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Six months and beyond

As part of National Inclusion Week, our first ever director for equality, diversity and inclusion, Viveen Taylor, blogs about her first six months in the role and what she's learned about the job in hand.

01st October 2021

by Viveen Taylor
Director for equality, diversity and inclusion, Sport England

On 1 March this year, at a time when the world was still trying to resolve what next for a global pandemic that continues to decimate lives, livelihoods, businesses, sport and so much more – I took up post as Sport England’s first director of equality, diversity and inclusion.

When coronavirus (Covid-19) first hit, we responded quickly to help retain critical provision and support our partners to repurpose their everyday offers to ensure they stayed connected and engaged with the very groups who have so often felt abandoned, unheard and underserved.

We may be now be almost free of restrictions in the sport and physical activity sector but we as an organisation continue to innovate, operate outside our comfort zone and move quickly to flex our own systems and processes to try and stop inequalities in our sector from worsening.

From a personal perspective, I’m now six months into my role and we’re now reframing our equalities activities and investments around key pieces of work that inform and frame everything we’ll do in the coming years – thing such as the Tackling Racism and Racial Inequalities in Sport review, the review of the Code for Sports Governance and our Uniting the Movement strategy.

Working around these three key pillars of work will help us to really concentrate our efforts to redress the inequity we know has been longstanding for so many audiences.

Thinking differently

We must think about diversity, equality and inclusion not in isolation but as an approach to solving the many problems we have around inequality and exclusion in society.

Disabled people, LGBTQ+ communities, women and girls, young people, culturally diverse communities, lower socio-economic groups and people with long-term health conditions are all important to our plans and strategies. All require equal attention.

We accept that these groups often face persistent barriers to participation and layers of disadvantage, and we acknowledge that people are not just one characteristic, they are diverse and different.

We know that discrimination and exclusion exist and that it makes people feel hurt, unsafe and as if they don’t matter; when in actual fact people do matter, and so does how they feel about being active and how they participate and engage with sport.

The problem we’re trying to solve is therefore not singular and our solutions will not be based on a one size fits all approach.

We know that discrimination and exclusion exist and that it makes people feel hurt, unsafe and as if they don’t matter.

It’s why we will use what we know – the life stories people share with us and the data we gather – to focus on creating simple but comprehensive approaches to help us and our partners do better to serve communities and people, considering intersectionality as a key issue.

We must think about diversity, equality and inclusion as an approach to solving the many problems we have around inequality and exclusion in the world of sport and physical activity.

I’ve been fortunate to have spent some of my time meeting our different community groups, partners and organisations (online and now more frequently in person) to see and understand the issues and challenges they face.

I’ve felt privileged to present at partner events, including I Choose to Challenge – an online session with a small women’s group in Manchester for International Women’s Day. I’ve jumped on my bike for a 30-mile ride, hung around on a basketball court (watching some amazing young talent), played games with some single parents and their children, witnessed some non-swimmers learn to swim in an hour (amazing!), listened to challenging stories of exclusion, and just generally tried to spend time seeing and listening to the experiences of ordinary people just trying to make being active easier and fun.

I’ll continue to make time for this as it facilitates a sense of perspective and an opportunity to impart some key messages about what we’re doing and why – connecting our plans with local people.

It’s also a fantastic litmus test to assess whether what we’re doing and the way we’re doing it is really working, makes sense and, more importantly, is making a difference.   

Over the coming months and years, we’ll continue to share how we’re progressing against all our equality priorities, highlighting successes and sharing challenges and learnings that will be invaluable for anyone working within an equality framework.

We’ve already started to diversify our approach to our insight and data capture which will help us tell an even stronger story and shape the how and why of what we’ll do – building empathy and understanding as part of the approach.

The time has come to shift the inequality dial for disadvantaged, ignored and underserved communities.

We’re committing to really changing lives for the better, creating different options for people to move and be active, and promoting healthy, strong and connected communities.

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