Image of Joanne Lockwood from SEE Change Happen

The Big Interview with Joanne Lockwood

Joanne Lockwood is the founder and CEO of SEE Change Happen and will host HR Heads’ next webinar on the 25th of February on Finding the Why of D&I.

She spoke with Rosie Jenkins about the importance of D&I.

How did SEE Change Happen come to life?

Well, the actual name came as a flash of inspiration, one day. I was sat in an inspirational workshop and as I sat in the audience, my mind was wandering.

I’d had the mantra smile engage and educate for quite a while, as I was sitting there smile, engage and educate became SEE.

And for some reason Gandhi popped into my head, be the change you want to see.

And I was exploring with see and then change and happening, and suddenly SEE Change Happen popped into my head; at which point I got my phone out and checked whether the domain existed, it didn’t so I registered the domain there and then.

I think it was 2017 but before that I toyed with several career options, or second career options having run a company for 25 years I sold up, gender transitioned, career transitioned and decided my passion laid within inclusion and belonging.

I was thinking more around trans inclusion at the beginning, but then I realised that if everyone is included, everyone wins, and I am everyone.

It’s about creating a fair society where everyone can succeed and thrive.

What was your experience prior to setting up the business being trans in the in the workforce, how were you been received in your previous career?

Well, I had my own IT company, so I always admit I “bottled it” as I didn’t have the courage to transition at work, and I know that’s a similar problem that many trans people face is that is quite big ask to reinvent yourself in full view.

Luckily, my business partners offered to buy me out, so I took the money, left and transitioned afterwards.

As it happens, it was less than positive trans-inclusive organisation, which led me to feel less included and less belonging there, which added to my anxiety.

Largely, I would say I’ve been embraced by society, the people I hang out with and businesses such as yourselves, I found it pretty receptive.

There has been some surprise moments along the way, some internet stalking and I received a letter in the post once giving me a lecture, which surprised me, but yet largely I’ve been pretty much embraced.

Some friends drifted off, but that’s no different to leaving school or university, or changing jobs, you move away from people you no longer have the same interests in and don’t keep touch

What advice would you have to candidates who are transgender who are applying for jobs?

There were some statistics published recently which found that one in three employers said they would employ someone who was trans, but two of the three employees admitted they wouldn’t.

That’s quite a significant proportion of UK employers.

While I hate to say it, I still think trans people should be cautious of the bias that exists in the recruiting process.

I’ve had very candid conversations with the hiring managers and recruiters and they’re honest with me and say it’s going to be tough to find you a role, that’s the reality of the situation.

You’re a great candidate, but there are only so many companies I can offer you to because I know that you will get a good reception.

So, that’s recruiters being open and honest about the bias that exists.

And I would say, if you are being honest as well, you probably echo that there are challenges of placing a trans candidate in organisations through bias.

Image of Rosie Jenkins

Interestingly, over the last few years, a couple of my clients have actually moved towards blind CVs, where we’ve had to anonymise the candidate CV so that there’s no suggestion if it’s a man or a woman – or any sort of identifying information.

It can be a challenge from a recruiting perspective when you’re presenting a shortlist.

I certainly found it when I was recruiting for an HR Director and I had to talk about candidate A, B, C, or D.

I actually think it’s a fair approach for everybody.

Joanne: That kind of objective-based recruitment process, it does help, but I often say at some point you have to meet me. If all you’re doing is kicking the bias football down the field and going to pick it up later then I’d rather you told me at the beginning.

I think yes anonymising gets it so far, but if all we’re doing is pushing the bias down the field, then there’s a long way to go.

Train the hiring teams to get the culture right, because why would I want to work for an organisation that doesn’t want me as a person?

To be rejected for being who you are is not great for mental health or self-esteem.

I think the whole recruitment process still has a long way to go, not just for trans people, but for people of any other difference if you like.

I have evolved my CV over the years and have taken out the fact that I’m trans, where I used to make it explicit.

I used to put the opening statement: “I’ve had a life of two halves, a career as a male IT person and then a D&I career as a female person with a bit of exploration in the middle.”

I don’t know whether that denied me opportunities, but I decided to take that emphasis out, because, to be honest, I’ve moved on in my life.

I don’t feel the need to explain myself anymore, maybe in the beginning, I did, and now I’m just me, I want to be positioned as me, the only reference, I think, is that I promote trans awareness into businesses as part of my skill set

It’ll be interesting for our webinar we can have an HR director and Chief Executive audience and clearly potentially some people that you’re already doing some work with.

The core topic is finding the why of D&I. I won’t ruin the story, but too often we find organisations with this D&I playbook or they’ve had they’ve had a strategist come in and give them a strategy.

When you actually drill down and ask the senior leadership team, the C-suite, the managers, the teams that the people on the floor about the strategy and playbook, very often they either don’t know it exists, they can’t talk about it and they haven’t found that own personal why of D&I and don’t understand why it’s important for them as an individual of what their part to play in the organisation.

Often people think D&I is an HR problem.

Well, it should be everybody’s priority. We all feel it and understand it so that’s part of what I want to be talking about.

We’ve seen a lot more businesses in the UK recruiting for Heads of D&I and it’s absolutely on the HR Directors’ agenda

Going forward, I suppose it’s kind of finding the individuals who have that experience to actually educate in the right way and in terms of handling these unconscious biases.

It is a challenge and is not simply around unconscious bias it’s also about process changes.

As a as a head-hunter as a as a senior leadership placement organisation, working with HR leaders, do you find it easy to push back against requirements that are maybe not diverse in their thinking you know, two people are people still restricted and say: “Hello I’m looking for somebody who is a bit like this were a bit that, must have been to this school,” are you able to push back?

We’re finding a lot of currently is people are being very prescriptive about the industry sector where someone might have come from, so they say we, we want an HR Director who’s worked in retail, hospitality or leisure, but actually when it comes to HR the skill sets are so transferable across industries.

Quite often when we’re putting together a shortlist you say here are two people from retail two from hospitality and leisure and actually, I’ve got this fantastic person who’s worked in tech, and this other person from financial services, but quite often there’s a preconception as to what that that person’s going to be like and people can stereotype.

Often it’s to do more with the culture and team and their behaviours and characteristics, not about which industry sensor they’ve come from.

Bringing people from underrepresented marginalized communities they don’t tend to have that track record and that it’s very hard to get that experience until you’ve done the role yeah.

If you’re in your 50s you’re sometimes considered to be too old for that organisation and you know I’ve placed a couple of candidates recently in their 60s and age is absolutely no reason why people can’t do a job

A multi-generational workforce can be a calming supporting influence and we often miss that.

Giving people chances and without making them lose their self-esteem by starting again, recognise that lived experience is valuable, I mean I’ve just turned 56 and I’ve reinvented myself completely.

So, don’t write me off at 50, I’ve got another lease of life here, I’ve got another hopefully 15-20 years in me and I’m still learning.

I’m a lifelong learner, I’m committed to this, so don’t write me off because I’m over 50!

Joanne is the guest speaker at our next Breakfast Forum, click the button below to register now.

Image linking to other HR Blogs like the D&I blog with Joanne Lockwood from SEE Change Happen