5 minutes with… Claudia Carvell

5 minutes with gives you the opportunity to find out more about the people who are working to champion inclusion everyday. Here we hear from Claudia Carvell, Inclusion Lead from our member organisation the Co-op. They share how their inclusion career has progressed, what they love most about their role and their biggest inclusion moment.

Read on to find out.

1) Can you tell us how you came to be in your role

I started my career in Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice working in the LGBTQ+ non-profit sector, following lots of volunteering for LGBTQ+ education campaigns and a Masters degree in Gender, Sexuality and Culture.

After 5 wonderful years in various roles, where I’d managed to develop my intersectional expertise across a range of key areas of diversity and inclusion, including anti-racism and disability activism, I decided to see what impact my approach and perspective could have in a more corporate, but still social-impact minded organisation: the Co-op.

18 months ago, I was hired as an Inclusion Lead as part of the newly formed Social Mobility, Inclusion and Belonging Team and kicked off the next chapter of my career.

2) Can you share an ‘inclusion moment’ with us – a time when you have felt included either at work or in your personal life?

Not long after joining Co-op, I came-out as gender fluid and updated my pronouns to they/them. It has been a difficult and at-times quite uncomfortable journey as very few of the colleagues I work with have had any exposure to non-binary pronouns, or even inclusion practices such as asking for someone’s pronouns or sharing their own, so were not using the right pronouns for me.

Recently, after raising this with a few colleagues on my team, they responded by committing to educating themselves and each other, and in a meeting last week when a colleague from a different team mis-gendered me, the colleague from my team corrected them on my behalf.

This was a huge inclusion moment for me. Not only did I get to hear the right pronouns being used for me in a work setting, which had only happened a few times before, but it showed I had the solidarity and support of my team in helping more people get them right too.

3) What do you love most about your role?

The thing I love most about my role is contributing to people’s ‘ah ha’ moment when they recognise something clearly about what inequality is, why it’s happening, what their role is and what they can do about it.

Sometimes that happens in side-of-desk chats, sometimes it happens in learning sessions, sometimes it happens when I’m feeding in insight in meetings or design cycles.

When it does happen, I know that person has a deeper, clearer understanding of what’s going on than they did before, and whilst often what they’re facing into is difficult, it’s needed to bring about change.

4) What is a typical day like for you?

Every day is different, but generally I spend most of my time in meetings to plan new interventions of some kind, or engaging with stakeholders about work that’s already underway.

Sometimes (and these are my favourite), I get to do more of the direct “changing hearts and minds” work by presenting insight in meetings, answering questions around D&I topics or designing or delivering up-skill sessions. Some part of my week is also spent on my own development, so researching new ideas and approaches, deepening my understanding of particular lived experiences, networking or attending courses for new skills.

5) What’s been you most memorable moment in your inclusion career?

In a previous role, whilst running the LGBTQ+ Women’s Programme for the charity LGBT Foundation, I co-ordinated our annual International Women’s Day community festival for LGBTQ+ women. Over the weekend, we’d often have up to 300 women and non-binary people who wanted to access the space, passing through the festival, attending workshops, talks and social spaces.

One year, we decided to run a sober evening Open Mic night and create a platform for LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people to showcase their music, poetry, comedy, dance and whatever else they wanted. My most memorable moment is standing at the back, looking at the stage we’d curated out of material and hand-made signs, watching a performer sing a song they’d written about being a lesbian, hearing the cheering and clapping from the audience and smiling to one of the many volunteers who had helped make the event happen.

Building spaces for marginalised communities was always the most important part of my role and that night was a reminder of why!

To meet more people that make inclusion an everyday reality, see our full series of “5 minutes with…”