Movers and Shakers | Sanchia Alasia | Head of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, London Southbank University (LSBU)
Sanchia Alasia is head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at LSBU Group, a family of education providers, led by London South Bank University. They work to a shared educational framework across secondary, further, higher education and beyond. She leads the University’s ambition to enable a truly inclusive and diverse culture to support the delivery of the 2020-25 vision and strategic priorities.
Tell us about your role and responsibilities
I provide thought leadership and recommendations that facilitate and embed the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) agenda. I lead the creation of a clear vision, goals and strategy for EDI which will maximise the impact and is embraced across the LSBU Group. I work across the LSBU Group (the group encompasses South Bank Colleges, Southbank Academies, and further institutions) to raise the EDI profile and support strategies and action plans that facilitate a diverse and inclusive workforce. I lead on the development and implementation of the University’s submissions in key Equality Charter Marks. Finally, I work with stakeholders, to lead and produce an EDI strategy aligned to the corporate strategy.
What inspired you to pursue your current career path?
I never planned to work in HR or diversity. My first foree into this field was quite by accident really. I was working at Transport for London (TfL) and a colleague invited me to attend a newly formed BME Staff network meeting. I found it all quite intriguing. After several meetings, I saw the TfL were taking the issues of diversity quite seriously. After some time, I was elected as the co-chair of the network. TfL were quite keen to hear the network views and so we were invited to key strategic meetings with senior stakeholders and were able to help influence some innovative programmes around positive action, mentoring and coaching for BME staff.
I have continued in this field as I have developed a passion and an award-winning skill for helping organisations to develop inclusive practice.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
I enjoy that no two days are the same. I work to harness the power of difference in my work as well as help organisations build their capacity in tackling issues around diversity. I get to work with a diverse range of people at all levels of the University – most of whom have a keen interest in seeing our staff and students achieve their full potential. It is nice to know that others care about this agenda too.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?
It can be challenging to manage competing interests – I normally try and work with organisations to help them to define their key priorities – not everything can be done at once. It can also be hard when conflict arises, but this is part of working with a diverse team. I have been trained in mediation skills, so I am able to use the techniques that I have learned to help diffuse difficult situations.#
What has been the most defining moment in your career to date?
Well winning the Precious Award for Outstanding Woman in the Public Sector in 2020. I was humbled to win. It really makes the tough days’ worth it and spurs me on to go on and achieve even more accomplishments in 2021
Best piece of career advice you have ever received? And who was it from?
My mum always used to say when we were growing up that there is no such word as can’t – you can do anything that you put your mind to. It used to annoy me when I was younger, but I appreciate that nugget as it means I have developed perseverance, patience, and persistence – I am not one to give up easily. This has allowed me to develop resilience when things get me down. I can find the strength from my faith to keep going. I have not gotten everything that I have wanted the first time in life and in my, career and if I had given up at the first hurdle, I would not be where I am today
Away from your work role what are your passions?
Well politics, now there is a surprise! But seriously I have a passion for community building whether it be through politics, or working through institutions such as charities, the wider community and voluntary sector or the church. Aside from that I love to read and keep up to date with current affairs.
What are the 3 (professional or personal) books/websites/ or resources that you would recommend to others?
I am an associate of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and their websites and webinars, particularly since the lockdown have been great. LinkedIn has some good events and networking opportunities too.
I’m reading Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann. It is fascinating because I found history boring when I was at school, but I realise now when reading books like Miranda’s is that I find history fascinating when it is outlined in an inclusive way. We were there and our stories need to be told.
What do you know now that you wish you had known as you started your career?
I think that young people have a lot of pressure put on them to have a defined career path early on. It is ok to flex, change and grow. When I was at University, I really did not know exactly what I wanted to do. Now if you do that is great, but if you are reading this and you do not, please do not feel like you are a failure.
As I mentioned the industry that I am in now really was not one that I planned to get into. It was something that evolved, and things could change again the future too. Sometimes things are only meant to be for a season.
Do you have any advice for women entering your industry?
For women wanting to get into HR/Diversity, I would say be prepared to learn and think outside of the box. My first substantive paid role in diversity came off the back of developing my craft through my voluntary role as co-chair of the BME Staff network at TfL.
If I had not decided to step up into that role, I may not be where I am today. But do give yourself a time limit on how long you will volunteer for. Aside from study/courses think of other ways in which you can build up your knowledge and expertise – this will give you the edge in this crowded job market. Employers are really looking for practical experiences, which will make you stand out from the crowd.
If you were not in this role what would be your alternative career?
I probably would have been a teacher or a carer – I have a caring nature and have done a stint of both of those roles in the past.
Who in your industry do you admire and why?
If I can foray into my political world, I admire the new intake of Black women that were elected to parliament in 2019 – Abena Oppong-Asare, Florence Eshalomi, Claudia Webbe and Taiwo Owatemi. Despite the challenges of having to set up new offices during covid, they have blazed a trail and made such an impact – I feel so proud when I watch them debating and making their interventions in the House of Commons.