Uduak Archibong MBE is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Bradford, as well as Professor of Diversity, and Director of Bradford’s Centre for Inclusion and Diversity. She is recognised as a leading authority in the field of diversity management and has over three decades of experience in health and higher education.
Kitty Hadaway, GoodCourse’s EDI lead, asked Udy about her many years making change in the field of diversity, equality and inclusion, including some of her biggest successes so far.
I was born in Nigeria, and that’s where I completed my early education and undergraduate studies. I graduated with a first-class honours degree, so the Nigerian government funded my PhD studies in the UK, at the University of Hull. I got lots of nursing practice in Nigeria and also did some clinical work at Hull.
I then decided to go into academia – I went from being a lecturer in nursing at the University of Bradford to senior lecturer, to Head of Department of Nursing, to Professor of Diversity. Eventually, I became Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). The most exciting part of this role for me is the chance to look at EDI in an interdisciplinary way, not just in healthcare where my journey started.
What inspired me to pursue this career was ultimately my mother - she was a nurse herself, and I wanted to fill her footsteps.
Right from my PhD studies onwards, I have researched cultural diversity and race equality, and that became the basis for my professorship. In my current role, I also look at many different aspects of diversity, like sex discrimination and disability – but outside of my work at Bradford, I have taken on projects in collaboration with the NHS as well as the European Commission.
What inspired me to pursue this career was ultimately my mother – she was a nurse herself, and I wanted to fill her footsteps. The experiences of my stepfather have inspired me, too. He underwent a below-knee amputation due to diabetic gangrene and passed away shortly after. That experience led me to research how healthcare systems can amplify the voices of families when patients are undergoing life-changing operations.
Not long after I moved to Bradford, I began working with the NHS on racial equality and gender diversity. HR directors in the NHS then approached NHS Employers who invited me to examine the reasons for the overrepresentation of ethnic minority staff in disciplinary proceedings. I was commissioned through the Centre for Inclusion and Diversity, which I founded, to do that work.
I’m very proud of that work with the NHS, but it was also very painful to produce. For example, we found that Black staff were twice as likely to be disciplined as white staff. It became clear that lots of people knew there was a problem, in that ethnic minority staff were facing disciplinary procedures for things that their white colleagues were not, but there wasn’t already a willingness to act.
When our research hit the press, other relevant bodies – like trade unions such as the Royal College of Midwives – decided to investigate how disciplinary proceedings were affecting their members. The Royal College of Midwives found that ethnic minority midwives were similarly overrepresented in disciplinary proceedings. Not only this, but of the 38 midwives who were dismissed within the five years following our research, 37 were part of an ethnic minority group – and 35 were Black.
As a result of our findings, the NHS decided to investigate the problem further and built our work into their Workplace Race Equality Standards. Now, all NHS trusts have to provide data on different indicators of workplace race equality, including the ethnic breakdown of staff undergoing disciplinary procedures.
This has become a good measure of disparities and structural issues within different trusts, and similar frameworks are being integrated into workplace Disability Equality Standards.
I’m very proud of my work evaluating Positive Action schemes across England, which led to a project exploring the issue in workplaces and educational settings across Europe, the US, South Africa and Canada. This research was funded by the European Commission.
More employers could make use of Positive Action schemes, and don’t – so currently I’m working to help employers understand how Positive Action is not the same as positive discrimination, as that has been a limiting factor on its uptake.
We’ve launched an EDI strategy and delivery plan at Bradford, one aspect of which is a Positive Action framework supported by HR. It looks at recruitment and training of staff, as well as the student experience. On top of this, we are developing strategies to improve the employment rates of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students after they graduate. This is led through our Graduate Workforce Bradford project
Another big focus is on improving the access ethnic minority students have to postgraduate research study. I also work with Bradford City and other systems in the City to deliver strategic plans that embed EDI within different organisations. I chair the Strategic Equalities Group for the City of Bradford. I’m currently leading a portfolio of research on residential segregation, school segregation and factors in hate crime reporting within the area.
Until there is an organisational diagnosis of a structural problem, it’s often too difficult for people to understand how to tackle it. The role of an EDI professional is often to work closely with leading figures in different institutions, and show them how there is a problem, and that they can begin to dismantle structural inequality and optimise inclusion.
It’s also so important to create psychologically safe spaces, where people can speak openly and share their lived experiences. This allows all of us to work together through the relevant issues.
I would pick Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, because I massively respect her ability to get people to listen and work together, through her literature and her public speaking. She uses everyday things to explain her perspectives so powerfully.
For people who want to understand diversity management and critical approaches to it, I would recommend The Dynamics of Managing Diversity and Inclusion by Gill Kurton – this is one that I ask my masters students to read.
For general interest reading, I think that Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility is fantastic. I’ve listened to it on Audible a few times now.