Helen Gowen

Meet Helen: RGU's Equality Champion for Disability

By Helen Gowen - 09 April 2024

RGU appoints Equality Champions for each of the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Helen Gowen, Senior Procurement Adviser, is the Equality Champion for Disability. Learn more about her and her work supporting our community at RGU.

I’m Helen and I work in the procurement department at RGU and have done so for nearly 10 years. Recently, I decided to take on the additional challenge of applying for an Equality Champion role. I was offered the position and gladly accepted the role of Disability Champion. 

Back when I was a student in Law and Management at RGU, I wrote my dissertation on the Equality Act, so I’ve always been interested in equality in the workplace. Through my role in procurement, there is a national push to ensure that public sector spend gets best value for the institutions but also positively impacts the wider environment and communities. Our team tries to purchase through sector agreements which include social benefits, and we ensure that all our strategic suppliers sign up to a supplier code of conduct. Being able to feel like I’m contributing to positive change through my work is one of the best parts of my job, so it felt like a natural progression to want to join the Equality Champions team as well.  

I was offered the Disability Champion role due to my knowledge of the Equality Act, as I have a good understanding of the complexities around reasonable adjustments and direct/indirect discrimination. I’ve learnt a lot since taking on this role, and I hope to continue to learn and grow so that I can make as much of a difference to staff as I can.

Within this role, I am the visible point of contact for all staff who identify as being disabled or have an interest in improving the working environment for disabled staff. I chair the Disability Action Group, which is open to all staff, and is a safe space for anyone to report issues and make suggestions and feedback on the work I’m doing as Equality Champion. The group is based on Teams and you can join it on SharePoint.

Taking feedback from the Action Group, I work alongside HR to improve the guidance available to line managers and promote awareness of neurodiversity, as well as looking to improve the conversations around disability disclosure to provide better support for disabled staff. 

I am by no means an expert in the field, nor am I able to provide immediate solutions to many of the problems; however, I am always available to listen to those who wish to speak to someone confidentially. I can then raise any concerns or suggestions through the Equality and Diversity Forum alongside our other Equality Champions. Through this forum we can escalate issues to the attention of senior staff, and we can push for review or change of internal policies and processes. 

EDI initiatives and the Equality Champions’ programme is so important, as it is my firm belief that nobody should have to work harder than others simply to be a part of the RGU community, and that all our voices deserve to be heard. If we work together, we can make our voices louder and push for the change required to make RGU an even more welcoming and inclusive place to work and study. Learn more in my recent EDI video.

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