Forging her own way and championing change

Kate Wright

Founder of Arbre Consulting & The Diversity Network

Can you tell us about your younger self growing up in the London Borough?

I was very lucky to grow up in the leafy suburb of Chislehurst in a happy, close-knit family. I was shy as a child but discovering a passion for amateur dramatics at the age of 11, right the way through my teens and university years, really helped to bring me out of my shell.  I no longer tread the boards, but I still love the buzz of engaging with an audience through my work!

You read English Literature at the University of Reading. Did you have any idea of which direction your career would take at that point?

I really had no idea at all what I wanted to do when I started university, so I chose a subject that I loved. As well as indulging my love of literature, my degree provided me with career-transferable skills – particularly writing skills and the ability to research and argue a strong case – that has stood me in good stead ever since.  

Where did your passion for diversity arise?

I think my interest in equality has always been there – a strong sense of fairness and social justice that probably comes from my parents and grandmother, a feminist who was ahead of her time in fighting for what was important to her.  However, I think my passion for diversity has grown over quite a few years – from personal experiences of everyday sexism in the workplace, which still largely went unchallenged in the 90s and early 2000s, to a growing realisation that, as a white, middle-class woman, I have advantages that many others don’t.  I realised that if I really wanted to be a part of creating a fairer world, I needed to be an ally and be prepared to stick my head above the parapet.

You spent your first 6 years of working life at EY in Employee Relations and Diversity then a further 4 years at Lloyds in HR. What were your key learnings from these two roles?

I had some brilliant bosses at both EY and Lloyds of London who really took a risk on me, pushing me out of my comfort zone and giving me lots of opportunities to learn and progress.   As well as developing a sound knowledge of generalist HR practice, I was able to lead the growing Diversity practices in both organisations – being the first Diversity Manager for EY UK and then Chairing the Diversity Steering Group for a 300-year-old insurance market, Lloyds.  It’s through these organisations that I really understood and became excited by the potential for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to provide innovative solutions to age-old HR problems and boost business performance.

I found the freedom of being my own boss liberating and working with small businesses really helped me to grasp what it means to be ‘commercial’.

You were Director of Kate Wright Consulting, launched in 2008 and Arbre Consulting from 2016, both organisations providing tailored support to small businesses and start-ups on all aspects of HR. How was it now having your own business?

I set up my consultancy, when I had my first son 16 years ago, as a way to keep my hand in for a few years whilst my children were small, before returning in-house.  At the time, genuine flexible working opportunities didn’t really exist in the City environments I worked in. Going back to my employer after maternity leave really meant either not seeing my baby during the week or taking a backwards step in my career.  Neither were attractive options.  

However, I found the freedom of being my own boss liberating and working with small businesses really helped me to grasp what it means to be ‘commercial’.  I also quickly realised that there were other ways to build a career, and I’ve not looked back. 

What was it that brought you over to Jersey?

The firm my husband worked for 9 years ago relocated its head office to Jersey and we were invited to take a reccie!  We came over for a few days, staying in a hotel with a view of beautiful St Brelades Bay, and we both thought ‘Why would we not want to live here?’!  As I worked for myself, and Jersey is just a short hop to London, I was also able to retain a portfolio of clients in the UK.

As the Co-Founder, could you tell us how The Diversity Network came about?

When I moved to Jersey, I quite quickly noticed that the business community here was somewhat behind the UK when it came to an understanding of what diversity and inclusion can bring to business and a community.  I saw an opportunity to do something that I really loved and fill a gap.  Roping in a colleague, Sam Duffy, initially, The Diversity Network was a passion project, providing a few networking events a year with great speakers who could help ignite a conversation around DEI in Jersey.  However, quite quickly employers started asking for more help with their cultural change strategies and TDN now works with local businesses to support them in this, as well as community-wide awareness-raising campaigns, such as the 51 Employers Pledge (menopause awareness) and our latest campaign, the 6 Point Plan for Financial Inclusion & Wellbeing.

Leading the Violence Against Women & Girls Taskforce will probably be the most important piece of work I will ever do. I hope as an Island community, we now deliver for the victim-survivors and the many young people who contributed their experiences to our research.

You’ve held a variety of volunteer roles; you were a member of the IoD Jersey D&I Sub-Committee, you were Chair of Women for Politics and most recently, you are Chair of the GoJ Taskforce – Violence against Women and Girls. Which was your most fulfilling role and in which role do you think you made/or are making, the most impact?

Each of these roles has been fulfilling in different ways.  Women for Politics helped me to step out of my little bubble, diversify my network and understand the real Jersey.  It was eye-opening and incredibly informative – also having a direct and positive impact on the number of women standing for office over the last two elections. Since October 2022, I have also chaired the Jersey Community Relations Trust, established back in 2004 ‘to seek to achieve equality of treatment and opportunity within our community’.  Working with a brilliant team of Trustees to take the JCRT forward and make a real difference in equality across our community is a very exciting opportunity.  However, I think leading the Violence Against Women & Girls Taskforce will probably be the most important piece of work I will ever do. 

Could you tell us about your role as Chair on the GoJ Taskforce of Violence Against Women and the Report, the outcome of research undertaken to better understand the nature, extent, and experiences of Violence Against Women in Jersey.

The Taskforce was commissioned by the Justice and Home Affairs Minister just over a year ago and has resulted in 77 recommendations for the government and other key stakeholders to reduce all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and to improve the support available for victim-survivors.  Many have found the findings of our report shocking. They have revealed that understanding of the different types of VAWG behaviours and crimes in Jersey is worryingly low, but their prevalence is high – so much so that one of our independent researchers engaging with young people described VAWG as the ‘wallpaper’ to their lives.  That said, now we have the evidence and the understanding to change the culture that enables the behaviours that lead to VAWG and make it difficult to challenge them, I am optimistic that, if we choose to be, Jersey can be a world leader in eliminating violence against women and girls.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

I am incredibly proud of the collective achievement of the VAWG Taskforce and I hope, as an Island community, we now deliver for the victim-survivors, and the many young people, who contributed their experiences to our research.