Obituary: Sarah Guise, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)
9 March 2018
I am very saddened that our much loved colleague and friend Sarah Guise passed away on 21 February. Sarah, in her role as Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) was unrelenting in her mission to make UCL a better place to work or study.
Sarah did an enormous amount of work to lead the advancement of equalities and diversity at UCL. She was particularly well-known across departments for supporting gender equality initiatives, but Sarah made an enormous contribution to all aspects of the equalities agenda across the sector, not just at UCL. She was highly regarded by all her equalities peers across the Russell Group, in particular. One colleague from Sheffield has described Sarah as one of the “go to” people, always willing to share openly, work collaboratively, and “generally give good, honest and un-pretentious advice”.
Sarah joined us nine years ago from the Equality Challenge Unit, where she worked on the Athena Swan Charter for women in science, engineering and technology. Her expertise on Athena SWAN laid the foundations for UCL becoming one of the sector leaders on gender equality, with a Silver institutional award, two Gold departmental awards and the highest number of Silver departmental awards in the country.
As well as her dedication, Sarah brought a deft and quiet authority to her role. So many people have commented on her incredibly sharp mind. She had a brilliant sense of humour, with a number of tributes saying how idiosyncratic and witty she was.
Sarah had wide interests; travel – particularly in Mexico where she lived for a time, a love of Moomins and all things Finnish; lunchtime walks on which she debated quantum physics and religious faith; and there was a lot of karaoke (a favourite way of letting off steam at the end of the week.)
Sarah could often be found at the Indian YMCA at lunchtime, listening sympathetically to colleagues and providing thoughtful, wise advice. She was voracious reader and intellect on many topics and loved cycling into work on her Brompton.
As one colleague put it to me, a real light has gone out at UCL.
Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu described Sarah as a “smart and dedicated colleague, who really believed that equality was not just desirable for UCL, but was essential if UCL was to live up to its educational ideals. Sarah was so good at cutting through the noise and locating the source of a problem and tackling it. Her ‘A Tap on The Shoulder’ work was pivotal in convincing our senior managers that transparent and equitable recruitment procedures needed to be not just talked about, but put into practice”.
Dr Caroline Selai, one of our Dignity at Work Advisers, also paid tribute to Sarah: “UCL has lost a spectacularly talented, hard-working Equalities champion. We have lost a brilliant team member and I personally have lost a special friend and colleague who has been at my side through some very challenging times. No doubt she has had a similar impact on many others.”
It seems fitting to remember her through her everyday, quiet acts of encouragement and guidance:
“Sarah has been such a great friend and support to me – much more than a colleague – as I've coped with hearing loss over the years, and on other issues too. I know that the encouragement and guidance that I was lucky enough to receive from her as an individual were shared far more widely by her with other individuals and groups across UCL. It was inspirational to see how passionately, wisely and actively she fulfilled her role. She made a huge difference to life at UCL.” (Professor Helen Hackett)
Sarah will be very sadly missed.
Fiona Ryland, HR Director