“5 minutes with…” Sandy Sohal

Who are the people that make inclusion an everyday reality? This feature gives you the chance to find out more about the team behind Inclusive Employers - our values, stories, motivations, and inspirations.

This month, Sandy Sohal, shares her top inclusion moments with us. Sandy is Director of Homeowner Services at The Guinness Partnership but has spent the past year working with Inclusive Employers to develop our anti-racism toolkit.

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

I’ve always been passionate about inclusion and diversity, and when I joined Guinness I saw an opportunity to get more involved corporately, as well as building a really inclusive team. Last year, when global focus turned to anti-racism following the murder of George Floyd – and other incidents, I was offered the opportunity to work with Inclusive Employers to create a toolkit to help organisations build anti-racist cultures. It felt like exactly what I needed to be doing in that moment.

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

I have a super diverse group of friends, and we hadn’t been able to get everyone together as a group for ages due to the pandemic. It was the absolute best to be able to do that a few weeks ago and realise just how much I had missed spending time with this incredible bunch of people – we’re all so different but we are all just ourselves all the time. I love that we celebrate this, mostly without even consciously realising we do!

I was accepted on to the Leadership 2025 programme a couple of years ago. Leadership 2025 has two strands – firstly to positively disrupt the social housing sector and encourage employers to champion support for ethnically diverse leadership, and the second is to ensure that ethnic minority senior leaders feel equipped to lead the sector through offering a development programme. In our group’s first meeting, I realised it was the first time in my entire career that I had been in a room with only ethnic minority people – and it was quite a revelation. I remember thinking “this must be what it’s like for white people all the time at work”.

3. What do you love most about your role?

In my day job at Guinness, I love leading my team. They are all fantastically diverse people and a very inclusive bunch – we have the most interesting conversations and I learn loads from them. I love the culture we have of celebrating diversity (and I have really missed the office snacks, we are big eaters!).

My time with Inclusive Employers has also been really fun. The team was so welcoming right from the start, and it was amazing to (metaphorically – thanks to Covid!) walk into an environment where everyone is so comfortable talking about all aspects of inclusion all the time. My favourite part of working on the toolkit, being an extrovert, was definitely talking with all the people who kindly gave me some of their time to tell me about how their organisations are doing on anti-racism.

4. What is a typical day like for you?

At the moment… writing, writing, writing!! And when I’m not writing I’m talking about the writing with colleagues who are variously reviewing content, dealing with the artwork and keeping me focused on the deadlines. Thankfully I’m not yet at the stage where writing is featuring in my dreams!

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

Gosh, there are a few. But I think I’ll go with starting bigger conversations about anti-racism both at work and personally – and starting to see change happening. I’m usually a realist, but I’m feeling cautiously optimistic… though I think we need to be robust about keeping the momentum going. I’m impatient, so I have to keep reminding myself that changing mindsets that have been centuries in the making is not an overnight job.

Sandy has played a key role in writing Inclusive Employer’s anti-racism toolkit, Building anti-racist cultures: a toolkit for your workplace. You can find out more and purchase the toolkit here.

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