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Natalie Cheung shares her experience of gaining a certificate in EDI, for anyone looking for a new string to add to their bow.
I started my career in civil engineering and now work on volunteer programmes with London schools. I’m passionate about raising young people’s aspirations by opening their eyes to career opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).
For this education and volunteer work, it’s important to consider the needs and interests of the individual young people we hope to support.
Every person has a unique background and experience. This could relate to one of the protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
In my roles, it’s important that I understand the different characteristics that make people unique. It helps me to be a better colleague, leader, volunteer and citizen.
Outside of my main job, I host a podcast highlighting stories from underrepresented ethnic groups, and volunteer as a council member on the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) for gender equality.
Although I’ve been active in the EDI space, I recently decided to extend my knowledge with a Level 2 Certificate In Equality And Diversity.
I was looking for a course which provided an overview of the topic, as well as information specifically relevant for the UK.
The one I chose consists of the following topics – personal and social identities, beliefs, values, stereotyping and labelling, prejudice and discrimination. These are key terms that I use often, and the qualification has been useful to formalise my learning with definitions and examples behind each term.
With my work for this qualification, I reflected on the extent and value of diversity within my community. The qualification extended my understanding of the potential inequalities which can occur within a community and the support services and groups which exist to ensure that equality and diversity is maintained.
It’s been particularly eye-opening to read and learn about examples of inequality which are not in my experience. I think we can all benefit from being open-minded to the experiences of others, which can often be surprising.
At the time of starting this qualification, I had been in my role for 2.5 years and was considering the next steps in my career.
I wanted to be proactive in deciding my own development in my own time, and putting myself in good stead for future job roles. I started in a new role at a new employer shortly after completing the qualification, and my new manager also fully supported my personal interest in continual learning and EDI.
In my current employment, I’ve been encouraged to reach out to internal leaders of the EDI work to share my expertise and get involved with internal projects.
Alongside my increased knowledge and understanding about EDI in community settings, the qualification helped me to have the right language and knowledge about EDI in a workplace.
Companies are legally required to follow a set of practices to tackle discrimination and ensure equality for their employees. By studying for this certificate, I updated my knowledge of wide-ranging, up-to-date equality and diversity legislation.
I now have a greater understanding of the importance of creating a workplace centred on fairness, dignity and respect, including the legal, economic and social consequences of not maintaining a diverse and equal environment.
My previous experience in EDI had largely been with individuals working in the area on a voluntary basis and in their own time, either within their employer or with an external organisation focussed on a certain underrepresented group.
This qualification changed my beliefs and understanding about the legal responsibilities that employers have for equality, which has already started affecting my own volunteer and freelance work.
In particular, I have a better understanding of how equality and diversity is monitored in the workplace and how the rights of individuals are protected. This is an area I hope to continue learning about in order to inform my work and to better support people I work with.
I would recommend this qualification for both those who are already active in EDI work and for those who may be new to the field.
The certificate provides an overview of the EDI landscape in the UK and encourages reflection for our own experiences. It’s perfect for busy professionals or students who are interested in a short course that can be completed within a few weeks, and flexibly in their own time. It just requires a laptop with internet access.
I found that a remote course fit my schedule and needs, especially during the then nationwide lockdown.
For those who are interested in completing this certificate, there is currently funding available for adults living in England to study remotely and flexibly.
This funding is available online via colleges across England, and you can check your eligibility by registering for the qualification on a college website.
Natalie Cheung is a TED-Ed public speaker, EDI consultant and an award-winning volunteer and leader.
After graduating from University of Manchester in civil engineering, Natalie worked as a transportation engineer for a global built environment consultancy. She is passionate about raising young people's career aspirations and now works to support industry volunteers to inspire the next generation.
For her volunteer work and active citizenship, Natalie was awarded the YMCA England and Wales Young Leader of the Year 2018, The University of Manchester Medal of Social Responsibility in 2019 and was a finalist for WeAreTheCity Rising Star Awards 2021.
For her work in furthering diversity in engineering and the applied sciences, Natalie was awarded the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) Amy Johnson Inspiration Award 2019.
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