Todays National Inclusion Week theme is all about The Power of Allyship so we spoke to Caren Maguire in our HR team about why being an ally to the embRace colleague network was so important to her.
embRACE is a Specsavers colleague network which exists to develop a more inclusive and supportive working environment for all colleagues who define themselves as belonging to an ethnic minority group, by empowering individuals to bring their authentic self to work. As an HR professional, empowering individuals is a key activity in the work that I do as it helps people to grow, so it aligns to my interests..
As humans, we naturally want to strive for the best version of ourselves but not everyone knows how to do that and some people have shared with me their experience of life when they felt they were held back or made to feel small or less worthy than others. This really upsets my personal values so I saw the embRACE colleague network as an opportunity to help lift people, to help them be the best version of their authentic self and educate others along the way.
Through education, raising awareness about what is possible and discussion as well as via events and shared stories we are beginning to connect with people from all backgrounds to show that we actually have more in common than we have difference. That’s exciting to me because it feels like everyone moves closer together… like an embrace!
What has being an ally involved and how have you supported embRACE?
I am proud to have been involved from the early days. I began working with Julian Russell and Joan Scott on the idea that came from them both, driven from personal motivations they had to set up the group. Initially, I helped to shape the Terms of Reference and some of the agenda and governance needed to set up a colleague network. I pulled from research and best practice to really act as a soundboard at the beginning. I also contributed to the discussions about the embRACE logo – and I am really pleased with the result of that.
Since we launched embRACE in May 2022 into the Specsavers Support Offices (we are formally launching in Retail and M&D also to include as many people as possible) my role as ally really has focused on promoting the group and I have been able to achieve this as I am connected to a wide range of people. I am delighted to have personally ‘recruited’ people who have joined the committee and are helping to make a positive difference through the work we are doing.
What advice would you give to others looking to be an ally?
Get curious! I was inspired by the purpose of the group; to represent the interest of colleagues across a range of topics from Race, Diversity, Inclusion and Equality. We’re really excited to help drive and promote Specsavers as a diverse employer and a place for talent to thrive. Who wouldn’t want to be an ally to and associated with this reason for being? We are looking to increase our reach and encourage others to join as members and ambassador’s, champion’s and ally’s and just get involved. For anyone reading this and wondering why they should become an ally, I’d ask them to take ten minutes to watch a TED talk by Dwinita Mosby Tyler “Want a more just world? Be an unlikely ally”
We have some really exciting plans for the first twelve months and beyond, but the focus right now is all about delivering our ambitious plans for October in celebration of UK Black History Month and Diwali. We have a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) we all can be proud of, that will showcase the difference this group of people want to make to everyone in Specsavers.