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AECOM Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Rachel Billington cited

AECOM Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Rachel Billington cited

 July 18, 2022

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Rachel Billington is Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion for Europe & India at AECOM. Nominated by peers, Rachel is named among Inspirational Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Leaders.

The group, Diversity and Inclusion Leaders, asked over 425 international diversity and inclusion professionals "Which diversity and inclusion leader inspires you the most?" as part of its d&i Leaders Global Benchmarking Survey 2022.

Meet AECOM's Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Rachel Billington

Rachel Billingham

What was your journey into diversity and inclusion?

"Unlike many of my peers, I didn’t come into ED&I with a particular calling. I fell into it by accident really as I was facing redundancy at Surrey Police and there was a redeployment role as Deputy Head of Diversity. Prior to that my background had been Learning & Development and project management, skills which have proved invaluable for ED&I. It turned out to be the start of a brand new career and shows why you should take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. I think this has given me a broad, holistic outlook on ED&I, rather than being too focused on any one area," says Rachel.

How would you describe a typical day in your role?

"A typical day? What’s that?! That’s why I love this role, you just never know what’s going to come in next. If I look at tomorrow in my calendar, there’s a team meet with my HR leadership team, an ED&I session with one of the business line leadership teams to discuss privilege and anti-racism, our ED&I Delivery Group with all the workstream leads to update on activity against our business plans and finally a client meeting to discuss our new ED&I advisory as part of our ESG (Environment, Social & Governance) consultancy. In between there will be a myriad of emails and queries. You need to like engaging with people in this job and putting yourself out there as you can’t run ED&I on your own or behind a desk," she adds.

What is the best part of your job?

"For me, it’s not the big things like awards or strategies. It’s when you make a genuine difference to individuals lives. Examples that spring to mind are when a father told me about the difference the carer’s passports we’d introduced made to him and his young family or one of our women’s returners who was promoted to inspector and said it was our programme that gave her the confidence to achieve this. When you see someone reach their true potential and develop the confidence to believe they can it’s so rewarding. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing talent in my career who through coaching and support have gone on to very successful careers. It’s these stories that keep you going when the job can be tough," comments Rachel.

What advice would you give someone looking to move into D&I?

"It’s a fantastic area to work in and really in demand. However, make sure you know what the role truly entails. Can you shadow someone who works there already? There’s a lot more to ED&I than the events. It’s about relentlessly challenging and engaging with others, some of whom do not see its value. It’s about holding peers and leaders to account for delivery which doesn’t always make you popular. You need tenacity and drive every day and sometimes it can take years to see results. Go into this with your eyes wide open and you’ll have a brilliant career," advises Rachel.

What are some challenges faced by D&I professionals?

"Many of our main challenges now are similar to those when I joined the profession nearly 15 years ago. How do we start to see tangible change – despite all this activity how do we measure our success? Linked to this is how do we hold our leaders to account for delivery whilst still providing a safe space for individuals to develop their self- awareness? And to measure our success, we need data. This is a challenge globally where legislation limits our ability to collect the data we need. And finally, too many organisations see ED&I as a key priority and yet do not fund it accordingly. Until we resource this to a similar level as other strategic objectives, we are unlikely to create systemic change at the level we want to see," Rachel adds.

Name three skills that support you to succeed in D&I

"1) First and foremost – tenacity and resilience. You are in this for the long haul and quick fixes aren’t readily available; 2) The ability to engage and bring people with you whilst simultaneously challenging them to do better; 3) Be curious and self-aware – there’s is no such thing as an ED&I expert. You need to role model inclusive leadership and continually develop yourself as you ask of others. I definitely don’t know all the answers but I do surround myself with a great network of diverse people who I can learn from," concludes Rachel.

AECOM Rachel Billigton

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