An interview with Fiona Daniel,
Head of Diversity at HSBC UK
1.Last time we connected you were in a global role and leading the Embrace Network, what are you doing now.
I am now the Head of Diversity for HSBC in the UK. It has been great to be able to go from working in global diversity and inclusion for four years driving the global agenda, to now heading up one of our priority markets of circa 50k+ employees and putting my D&I practitioner skills to the test. I thought standing on a glass bridge over the Grand Canyon was the hardest thing I did but somebody once told me to be able to lead, influence, and implement this agenda in a country/Region is tough, they were not kidding, but for me it’s the most rewarding job I have done for some time. When I look back at what I said last time, I am pleased to see that our focus remains just as strong and also pleased to see just how much progress I have made.
2.You made history by establishing the Embrace Network the first of its kind in the bank in the UK, what progress has been made with the Network since you founded it?
I founded the Embrace network back in 2012 and nearly 6 years later I have watched it grow and be led and steered by equally passionate and business focused individuals with an amazing sponsor – she is amazing. I was over the moon when I received the news that the Embrace Network has been shortlisted in the Investing in Ethnicity Awards this year in the Network of the Year category. It’s an amazing achievement and I am immensely proud to see something I started get to this point, fingers crossed we win. We have taken an inclusive approach in all we do which has started to reap benefits which has led to some other “firsts” too, such as being named a Best Company for Race in 2017, so to be making our own history is always a good thing to see.
3.How important is Black History Month to you?
Very. I think we are still afraid to talk about race and topics such as Black History Month, but the month provides a great opportunity to focus on educating others on this rich history, the remarkable positive contributions made by black individuals both in the past and also right now particularly in business and the sciences Personally I would rather not confine it to one month of the year, BHM is not separate but part of a bigger story and history that should be told as a whole and not in part all year round.
4.So contributions by black individuals should be recognised?
Yes definitely, these are contributions that have shaped the fabric of the UK from the communities we live in to the places we work. Many people are constantly raising their head above the parapet to drive inclusion for all. There is that saying about standing on the shoulders of giants and for me that is true, because without them that have gone before, made sacrifices in the face of adversity beyond anything I could imagine, I would not be able to do what I am doing in the present.
4.You mentioned standing on the shoulders of giants, who do these shoulders belong to?
It is probably a cliché to say my mum and dad but it is very true. Without them I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do and be the person I am today, I am proud of my St. Vincent and the Grenadines heritage and my British one too. There are too many role models or giants to mention, living and dead but I would like to acknowledge the Windrush generation. This to me is a story still often untold and misunderstood, they came to a country they were invited to be in, and forged friendships, relationships, created multicultural diverse communities, built networks, created businesses, rebuilt a post war Britain. They left families behind to make a new way of life in a country that was new to them in many ways, what a contribution and that’s not all of it, what great shoulders to stand on.
5.What do you look forward to in respect of Black History Month?
I am looking forward to attending and speaking at some of events the Embrace Network are organising to acknowledge BHM, taking the opportunity to have the uncomfortable conversation in a safe environment, and celebrating all that is BHM. But what I am really looking forward to is the day I no longer hear the sentence “X is the first black person to do y” it just tells me, that we still have a way to go when we still have to call out that someone is the first to do someone based on their ethnicity and race or any aspect of difference for that matter.
6.What do you want to be remembered for?
In the words of Maya Angelou I I would like to be remembered not for the things I said or the things I did but for the way I made people feel. That for me is the mantra I always have in mind, walk away knowing that somehow in some way you made a difference big or small to someone which they truly felt
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