CIO). 

In the next five years I would love to be a country CFO of a listed business. I have a mentor and am working with a psychologist to give me the best chance of achieving this goal, not for the money but to be the most successful person that I can be. 

My heroes

Like most people, my first heroes are my family members:

Mum and Dad raised us to be independent men who were self-sufficient and strong enough to withstand the temptations around us, believe in ourselves and go where we wanted to go. They never said ‘be an A grade student’, they said ‘do your best and we will always love you’ and they taught us to apply ourselves if we encountered a disappointment or hurdle. 

They also taught us to ignore societies gender stereotypes; Mum and Dad both went out to work, Mum and Dad both did housework and cooking, Dad was always home for dinner and my brothers and I were expected to do household chores and help with things like food shopping from a very young age. Perhaps for this reason three of my other heroes are women.

My cousin Jane was the first person in our family to go to University and I saw how proud that made people, how highly it was spoken of and I wanted a piece of that for me. She was always a great supporter of mine and would send me WH Smith book vouchers and encourage me to do well at school. 

Eustace Xavier2My wife is the standard that I need to live by and she is just the most amazing person; she has a post graduate degree, is a lecturer, growing her freelance consultancy work, an awesome mother to our son and is currently training to become a counsellor. Watching her endure 42 hours of labour without any pain relief quickly ended the debate in our house about who is the strongest. We attend and got married at Holy Trinity Church where William Wilberforce worshipped and to have our families sing ‘Amazing Grace’ together on our wedding day in the church of the leader behind the movement to end the slave trade was just so powerful and something I will share fondly with Jacob when he grows up. 
And finally, Serena Williams is such an inspiration. She grew up in Compton, a deprived and violent neighbourhood south of Los Angeles and went on to become a household name in a sport that is generally dominated by white players. She is the winner of the most Grand Slams in the history of professional tennis, the oldest player in history to hold the world number one title and she made me want to watch tennis. She and Barack Obama give hope to young black people that with hard work and ambition they can achieve their hopes and dreams, even if it’s never been done before.  

For more information about Black History Month and events in your area go to: #BHM2017

Get involved by telling us who your heroes are and why? It could be someone from your community, or a notable figure. Tell us at 

This October marks 30 years of Black History Month UK where the achievements of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities and individuals are celebrated in the UK.

Instead of publishing a Diversity Diary for October, I am interviewing some amazing black role models from our ISS community each week of the month who will tell us about their lives, their career path and who has inspired them along the way.  

This week, I am in conversation with Joseph Mullings, Bid Executive, who I first met very recently when we were both working in the South Quay office.  
Joseph’s Story 

My time at ISS 

I joined ISS in May 2015 as a Bid Executive working on new business opportunities within the UK Private Sector Business Development Team. 

I studied English literature at University and have a writing background so this experience allows me to craft what we’re saying to the customer in a creative way. 

I have recently successfully applied to work as a bid manager and technical writer for ISS North America. In January 2018 I am due to move to Canada and will be shortly followed by my wife and four children to begin a new chapter of our lives and continue my ISS journey with the North American team. 

My time outside of work 

When I am not in the office or spending time with my family, I am working in the community as an assistant pastor at our Pentecostal church or on projects which address issues which affect people in my local area of Harlesden, London. 

Over the past 15 years I’ve been involved in setting up a number of community initiatives. In 2002 I set up the Faith Links initiative in the Park Royal Centre for Mental Health with a Lead Social Worker. Our initiative was the first of its kind in the UK, and remains the only inpatient unit that has weekly church services delivered to people suffering with mental ill-health. In 2005 I started up a charity for ex-offenders with some friends. The Prisoner’s Liaison Information Advisory Service started its work in Brent, and today delivers information advice and guidance to ex-offenders in prisons like HMP Wormwood Scrubs and in the community, to aid breaking the cycle of reoffending.

I still have strong links with Wormwood Scrubs and Brixton prison where I have delivered and currently deliver religious services. My work in prisons began at Wormwood Scrubs working with the chaplaincy team. I was invited to join the team by the lead chaplain who heard me preach at the funeral of a young man who was brutally murdered. The services worked really well with up to 200 prisoners attending worship across two services and it was shown to have a really positive impact on the prisoners’ behaviour on the wing so prison management wanted to replicate this success at Brixton. They transplanted our team from Wormwood over to Brixton where I continue to ‘moderate’ services which means that I lead the singing, music, scripture and prayers whilst a colleague conducts the sermon. 

Joseph Mullings

The enthusiasm with which the services are received by the 80-100 prisoners who attend the Brixton service is remarkable. Many attendees are at different points of the journey, some have converted to Christianity in prison and are at the beginning of their religious journey whilst others have reconnected with their faith whilst in prison. Others arrive as fully fledged Christians but are in prison because of their immigration status, or in one case due to a car accident which involved the fatality of child. It’s not just the people you would suspect and expect. This diversity of people aids the continuity of what we do in the weeks between our services. Christians in prison help other prisoners to connect or reconnect to faith at a time when they need it most. These services give hope.

I am currently working on a project started by a charity called Spark2Life, and co-funded by the Catlyst Housing Group and the Evening Standard’s Dispossessed Fund. Spark2Life aims to intervene and prevent gang culture occurring by providing opportunities for young people to take a different path into education, training, employment or starting their own businesses. 

I became involved in this project when a local young man who was not a gang member was shot and killed in a gang-related vengeance attack. About six months later another young life was taken in the same manner. The first was killed on the road where my church is based in March 2016. It feels now like a watershed moment for our community. There hadn’t been a killing in the area for a while before this happened and the victim had absolutely nothing to do with the feuding between the two rival gangs. It apparently happened because of mistaken identity; he was a bright guy, who had qualifications, was working, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and looked like someone else.

For me, the reality was that this killing happened 400 metres from my church. We had congregation members living on the road where it had happened which made it feel too close to home and too random to ignore but it also felt like the gangs were “taking the gloves off” and were terrorising the area to such an extent that we had to publically pull together and take action. These incidents sparked lots of community meetings which explored how we could challenge and disrupt the destructive cycle that results in such tragic loss of lives.

Spark2Life committed a project manager to manage two people that they employed on the Estate to act as mentors and guides to young people and signpost them in the right direction. They used the music studio as the major engagement tool to get the attention of the youths on the estate. 

I pitched an idea to run some Business Masterclasses, which we called “Cut Out for Business Programme”. In the first year, we delivered a number of these on the estate and the penultimate session in the boardroom at SQP, with the help of some successful leaders within ISS of African Caribbean origin (Ray Perrotte, and Eustace Xavier). Our presenters included successful people from my personal and professional network. We had a financial advisor, marketing consultant, millionaire entrepreneur and angel investor, and “social entrepreneurs” who advise on starting-up business and charities, 

We held the final session in the ISS Corporate Box at Wembley with Richard Sykes, Regional CEO for Western Europe. It was in fact Richard who signed this off just as he was leaving the UK post. When I asked him for the boardroom, he replied ‘Why don’t you have the corporate box at Wembley seeing it’s so close to the group?’ so I cheekily pushed for both, he agreed and he came to speak about his inspirations at the first Wembley session. Since then Stephanie Hamilton, People and Culture Director, UK and Ireland has been responsible for signing off these sessions, and I can’t say how grateful I am for that.

We used the Wembley hospitality box for Dragon’s Den style investment sessions. In advance of the sessions we did a number of coaching sessions about what investors want to see and hear. One of the biggest challenges for the young people was understanding that investors want to invest in a person - the business model and plan has to make sense but ultimately an investor will invest in the person as much as the business. Our investors were keen to see how they presented themselves as a potential future business partner.

The current cohort have set up a record label and are receiving royalties for their music which wouldn’t have happened as quickly without access to the project. What I mean by this is that you have a group of guys from a council estate in a room talking about their hopes, dreams and business ideas but successful people need to be present to tell them that what they perceive as a barrier is an opportunity. It is so important to get someone in a room that has gotten over the barriers and walked the road to success from literally the same level that they started, nothing is more powerful than someone standing in front of you saying, “If I can do it, so can you, stop making excuses!”

Moments like these are the reason I have put this programme together. We have created a space where we challenge and inject aspiration. Additionally, as a father and husband, I also relish the moments where we can just talk about what family means to us. My values can be quite challenging but everyone craves a stable and loving home. A lot of these guys have found a sense of family amongst people with little regard for the lives of others. At the root of that there’s sometimes a lot of pain stemming from their upbringing. Being in the room and being an example not just in business but in life is probably something that I value even more.

Social justice is a really big deal. It requires the best of us to care for the worst of us and the only way that doesn’t matter is if you don’t recognise your community as extended family.  

My heroes

As a devout Christian when you ask about my inspiration my first thought goes to Jesus Christ because he triumphed over adversity with great humility and he achieved his mission to change the world in just three short years. 

My next thought goes to my father whose mission has been decidedly longer. Dad began the Restoration, Revival, Fellowship church in his home basement in Shepherd Bush in the 1960s and has devoted his life to growing the Church in the UK, India and Africa –motivated by his need to spread the word of God and improve communities. 


It is almost impossible to imagine a British Caribbean leaving his young family in the UK to spend 6 months travelling to various countries talking about Jesus, let alone the legacy of his work being so extensive that there are currently 70 branches of the church in India as well as 17 in Kenya and 4 in the UK. Dad was involved in the initial ‘planting’ of the first church in India, this means that he worked to teach and train the people who would support the church long term. In his role he visits periodically, ordaining new ministers, supporting fundraising for new buildings, attending conferences and visiting congregations when requested by the leaders in India.  

My dad is unstoppable. He doesn’t feel that his work is done yet, and he is still energetic about the work of the church here and abroad. In his eyes his work won’t be over until he wakes up on the other side. Watching him my entire life has impacted me on both a conscious and subconscious level. Subconsciously, I’ve always wanted to be like him, I’m aware of this now. He’s impacted the lives of so many for good and selflessly served, even at times to his own apparent detriment. But he, and our family, whilst not having everything have not lacked for anything.

I don’t think that I could ever give what my dad gave because he made sacrifices that laid the foundation for what the church organisation has become but I try and make a difference where I can. I have taken the view that correlates to James 4:17: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” This for me means using whatever knowledge, access and time that I have and to help people less fortunate than myself.

The Mullings are such an incredible inspiration to us all, raising families, growing a church, living and breathing their values and beliefs and committing time and energy to improving the lives of others. 

Joseph works full time for ISS, raises four children, delivers church services in Brixton prison and is actively involved in the church and with community projects. It makes me wonder what more you and I could you do that involves caring for or helping others? 

For more information about Black History Month and events in your area go to: #BHM2017

Get involved by telling us who your heroes are and why? It could be someone from your community, or a notable figure. Tell us: 
This October marks 30 years of Black History Month UK where the achievements of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities and individuals are celebrated in the UK.

I’m Nicky Siddall-Collier and instead of publishing a Diversity Diary for October, we will be talking each week to some amazing black role models from our ISS community who will tell us about their career path and who has inspired them along the way.

We start by getting to know Ray Perrotte, UK Corporate Director who is one of our most senior black leader at ISS, devoted father of two,  friend to many, and total role model – even if he’d really rather not be.

Ray and I have worked together for many years and the key thing that always shines through when you work with him is his passion for people and ensuring that they are treated properly and with respect. Here’s his story. 

Ray’s Story 

My career path 

I joined the Army as a Junior Leader in the Royal Engineers straight after school at 16 and was engaged in military engineering and construction tasks such as bridge building and working with explosives and mine warfare. I was posted to the Falklands within days of the war ending in June 1982 and spent six months helping to get the island back onto its feet and including preparing the runway so that RAF Phantom Jets could land. I spent a total of eight years in the force including several years in Germany working as a combat engineer, first aid instructor and regimental medic which means that I was trained to looked after injured soldiers although I never saw combat as I served between wars.  

When you sign up to join the Army you choose the number of years you want to serve and when my eight years was up I decided that I was ready for a new challenge and owing to my medical experience I joined the London Ambulance Service where I was a Paramedic for 12 years. 

I spent a number of years dealing with every kind of 999 call that you can imagine - car crashes, heart attacks and stabbings. There was a culture of lethargy that didn’t sit well with me. In the military you don’t sit around idle, so I struggled with this culture and when a new position of Shift Leader became available I didn’t hesitate to apply and I expected to be successful. A lot of my colleagues didn’t want the responsibility and didn’t trust management but I thought that it was better to change things from inside rather than shouting about it from the outside. I knew that the bottom rung wasn’t going to be where you made changes and it just wasn’t the place for me. 

In the ambulance service there was only one black guy, John the Community Relations Officer who was more senior than me and he was my inspiration and unofficial mentor. He guided me through situations that I found challenging, he’d listen and make suggestions but most importantly he was a role model for me; he showed me that it was possible in a sea of white people for a black man to get promoted and that the glass ceiling could be smashed.  

Our society has changed significantly since I was a paramedic. Institutional prejudice has been identified and is being challenged, but, the glass ceiling that I felt as a young man still exists in the UK. Around 12.5% of the population are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) but they hold just 6% of top management positions and PwC voluntarily reported last month that BAME people within their organisation earn 13% less than white people This means that it continues to be really important for role models to be visible and to show people that it is possible to progress because you can’t be what you can’t see. 

I have worked in a variety of roles for ISS since 2001 and ISS has been a real family affair for me because not only has my mum worked as a cleaner for us (without me realising it), but my eldest daughter Daisy is a Team Leader in Hospitality and my youngest CoCo is doing work experience in Catering.

I am currently the UK Corporate Director for one of the Key Accounts within the Finance Sector of the company. This means that I’m responsible for 1,500 people across the corporate estate in the UK who deliver cleaning catering, engineering, mailroom, logistics, front of house and security services to our customer, making sure that we meet the Key Performance Indicators and that my team leaders and managers are focused on ensuring that our people are happy in their roles and have the tools to do their job. I am really happy in this role because I’m in a unique position to influence the right behaviours amongst my management team which plays to my strengths of people focus. 

My heroes

I have thought hard about who has been my inspiration and as well as my ambulance service mentor who showed me that I could progress my career, it is also people who have stood up to be counted that have most inspired me over the years because that is just so important to do.  

At the ambulance service, I had to work for a period with a very difficult group because this was the only route to my second promotion. I trained with them for six weeks and quietly wrote down every racist, sexist and homophobic comment that I heard from them. As I was congratulated on my promotion I handed the dossier to my superior officer. It wasn’t easy but I just had to stand up for what was right and as a result change happened. 

Ray Perotte holds a picture of his Black History Heroes from the past and current

At the moment, the people who immediately spring into my mind as my heroes are the NFL players who are ‘taking the knee’ during the American national anthem to protest against police brutality towards people of colour. This protest began with Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers sitting during the anthem and saying “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”. Kaepernick was later persuaded by a black US Special Forces operative to instead “take a knee” as a compromise that would honour men and women who have sacrificed their lives and mirror the action of soldiers’ showing respect for their fallen comrades whilst also peacefully protesting injustices. 

Thinking about this led me to thinking about Tommie Smith and John Carlos who won the 200m Gold and Bronze medals during the October Olympics of 1968 and raised gloved fists during the American anthem alongside Peter Norman who won silver for Australia and wore a badge on the podium in support of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. 

In the USA in 1968, legislation allowing mixed race marriages and outlawing racial discrimination in housing had only just been passed; intimidation of black people legally registering to vote was still rife and Martin Luther King Junior had been assassinated only five months earlier but Smith and Carlos suffered immediate vitriolic racist abuse and all three men experienced lifelong hardship for their peaceful protest, not dissimilar to the professional ostracism now being experienced by Colin Kaepernick for engaging in the most humble and respectful of acts. 
This shows me that role models often still have to be brave because standing out from the crowd may not always be comfortable but it is utterly necessary to elicit change. 

What can we take away from Ray’s story?

You might not feel comfortable with the moniker of ‘role model’ but it is a really important job to embrace. Your inspiration may encourage someone to a place that they would never otherwise have thought possible.  

Don’t wait for a mentor to come your way. Seek one out. Or why not be one? 

If you get the opportunity to be a mentor or mentee grasp it with both hands. I am certain that John got as much from their relationship as Ray did. 

Be brave- you will make a change and it will be worth it. 

For more information about Black History Month and events in your area go to: #BHM2017.

Get involved by telling us who your heroes are and why. It could be someone from your community, or a notable figure. Tell us: at

September 2017

This month’s diversity diary coincides with National Inclusion Week which has as its theme for 2017 ‘Connect for Inclusion’. 

Difference enriches our lives and generates new perspectives and ideas, so my challenge to you this month is to connect with others, have a conversation with someone in the office or at the site where you work that you don’t normally engage with, sit with a different group at lunchtime, ask a member of your client’s staff to go for a coffee and broaden your connections. 

                                                                                                                         National Inclusion Week
I was really excited when I was asked to connect with the person telling us their story this month because I was getting to indulge my interest in history and religion as well as diversity with a colleague whom I’ve never met despite the fact that he’s worked for ISS for a couple of years and it was one of the most entertaining couple of hours that I’ve had at work in the last couple of months. Our colleague has asked me not to share his name. 

Individual self-told story 

On the whole, my family is pretty religious, an example of this My grandfather spent six months travelling the 3,216 miles from Bangladesh to Mecca to perform Hajj, this journey  can now be achieved on a flight of under six hours. Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are expected to make at least once in their lifetime if they are physically, mentally and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and is one of the five pillars of Islam. The others are shahadah (declaration of faith); salat (daily prayer); zakat (giving of alms) and sawm (fasting in Ramadan) which some of your colleagues in ISS may observe more strictly than others. 

I believe it was the 1960s when Dad came to the UK from Bangladesh with his brother and lived in Birmingham and Manchester, as well as London. Like me, he has not always been a practicing Muslim and was a ‘bit of a geezer’ who went to the casino, got into fights and drank alcohol at times. He was a very well-known character, business man and fundraiser in the local community. He was always on the phone after 6pm when it was free to make landline calls and I jokingly say he is responsible for the number of Asians that there are in our area because he would help people to obtain mortgage advice, let them know when properties became available for sale and introduce people whose daughters and sons were ready for marriage. 

After Dad had his first heart attack he became more religious and was really upset that he could no longer read the Quran as he’d been away from Arabic for so long. He went to Mecca, called us to tell us how inspirational it was to be with God alongside Muslims from all over the world and was so inspired that when he returned, he began to raise money to build the first mosque in our area. The oldest mosque in England was built in Woking in 1889 and there has been a mosque in London since 1926 but obviously it took a while longer than that to get one in good old Essex and that became Dad’s mission. 


Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking (the oldest mosque in the UK)

After a period of fund raising and making friends and contacts with local councillors, Dad eventually acquired a derelict building and permission for the left hand side of it to be converted to a mosque (the council didn’t want a large mosque) and our first prayers were held on concrete. 

I’m a lot like my Dad and as a kid I would pretend that I was leaving the house to go to mosque but then sneak back upstairs to bed like he would sneak to the casino. Most of my friends at school were not Muslim or Asian (although saying that, there are many similarities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam that many people are unaware of) but when I was about 15 I met a Muslim in science class who showed me a more modern, dynamic version of Islam that wasn’t ‘old men with beards in jack up pants showing their ankles’. He talked to me about Islam, I began to appreciate the guidance that the Quran gave for living life and we persuaded the school to allow us to observe Jumu’ah which is congregational prayers just after noon on Fridays.  

Right now, I describe myself as Muslim and I read certain passages from the Quran which gave my Dad peace when he was in hospital before he died and have been a real comfort to me after losing my Dad, but I don’t fast during Ramadan or pray five times a day and I only occasionally attend Jumu’ah. Like a lot of Christians who don’t attend Church or pray regularly. 

My Dad was my superhero and an absolute legend, over 600 people came to his funeral, I’ve received posthumous awards on his behalf for his fundraising for a cancer hospital and I am still learning to live without him. 

The lessons that I have learned from his loss is to always make time to connect with your parents and tell them that you love them even when they annoy you. The lesson that I have learned from my Dad’s life are to always make time for people and to help people, simply because you can, rather than because you will benefit from doing so.   

It’s good to talk

If you have found this interesting please have a read of the Management Guide to Religion and Belief and if you would like to discuss or need help with any of the issues covered in the Diversity Diary this month, do get in touch.

Also, if you have comments and suggestions on the Diversity Diary or on Dignity, Diversity and Inclusion in general or if you would like to be involved in an inclusivity network in the future, we would love to hear from you.

As ever you can contact me on:

Thanks for reading, 


August 2017

I feel very privileged to write this monthly Diversity Diary which leads me to this month’s diversity diary theme which focuses on privilege and allyship. 

I was told about something that happened at ISS recently and my immediate reaction was that it was an excellent example of an employee using their privilege and being a great ally. 

The person who told me about it hadn’t made the same connection so they suggested that this be my next diary subject and here we are. 

The colleagues involved in this story have asked not to be identified, so we are not providing precise details and we will refer to them as D & M. 


Individual Self Told Story – D & M

D: “I was working a normal shift and M and several of the other staff were talking about something which had happened which they knew wasn’t intentional but which had upset them all. 

Although I don’t share the protected characteristic (1) of the group, I could see where they were coming from, did some of my own research and suggested that they raise the issue with the People and Culture department.

After about a week, the matter was still being discussed but no action had been taken to talk to anyone senior about it. M told me that the group feared for their jobs if they raised it and were doubtful any action were taken if they did report it anyway. So I said that I would raise it for them, M agreed and I did.

When I look back, it was a little bit daunting because being an employee is a little bit like being in a parent / child relationship and the answer could be “it’s like that because I say so” but I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I just did it.

I didn’t think that my job would be on the line, but now that you ask, I do think that it was easier for me to raise the matter as someone who didn’t share the characteristic of the group that was most affected by what had happened.”

M: “D had the courage to raise a matter which we felt was a sensitive and potentially controversial issue to raise and we admire him greatly for coming forward. A mistake was made but after it had been investigated, a sincere apology was given and robust procedures have now been put in place to prevent it from happening again. That wouldn’t have happened without D’s bravery and we want him to be recognised for this. 

The group involved know that human beings make errors, we knew that what happened wasn’t deliberate and we love working for ISS but we also felt that by raising it ourselves we might be seen as ‘using the XXX card’”. 

Why was D ‘privileged’ and an ally? 

Now I know that, most of us don't live in mansions, drive Porsches or turn left when we take a flight. When we look around at bankers, Eton educated politicians and footballers (2) we probably don't feel like we have their type of privilege and yet most of us will have some or more likely, a lot of privilege, we just don’t realise it.

‘Privilege’ is unearned social, economic and political advantages, rights or power which is given by society to all members of a dominant group. It is usually invisible to those who have it, but nevertheless it puts them at an advantage over those who don’t have it (3).

In D’s case he belonged to a dominant group because he and the majority of people in the UK don’t share the protected characteristic of M and the affected group. This gave him the social advantage of being able to raise a complaint about a mistake that has been made without feeling fear that he would be stigmatised or dismissed because of it. D hasn’t done anything to earn that social advantage; he simply has it.

He didn’t recognise it as an advantage but the lack of this privilege was obviously and acutely felt by M and the others.

When I discussed the concept of privilege with a Regional Director for Security, he told me that it helps him to think of it as being empowered or socially more enabled to better support people and to make their lives better. D was empowered to support M and he has made ISS a better place for the future by providing his support.

More examples

The vast majority of societies are patriarchal which means that men (4) hold primary power, political leadership, control of property and business and social privilege.

To give a few examples, in the UK and Ireland:

• there are more men called Dave or David who are CEO’s in the FTSE 100 than there are total women (regardless of their name); 

• the language of the law and our common vocabulary defaults to male e.g. ‘mankind’, ‘spokesman’, ‘men at work’ and when a women is successful in a prestigious, male dominated environment she is referred to first by her sex e.g. ‘female doctor’, which in turn helps to contribute to occupational segregation because children learn at a very young age which jobs are ‘for them’; and

• males are less likely to be interrupted when they speak or be called bossy when they assert themselves.

I am a woman so I don’t have male privilege but I do have the privilege of being white so:

• the people that I see on TV, in films, books and magazines generally look like me; 
• if I graduated from university in 2016 I would be paid 23% more than a Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) graduate.
• I am statistically more likely to be able to progress at work because whilst the BAME community makes up 14% of the UK population, only 4% of FTSE 100 companies have BAME CEOs and only 8% of management roles are filled by BAME employees. 

I also have the privilege of:

• not looking disabled so I’m not talked down to and patronised on a daily basis and can use public transport without meticulously planning these arrangements;
• I am married to a partner of the opposite sex so when I am asked about my home life I don’t have to make a snap decision about whether to reveal my sexual orientation and our marriage remains legitimate and respected wherever in the world we chose to travel to; and
• I am not subjected to harassment or physical assault because I don’t dress in a way which symbolises that I follow a particular religion.

However, privilege isn’t just about the legally protected characteristics either because educations levels, class, social status, your family background, general health, where you live and grew up, accent, weight, language skills, other peoples’ perceptions about your attractiveness and even your height can give you an advantage or disadvantage.

This isn’t about blaming people who have privilege, possessing it is nobody’s fault, it’s just the way of our society but what really matters is how you use it and that links in to your personal values and those of ISS.

Why does it matter? 

From a business perspective, it has been shown time and again that diverse teams with inclusive leadership outperform homogenous teams, but for me, it’s the inherent unfairness that needs to be challenged.

Not bothered about that? OK let’s get really personal. You may find religion, you might move to live in a country where you’re no longer the dominant majority, you could become disabled at any time and you will age. If and when these things happen your personal privilege will diminish so why not consider using your privilege to make a change to society whilst you have it?

Tips on being an ally  
You may unwittingly become an ally like D, but if you really want to make long-term changes and improvements, make a commitment and effort to recognise your privilege and work in solidarity with non-privileged groups. This isn’t always easy because privilege is often invisible and disguised as meritocracy; that is the point of my diary this month – reflect on yourself in different environments, are you the one with privilege – what are you doing with it?

You will probably want to do some homework, will almost certainly have to change your behaviour and become ‘anti’ (e.g. anti-discrimination, anti-racist, anti-sexist etc.) which will mean putting your head above the parapet, but you can do so in the knowledge that your head is way safer than your less privileged colleague, friend or family member.

• Do some research on privilege and being a good ally – start with the notes list below and see where the internet takes you (please do share any gems with me).

• Think about the language that you and those around you use e.g. ‘that’s so lame’, ‘what does your wife do?’, ‘I’m recruiting a man in a van’, ‘I’m crazy busy’, ‘it’s insane’, ‘man up’ etc. etc. etc. I will do a more detailed Diversity Diary at some point about the importance of language, so watch this space in the middle of each month.
• Don’t let acts of bias, discrimination or poor language choices pass by, raise them - especially when the person who is being discriminated against is not present. Either ‘call it out’ which means challenging it there and then, or ‘call it in’ which means having a separate / off line conversation explaining why what has happened is not OK. This is what D did. The latter is likely to be received better, but the former is sometimes necessary in the heat of the moment and to set an example.

• Beware of being a ‘saviour’. D didn’t just steam in and solve the problem for M and the group, he listened, gave advice, waited and then, with express permission he raised the issue. This is textbook ally behaviour without him even knowing it. D you are an inspiration to us all.

• If you do nothing else watch this seven minute video from The Book of Life giving an alternative to political correctness It reminds me of our People and Culture Policy.

• Don’t let people interrupt others in meetings – the chances are that it will be someone with privilege doing the interrupting (and often someone who is white and / or male, if you don’t believe me… Use your privilege to stop this happening e.g. “I was really interested in what XX was saying could we let them finish first”. This is also part of our mission statement to empower people, you are empowered to make the difference in these situations. Doing the right thing can often really feel good too.

• Likewise, make sure that credit is given to the person who first verbalises an idea because again, studies have shown that a woman’s input is likely to be ignored until it is repeated by man (which is known as broppropriation). As a woman you can help other women out by repeating their idea – this is called amplification and it means that the idea is more likely to be credited to the originator.

• Champion, mentor or reverse mentor someone who doesn’t look like you because research has shown that this is one of the most effective ways of sharing your privilege and creating opportunities for marginalised groups.

This list is by no means exhaustive so if I have missed something crucial please let me know and I’ll do a follow up diary in the future.

1) The protected characteristics within the Equality Act 2010 are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, which includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins and caste; religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. 
2) Be honest, what gender and race did you picture in your head when you read the words banker, politician and footballer? 
3) The concept of privilege is credited to WEB Du Bois (1930) and was developed further by Peggy McIntosh (1988).
4) I use the binary descriptions of male and female in this diary but I recognise and acknowledge the wide spectrum of gender identity.

It’s good to talk

If you would like to discuss or need help with any of the issues covered in The Diversity Diary, do get in touch with People and Culture with your comments and suggestions.

You can also contact:

Thanks for reading

July 2017

This month’s diary about accessibility and mobility coincides with the World Para Athletic Championships that will be held in London between 14 and 23 July, and Disability Awareness Day on 16 July which promotes a culture which focuses on what disabled people can do throughout life.

A few facts:

1 in 5 people have a disability
the most common impairment is mobility (57%)
mobility can be impacted by conditions such as spinal or neck disorders, neuromuscular disorders, arthritis, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis 
mobility impairments increase with age
the UK has an aging population

Because of the above, many of our employees will be impacted by mobility impairments and therefore we really need your help with an accessibility project which will help us to become a Disability Confident and inclusive employer. 

Below, one of our Health and Safety champions tells you more about that in his story. 

Individual Self-Told Story – Steve Pymn 

“I spent 25 years in the Royal Air Force before becoming a civil servant in Catering and eventually transferring to ISS Defence in 2011.

Having spent much of my life travelling the world by air and doing high risk activities like parachuting and scuba diving; I was travelling to work when a squirrel running into the road caused me to swerve my motorbike, I crashed and broke my fourth and fifth Thoracic vertebrae, spent 9 and half weeks lying on my back, then another 13 weeks in rehab becoming a paraplegic wheelchair user in my late forties.  

Returning to work was initially difficult because I had been a Head Chef prior to the accident and it wasn’t feasible for me to continue in that role but my employment contract said that I was “responsible for the production of good food” and I felt that there were lots of things that I could do to meet that requirement and remain in employment with the Ministry of Defence – I definitely had a ‘can do’ approach.  

I asked for Access to Work to become involved as they can provide grants towards special equipment and workplace adaptations and a new manager started who was not prepared to waste my years of experience, so walls were moved, an in-house accessible toilet created and double doors installed to enable me to access the building in order to deliver training, carry out food safety audits and completing various administration tasks and here I am many years later working a fulfilling job, albeit reduced to a four day week as I found five days too tiring.

mobility 1mobility 2

Of course, there have been some challenges. 

I had to fight for adaptations and adjustments in the beginning and certain things were initially overlooked. For example, being able to access the toilet is vital for someone with paraplegia as bladder or bowel infections can be fatal and there wasn’t a disabled toilet in my building but across the road, which was fine in the summer when all the doors were open, but in winter I would have to wait for someone to open the door for me until I was provided with a key. This isn’t just a bit annoying and embarrassing – it could be lethal. 

We’ve had electric doors fitted to my office and we have a key pad now so I don’t have to wheel around the Base collecting keys as is traditional which is really helpful but I have found a lack of disabled parking spaces when I have visited other locations for meetings so that shows that there is still work to do to make our workplaces truly accessible. 

I have recently been interviewed by Dr Adeniji of Middlesex University who has been commissioned by ISS to do a piece of research about workplace accessibility for mobility impaired employees which will lead to improvements in the company’s ability to conduct accessibility audits and do all that is reasonably possible to make or support the relevant adaptations and adjustments that may be needed.” 

Further Information

We need more volunteers who have a mobility impairment or who are aging to be interviewed for the research project, so if you or any of your team are willing please get in touch;

The confidential interview will last for around two hours and will potentially benefit so many current employees and future employees, so please get involved. 

Tickets for the World Para Athletics Championships start at £10 for adults and £5 for children and can be purchased here.

In a drive to #Fillthestadium Prince Harry, Patron of the Invictus Games said this week “Buy your tickets, get down there, bring your family and friends and come down and support. Be there with everybody else, creating that atmosphere that’s going to be a life-changing moment for the athletes”

It’s good to talk

If you wish to make any suggestions or comments about Dignity, Diversity and Inclusion in general or you would like to be involved in an inclusivity network in the future please contact

If anyone has any accessibility concerns, or if you need to talk about this with someone, just let us know.



June 2017

It is Carer’s Week between 12 and 18 June and whilst around 50 ISS employees are statistically likely to be living with dementia right now, many more will be impacted by it in the capacity of caring for a relative with the condition so I thought that this and sharing the stories of two of our Leaders would be a great place to start. 

Individual Self-Told Story #1 

“My mum Helen was born in 1927 and has always been a fiercely independent, remarkable woman. 

In the 1940’s mum moved from Lancashire to attend the University of London and went on to teach Classics (Latin and Ancient Greek) to Oxbridge level. She was a passenger on the first Swan Hellenic cruise to sail after the war, married in Vienna and was a single mother of two at a time when this was exceptional. Mum was an intrepid traveller who visited all 50 States in America and she also set up a children’s school in Zambia which of course she visited often. 

She is now 90 years of age, living in a residential home, physically well but frail and childlike and unable to communicate verbally. It took us a long time to realise that mum had dementia; she had a couple of falls which isn’t unusual for someone of her age and we would receive the odd call of concern from a neighbour but it wasn’t until a fraudster painted the outside of her house in horrendous pink bathroom emulsion and the bank manager called to say that she was withdrawing large sums of money 3-4 times a week that we knew that there was something seriously wrong. 

She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 86 years old and social services provided equipment and changes to her home and her routine care for a time whilst we took over things like her food shopping, her finances and learning a new language which included jargon such as ‘best interest decisions’. We were advised against moving her closer to us because familiarity with surroundings can be really important when someone is losing their memory.  

I have learnt that if the onset of the condition has been gradual then the progression probably will be too, so mum’s care was always likely to be a long-term challenge. 

When social services funding stopped, we wanted to honour mum’s wishes and lifelong independence so we funded Age UK carers to continue with her home care for as long as we could keep her safe which was around 18 months and we then took the difficult decision to place her into a residential home which would provide the 24/7 care and companionship that she needed. 

The family visit mum regularly and she is different every time. She seems to know who we are and is pleased to see us but she has good days and bad as you might expect. Dementia is such as sad illness because the people that you love become someone else and almost hollow. I don’t know how much of her incredible life she remembers or whether it would help of hinder her if I talked to her about it because she can’t tell me.“

What is Dementia? 

Dementia is a collection of related symptoms that are caused by damage to the brain. It is a progressive condition, which means it will get worse over time and symptoms will change and become more severe.

There are many types of dementia which will affect people differently but common symptoms include:

• Memory loss – especially for recent events, routes or names 
• Increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require organisation and planning 
• Becoming confused in unfamiliar environments 
• Difficulty finding the right words which can progress to speaking less or not at all
• Difficulty with numbers and/or handling money 
• Changes in personality, mood and appetite
• Depression 
• Changes in behaviour – for example, becoming less sensitive to other people’s emotions losing inhibitions, behaving out of character and making tactless or inappropriate comments

Although there is currently no cure for dementia, some types of medication can help to alleviate symptoms or slow the progression.  

Why is Dementia a Dignity, Diversity and Inclusion issue? 

Dementia impacts on three specific characteristics that are protected by the Equality Act 2010 which are: 

Age – The risk of developing dementia increases as you get older, the condition usually occurs in people over the age of 65, the working population in the UK is ageing.

Sex – Over 61% of people living with dementia in the UK are women, women form the majority of unpaid carers.

Disability – because dementia is a progressive condition it is subject to special provisions in the Equality Act 2010 which means that managers must consider if reasonable adjustments can be made to facilitate the employees’ continued working life and to make sure that the employee is protected from discrimination and harassment.
A Dementia Friendly Organisation  

Ultimately it is the right thing to do to support members of our team who are impacted by dementia and keep them included in working life but given the profile of our workforce (over 60% of our people are in the likely age profile for living with or caring for a person with dementia and over 57% are women) if we don’t we will find it increasingly difficult to motivate, retain or attract engaged and qualified employees.   We need to maintain the rich variety of our workforce to reflect our customers’ needs and to drive improvements in creativity, productivity and profitability which diverse teams have been proven to do.   

What should a manager do if they notice a symptomatic change in an employees’ behaviour?

The average length of service of an employee with a dementia diagnosis is nine years so you might notice some of the common symptoms along with increased sickness and absence levels, lateness, reduced performance or capability of a loyal, long-serving colleague.  If you do:

• Review the relevant policies and guidelines including the current Dignity, Diversity and Inclusion policy and the Absence, Disability, Flexible Working and Performance Management guidelines which are coming very soon 
• Take advice from your People and Culture manager 
• Arrange a meeting to express your concerns in an open, honest and supportive way giving clear examples of how behaviour or performance has changed and explore the possible reasons for these 
• Be patient - people who are at the early onset of dementia may be reluctant to consider the possibility of dementia and put it down to getting older or being forgetful. 
• Signpost the employee to primary care and external resources and encourage them to seek support and information but remember that they may not yet be ready 
• Be patient and supportive – diagnosis can take time, the diagnosis is life changing and you will need to regularly monitor and meet with the employee
• Allow / encourage the employee to bring a family member with them to meetings 
• Get Occupational Health advice about adjustments and make them wherever you possibly can (see below)
• Safety is paramount so involve your Health, Safety and Environmental manager

What reasonable adjustments might be appropriate?  

Suitable steps will differ from person to person and can only be implemented with their consent but the following might be helpful: 

• Allocate a buddy who has a good understanding of the role – for example two cleaners working on separate floors could be buddied to work together on the same floor and share tasks ensuring that there is someone to prompt and support where needed
• Give extra supervision to provide extra support to the individual and tea
• Provide additional equipment which gives prompts and reminders, additional signage and step by step task lists. Funding may be available from the government Access to Work scheme
• Reallocate or remove certain tasks – for example an employee might feel concerned about conducting presentations in case they begin to struggle with words and  it may be relatively easy to remove this task from them 
• Offer to relocate them to an alternative site – for example if they are moving to live with a family member or if there is a site nearby with a larger team

Individual Self-Told Story #2

“I am a manager working for ISS and around two years ago it was brought to my attention that one of the porters (who I will call Piotr) who had worked at our busy hospital for over ten years had collected the wrong patient from a ward. Initially we thought that this was just a mistake because two patients had similar names but when this incident was quite quickly followed by a similar error which Piotr couldn’t explain we began to notice that he often seemed confused, struggled with ad hoc requests and sometimes did not know where he was in the hospital.  

When we spoke to Piotr and obtained a doctor’s report it became clear that Piotr had been diagnosed with dementia and with the help of the People and Culture team we obtained an occupational health report to assist us in helping Piotr. We also had regular contact with Piotr’s wife who wanted him to continue to work for as long as possible and Piotr attended a dementia course for coping mechanisms and to try and help him with his anger and frustration. 

We altered the way in which we worked so that the Chargehand porter wrote down tasks when they came through and pass them on to Piotr, we gave him a notepad and pen to write his jobs down, kept his daily tasks as simple as possible and scheduled him to work permanently on the day shift so there would more people around to help him and we could monitor how things were. I would estimate that because we did these things Piotr was able to continue working for 12 months longer than if we had done nothing although sadly he became too confused to continue working safely after about a year. 

As a result of working with Piotr I have a greater awareness and confidence in dealing with dementia and would probably recognise the signs earlier. The advice that I would give to other managers in a similar situation is to seek advice from the People and Culture team, speak to the employee first for information, speak to the employee’s family members with the employee present but also be prepared to talk to them privately too, gain medical evidence and contact a charity for advice and guidance.”

What should a manager do if their employee cares for a person living with dementia? 

• Review the relevant policies and guidelines and take advice 
• Do what you can to be flexible, patient and understanding
• If you can allow the employee to work flexibly or in a different way, do so. For example, many people living with dementia have disturbed sleep patterns so allowing the carer to have a later start time could really help them 
• Signpost the employee to the resources below 
• Remember that providing an inclusive environment increases loyalty, engagement and motivation

What can an individual do to reduce the personal risk of dementia?
We cannot rule out the risk of developing a dementia entirely, but adopting a healthy lifestyle which includes giving up smoking, eating a healthy diet (Mediterranean diets in particular have been shown to help), regular exercise, reducing alcohol intake, keeping socially active, reducing cholesterol and lowering blood pressure will help to mitigate some of the risk

Further information 

If you are affected by dementia and wish to speak confidentially to someone, please contact the People and Culture team.

• The following websites also contain invaluable information and support: 

• The National Dementia Helpline number is 0300 222 11 22.

It’s good to talk

If you wish to make any suggestions or comments about Dignity, Diversity and Inclusion in general or you would like to be involved in an inclusivity network in the future please contact

My final thoughts are to the carers, the people who work amongst us, caring for their loved ones in what are sometimes the saddest situations. If you need to talk about this with someone, just let us know.



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