Interview : Siobhan Corria, Head of Inclusion, AfC
Siobhan Corria is the Head of Inclusion at charity Action for Children. She’s a former Councillor for Cardiff, she’s had a varied career. The LGBT+ network at Action for Children, ‘Celebrate’, was named one of our two winners of the New Network of the Year award at our 2015 Inclusive Networks Awards. We’re thrilled to welcome Siobhan as a judge for our new #ThisIsMe Awesome100 awards. She’s awesome!
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Passionate, reliable, straightforward, lively and fun.
You’ve had a varied career. How did you end up in the role you’re doing now?
I had worked in youth justice, as a social worker with looked-after children, and I was an elected councillor before I was appointed as Head of Inclusion at Action for Children – one of the UK’s oldest and largest children’s charities.
The sexism that I experienced in politics gave me a real insight into how it feels to be excluded and how it makes you feel. I started to doubt my own ability and confidence and just generally felt upset all the time.
I had made the decision that I was going to look for a job so when I saw the advert with Action for Children, I knew this was the perfect move for me as I feel so passionately about inclusion and what it means to individuals and organisations.
I spend a lot of my time out and about around the UK, delivering workshops about topics such as unconscious bias and equality and diversity. I also spend quite a bit of time writing guidance around inclusive practices and I also have responsibility for our ambassador programme for young people.
Are there still barriers that prevent or make it harder for women to progress up the ranks in workplaces around the UK?
I think barriers still exist, but by promoting equality and inclusion across organisations, the barriers can be broken down further. Women are still traditionally the main carers for children and relatives, and although women are more engaged in employment there is still a nagging feeling that women should put a hobby or interest behind the home and the children. This needs to change.
“Women are still traditionally the main carers for children and relatives, and although women are more engaged in employment there is still a nagging feeling that women should put a hobby or interest behind the home and the children. This needs to change.”
How can we remove these barriers?
I think it’s as simple as challenging when you don’t see gender balance in a piece of work or a project, and avoiding stereotypes. For example, it drives me wild when I see politicians talking about childcare, but only with women. It’s stereotypes that reinforce these barriers faced by women.
Men have a role to play in this too?
Men definitely have a role to play and if they get it, then they are extremely strong allies for women. But the support must be authentic if it is to contribute to significant change.
Can you tell us about when you’ve experienced sexism in your life?
It happened all the time when I was in politics, but the most frustrating thing was that people just didn’t realise they were being sexist or biased because they had never challenged their own thinking. Men found it difficult to accept that I consider myself to be on an equal footing and I wasn’t afraid to question decisions and challenge experienced politicians.
Award winners : Siobhan (second right) at our 2015 Inclusive Networks Awards
“It’s always nice to be recognised for your work and to be nominated by someone outside of your organisation. Inclusion is an ongoing journey for all organisations and is something that I always have to remind myself of when I attend conferences.”
You and the Celebrate network have been bestowed with many awards (and nominations) over the last few years, a huge achievement. What role do you think reward and recognition initiatives like the National Diversity Awards, Inclusive Networks Awards and other awards play in moving diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace and beyond forward?
It’s always nice to be recognised for your work and to be nominated by someone outside of your organisation. Inclusion is an ongoing journey for all organisations and is something that I always have to remind myself of when I attend conferences such as Stonewall. One off initiatives are tokenistic and do not ensure momentum. I would like to see more ongoing work from some of the reward and recognition initiatives rather than just ceremonies.
How important do you think network groups are to supporting, and developing, more inclusive and diverse workplaces? If you had to choose two ‘Celebrate’ highlights, what would they be?
Network groups are essential to creating inclusive working environments and they enable colleagues to develop relationships with colleagues in other teams and other parts of the country that they would not usually develop. People can get ground down by their day-to-day job, so being part of a network group can develop a colleague’s skills and experience that they can then use in their day job.
Setting up Celebrate in 2014 and seeing it grow from two or three to over one hundred members today is the main highlight. Secondly, the Role Model Guide that we put together. It is sent out to all new starters and gives a personal insight into Action for Children and demonstrates our commitment to being an inclusive employer. If someone is worried about coming out when they start work with us, I hope the Role Model Guide welcomes them to the organisation and shows that we are supportive and inclusive.
“Yes, I’ve met lots of people that I would never have met without social media. I’ve developed some fantastic relationships.”
How important is social media to you?
I absolutely love social media! Personally it allows me to keep in touch with family and in particular my sister in Australia. Professionally it enables you to keep up to date with all the latest news and the opportunity to showcase your own work.
Have you met any interesting/inspiring people as a result of social media?
Yes, I’ve met lots of people that I would never have met without social media. I’ve developed some fantastic relationships, such as Indy Hothi from EY Sikh Network and Jacqui Gavin who is a great role model. Sometimes you can feel like you know someone really well but you haven’t even met them!
Are there any negatives to social media?
Yes, you can react to something without thinking it through and all hell can break loose!
If you could be teleported back to spend ten minutes with your 16 year-old self, are there any words of advice you’d give yourself?
I would just remind myself to be myself.
What’s your most cherished possession?
My iPhone without a doubt. It makes my life so much easier and you’re never far away from what’s going on in the world. I the fact that it allows me to keep in touch with my kids so easily.
What’s your favourite place to relax and switch-off?
I never really switch off as even when I physically finish work I’ve got two very active children to deal with. I really switch off when I fall asleep. When I’m awake I’m constantly on the go.