Think at London Business School
Trained doctor Nick Deakin MBA2017 joined LBS and transformed the lives of its LGBTQ+ students
By Sophie Haydock
Director of Giving, Crys Whitewoods, grew up in Walthamstow, East London and came out as gay at 17 to a supportive family. First studying as a dancer, Crys then completed a degree in drama at the University of Exeter before returning to London and, by his own admission, falling into the charity sector.
Across the various organisations he’s worked at, Crys has been open about his sexuality, and at each desk he has proudly displayed a picture of his family, his husband and two stepchildren. “I do think it’s important that, where you’re comfortable, you should be an active role model… to identify as LGBTQ+ or be an ally,” he explains, “speaking up, hopefully gives a voice to someone else who wouldn’t otherwise.”
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“There was no point in me identifying as a gay man and wanting to see change if I’m not going to play my part in delivering it”
Crys’ goal is to play an ambassadorial role so that none of his colleagues feel as though their identities are barriers to their careers. This is all part of his personal philosophy of creating change from ‘within the walls’ by actively participating in the decision-making process. “There was no point in me identifying as a gay man and wanting to see change if I’m not going to play my part in delivering it,” he says. To this end, Crys joined the Diversity, Inclusivity and Belonging (DIB) Committee, and his pride is almost palpable as he speaks about the progress the committee has made for the School's diverse communities, both before and during his tenure.
One of the policies he’s most enthusiastic about is the School’s long-term advocacy for gender neutral toilets. Since 2018, all new toilets at London Business School are gender neutral spaces. “Sadly, a lot of trans people, the moment they walk out the door, have to worry about the reactions of others,” Crys says, but by providing individual, self-contained units, he believes the school is helping to create the necessary safe spaces.
Most recently, Crys and the DIB Committee designed the school’s Menopause Policy. “About half of people will go through menopause at some point in their life, and often it’s just not spoken about or recognised,” he explains, “we’re looking to normalise the conversation.” The policy was designed to make it easier for staff going through menopause to speak to their line managers about accommodations such as heating or extra breaks. And its ultimate goal is to make sure everyone is mindful of the difficulties that menopause can cause.
“When we’re recruiting, we consider the makeup of our team and whether it reflects the wider LBS community”
Outside of the DIB Committee, Crys continues to work within the walls, bringing his passion for inclusivity to his day-to-day actions to the advancement team. Their objective is to raise money through building relationships with the wider LBS alumni community – and Crys believes their effectiveness is bolstered by their recruiting processes. “When we’re recruiting, we consider the makeup of our team and whether it reflects the wider LBS community,” he says. This agenda affects both sides of the interviewing table. Crys ensures that all panels, where possible, are comprised of members of staff that reflect his team in its broadest sense – not just in terms of sexuality, but taking advantage of the intersectionality that exists within his team.
This kind of thinking aligns with the wider School’s push to step up how it represents the different groups within its faculty, staff, and student communities. Crys feels he first saw this considered approach in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Where many academic institutions tried to move too quickly, LBS engaged with the communities it was representing. “Leadership held open, honest conversations with the students, alumni, academic and staff networks to understand the best response it could have,” Crys says, and the changes have been welcomed across the board.
Despite his efforts, Crys admits that there is still some way to go to redressing certain imbalances, but the evolution of LBS’ inclusivity mirrors much of what he is seeing in the wider world. “From my perspective, as someone who came out 25 years ago, the fact that people are now supported by others to identify as they wish is incredible. I’m really hopeful that will continue.”