Diversity & Inclusion Journey: Airedale NHS Foundation Trust

Guest blog by Farida Khawaja, Deputy Director of Finance, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust. Winners of the HFMA Diversity & Inclusion Award 2021.


Diversity & Inclusion Journey: Airedale NHS Foundation Trust – Hello, my name is Farida Khawaja, and I am the Deputy Director of Finance at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust (“Airedale”). I joined Airedale in May 2021 and was previously an Inclusion & Diversity Ambassador in my previous role.

How did we start on this Diversity & Inclusion journey?

We had previous success with apprentices recruited who successfully completed their studies.  Our previous participants had been from a white background, and we were shocked when our first apprentice from an Asian background suffered extreme racial abuse on the bus to the college and at the college itself. The apprentice was very upset about this and didn’t want to continue with the course. The line manager was shocked by what she heard and contacted the college to find a solution; they were supportive but ultimately the colleague didn’t want to go back due to her experience and ended up moving to another college. The apprentice’s line manager was really affected by what she had seen and heard as she had been an apprentice herself in the past and couldn’t understand the difference in experience of someone due to their race and religion. This made her determined to make a difference and ensure that things changed and people from all backgrounds were supported. Consequently, the line manager became Airedale’s first I&D ambassador.

Our current Director of Finance also took part in a leadership course entitled; “The Nye Bevan programme” and one thing that stood out was the impact and importance of diversity in the workplace. And the effect it can have on empowering people from diverse backgrounds, to bring their lived experiences to the workplace and use those experiences to succeed in their careers.

What we have done on this Diversity & Inclusion journey:

We encourage and promote conversations about diversity and have raised awareness through our virtual fortnightly check-ins, team meetings and department time outs which has made diversity “normal”.

We recognise and celebrate different religious and community events within the team and hospital community e.g., Eid, Diwali, Vaisakhi, Hanukkah. Prior to COVID-19, we would use such occasions to have social gatherings with food whereby people could share the significance of this festival and how they will be celebrating.

We have ensured that finance information and training is accessible to all and learning about how our information could be better received by different people. The team is also committed to understanding how our financial information and training is accessible to all and have started work with the Trusts disability network to understand this in more detail and adjust our products as needed for specific groups e.g., those with neurodiversity. A recent example is some budget holder Business Intelligence dashboards with high contrast options.

We have strengthened community links by attending the local secondary school and informing students about the different routes of starting a career in the NHS. The success of this led to members of the Finance team being invited to help prepare students by conducting mock interviews.

We have disseminated and implemented a best practice guidance. This highlights the 7 pillars of providing quality interview feedback and its significance for recruitment managers to recognise the importance and the time commitment required during the whole recruitment process.

Furthermore, job applications are encouraged from a wide audience using various channels. Airedale has created apprenticeships and shadowing opportunities, empowering people to make changes in their roles.

An equality and diversity ambition are also built into the finance team’s five-year finance strategy and workplan. This involves running development sessions by experts in areas that the team wish to learn about e.g., interview tips, using Excel or navigating the FFF website and Skills Development.

Our ethnicity mix is exactly aligned to our diverse population, with 81% of our workforce being white and 19% from an ethnic minority background. This increases to 50% at band 8d and above, so we reflect the population that we serve.

I am extremely proud of the work that we have done, and I enjoy my role here as I feel supported and encouraged. We share any opportunities for learning and development with the team and will continue to promote diversity and inclusion both within Airedale and also externally with other Trusts.

Find out more about our Inclusion & Diversity Ambassadors here: I&D Ambassadors (onenhsfinance.nhs.uk)