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Alumni spotlight: equality, diversity and inclusion

UEA alumni are a valuable network to learn from, and Cindy Williams-Findlay is no exception in her role as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Lead at the Electoral Commission.  

I asked her to describe what this looks like day-to-day: “I’m really fortunate to have such a varied role. I usually have up to five meetings per day” including “with external organisations such as the Equality and Human Rights commission for Northern Ireland, who have recently responded to our external consultation on our EDI strategy.” She also describes “regular meetings” with “Directors to catch up on current issues, including plans for our internal EDI group and reports to the Commission Board.” Her recent projects include plans to “mark international women’s week and consider how we measure our progress on gender equality.”  

Cindy explains the importance of a balance between work and home life for her: “Outside of meetings I am free to decide my own working patterns. This is particularly helpful for me as I am registered blind and sometimes get headaches”. As a working mother, she describes switching to “mummy duty” in order to care for her daughter. This flexibility is just one example of EDI in the workplace, she explains “nowadays you will hear most organisations claiming to be committed to EDI but I prefer to work in places where this commitment is real, or I can make it real.” Ensuring equality is especially important at The Electoral Commission as it “regulates the UK’s democratic processes to ensure free and fair elections.” They work to ensure “everyone can take part in democracy, including groups who are currently under-represented”, work which “may not be directly visible to the general public” but is nevertheless present “to protect everyone’s democratic rights.” 

Cindy studied French and German at UEA, which has given her “invaluable” transferable skills, though she is most thankful to UEA because it’s where she met her best friend: “only because I was in the wrong school induction”. She looks back on her time here fondly, when she lived in the now-demolished Waveney Terrace, despite the challenges of achieving her degree as she can’t read standard text: “in today’s digital age things would have been simpler for me in that respect.”  

Further improvements to student life for traditionally marginalised groups and women include changes to “accommodate pregnancy and caring responsibilities”, with increased access to childcare services. She also observes how “technology has removed a lot of barriers for disabled people like me” and there are “improvements to the physical environment” for wheelchair users. Similarly, prayer rooms create a more equal educational environment whilst there have been “improvements in attitudes, policy and provision towards equality for marginalised groups, reducing occupational segregation” which helps “people feel more included in student life.”  

Cindy’s final message is to students who feel they face barriers to their dream role due to inequality in the industry. “Barriers are there to be broken. As a disabled woman who was the first to go to university in my family, I still often find myself in a minority, but by following your dreams and making it work- despite the barriers- you can trailblaze for others like you.” She advises us to “build a strong support network” and to “please never give up on your dreams.”

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Libby Hargreaves

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August 2022
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