Lyndsey Britton-Lee & Lynsey Harbottle

I think it's really important that I think the intention's always there with organisations where they know that it's something that they should be doing. Sometimes it can be they see it as a tick box exercise. Others are a bit more morally invested in it. But I think actually delivering it is always the challenge for them. So they might do little pockets of things or they'll put different initiatives in place, but it's never quite joined up. And from what we've seen, there's not many people who take that holistic approach. And that's what's so fundamental in creating a diversity and inclusion strategy. Even if you think you've got a diverse workforce, have you?

 

Because if you're looking at the data, who are the ones who are progressing in your organisation? And even if you do have a diverse workforce, do they feel included? Because that's a very different thing as well. Like Lynsey was saying for us. We're not about 50 50 as in 50 50 bums on seats as such. It's just creating that equal opportunity for everyone.

Lyndsey Britton-Lee

 

Lyndsey and Lynsey.png

Our 81st episode is with Lyndsey Britton-Lee and Lynsey Harbottle.

 

Theme: Creating equal opportunities for all.

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We talk about: 

πŸ’‘ Having passion as a driver to get things done.

πŸ’‘ How everybody has a role to play in diversity and inclusion.

πŸ’‘ And what their best bad decisions were!

 

Bio

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Lyndsey and Lynsey met at the first North East’s digital coworking space Campus North, which Lyndsey Britton-Lee Co-Founded in 2013. They went on to develop education initiative Tech for Life CIC in 2016.

 

They are passionate about women and men accessing equal opportunities. To achieve equality, they believe both men and women must be involved in breaking down barriers, changing behaviours and company culture.

 

After they made the decision to close Campus North and focus on doing one thing, they set up 50:50 Future in February 2019. 

 

Their 50:50 mission is to achieve gender equality in the workplace. For them it’s not about 50:50 β€˜bums on seats’, it’s about equal opportunities…for all.

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James:

So for our first question, shall we start with how did you both come to meet each other?

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yes, I think I should probably take the start with that one. It was quite a serendipitous meeting and I think as quite a lot of people are probably aware here in the North East, we're quite an incestuous bunch in terms of companies and businesses around here. So, being in the tech sector, this is one of the things that happens. And it happened to us. So, back in 2011, which seems like so many years ago now seems a lot longer ago than it actually was, but that's when I first came into the tech sector. And I met the good Mr. Paul Smith, who was just setting up ignite accelerator, which was a tech accelerator programme for start-up companies. I had zero idea about tech start-up companies, even the word accelerator, I was like, I don't even know what that means, but came to help him with the operations side of things.

 

So neither of us had a clue what we were going to be doing, but we gave it a go and it worked. So that was great. So, then as ignite was progressing, we had more and more teams of companies who were joining us from across the UK, Europe, around the globe really. And they were coming to work in Newcastle, which was fabulous. So we had some investment as part of the programme from Northstar Ventures and IP group and part of the criteria from Northstar, was companies who took funding. They had to have a North East presence. So that meant that a lot of the companies would then stay after the programme in Newcastle. And we started collecting all of these start-up companies, which then attracted designers and other techies, computer programmers in the area and started to create a community of people, like-minded people. And then it kind of dawned upon us.

 

So I had joined forces with Tristan Watson and his company. And Paul and Tristan had been to quite a lot of co-working spaces then. That was a really new thing that we didn't have in the city at the time. And we said that would be a really great thing for the North East and we really need to have that to bring everyone together. So the search for what we now know as Campus North was on. And finally, we did find the premises over on Carliol Square. And, a lot of renovation work took place. There was just us doing it, where we had a very shoestring budget to do it on. And it was great because it was really made for the community by the community. So it was really with the people in mind and creating that hub, that space to just bring everyone together. And it was really exciting and it was a really great space to set up and be a part of. That started to develop more and it had more Ignite programmes running there. So it really drew in quite a great bunch of the local community as well.

 

Then we got to a point where we thought, you know what, I think we'll probably need to bring on some more staff to help us with that. We need someone to run the sales side of things and get some cash in and see what we can do about it. So I put a little job ad out to see what we could do, and it just happens that one of our previous Ignite companies, Bluey, unfortunately for them at the time, they weren't going anymore, but their CEO, Mark Ryan, said, Oh, Lyndsey, I've got someone called Lynsey working for me. And she heads up our sales team. She is brilliant. You'll love her. You'll get on really well with her. I'm going to introduce you and so then Lynsey came to us for an interview.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

I'd heard about this place called Campus North for a long time. So Bluey was one of those start-ups that had been through the Ignite accelerator programme. And as Lyndsey said, unfortunately, the start-up world can be brutal and funding and many other reasons. Unfortunately the company was no more and I was out of a job. So I was chatting with Mark, my boss at the time, just saying I wonder where I go from here. What do I do?

 

Campus North, I'd never really spent much time in, but he introduced me to Lyndsey. And I went down and had had a look around and met the three of you founders at the time to see what it was all about. What was this illusive Campus North? Why is everyone banging on about it? Why are you going there? And thankfully it seemed like a good fit and that incestuous nature worked well because the Lyndsey's got together and you brought me in as part of your team.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah, it was. And it was great because at that point we had quite a lot of scope to expand and I think Ignite was kind of going its own way as well. So Ignite was doing great things. I wasn't as involved with the Ignite side of things by that point. I had kind of taken on more of the role of head of Campus North and looking after the community there. And so there was really two businesses running side by side by that point. So then we recruited Gemma onto the team as well, shortly after Lynsey. So we had a strong team of us running Campus North, and we were also doing some work with Code Club at the time as well. So back in, I think that was like 2012, 2013. I started working with Code Club. They knew that the North East was a great place for tech where it was thriving, but they didn't really have many volunteers on the ground going into schools.

 

So they piloted their first regional coordinator scheme with us. So, I worked as a facilitator between the tech community and getting them to go into schools as volunteers. So, I worked with them part time for a while and that then became part of Gemma's remit. So she was more on the education side, then just more on the sales side for Campus North and we ran like that for a bit. But on the education side, that then started snowballing because obviously in the tech sector, we know that there's two major issues. So every single meeting that you will ever go into we'll discuss the skills gap and diversity as two major problems.

 

So we had this amazing space and we knew that we could facilitate between education and industry really well. So we thought, so what can we do? How can we plug the skills gap? What do we have within our reach that we can make happen? So we started running maker parties, STEM boot camps, all kinds of STEM initiatives and events for kids, for teenagers and for adults as well. And sometimes, you know, the mums and dads were having a great time over on one side of the room while the kids were playing on the other. And it was just loads of fun and a really great way to engage children of all ages into the STEM sector.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

I think that was the best thing about Campus North and the team. And there's probably a lot of bias about what I'm going to say, but the fantastic thing about what we had at Campus North was that there was so much passion behind it. And actually, because we were such a tiny team, if we wanted to do something and we knew that we could do it better than what was out there, or we had seen there was a massive gap and we knew that we could do something productive and worthwhile to fill it, there was no barriers holding us back. So we were super reactive. We can be super quick and deliver fantastic programmes, whether it's like Lyndsey said the children's coding work that we'd done, or whether it was actually a females in the tech sector, not necessarily developers or from technical roles. We'd definitely seen gaps with women as well in the industry.

 

So it was off the back of that, that we would develop initiatives and programmes to really support females coming through from what we'd seen and that's everything that happened or has happened since has definitely been, Oh, we really like this. This is something that we're super passionate about. Let's do something and like do it really well. And we're really fortunate that the feedback...well we're still doing it years later...has been super positive.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

I think it's contagious, isn't it? When you're around a group of people who are entrepreneurial, they've got start-ups, like Ignite in itself was a start-up, so was Campus North. So it just kept on snowballing year round. People with a similar mindset where you just try things out and just see what you can do. And you've got that drive where you can see opportunities where you go, there's a gap there. Can we do something about it? Yes, we can. Okay. What is that going to look like? Let's just give it a try. See what happens. And luckily for us, it really did snowball and it developed and Tech for Life became its own entity again. So by this point, Ignite had moved on to its own company. And Campus North and Tech for Life became under the same umbrella as a company.

 

So it was a community interest company because everything that we did for Campus North and Tech for Life, it was not for profit. It all came back round. So we did some great work with some local companies as well. So we got funding from Sage and Rees, the community foundation and lots of local funding groups that helped us create some brilliant initiatives in this space. And we were really lucky to work with them and Northstar as well. Yeah. So we developed those for a long time. And like Lynsey says there was the other side of it was the diversity side, we're obviously new as women in the sector. There wasn't many of us in Campus North. Whenever I went to regional meetings, I could be sometimes the only woman in the room.

 

And that's just from the gender side, never mind the other diversity strands that we're lacking as well. But because that was our experience, we had a focus on gender. So that's kind of where that came from. And we knew that this was a similar thing that happened with the children coming through as well. So there was quite a few times where, we had to really look at our branding for certain initiatives because we would only have boys coming onto the programmes. So looking at the language we're using, instead of running an initiative called code camp, where we got mainly boys, we then changed it to makers and creators and opened it up a bit more.

 

So it was really more about tinkering and creating things rather than just sitting programming. And we got a lot better take up with that. So using what we kind of knew and what we were learning as we were going, we then used the accelerator model to create a women's programme. So for women who were in the digital space, who wanted to progress, we created a programme over a series of months.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

That was off the back of...as part of Campus North as we've said before we ran a lot of events, workshops and so forth. And it was a particular event that we held for international women's day, where we had a panel of local females from different STEM backgrounds. And it was really well attended. And I think we blogged about it and then shortly after the blog went live, the IT function from Proctor and Gamble locally got in touch with us. And I think as well it's just the difference between the start-up mentality and being in that corporate bubble, they really saw an opportunity for us to go in and help them out with that diversity of thought piece and what we could maybe do to disrupt their thinking.

 

And frankly off the back of Proctor and Gamble, probably giving us a nudge or coming to knock on the door. That's when that accelerator model for women really took shape and formed to not just include the PG ladies, but also women from Newcastle College, from the council, from lots of other large companies and start-ups that got together.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah, it's great for context. And it was great to have Proctor and Gamble who came to us because it wouldn't have happened otherwise. And it really got the cogs turning and the issue that they were having, which is what we see a lot now as well, is that their recruitment of male and female was quite balanced, but it was the progression. That was the issue. There was a lot of women in more junior roles. And we do see that so often now, that's quite a standard occurrence. But, yeah, like Lynsey says, it was brilliant bringing all of those different women from different organisations together to share different challenges and best practice. And because they're coming from very different worlds, it was a really great experience for them to meet those women that they probably wouldn't have met otherwise. It's funny how things move on from there.

 

We kind of iterated as we were going as well and looking at what we thought was important to incorporate. And we got feedback from men as well to say, is there anything like this that we can join? So we started putting on some workshops for men and then it kind of got to the point where we we're actually looking at closing Campus North. So the lease was coming up. Campus North for our team, although we loved it, and the community was just, aww, it was just like a big family. It was brilliant. But running Tech for Life and looking after Campus North, when there's five people doing it all, that's like running two businesses and quite decent sized businesses where you're looking for commercial sponsorship annually, you're looking for monthly sponsorship for events, you're then looking for funding for your not-for-profit education initiatives. Like it's a lot of work, as well as delivering everything and planning projects. Lynsey and Gemma were working on a project with Sage that was taking them all over the UK.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

And that doesn't include....So with Campus North as Lyndsey said, it was phenomenal. It will never be replicated to what it was because it was so special. But you'd be doing that as your job, but on a daily occurrence, you would have things like the toilets being blocked, the internet going down. You would have renovation work needing to be done. So it needed to be painted. All of these things we were doing. So you would do a shift in work from say nine to five, and then you would don your painting clothes and get the rollers out and we'd be painting meeting rooms. It was so wonderfully intense, but it was full time. And it was relentless. And I think that as Lyndsey said, the lease came to an end, and we all talked a lot about it prior to that and where we wanted to go with it. And it just felt like the right time.

 

There was lots of talk in the region, about phenomenal new spaces opening that were going to be heavily funded. And we just didn't want to be the Ikea sister or the poor cousin. And we felt that it posed a really great opportunity for us to kind of step back, pass the reins over to somebody else that had the money and resources to really run a phenomenal space. We can really concentrate on what we were most passionate about with the Tech for Life in terms of the skills initiatives, and maybe more interestingly, the diversity side of things.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah, it was a bittersweet time to be honest, because it was so exciting thinking, okay, we're going to scale Tech for Life and we're going to do all of this fabulous stuff, but at the same time saying goodbye to Campus North and knowing what it meant to the North East community, was a massive moment, I feel so guilty talking about it. So many people, like some of the feedback that we were getting as well, wasn't it Lynsey? Where all of these stories were coming in, where people were saying...we had one story where someone had said it actually saved my life. I was at home. I was so isolated and felt so depressed and lonely.

 

As soon as I got into Campus North, I felt so welcome, I bonded, I mixed with people. I've met people that I'll know for the rest of my life. It's all that kind of stuff that I don't know of any other space that matters so much to people and had that systemic bonding and culture where people just felt like they were part of a big family, which was lovely.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

We knew it was so special, but I don't think we realised how special until we did take the time to inform our tenants, that we were going to be closing and this was our plans. And when all of those stories came out it was a bit of a shock actually, of how highly rated it was and how well thought of it was. But I think we both definitely found that it was the right thing to do for us.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

It was.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

It's just unfortunate that the promises that were meant to be happening regionally in terms of other phenomenal spaces, didn't materialise like we thought they would. And we were really keen. And we were very vocal that we spoke to a lot of promising people that we're going to do fab things. And we offered to help and share all of our warts and all stories and tales of what's worked, what hasn't worked. And it's really a shame. I think that we both sometimes...not feel guilty, I don't think that's the right word. You feel a responsibility when you've looked after companies for so long and we haven't let them down because we'd done something phenomenal for five years. So it was really tough and worked really well. But it's definitely a shame that no one has taken over that and done it well.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah. I don't think that we would have that overriding sense of responsibility if someone had picked it up and we felt as though our community was being looked after. And it's the fact that it just seems as though it's kind of gone a bit dead in the water that you then go, Oh God.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

But then saying that the phenomenal thing is that Campus North the building was fab. And we have, we still have to this day, the Campus North slack channel that has 300 founders, everyone still uses that. So we still talk to each other and we still use it as a tool for...we're looking for logo designers and looking for people to help us with technical questions. And it's really still alive online. And I think that maybe that shows that Campus North wasn't really the building at all, it was actually the people in it. And to be part of that and to create that and especially to be welcomed into the Campus North team, that definitely spiralled us onto a path of where we are now.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

It has and I think now because we've run a space with so many different people. Yes. Okay. So we've got like entrepreneurs who share the same kind of mindset, but it wasn't just those same types of people who were coming in, we had corporate people coming in to use the space. I've just been on a call recently where I was chatting to someone who said, even coming into Campus North in a suit, I still felt welcome there. I still felt a part of it. And I knew the space wasn't necessarily somewhere I'd be working full time, but just coming into the space, everybody felt welcome. And I think this is something that we take into our 50 50 work, where it really is about ingraining values into your cultural DNA.

 

And we know how to do that well, and we know what works. So I think this is something that has really played into what we do now from a very different angle. So in terms of taking on Tech for Life, we had grand plans, they've taken that forward. And we did a lot of shouting about, you know, we're going to scale this thing up and we had our two definite strands of skills. And 50 50, we knew we were going to do 50, 50, and then we just couldn't get any funding. We could not get any funding from anywhere.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

They were dark days.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

It was such a tough time, it was awful. Like I had had tough times before because running Ignite and Campus North, I mean, me and Tristan were just laughing about it the other day saying remember the times where we'd look at the cash flow and it would just be like a massive dip like over three months in the summer where we didn't have any investment coming in and we had three months to do something about it and we'll be like, Oh my God, we've got this huge hole, like what are we going to do? And it was like, right quick, let's let us do everything we can. And we always went through peaks and troughs where it was very stressful to maintain any kind of consistency with the cash flow.

 

But then with Tech for Life, my runway was running out and I couldn't see the way of getting that and we were a team of four. That was really stressful. And we just kept on hoping, okay, well, we'll hear back from the funders after Christmas then we'll know, and it was just the not knowing for so long and it was awful. And then after a lot of chats between us, it was decided that half of our team were on the skill side and half of the team were on the 50 50 side. And then we decided to say, okay. I think because we've been running 50 50 commercially, that we actually got paid from companies to run those initiatives, it made sense that we could spin that out into a limited company and not rely on funding.

 

And this was something that me and Lynsey were especially passionate about so we were desperate to do it. And we were like this fits. This is perfect. We can do this. We'll spin that out. And so we ended up having to split the team, which was fine because I think on the skill side, that team wouldn't have been as passionate to join us.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

I think it's nice that the team that we separated ways with, they're still in education. So they still went on and carried that torch. We obviously loved that side of Tech for Life or else we'd never have done it. They went on and have done it in different forms and different ways. It was really exciting for the pair of us as we were like, right, let's do it and sink our teeth into it and do it well. Let's have one company and one focus. Let's just do 50 50.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Which was very unusual for us to do one thing at any one time. At any one time there have been at least two things. So just to do one thing, it was quite a relief actually just to go, okay, let's just really get into this. And get our focus just on this one thing and see what we can do. Like Lynsey says, it's lovely to know that our team are still going forward with the education piece because it's so important. And so it's really comforting for us to know that that is actually still going and they're still driving that. So that's really nice.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

We should probably give you an overview of what 50 50 is and what we stand for.

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Michelle:

Yes please.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

So obviously Lyndsey and I came together. We're both co-founders of 50 50, and it was the passion from the gender side of things in the tech industry that spiralled it all off. So 50 50 in its entity today, we're a training and consultancy company. We have a specific specialism in the gender lens given our background. So not just with Lindsey starting Ignite accelerator and monitoring co-working spaces, but you're an NLP practitioner and coach by nature too. My experience came in the sales and marketing side of things, not just in start-ups, but started my career off in large corporate companies, which is a very different world, and I think that uniqueness really sets 50 50 apart because everything that we do is about diversity of thought and challenging the norms of what organisations are doing.

 

And the fact that we are not your typical training company is a massive benefit. So we go in with a completely different slant and it's asking those questions or challenging the way that they're doing things that really gives us our unique spin, because it's that impartial view that can really add value. Everything that we do around 50 50. It's about getting better balance internally. And yes, that's about gender diversity for us, but also it's totally transferable to all other strands of diversity. And actually the real key is about inclusion and that stems back from those Campus North days too of. if everybody feels welcomed and that they can be their individual unique selves, then you're onto a winner.

 

But it's about what initiatives, what steps you can put in place to really get that diversity piece, right. And get the narrative behind it, right. To make sure that it's productive and everybody needs to be involved with that. So this is not a them and us, women's only, thing. It's about everyone needs to take ownership of it to really make that change. So, we work in lots of different ways, whether that's consulting with companies of all different sizes. We branched out from not just working with tech companies or STEM industries that now we work with any company of any size because actually diversity and inclusion is very relevant for every single individual from every single background. Which is really fun for us.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah. We don't want to be all about diversity and inclusion if we're only going to work with one sector. That's not very inclusive of us is it really?! So what's really interesting and probably I think it's important to say it is kind of our journey from where 50 50 or Leading Ladies as it was known. So where it's come from for that, because we had to do a lot of work when we were setting 50 50 up, of understanding the landscape. Firstly, what was our offer going to be? Where did we stand in relation to other companies? And so really taking a look at different competitors and just seeing what was the need out there. What was the problem that we were trying to solve.

 

And it was really different actually to whatever we were delivering prior to that. So it started off through Tech for Life, as Leading Ladies. So that was the program that we created for women only, which was good at the time. And it worked because actually not many organisations were doing that. So, it was a need and I think it served its purpose. But then when we came to spin 50 50 out, we were looking, chatting to different companies and finding out what they were doing. And actually a lot of organisations had then taken those kinds of initiatives in house. So they were already running women in leadership programmes themselves.

 

And actually what's interesting about that is that they were, a lot of them actually got quite a lot of backlash for that as well. So it's something that we've learned as we've gone on that women only initiatives do have their place, but actually our approach would be to include everybody and not just focus on women only any more. Or if you are going to do that, make sure you get the narrative, right. So it's not an us and them approach and you don't get that backlash of, you know, other colleagues in the company saying, well, where's my programme? Why aren't you doing that for me?

 

It's really understanding that equity piece and why it matters, why it's important. So, I think even just, although some people previously knew us as running women only programmes. Now it's something that we wouldn't necessarily do unless it was done in the right way.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

I think all of the iterations and everything that we've learned from Campus Tech for Life to where we are now, and we worked very hard to develop our own methodology, which is our seven steps to better balance. So it's great to focus on one area of diversity and usually that's recruitment. And I know that we've spoken to the pair of you previously about inclusive recruitment and it's often highlighted as a company's key challenges when it comes to getting that diverse candidate pool. But actually there's so much more to it that companies need to look at things by their first impressions, their websites.

 

They need to look at their culture and their leadership and their styles of leadership. Are people progressing? If not, why not? So we have these seven steps that we go through with companies that give the big picture, so to speak. So it might be actually recruitment is your challenge, but when we look at your website, there's just lots of imagery of men or your language is really male coded rather than being neutral. And it just gives them a framework that allows them to really develop diversity and inclusion strategies that work specifically for them. And off the back of that, we would recommend different interventions depending on what we thought was necessary. We're big advocates of unconscious bias training, again for that diversity of thought piece. And it just makes people self reflect, which really helps with inclusion.

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James:

I like the wheel that you have. The diagram which shows the seven steps. I think visually that works very well on the website.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

Thanks. That's a little something that I knocked up together.

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Michelle:

Check you out.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah. I think it's really important that I think the intention's always there with organisations where they know that it's something that they should be doing. Sometimes it can be they see it as a tick box exercise. Others are a bit more morally invested in it. But I think actually delivering it is always the challenge for them. So they might do little pockets of things or they'll put different initiatives in place, but it's never quite joined up. And from what we've seen, there's not many people who take that holistic approach. And that's what's so fundamental in creating a diversity and inclusion strategy. Even if you think you've got a diverse workforce, have you?

 

Because if you're looking at the data, who are the ones who are progressing in your organisation? And even if you do have a diverse workforce, do they feel included? Because that's a very different thing as well. Like Lynsey was saying for us. We're not about 50 50 as in 50 50 bums on seats as such. It's just creating that equal opportunity for everyone. And although we do have that gender lens, it really is about creating those opportunities for every single individual. And I don't even mean on the different underrepresented groups that we're very familiar with in terms of the diversity spectrum. It's just every individual and recognising people's differences and valuing those differences.

 

So rather than having an approach where it's like, Oh, I don't recognise, you know, colour, disability etc. I don't see it. I just see people. It's actually fundamentally, really important that you do see those differences because those are so intrinsic to somebody's identity and just place some value on that and ensuring that everybody feels like they belong and they can be themselves in the workplace or around you is really important. I think those are the values that we like to take into organisations and get them to lead with. So it's all about giving them the tools to do that in a way that works for their company.

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Michelle:

Yeah. So one of the times James has seen me literally go from like nice and normal and calm, to really, really annoyed is when we overheard a conversation, somebody had said, inclusion, fairness, diversity is all about treating everybody the same. And I was like, no, you can't do that. You don't treat a blind person the same as a deaf person. It doesn't work.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

It's so hard. And it's such a sensitive area too. I think given the times that we're in at the minute...We were having a conversation yesterday. Diversity is quite scary. People are worried that they might say the wrong thing, or they might put something out there in the big, bad world. And they're really afraid of the backlash that they're going to get of it too. And it is hard to navigate and to get right. But I think it's all about the mindset of, really treat conversations with the best intentions. So if somebody says something that you don't necessarily agree with, take it with a pinch of salt, try and see it from both sides.

 

And we need to get to a position where we can have these awkward, uncomfortable situations and conversations where we will get it wrong and we'll say the wrong thing. But actually if we lead with that best intentions piece, then we'll learn. And that's what it's all about. So as long as you're constantly learning and we still do as a company and I mean, it's such a beast in its nature, we're always learning new things and we don't always get it right in terms of our terminology or the way that we do things. But we have that learning mentality where we ask those difficult questions and we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations with maybe groups of people that we don't necessarily have much experience with or circumstances that we don't have experience with to really learn and to better what we're doing in terms of the consultancy that we run.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah. I think that's a massive bug bear of mine, where I think it's really hard for people who are trying to learn and they want to learn and creating that safe space where they can say what they need to say without having someone attacking them for it. I think that there's a lot around, you know, don't be indifferent and saying something and I think, yes, you should. But people are so scared to say something in case they get it wrong. And having that attacking approach I think is awful because it's really creating a lot more barriers because as soon as you do that, they're never going to speak up again. They're never going to question. They're never going to be curious. They're never going to wonder, and we need people to do that and to feel comfortable enough to ask a question and if they get it wrong to say, Oh, well, I'm really glad you brought that up because it's actually, this is how it gets misconceived or this is the perception of what you're saying.

 

So what you should really do in this situation is maybe say it in this way or think about these things and do it from an approach of education and support. And like Lynsey says, I think understanding that people do have good intentions on the whole. I think, you know the people who don't have good intentions and they're, you know, a separate bag to deal with but generally people are good intentioned. They're trying. And so it's really important to kind of handle them with care if they do get it wrong. And it's okay because they're on a learning journey as well. I think when it comes to prejudices and people's attitudes, it's a really difficult one, and I think the word even having the word privilege makes people feel defensive because it's like, it makes them feel as though, oh you've got it easy, which you might have it in one area of your life, but in other areas of your life, you might not.

 

So it's all about understanding where you sit within that. So in one area, yes, you might have privilege, but in another area you might have barriers and challenges. So it's really about trying to understand other people's barriers and challenges from the different areas. So you can see where you can help and what support they need with that. Just even being aware is great as well.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

I think that, so the mental health, what's the word I'm looking for, not drive, but maybe the stigma towards mental health a few years ago, compared to what it is now. So, I think now as a society, we understand that everybody has mental health and it's something that we should all look out for and look after. I think we need to get to that point with diversity and inclusion. So it's not just an issue that needs to be led by females that are underrepresented or the BAME community that are underrepresented. Everybody has a part to play in terms of diversity and inclusion. And everybody needs to recognise that.

 

And that's where we're going to get the real cultural shift and inclusion shift that we need to see. And that's something that we really strive for as a company is that it's great if you have diversity champions or you're really passionate about it. But actually it's all of those colleagues and individuals in your network that don't necessarily have an association with it, that we need to get having those conversations with us to really make the change. I just thought of that comparison and I am loving it!

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James:

It's really good. And I think it was on your website as well. It said it's not just something HR does that's s a tick box to look at mental health. Okay. We'll tick that one off. Let's now look at diversity. OK. We've done health and safety. That's done.

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Michelle:

Quality.

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James:

Quality is done. We've got the ISO certification. And I like the idea that it's not just about a champion or the actually underrepresented group that needs to speak up. It's everybody talking about it. Cause I think as well, the risk in companies is you go the other way, where you look at diversity as like a quota system. That's like, our numbers are not looking good. So you get on the phone to HR and you say, I need you to find me a woman to fill this position. And I need somebody who's of Hispanic origin. And could you find me someone who's perhaps transgender? And then we can say, we're working on our diversity agenda.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

That actually happens. And we've worked with companies, particularly the recruitment companies that we work with. They'll have clients ring them, and say, we only want a shortlist of black female candidates. What are you doing? You're missing the whole point! And it's not about ticking those boxes. And there's so many other outside factors that play into that. You need to look at the demographic of where you're operating and is that reflective? Are you gonna be able to hit those quotas that you've decided that you need to? And that's why diversity in itself is completely pointless if you don't have inclusion. They don't go hand in hand with each other. And sometimes I feel bad for HR departments or functions because they do get that agenda given to them by top level management.

 

And it's kind of just plunked down on their desk as in you're now diversity champion so can you just sort something out so that we can tick that all off. And it's not their specialism. It's like asking teachers to put coding on the curriculum, but they've never coded in their life. How are people meant to accomplish anything or make real impact when it's not their bag? And that's why everybody needs to be involved. And for us, that means your board and your C suite need to be behind it and driving it. And then your colleagues do the same.

 

So if you have that joined up approach of being fed from the top and lead from the bottom. That's the impact piece that a lot of people are missing. And there's a whole other debate around when you introduce diversity and inclusion initiatives that are led by the business case or the financial reasons, rather than actually what it should be in our view of the ethical and the moral responsibility that we have. It's a really interesting dynamic between the conflict and the success off the back of that.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah. I think when it's, when you were describing before about that recruitment process and you know, that tick box exercise of getting certain people through the door, even if you did get, you know, those people through the door, well, firstly, even just looking appealing to those groups firstly. Are you even going to be able to get them to apply and secondly, even if they do come through the door, are they just going to run off straight away? Because if you haven't set your company up to be inclusive or to be prepared for that in any way, then they're just going to walk into something that you can feel has been a tick box exercise.

 

And for people to come into that and for other colleagues to even think that they have been employed because they are an underrepresented group. I mean, that has such a detrimental effect on those colleagues but also on the hires as well thinking, Oh my God, I think I've been hired because of my social group. How uncomfortable is that? And I think a lot of the time there really is a disparity in positive discrimination and positive selection in terms of recruitment. It's something that me and Lynsey are constantly trying to bang the drum about.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

We had a call about it yesterday. And actually again as part of my learning it was good because it was an individual chatting about, you know, should we just go for...not positive discrimination that wasn't worded that way, but in essence, that's what they were saying. Should we just go and find this person so that it looks better? There was better intentions behind it I'm sure. But it must be challenging. Like this is what we do every day. This is what we talk about every day at work and outside of work and at weekends and late at night text messages. And we live and breathe it. But if you aren't from this world of diversity and inclusion, it's difficult and it's a minefield to navigate. So I can understand why people might think that positive discrimination is a good way of trying to make that shift.

 

And for us, best intentions, I understand why you would think that, but no, don't do it. It's really bad and we're not for it, and we don't like it at all. For us, positive discrimination is a no, no, because as Lyndsey was saying, you don't have the cultural identity internally to support that and morally it's wrong. It should be the best person for the job. For us, our stance, and this is very much positive selection...so have an inclusive recruitment process, have an inclusive culture, do everything in your power possible to make your workplace welcome for every individual. When you get down to that selection process, if you have two candidates of equal merit and one is from an underrepresented group, then 100% go for positive selection and bring that person into your company. But if you get down to two people and the underrepresented person is not fit for the job or fit for the purpose that you set out for, well then they're not the right person to bring in. That we feel, I feel very strongly about.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

It is such a, one of those big issues that people face in recruitment. Cause they don't know what else to do. And when you say, well, you know, really look at your recruitment policies, procedures systems, and try and make them all inclusive. Well, how do they know where to start with all of that? It literally is a minefield and recruitment is one those massive, massive challenge areas. But as with everything in our seven steps, it has to be linked with everything else. So it's about when you bring them in, the onboarding process, the culture, what progression opportunities are there going to be? There's the flexible working. All of those things, all fitted together. So really it does need to be wider than just recruitment as well.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

And I think that's in essence in that long winded explanation, that's what 50 50 is really good at. So we give you this easy methodical seven step methodology to work through, that gives you the framework, if this is not your bag or even if it is, it gives you that impartial perspective of how you can implement different strategies, different policies, different ways of working that really support diversity and inclusion. And then we're there for added support at whatever stage you might need us to really help implement, hold yourself accountable and make sure you're making meaningful changes and you're not just doing this lip service piece, tick box exercise.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah. And a lot of that will include training as well. So we do have perception and awareness training that we use with companies. So demystifying diversity, first of all, to really understand what approach you should be taking, understanding the seven steps for a holistic D&I strategy, unconscious bias, everybody should go through that training. And inclusive recruitment, whether that's under the label of an inclusive employee life cycle. So that it's relevant to everyone is also really important. There's lots of other training that we can offer as well. And we really enjoy just working with companies in whichever way best suits them. We know that, there's certain standards training and advice that we can offer that works with a lot of companies in the same way. But there's going to be a lot of different areas that they need extra support in or different ways of working. And that's why we can be so flexible with that to make sure that it really is about the best fit for them. Otherwise it's not going to work.

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Michelle:

Yeah. That's true. Awesome. Thank you so much for that. Are we going to move on to the quick fire round?

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Lynsey Harbottle:

Oooh.

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Michelle:

So it's a question to both of you so just choose which to go first.

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James:

Question number one. What TV show do you refuse to watch?

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

I don't like soaps. I don't like any of the soaps but give me any kind of reality TV show and I'm all over it.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

I struggle with...actually I hate films. I don't have the attention span to sit through a film. I can knock out a whole box set back to back of a series, but you won't get me to sit for an hour and a half watching any film.

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Michelle:

That's brilliant. So number two is what's the best bad decision you've made? Awful question...I love it though.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

It's a difficult one that one.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

It's a learning process. I did try...So back in early days, I didn't want to move away for university. I wanted to stay in Northern Ireland and study there and I was very much pushed that I should go and experience new things and move somewhere else. And that's how I ended up in Newcastle much to my family's detriment who are now slightly annoyed that I didn't come home after university. I'm settled here with a family and that's kind of a good decision that I didn't get to make, gone well.

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Michelle:

Excellent. Thank you.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah, I think, I suppose it's closing Campus North for me. That just came to me then, I was like, Oh yeah, I'm going to go with that one. So yeah, I think, although as we've described, it was very bitter sweet, really difficult decision to make, but actually we now are totally thriving with what we do and we do absolutely love it. And it has been a really great decision.

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Michelle:

Awesome.

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James:

Third and final question. So which song makes you happy?

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Oh, I really struggle with these ones because it depends on my mood and I can't think of any songs off the top of my head.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

I have quite an eclectic mix. I have a lot of time for a good pop song, but then I also like a bit of Carmina Burana...it's a bit of latin I'm thinking in nature. Very cliche like, Oh my wedding song, but it's not actually, it's not even the wedding song. I liked this song even before we even decided to get married, it was a really special song....It's the Muse version of Feeling Good.

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Michelle:

Okay. Lovely.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

That's it. But also Dire Straits...got a class song with that guitar.

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Michelle:

Mmm.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Uh, no, I really struggle with this. I would never be able to just pick one song. But, I'm very much, I like anything really upbeat and whether that's any kind of like Motown upbeat or even, I do like a bit of rap and R&B. You do as well don't you Lynsey? Like a bit of that and pop. Yeah, but I can't name one, unfortunately, cause there's just too many and I'd have to actually sit through my playlist and then be like ooh that one, no that one.

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Michelle:

Well if you come up with a thought we can share it when we put the podcast out. So if it comes to in a flash of inspiration in the middle of the night. Things like that happen to us...

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

I will update you.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

We could actually share our soundtrack or our theme tune for Campus North.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah that would be good. Yeah, that does bring back good memories, but I've got no idea what it's called.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

No idea what it's called it just has bom bom bom! I will find out and I will send it to you! It was very good memories!

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All:

[Laughter}.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Is it that Edward Sharpe? Or is that something different?

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Michelle:

Cool. And then the question we ask all of our guests is if you could get into a time machine and go back to your 18 year old selves, what advice would you give to Lyndsey/Lynsey?

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

I would probably tell myself to dump my boyfriend at the time and just, in doing that, just expanding my opportunities a lot more and not staying so safe at home and just be more confident with it and making some good decisions, push yourself, make some bold moves.

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Michelle:

Lovely. Thank you.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

I think I would say, go with the flow. Don't get caught up in always having to think of the end game or the bigger picture. Just see what happens, see where it takes, you trust in your decision making. That actually it will all be fine. And even when you're in those dips or troughs, that you can come out the other end and it can lead to something really special. So don't stress. Just see what happens.

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James:

Great. So from our conversation if someone's really interested to come on a course, learn more about diversity and inclusion, what is the best way to find you?

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Lynsey Harbottle:

It's helpful that we're both called Lyndsey/Lynsey. So you could just take a stab in the dark at spelling Lyndsey! Whichever way you want! The website's probably the best port of call. https://5050future.co.uk/ So you will find our email addresses on there, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter. We're not hard to come across but contact us any way that suits you. And you'll find one of us.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

Yeah. All of the information on our training and what we do, our approach, all those kinds of things will be on there. So take a look around there. If you've got any questions, all of our contact info is there and we are here to chat.

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Michelle:

Wonderful. Well, thank you ever so much for taking the time. We really appreciate it. Cause we haven't been to the seaside during lockdown. So really appreciated the sound of seagulls.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

Oh it's both of us.

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Lyndsey Britton-Lee:

I've got the window open. Yeah.

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Lynsey Harbottle:

Thank you so much for letting us rabbit on!

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Michelle:

It's been great.

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All:

Thank you.

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