The University of Leeds has appointed two new Deans to lead the development of its strategy for equality and inclusion.
Professors Iyiola Solanke and Louise Bryant have been appointed Deans for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).
They will work in partnership with Shelagh Prosser, Interim Head of EDI; Louise Banahene, Head of Educational Engagement, and Linda Mortimer Pine, Director of Human Resources: HR Service & Organisational Change.
The new Deans will be instrumental in driving forward Leeds’ vision to create an inclusive environment that attracts, develops and retains the best staff and students from all backgrounds, and from across the world, supporting them to achieve their ambitions and, in doing so, contribute to the University’s strategic aims.
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, said:
“Equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our University mission, and I want to see Leeds become a place where everyone, regardless of their background, feels like they belong and can achieve their full potential. It’s only by doing this that we can ensure excellence across our research, education and societal impact.
“Louise and Iyiola are fantastic colleagues and I’m delighted they will now provide academic leadership for the EDI agenda across the University. I’m looking forward to working closely with them and Shelagh to develop a bespoke EDI strategy, in line with the University’s academic strategy and its key elements of culture, community and impact.”
Both Professor Solanke and Professor Bryant were recently honoured with Women of Achievement awards, recognising the significant contributions and impact they have made across the University and beyond.
Professor Solanke is Chair of EU Law and Social Justice within the Law School at Leeds, with an outstanding research track record in the fields of EU and anti-discrimination law. She is also an international advocate for anti-discrimination, diversity and equality, within and beyond the University, including being Chair of Leeds 11, the University’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff network, as well as a founder of the Temple Women’s Forum North and the Black Female Professors Forum.
She is currently principal investigator on a £2.5 million UKRI-funded project looking at the impact of covid-19 and discrimination on practices of wellbeing and resilience in BAME families and communities in the UK.
She said: “Having worked at Leeds for 10 years, I’m delighted to have been appointed an inaugural Dean of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
“We have a challenging task ahead of us and I look forward to working with the VC, my co-Dean and all colleagues to tackle the virus of discrimination and ensure safety, wellbeing and belonging across campus and in all University activities.”
Louise Bryant is a Professor in Psychological and Social Medicine, Associate Dean for EDI in the School of Medicine and the University’s Academic Lead for Gender Equality.
Professor Bryant’s inspirational leadership and drive played an integral role in the School of Medicine’s Gold Athena SWAN Award in 2019 – the first medical school in the UK to receive the accolade, which recognises progress towards gender equality within higher education. She also led the recent institutional Bronze Award submission with colleagues across the University.
Professor Bryant continues to raise the profile of equality, diversity and inclusion through her roles, and through research that challenges health inequalities experienced by people with a learning disability.
Professor Bryant said: “These new roles underline the VC’s commitment to equity and inclusion for all students and colleagues, and the valuing of diversity of thought and experience.
“As a Leeds graduate, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to work in an area of personal importance to me, and of such strategic importance to the University. There are many challenges within this area of work, but I’m confident there has never been a better time for us to meet them and to make a real difference.”
Working alongside the new Deans is the recently appointed Interim Head of EDI, Shelagh Prosser.
Her expertise as an EDI leader and change maker has been gained through a combination of senior in-house roles and independent consultancy commissions in the public, private and voluntary sectors. These have included Head of Inclusion and Wellbeing at the Bank of England; Associate Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust; and Deputy Director Equality and Inclusion at the Office of the Prime Minister.
Shelagh said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to help shape how the University moves forward on its EDI ambitions. I look forward to working with Iyiola, Louise and others to build on the brilliant work already underway across the University to advance EDI.”
The EDI team will work closely with colleagues throughout the University to develop a new EDI blueprint, aligning with the theme of the University’s 2020-30 strategy: Universal Values, Global Change.
The strategy sets out Leeds’ ambitions to build a thriving community and a collaborative culture demonstrating equality of opportunity, respect, fairness and inclusion.
In recognition that bias and discrimination have existed and still exist both in society and throughout higher education, the EDI focus will address these issues locally and seek to provide leadership and best practice more widely across the sector.