Jo Franco-Wheeler highlights Club's approach to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Monday 13th June 2022
Photography by: Club, Written by ECB Reporters Network

Derbyshire’s HR & Safeguarding Director, Jo Franco-Wheeler, sat down with the ECB Reporter’s Network to discuss the Club’s the progressive approach to educating its players and staff on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Franco-Wheeler joined the Club’s Supervisory Board as a Non-Executive Director in April 2021 as part of a governance review process which had been underway since 2020.

The constitutional changes, which saw the appointment ratified by Members at the 2021 AGM, were introduced to ensure the Club represents the diverse community of Derbyshire at all levels and is an example of good governance practice within the game.

The specific skill-sets added to the Board included Franco-Wheeler’s vast Human Resources and Safeguarding expertise, as well as that of fellow Non-Executive Director, Manni Sehmbi, who adds a breadth of experience in the Hospitality and Events sector, as the Club seeks to diversify its revenue streams to ultimately invest more in cricket and facilities.

Since her appointment, Franco-Wheeler has reviewed the Club’s current policies and set about introducing a new EDI Action Plan, as well as improved processes and delivered bespoke training to all staff.

“We did different sessions, one for the players, one for the coaching staff, one for the office staff, one for the stewards and the hospitality staff,” she said.

“They were all tailored slightly differently, there was some general content around what is EDI, what is discrimination.

“We covered banter and boundaries, where do you draw the line, what’s the problem if you get it wrong, what do you do if someone steps over the line and how you deal with that?

“We had a plan around data and education, they were the two primary things. We developed some training, we looked externally and it was going to cost a lot of money for somebody to develop and deliver it for us.

“But that’s my professional background, I’ve been working in HR for 20 years, the diversity field for about 10 so I was happy to do it and we delivered face-to-face training.

“It was a really useful interactive session and the feedback from the people who attended is they really got something out of it.”

When Franco-Wheler joined Derbyshire last year, she said she found a board that was already driving change and believes Derbyshire are leading the field in terms of EDI and good governance.

“We are currently the most diverse board of all the first-class counties because if you look at the non-exec directors we’ve something like 37-and-a-half per cent female and 37-and-a-half per cent black and minority ethnicities – and that’s happened consciously,” she said.

“Derbyshire’s board created a welcoming environment where people were encouraged to apply.

“When I got in touch and said I was thinking of applying but just wanted to check they would be interested in me, they said ‘please do’. The Derbyshire board see there’s an opportunity in being more diverse and wanting to do so.”

Azeem Rafiq’s brave testimony has cast a spotlight on cricket in England and Wales and the need for more action around inclusivity across the game.

Franco-Wheeler is determined to build on the progressive foundations at Derbyshire, where Rafiq has previously said he had felt welcomed as a player during a brief loan spell in 2011.

“I think Derbyshire is really progressive, because the board diversity is number one in the county structure and their openness and willingness to change and learn and expand,” Franco-Wheeler said.

“They consciously went looking for somebody who knew more about diversity than they did and found and hired me. When I’ve made recommendations they are all ears and want to listen, there’s no defensiveness.

“Our response if an allegation happened here or should happen would be to say we absolutely don’t tolerate racism whatsoever, discrimination has no place in cricket – we will look into this in detail and share our findings.

“The world’s changing, we’ve just to be open to that and ready to respond and condemn any behaviour that is not in line with the values of the club – and we are.”

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The Falcons will be aiming to extend their Vitality Blast winning streak at Queen’s Park to four matches, when they take on Yorkshire Vikings to close out the BRM Solicitors Festival of Cricket, in association with Chesterfield Borough Council, on Saturday 18 June.

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