Interview: how Heathrow Airport is embracing diversity and inclusion

One of the busiest airports in the world, Heathrow Airport is home to five equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) network groups for its 7,500 colleagues in the UK. These include Altitude (its gender equality network), HAND (its disability network), PROUD (its LGBTQ+ network), en-haNCE (its network for culture and ethnicity) and the newly established sPaCe Network (for Parents & Carers).

Anita Chagar is Heathrow’s Strategic Partnerships Manager, responsible for the commercial relationships of several airline carriers. As the former Lead of the en-haNCE Network (September 2021 to September 2023), she, along with the network’s steering group, led the efforts to maximise its ED&I impact across Heathrow to celebrate and educate colleagues on culture, ethnicity, race and faith.

One of the most significant initiatives that has come from the en-haNCE Network during that time has been the #MyNameIs campaign – a call for Heathrow colleagues and its supply chain to accurately pronounce and spell the names of colleagues.

Anita Chagar 932 X 621

Anita Chagar Strategic Partnerships Manager, Heathrow Airport

What is the mission for en-haNCE and what was the catalyst for the network?

Our vision at en-haNCE is to create an inclusive environment where colleagues feel their culture, ethnicity, race and faith is part of their greatest assets to themselves and Heathrow.

Our network steering group initially explored the topic of names and pronunciation in February 2022 on a call where members shared their experiences of mispronounced and misspelt names in school, society and the workplace.

As a colleague diversity network, we felt it was our responsibility to address this in Heathrow as it aligned with our vision, especially as more than half of Heathrow’s workforce come from black, Asian and other ethnic minority backgrounds.

Can you tell us more about the ground-breaking #MyNameIs campaign? 

It is a simple solution to a prevalent problem: encourage people to include the phonetic spelling of their names in their email signatures and other communications to improve the accuracy of name pronunciation. 

Too often, individuals, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds, experience mispronunciation and even misspelling of their names, and this can negatively impact their self-esteem, sense of belonging and identity. 

Sometimes individuals are also reluctant to correct mispronunciations, so shorten or change their names to make it easier for others, compromising their identity for convenience. 

#MyNameIs is an initiative created by Race Equality Matters (REM) to address this and encourage UK organisations committed to achieving race equality in the workplace to adopt the phonetic spelling solution. Your name is more than just a name, it is part of your heritage, identity and pride – and the #MyNameIs campaign is about embracing all those things. 

How did you bring the #MyNameIs campaign to Heathrow? 

We launched the campaign in February 2023, as part of a month-long series of events and activities to mark Race Equality Month. It centred around an event featuring guest speaker David Olusoga OBE, talking on the historical impact of race in today’s society, as well as a colleague panel discussion where they discussed their experiences of ‘mixed race’ and the topic of names. 

How do you make this relevant for all colleagues? 

This was one of the challenges we faced: identifying how the campaign solution could benefit all colleagues and not just those who experience the mispronunciation of their names, or just those from ethnic minority backgrounds. 

After further consideration, it became apparent that individuals can sometimes feel hesitant to pronounce names, reluctant to ask how, and, in some cases, refrain from saying someone’s name in case they mispronounced it. 

We therefore knew this campaign would be the opportunity to normalise the question ‘how do I pronounce your name?’ and emphasise the importance of the phonetic spelling solution benefiting the name-holder as well as the name-speaker.  

How have you extended the campaign through Heathrow’s supply chain? 

While the campaign was first launched internally, we wanted it to reach all supply chain partners. Our communications team produced three videos featuring colleagues from different backgrounds, speaking about their names, what they meant and their importance within their culture. They also spoke about the psychological effect of having their names mispronounced or misspelt. These were distributed via Heathrow’s internal channels and on LinkedIn.  

The posts, offering advice about adopting the phonetic spelling solution in email signatures, and how to do this through their local teams, received a lot of attention, and opened conversations among teams about what #MyNameIs means to them. 

How do you interpret the idea of ‘transforming performance’ and how does the #MyNameIs campaign fit into this? 

To me, transforming performance means considering, and adapting to, the ever-evolving social discourses of the day – sentiments that influence behaviour, ways of thinking, priorities and decision-making. 

How has the campaign been received within Heathrow? What are its effects? 

A new level of self-awareness, confidence and pride in their own names among colleagues led to a wave of support for the campaign, more conversations among teams and the rapid adoption of the phonetic spelling solution. 

Our proudest achievement is securing Trailblazer Status for our campaign, an award given out by Race Equality Matters to organisations who have adopted their solutions with high-impact results. 

Their feedback included: “The work you have shared has also demonstrated an authentic consideration of intersectionality. By including a member of the PROUD Network to represent the LGBTQ+ community and to incorporate pronouns as well as names, you have further opened the opportunity for individual identity to truly be recognised.” 

The work is far from over, but I believe a milestone has been achieved in this complex and colourful journey towards equality, diversity and inclusivity at Heathrow.

We keep moving. 

For further information contact:

Charlene Singh
Global Business Generation Lead, Infrastructure

t: +44 7939 981267