Building a fair and welcoming workplace: an interview with one of our Inclusion Managers

Building an inclusive environment is at the forefront of our agenda. For us, inclusion is about ensuring our organisation is built for long term, sustainable success. At RBS, we value diversity of thought and what each individual brings to work. This in turn, helps us better understand and support our customers and develop innovative, ethical products and solutions with a commercial edge which are reflective of our diverse customer base.

Moreover, it’s important to us that everyone feels like they can be themselves at work and feel they are supported to reach their full potential. Additionally, diversity within teams has shown to increase creativity, performance and collaboration.

Talia Alexander, an Inclusion Manager, is passionate about driving this cultural change globally across the organisation. We asked Talia to tell us about how she became part of the Inclusion team and some of the changes she’s seen.

Hi Talia, thanks for talking to us today. Can you tell us a bit about your journey with the bank?

I joined RBS through the HR graduate scheme as I’d heard through word of mouth that it was a great programme to be involved with. I really enjoyed the scheme although it was a big adjustment. I’d previously worked for Amnesty International, transcribing interviews of victims of human trafficking from the horn of Africa, so I went from working in a non-profit environment to working in a corporate office environment. I found it challenging at first but quickly realised that my preconceptions about banking culture were far from true. I’d pictured a conservative world that wouldn’t really suit me - but RBS didn’t fit this stereotype. It was a place that I was valued for being myself.

I enjoyed working in HR but it was during my last placement focusing on culture and inclusion that I finally felt I’d found an area that matched my skills with my interests. My background is in History and Middle Eastern studies, and I did my Masters thesis on women’s empowerment in the Middle East. I am also personally involved in RBS’s Jewish Society, so culture and inclusion has always been important to me.

That’s a really interesting degree - when did you first develop an interest in this area?

When I was 12 years old my father took our family on sabbatical to Israel from the USA for a year. Living in Jerusalem during the second intifada, or uprising, was life changing. I was exposed to conflict, different cultures, religions and people. How we learn to live together, our coexistence, and the intersectionality of people’s personal identities intrigued me.

How did you want to incorporate this interest into your career?

I always really wanted to make a difference and I love working with people. When I was younger, I wanted to be a diplomat or ambassador but later decided the political route wasn’t right for me. At university, first in the United States and later during my year abroad (subsequently transferring to university in England), I pursued my interest in Inclusion and the Middle East. After finishing my Masters in Gender Studies, my intention was to pursue a PhD in this field, however after being unable to start a fellowship in Israel, I started looking at graduate schemes.

Looking to move to the corporate world, I was initially concerned that I wouldn’t be able to facilitate the change I wanted to see or find my niche, especially in a large company such as RBS. However, working here, I’ve realised that RBS is committed to change and moreover, it has something for everyone. You just need to find the area that makes the most of your skills and what you enjoy doing.

It sounds like an amazing opportunity - what do you enjoy most about your job?

What I love about my job is the difference we’re making in how it feels to work here. I am really proud of the work we do – we’re helping RBS become a great place to work, creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable being themselves and can reach their full potential. Moreover, we’re committed to creating real change; we’re focusing on closing the gender gap – something we’ve been externally recognised for through our ‘Platinum’ rating by Opportunity Now and as a ‘Times’ Top 50 Employer of women. RBS has also signed up as early adopter to the HM Treasury ‘Women in Finance Charter’, which reflects our continued commitment to improving gender balance at all levels. We also are committed to increasing the representation of ethnic minorities and have been recognised for our work with a ‘Gold’ rating by Race for Opportunity. Finally, recently, we were one of only a very small number of organisations rated Silver by the Business Disability Forum and ranked 13th in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.

So since you joined us at RBS, have you found the workplace has changed?

In the past few years I’ve seen such a positive shift. So many of the projects and programmes we’re implementing are ahead of the curve. And it’s great to see the change in behaviours from the top of the organisation and the knock on effect they have. I’ve seen first hand how the impact of our ‘positive action approach’ and other inclusion activities have been life changing for some of our employees.

It’s so important that we continue to celebrate everyone’s unique talents and make sure they are happy in a role that is right for them. It’s about the little things we do every day that improve our culture and environment.

Read more about Inclusion at RBS

Learn more about the steps we’re taking to champion inclusion and diversity.

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