Series Six, Episode One: Creating space for complete inclusion

Posted on September 18, 2019

Pips Bunce, Head of Global Markets, Technology, Core Engineering Strategic Programmes at Credit Suisse and Ed Thompson, founder and CEO of Uptimize explore neurodiversity and LGBTQI inclusion. As 20% of Generation Z identify as LGBTQI and organisations are beginning to gain greater understanding of neurodiversity across different sectors, they discuss how corporations can foster an environment in the workplace where all forms of diversity are at the core of inclusion.

 

Pips Bunce

Mx Pips Bunce is a Director at Credit Suisse and has been working in the IT industry for over 25 years across range of different sectors.

She has worked for a variety of firms including Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, UBS, British Telecom and the Bank of England.

Pips is recognised as a leader and influencer in many fields of Diversity and Inclusion and through her work, has been recognised through several prestigious awards including the Financial Times & HERoes Female champions of Women in Business, the FT & OUTStanding LGBT executive leader and the British LGBT Awards.

Pips identifies as gender-fluid and non-binary and so decides how to choose to express on any given day regarding gender expression. Being non-binary, Pips does not identify as either the binary gender of male or female.

She is a visible and vocal advocate for many forms of equality including gender identity, gender parity and gender equality. Pips frequently presents at a range of large events and conferences such as the Women of The Square Mile, Diversity in Technology as well as presenting at venues ranging from other corporates through to in the houses of parliament.

You can follow Pips on Twitter @PippaBunce.

 

Ed Thompson

Ed Thompson is the founder and CEO of Uptimize. Uptimize helps organizations like Google, Microsoft and JPMorgan attract, hire and retain neurodiverse talent through trainings and tailored strategy programs. Ed was also a co-author of the research report ‘Neurodiversity at Work’ produced with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in 2018. Prior to Uptimize, Ed co-founded the groundbreaking Tech City Stars tech apprenticeships programme in London, while on the leadership team of a pan-European tech company.

You can follow Ed on Twitter @EdUptimize.

 

Series Six, Episode One Transcript

Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets and welcome to Divercity Podcast, talking about equality, inclusion, and diversity in financial services. On the podcast, we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer lots of ideas to help drive change. Today I’m joined by Pips Bunce of Credit Suisse and Ed Thompson of Uptimize.

Pips Bunce is the Head of Global Markets Technology Core Engineering Strategic Programmes at Credit Suisse and has been working in the IT industry for more than 25 years and across many different sectors. Pips is recognised as a diversity and inclusion leader and influencer, having won many awards, including the Financial Times and HERoes Female Champions of Women in Business, the FT and Outstanding LGBT Executive Leader and the British LGBT Awards.

Pips identifies as gender fluid and non-binary and so on any given day decides how to express according to gender. And as non-binary, Pips does not identify as either of the binary genders of male or female. Pips, welcome to the show.

Pips: Hello, Julia. Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure and honour to be here.

Julia: Ed Thompson is the founder and CEO of Uptimize. Uptimize helps organisations like Google, Microsoft, JP Morgan attract, hire, and retain neurodiverse talent through training and tailored strategy programmes. Last year, Ed co-authored a research report, Neurodiversity at Work, produced with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Prior to Uptimize, Ed co-founded the Tech City Stars Apprenticeships Programme in London while on the leadership team of a pan-European tech company. Ed, welcome to the show.

Ed: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Julia: As always, at the start of the show, we invite each guest to talk about what they’re up to at the moment. Pips, let’s start with you. What are you focused on at the moment?

Pips: I focus on a range of different initiatives; a lot of them are focused around trying to really promote an increased LGBT inclusion. I’m really proud to be our Credit Suisse co-lead of our LGBT and Ally Programme. The main focus of that is really to foster an environment in the workplace and society where all the forms of diversity is caught in terms of its inclusion, and everyone is celebrated rather than tolerated.

That involves a lot of different things. Working on making sure that we’re included in the StoneWall Top 100 listing is a good example. I do a lot of external partnerships with firms such as Stonewall, GiRes, Diversity Role Models, Outstanding, again, really trying to promote trans inclusion, understanding of different gender identities, and more generally across the LGBTQI inclusion space.

I’m really proud to have several mentees at Credit Suisse as part of our reverse mentoring programme. One such example is our EMEA CEO and Group CFO David Mathers. I’m also global head of Group Ops, really trying to promote the importance of diversity inclusion, and particularly LGBTQI inclusion at the very top of the house. That spans across outside of the workplace as well. I’m also doing a lot of work with schools, colleges, universities. Again, trying to promote how important LGBT inclusion is when we’ve now got 20% of Generation Z, Millennials identifying LGBTQI, 12% identifying as gender-nonconforming, hence trans, non-binary, and gender fluid. It’s really important that we as a society make sure our workplaces are inclusive to all of these people to insure we do build that pipeline of talent. For me, it’s really just trying to focus on making the workplace a much more inclusive, better place, and spreading the word about why inclusion is so important, and making sure that it’s top of the house priority-wise.

Julia: We’ll certainly be exploring that in some detail in terms of how organisations can embrace this talent group, which is incredibly important. Wonderful. Thank you, Pips. Ed, let me talk to you. What are you focused on at the moment?

Ed: A big part of our offering at Uptimize is on-demand course ware, online training for employers around neurodiversity at work. We have just launched a new product, which has actually come from our advisory board, inspired by our client advisory board, which is a 30-minute introduction, nine modules, two on neurodiversity at work, designed to be very short, very quick, and I think designed on the basis that ultimately everybody needs to know something about this topic. But actually everybody doesn’t necessarily need to know a huge amount.

The difference between a complete lack of understanding and even what is there being warped by stereotypes and actually this  mental door opens. So actually this should be a really substantial part of my daily working life, I think is huge. So we’ve launched that; excited about that, obviously working with our existing clients and our new clients and also advocating for neurodiversity at work are very interestingly actually in the UK over the next sort of month or so talking with people in a number of different sectors, so public sector, finance, talking to people in law, talking to people in media and advertising, and so seeing a lot of different sectors become interested in this topic and actually seeing that debate move from, “What’s this all about?” to, “Okay, we think we get it now, and what should we be doing about it?”

Julia: Which is wonderful because we are being asked more and more about neurodiversity in the mix of diversity and inclusion as a whole. Plenty there to explore as we go through the show. Thank you very much, indeed. Pips, let me come to you, first of all. And as far as you’re comfortable to share, we’re really interested to hear a bit about your story as well. Have you always presented as non-binary?

Pips: I think I knew I was perhaps slightly different to other people at a very early age. So for me, it was personally about four or five years old when I first realised it. I didn’t know the terms like gender fluid, and non-binary, or transgender at that age, but I knew I liked to express differently. I’d like the normal stereotypical, and I don’t like to gender stereotype, but I’d like my boy things, but I’d also like to have dresses and tiaras and make sure I could express in both forms of expression.

Coming out personally and family and friends, etc, always being open and out to everybody equally. I’ve been married for 23 years. My children are now 22 and 19. Again, they’ve always known my true identity. I think the bigger challenge I personally found was coming out in the corporate workplace. That was not because the workplace was not ready for that, it was more my own barriers that I put out. I was more concerned about would I be accepted and included for perhaps being different to other people and more so, did people understand the identity that I’m going to come out as? Because I think I only came out six years ago or so in the corporate workplace.

I think there was a good understanding at the time of general trans identities but not so much more of this more nuanced or some of the subidentities, so gender fluidity, non-binary, etc. I think I was more concerned that people wouldn’t comprehend or accept those.

Now, thankfully that’s totally not the case. I’ll use that first part of the Ally Programme to really make sure that intersectionality across all forms of LGBTQI, especially was included, make sure that trans inclusion was part of that journey .the big thing I find is that it’s all about educating people. I think once people understand that trans is a very wide umbrella, there’s a lot of different identities within there, and some of the differences between those, it’s a case of bringing them on that journey. I’ve since seen, now that we’ve got all of the support, and infrastructure and stuff in place, so many more people are coming out, both in the company, in the sector, in other sectors.

I think the biggest challenge for me was just coming out in the corporate workplace. But I think having Ally  Programmes in place made such a difference because it’s quite emotional impacting how much support you do then realise because you’re so worried how people are going to accept you and understand you. My own concerns were totally unfounded.

Julia: When you think about your day job, you’re incredibly accomplished in the world of technology, I’m really interested because it’s very, very easy to make assumptions about the type of people who work in technology, do you think the fact that it was a technology division had a part to play in either the reason why you took your time to come out or in fact actually was very accepting when you did?

Pips: I think certainly Credit Suite, we’ve got large technical departments. We’ve got business, etc, a lot of different things. No, I think it was more in my own space. I needed to feel that I had support, and I needed to feel ready to embrace my true authenticity.

I’ve certainly been amazed at the impact and response from people as part of coming out. There’s a lot of stuff that we’ve had to put in place to make sure that we are fully trans-inclusive, whether that’s dress codes, or trans-inclusive health care, or dual pass cards, or a lot of those nuances that are associated particularly to non-binary identities. But, no, the company as a whole have been absolutely amazing.

I certainly experienced no challenges or negativity. It was upbeat, I was very touched and continue to be by how supportive people are in terms of really appreciating someone going out of their way to be truly authentic, because it has such an impact on how committed you are to the firm, how enthused you are, but also relationships you build with people that you work with.

I make a point of whoever I’m going to see on a given day, whether it’s a client, or my colleagues, or a vendor, or whatever, I would absolutely never change how I choose to express on that day because I know that I’m fully supported and accepted.

Julia: One of the things we always talk about is the importance of being authentic at work and bringing your true self to work. But also we frame the podcast a lot around the reason why diversity inclusion matters is about a commercial imperative and being the best you possibly can, to being part of high-performing teams. I’m interested to know whether having presented, then, as non-binary, whether that’s helped you in any way in your commercial accomplishment.

Pips: I think it’s had a huge impact both on how I perform and how I react and work with the company, but also I guess the relationships that I’m forming and senior partnerships that I’ve been involved with. I think it’s definitely had a massive positive influence. It really resonates with people if you’re being totally open, honest, and authentic in who you are.

There’s all sorts of statistics from Stonewall and proven sources about how much more engaged and productive people are if they’re being authentic and they’re not hiding any aspect of themselves. I think I totally get that. Credit Suisse have done loads of research in terms of how much more financially productive firms are that are diverse, absolutely. But I think for us it’s more we know it’s the right thing to do. I’ve certainly seen that for me personally it’s had a very good impact. You get the platform. You get  visibility, but you can also influence so many more people, because having senior support, having role models at all levels of the firm and empowering people through that personal lived experience, that makes such a difference. I think that gets people onboard to make sure that they are an ally, because we always encourage people to sign up as LGBT allies because you can’t change the culture of a workplace by writing a policy. You have to change people’s hearts and minds and have them really understand why it’s important and bring them into the conversation.

Julia: When you talk about having the conversation, one of the things we talk a lot about on the podcast is about race, for example. Our very first episode was on race. We talk a lot about race. And the reason we do that is because actually people are inherently arguably reluctant to talk about race for fear of getting the language wrong. For that instance, can you provide any colour on what sort of language should we be using?

Pips: I mean, it’s no wonder that people do get confused sometimes because even if you look at Facebook, there’s 74+ different ways of how you can identify your gender identity or gender expression. That in itself makes people a bit concerned or apprehensive about using the wrong terms or labels or names or whatever.

I think my advice is always, particularly on the whole trans spectrum, it’s important to ask the person, see how they want to be referred to. For me personally, I prefer to default to “she” as a pronoun. I like to use MX, which is the gender-neutral title. It’s important to make sure that your systems and firms have that support in place. But that’s different for everybody, I equally know other non-binary or gender-fluid people that might default to the other way, might want to change on a daily basis, whatever.

It’s important to ask what that individual person wants because it’s much better and much nicer for them to know that you care and you want to do the right thing rather than just make an assumption. To be honest, it’s exactly the same as when we’re talking about other forms of LGBT inclusion. Don’t always default to referring to someone’s husband or wife. Don’t assume a given gender in terms of their partner. Always try and either find out or use a neutral terminology until you are sure.

The other important thing is people will make a mistake. You can very easily tell if it’s intentional or not. Make it clear that if they do, fine, apologise, move on. Unless you have people feeling happy, and confident, and empowered to have these conversations and talk about this stuff, that’s how you get people informed and educated. And that’s where real progress is made.

Julia: I think there’s much of that that comes through in neurodiversity as well in terms of how we describe forms of neurodiversity or attributes of neurodiversity. But before we get into that, Ed, let me bring you in here. So what led you to becoming an authority in the topic?

Ed: Back to the apprenticeship programme you referred to, I’d led talent initiatives in the tech sector in London. I think that had made me realise a number of things, and one was that the talent shortages are real, and it’s not simply tech, and it’s not simply London. These are global talent challenges. Manpower Report in 2018 I think talked about 50% of UK employers struggling to meet talent needs. That’s similar to what we’ve seen in the US.

After building that, I actually went to the States, and I was curious to see what are organisations doing there in terms of alternative talent sourcing. It was timed with some of the embryonic interests around neurodiversity at work.

We actually started by creating some training for autistic job seekers using some of the same curriculum and tools that we’d used in the apprenticeship programme. It became quite clear, actually, that here similarly was a huge pool of talent. And the cog in the wheel was really on the employer side and employers actually not knowing how to include it, so that’s where we decided to focus ever since.

We developed a partnership with Microsoft, who are one of the pioneering firms in this space. We have I think realised from the beginning that nobody, not Microsoft, not one particular advisor, not one particular person who has had these experiences would have all the answers here. So over the last three years, what we’ve done is we’ve built these relationships globally with leading employers, with universities that have really committed time and money to research in this area, to building relationships with neurodiversity thought leaders, but also with the community.

We’ve conducted very extensive focus groups to understand what is it like to be autistic and go through a corporate recruitment programme. Or what are some of the friction points on the basis that the insights and maybe the identification of some of these friction points can come from anywhere. It can come from a manager at Microsoft. It can come from an individual. It can come from a thought leader. It can come from some research. What we’ve been doing is in the middle of that, taking all of that, packaging it, and then giving that out to employers in a way that they can actually get access to some of those best-practise tactics in terms of inclusion.

Julia: Can you share some examples on some of the sticking points that the individuals or organisations present in the recruitment process?

Ed: We like to think about it in terms of attract, hire and retain. If you’re an organisation, you can talk about the recruitment process, but the first problem you’ve got in most cases is neurodivergent people won’t necessarily know that you are an inclusive employer. You look at most organisations, they’ll talk about their commitment to D&I. Very rarely is neurodiversity mentioned in that. So right off the bat, people are thinking, “Well, maybe this isn’t the type of organisation for me.” They’ll see case studies of people from minority groups but nothing around this. I think the first challenge is that.  Are you building the relationships and are you push-pull? Are you demonstrating your interest and commitment?

Then in the hiring process, I think you’ve got potential pitfalls right the way through. These are processes that have been designed for neurotypicals right through interviewing. That’s an obvious challenge. I mean, to some extent, you could say an interview is a test of social competence, so somebody who performs very strongly at a particular task but less so in a pressured social situation might be excluded there.

That’s an actually an interesting data point there from Microsoft. Microsoft of course have a brand where people will apply to them. But what they found is that in their autism hiring programme, about half of the people who are now on that programme and succeeding had previously applied and not got in. What they’ve done is sort of really made tangible this boulder in the road.

Of course, these friction points, things like job descriptions, busy managers reusing job descriptions from last year, and that job description includes ever possible kind of skill and attribute, great communication skills, and so on, and a lot of business jargon. These are things that can put people off applying or in some places can confuse people from a much broader demographic, maybe veterans who are used to terminology from another industry, maybe people who English isn’t their first language and so on. They’re pretty simple things to change, generally, with universal impact, it’s just about do we know what we’re doing?

Julia:When we think about the banner that is neurodiversity, and you’ve mentioned autism, for example, could you shed some light on other attributes that come through in that community?

Ed: I think principally when you’re talking about neurodiversity inclusion, talking about a number of identity groups, autistic people, ADHD’ers, and then people with so-called learning differences, so dyspraxic and dyslexic people, but there’s a lot of nuance here, and that’s really important that each group is extremely varied. There’s a famous saying: “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.” I think you can’t stress that enough.

The other thing is that people share traits. We meet people who will say that they are ADHD’ers and dyslexic for example, and then of course people who identify as neurotypicals will have some of or potentially all of the traits of a particular identity group and not necessarily identify in that way, potentially not through having a diagnosis.

Julia: Thinking about then the roles, I mean, technology is a very interesting, probably the most common one that we hear of. You mentioned about different sectors as well, are there some natural jobs that are well-suited to a neurodivergent career group, or does every job have the potential?

Ed: I think that’s a really interesting question. I think part of the reason we’re talking about neurodiversity more and more is because some very glamorous tech companies have hired principally tech workers and had great success with that. You wouldn’t think of actually JP Morgan for example, as a tech company, but they’ve been hiring people into their tech teams, and they’ve found that some of those teams have been 50% more productive with their neurodiverse staff.

But actually the way I’d answer this is in the first iteration of the training we built, we had a module called “Suitable Roles”. And we had a module called Suitable Roles because we thought probably we would find that there are some and we would think like you just asked me there, this would be something of interest to recruiters. Actually over time and as we studied this more and conducted our focus group, we realised it’s like saying “Suitable Roles for White People.” It’s essentially a needless limitation.

For every, for example, autistic person we spoke to who said, “I’m a …” I suppose conformed to some stereotypes around things like an interest in tech or computing, we would meet people who completely challenged that, people who work with children, people who are salespeople or customer service. I think it’s a needless limitation. I think it’s about including everybody, and that’s the only way you’re ultimately going to get the best talent.

Julia: In terms of organisational considerations when bringing that talent in, and you say it’s partly about attracting, but it’s also about retaining and motivating as well, are there  any particular tips that organisations should think about in terms of supporting that career journey?

Ed: I think if you’re looking at retention and the organisation itself, which I think is a good place to start, with some clients we speak to, they say, “We’re talking about talent and recruiting people. We don’t have neurodivergent people necessarily.” And we always tell them, “Well, in that case, you have a fear problem because mostly likely if you’re a large corporate, you do, and you don’t have a culture where they can be included.”

Thinking about the elements of that person’s experience, that would involve things like the culture, the environment, as Pips mentioned, the policies, and the processes. I think the first thing to do is simply ask yourselves, have any of these been at all shaped with the 100% in mind as opposed to, say, the 80%? I think if they haven’t, that’s probably the place to start.

Julia: I mean, such as hot desking, for example, people talk about agile work and hot desking, whereas actually for some individuals, the thought of not coming to the same desk every single day where you’ve got everything laid out exactly as you left it.

Ed: Right. Absolutely. We’ve had a really interesting interview in one our focus groups. A lady’s working very successfully in an organisation, her manager told her that they were moving office to a modern open plan environment. She said the rest of her team was saying, “Goodness. Great,” she said, “That was the moment I knew I had to leave, because nobody had asked me about this, and  actually there’s no way that I was going to be comfortable and productive in that environment.”

Back to your question, I think I would resist the idea that there is a two or three-point kind of quick fix. But the most impactful thing we’ve seen and the easiest is to start talking about it. Have leaders say, “We care about this.” Back to the recruitment website, right? Let’s say that actually the neurodiversity is part of this mix because, again, potentially we’re talking about up to 20% of the population, so really it should be.

Let’s start talking about it. Let’s start what we call flying the flag for neurodiversity. We care about them. This is important. And why shouldn’t it be? This is an age where as you said, tech, analytical skills are valued where everybody now accepts diversity as a competitive advantage. Everybody will talk about innovation being key. So let’s talk about it. Let’s embrace it. I think that’s where good things start happening.

Julia: That’s a perfect moment to turn to Robert and to Cynthia for some research to support today’s discussion.

Cynthia: Taking a closer look at autistic adults in employment: In 2016 the National Autistic Society found that only 16% of autistic adults were in full-time employment. The autistic community are a diverse group and specific needs should be catered for on an individual basis. In an article called Neurodiversity in the Workplace, Dr. Kerry Schofield highlights a few areas where broad adaptations can be made.

Robert: These are, simplifying processes so they are easy to navigate, keep processes straightforward and unambiguous without increasing the cognitive load unnecessarily, presenting information in a way that doesn’t include sensory overload, making adaptations to the environment so employees can use headphones to shut out noise if needed and adjust lighting or at least provide a quiet space where employees can go for a while if needed, allowing some flexibility in working hours and working structure.

Working 9-5 five days per week might not work for individuals who like to work alone or prefer not to work intensely for several hours at a time. Try and make it fun and engaging. Work doesn’t have to be dull, whatever your neurotype.

Cynthia: The US-based Human Rights Campaign published its latest corporate equality index in 2019. The index rates workplaces on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer equality. Employers earning top-rating took concrete steps to ensure greater equity for LGBTQ workers and their families. HRC president Chad Griffin said the top-scoring companies on this year’s CEI are not only establishing policies that include employees here in the United States, they are applying these policies to their global operations and impacting millions of people beyond our shores.

Robert: According to a 2018 poll by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 72% of HR professionals said that consideration of neurodiversity wasn’t included in their people management practises. And 17% said they didn’t know if it was in their practises. Organisations could be missing out on the unique strengths offered by those with neurodivergence.

Julia: Thanks, Cynthia and Robert. The links to the research can be found on our website, divercitypodcast.com. That’s where you can find all our episodes and sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Please do follow us on Twitter @divercitypod, and DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. We’d love a rating because it all helps to promote the show.

Ed, I was really interested in what you were saying there, about organisations. It’s partly about awareness. It’s about education, about inclusivity. Pips, anything particularly struck you from what Ed was saying before?

Pips: There was so much good content. I think what really did strike me is the sort of synergy that I could see between the content and where you’re going with that and, again, what we try and promote in the allied programme. I think the pipeline definitely is so very important because you need to make sure that you’re promoting your firm to the external world as a very inclusive workplace for all forms of diversity, which really dovetails nicely into the whole concept at the moment of intersectionality, right? Everyone is made up of so many different bits. Everyone is the same, but uniquely different. And no one fits into one given box.

I think promoting to the outside world that you do accept all forms of people irrespective, people should be proud of who they are. And intersectionality is important. I think that really resonated.

Julia: I think there is a risk that we do tend to put people under banners and in boxes as we go as well. Anything in particular that Pips was talking about earlier that struck you as well, Ed?

Ed: Absolutely. Just on that specific point there, around inclusion and advertising yourself as an inclusive employer. I think we’re in the age of Glassdoor, where people will look at employers and actually get data on that. I think the SHRM in the US said that about 30% of hires come from internal referrals. Actually some people talk to us and say, “We’re really interested in hiring.” But often retention and looking at your existing pool I think is the best strategy there.

Lots of things that Pips said really struck me. One of them was the importance of not just looking at this in terms of policies but actually really empowering the people in the field because what is inclusion ultimately? It’s about those relationships between team member and team member. It’s about the relationship between team member and manager. How do we empower them? How do we educate them and put them in a position to actually live this? That’s when you get real organisational change. 

The point about individuality is so important. One of the dangers even with sort of proactive and positive inclusion is we take these labels, even new labels and we think, “Okay, new label X means Y.” This is how we respond to that person.  We talk about is kind of two levels of inclusivity. The universal, there’s so much that you can do that’s good for everybody. But whenever we’re talking about an individual, let’s really talk about them as an individual. Let’s listen to their concerns, their needs, their traits, their preferences, their preferred language, and then let’s include them as they would like to be included.

Pips: I think that is really, really interesting, Ed, that totally makes sense to me. Certainly what made a lot of sense to me when I was coming out was I needed to be myself and proud of myself. The Oscar Wilde quote of, “Be yourself because everyone else is taken,” that applies to every single form of diversity, right? Everyone needs to apply that, be proud of who they are, and be their true, authentic self.

Julia: That’s a perfect way to end the show. So Pips and Ed, it’s been a fascinating discussion. Thank you both so much for joining us.

Ed: Thank you, both.

Pips: Thank you.

Kieron: This episode of the DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes for their insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, divercitypodcast.com. Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates.

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