Spotlight on... Dr Sun Young Lee

A middle aged woman posing in front of a camera wearing a black suit
A middle aged woman posing in front of a camera wearing a black suit
This week we meet Dr Sun Young Lee, Associate Professor and Deputy Director of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) at UCL’s School of Management. Here, she chats to us about achieving data excellence in her role and recalls her time working as a consultant for global firms.

What is your role and what does it involve? 

I am the Deputy Director of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) at the UCL School of Management. In my role, I focus on identifying and tackling diversity-related challenges among our faculty members and students. For example, I closely monitor the gender and racial ratios at all academic grades and offer policy recommendations to the school’s director on the identified issues. 

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role? 

It’s been nine years since I started my job at UCL, and I still love being here. I do enjoy teaching brilliant students and working with fellow colleagues. I am also excited about UCL’s ambitious growth plan and its grand vision for the future.

Before entering academia, I worked as a consultant for several global companies, including Accenture and Hewlet-Packard. Having experienced both the corporate and academic worlds, I believe that there exists a realm of untapped opportunities for universities and industries to collaborate and forge beautiful synergies for societies.  

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of? 

Back in 2019, a few years before I took my current EDI leadership role, I worked as an Athena SWAN Lead alongside twelve other members from the school.  

Working towards the award was a long, sometimes intense, journey that spanned nearly one year. But each step in self-assessment was meaningful, and the following year brought us tremendous joy as we received our first-ever Bronze Award.  

Fast forward to the present, we have additional good news that some of the programs we implemented by then, such as the establishment of quotas for female leadership positions, have proven to be effective.  

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list? 

In identifying and tackling EDI issues, I prioritise three key areas: securing robust leadership support, a commitment to data excellence, and optimising HR practices. 

Although we have consistently received strong leadership support for EDI initiatives, there is still room for improvement in how we systematically obtain and analyze data on EDI. Thus, achieving data excellence stands as a top priority for both my team and our school, though it is certainly easier said than done. 

Another priority is speaking more with people. Although the essence of EDI revolves around understanding people, I must admit that I have not dedicated as much time, as I would like, to connecting with and actively listening to our staff members and students. More coffee chats can be a great start! 

What is your favourite album, film, and novel? 

Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons: This piece brings a sense of calm and emotional balance for me.  Especially listening to the Winter section, for mysterious reasons, helps me overcome feelings of frustration or laziness.  

Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore: I’ve watched it five times, and each time I’ve been touched by those lovable characters, the complexities of their love and the enigmatic nature of life’s length and brevity. 

Momo by Michael Ende: Two characters in the book, Momo, a young girl talented being in the moment, and the Grey Men, time thieves who distract, may reflect well the current reality where people, myself included, are too busy to be truly in the present and appreciate it.  

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)? 

One of the latest ones I heard from my nephew (a proper teenager) goes like this: "Teachers always tell us to follow our dreams....BUT yet they don’t let us sleep in class". 

Who would be your dream dinner guests? 

I would love to invite my grandmother to a nice, homemade dinner, although she passed away seven years ago. I do miss simple things I used to do with her, like going swimming and going grocery shopping together. 

What advice would you give your younger self? 

’Live your own life, not someone else’s!’ 

Looking back, I realize I spent too much time chasing after other people’s expectations and dreams, be it my parents, teachers, or friends. I focused on fitting into their idea of success rather than discovering my own.  

Only recently, I’ve realized that important things in life, like genuine happiness, finding lasting love, or making a positive impact on others, all start with understanding and embracing myself. There might be countless paths to success and the meaning of life, and these days, I fear less being myself.  

What would it surprise people to know about you? 

I may come across as social and outgoing, but I consider myself to be more introverted than extroverted. For example, although I genuinely enjoy meeting people, I need recovery time in solitude afterwards. 

By the way, I’ve started to feel more comfortable about my nature since reading the book, Quiet by Susan Cain, which is highly recommended for fellow introverts and extroverted people who may want to understand the introverted perspective. 

What is your favourite place? 

Choosing a specific spot is difficult when the whole city of London holds my favour. Why? It’s like beloved Paddington Bear and Mrs Brown nailed it: "In London everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in."  If I must pick one, I love Regent’s Park for its tranquil charm.  
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