blog

Diversity Matters: An interview with Dr Morag Duffin

On Thursday, 26 November 2020 we are delighted to be holding our first ever online Diversity Matters event in partnership with the Black Solicitors Network (BSN). The event will feature a selection of inspirational TEDx style talks from inspiring speakers who represent and advocate for all areas of diversity and inclusion in today’s workplace. To learn more about the event and the importance of diversity in the workplace we talked with our Head of Access and Participation Dr Morag Duffin.

Our University is proud of its rich and diverse student population; people come to study with us from many different communities and walks of life. Our commitment to widening participation and accessibility for all to study legal and business education is ingrained in our ethos but, equally, we recognise that we need and can do a lot more. That is why we are holding the Diversity Matters event - to enable our current students and all those who are interested to hear from inspirational speakers who represent and advocate for all areas of diversity and inclusion in today’s workplace. By bringing these topics into the open, we hope to facilitate discussion and education and, thereby promote the change that is needed in the workplace.

The speakers at the Diversity Matters event are from a range of different roles within the legal sector with a range of experience, for instance Paul McFarlane is a BSN representative and Partner at Capsticks as well as Bavita Rai who is a Partner at Weightmans. The speakers will be talking about the specific areas of diversity within their own experiences, such as ethnicity, disability, social mobility, sexual orientation, gender and wellbeing. For me the real strength of the event is the ability to be educated by the experiences and thoughts of eminent speakers from such a variety of different backgrounds.

This generation is extremely important in improving diversity in the workplace. The world is changing and our students will be the ones leading this change to ensure the workplaces of tomorrow are more diverse and representative. Saying that, it is not their responsibility to shoulder this burden of change – workplaces need to educate and change themselves to welcome our students in and value their differences in experiences, thoughts and opinions.

Students can educate themselves on diversity, on the different experiences that others have and the different challenges they face. We can all only talk from our own experiences but we can educate ourselves about others. It is our duty, whatever our background is, to educate ourselves on both the privileges that others have as well as the challenges that they face. We also need to recognise our own particular privileges and/or challenges.

I am very much looking forward to hearing from our brilliant speakers but most of all I am interested in hearing from our students after the event to find out what they have learnt from it and how they will apply that learning in their day-to-day lives. I am most interested in the impact that this event can make in making people think and act differently. 

My career in widening participation started in voluntary roles during my undergraduate studies where I was elected Access Officer for the Student Union and organised outreach events for students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds. I continued this voluntary work during my masters and doctoral studies, before starting a career as a secondary school teacher. What I enjoyed most about teaching was supporting my students to understand their potential and progress into higher education or further training. I decided to move into this area permanently and began my career in widening participation in higher education, with roles covering many different areas in which I supported underrepresented and disadvantaged students specifically. These include outreach and student recruitment, admissions, careers, student support and working directly with students through Students Unions. I still continue my voluntary interest in this area as a governor in a primary school in a deprived area of Nottingham.

What appealed to me the most about the position as Head of Access and Participation was the breadth of the role - the ability to support students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds, from their aspirations while still at school or college to their experience within higher education and then their progression into employment. I was attracted by the ability to ensure that all the work that the University does is evidence-led, and the opportunity to use my academic research skills in order to do this. Finally, in one of my previous roles I worked specifically with students studying law and medicine, so I had a deep understanding of the particular challenges that students face in entering competitive professions that have historically struggled with diversity. I felt that the role of Head of Access and Participation at the UK’s largest provider of legal education had huge potential to shape the legal landscape of tomorrow and help it to more accurately reflect the diverse community it represents.

We live in a wonderfully diverse world but this diversity is not reflected everywhere and one of those places is the workplace. Here diversity is crucial and workplaces must constantly change to reflect and represent the diverse communities they serve, both to deliver their services but also to encourage people to work in that area.  Also for the workplace to be productive, there must be open discussion and the willingness to embrace change. Without diversity there is no innovation, no fresh ideas, no new way of looking at things.

Diversity enables innovation and change, as well as education. Education is an ongoing process, we are always learning and evolving as human beings, workplaces need to be able to do this too. The work of diverse organisations is much more responsive to the needs of the global community and more flexible to the ever changing world that we live in.

 

Join us online for Diversity Matter on Thursday, 26 November 2020 from 6:00pm – 8:30pm (GMT). Register your interest in attending this free-of-charge event by completing this short form.