Dice HQ

Meet Zoé Collins, DICE’s DEI Partner with an X-Factor stamp of approval

Photos by Will Grady

One of our friendliest faces muses on creating a culture of openness, her love of jazz, and why she pivoted from consulting

When she graduated from university, Zoé Collins was certain of two things: “I knew I was good at fixing problems, and I knew I was a people-person.” Figuring out what to do with those skills took her on a journey across industries. It was only after a PR internship at a national newspaper, then working in various departments at an online fashion retailer, that Zoé discovered her passion for helping teams create fairer, more welcoming spaces – a mission she’s continuing as DICE’s DEI Partner. Here, she shares her thoughts on enacting change, leading with grace, and her own musical side projects.

On leaving consulting

Before coming to DICE, I was a change consultant, and later a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant at different firms in a number of industries, including healthcare, oil and gas, and defence – nothing that was satisfying from a soul perspective. Beyond that, I just felt consulting wasn’t right for me. I wanted to be able to stick around to see the results of my hard work and witness long-term change, rather than retreating after a few months.

So when I saw the job at DICE, which I’d been using since I was at uni, it felt like a dream. The chance to do DEI work in-house in the music industry? That just made sense. I’ve only been here 10 months, but I’ve already been able to see the Global Belonging Programme – the events, initiatives, and comms campaigns we launched to keep everyone connected, and make sure they feel seen and heard – grow from nothing to something; and we’ve gone from having zero Employee Community Groups when I started to having five. I’m really proud of that.

On DICE’s open and honest workplace

The DEI team at DICE is one of the best teams I’ve ever worked in for the simple fact that we can speak in a way that is free, honest and psychologically safe. But that goes beyond our team. When I first started, I remember saying to Salma Repa, our VP of DEI, that everyone seems to have an opinion here, and when you open up the floor, it’s literally like, ‘I have an opinion and you’re gonna hear it. I’m going to email you my thoughts.’ 

When I was a consultant, getting people to open up about DEI was like pulling teeth – nobody wanted to say anything, or people were worried about saying the wrong thing and offending, which is fair. So I welcome the openness at DICE. I love that people are really passionate here, and that they don’t joke around about the change they want to see.


On her (brief) X-Factor moment 

Musically, mine is the usual story: I grew up singing in church. When I was younger, my choir used to tour different churches every weekend, and in 2017, we were on The X Factor for a bit – they really wanted gospel choirs to sign up that year, and someone invited us to audition. 

Before they record the performances you see on TV, you have to audition in the studio first, and we actually got through that round. But it was at a time when we were all either going to university or starting work, and there was too much of a split between those who wanted to do it, and others who were like, ‘I've just accepted a uni offer’. So we said no to The X Factor, but I’ve still got all the pictures.

After that, I continued singing at my church, but I decided I wanted to do my own music, too, and I started releasing jazz and neo-soul records two years ago. I always say, if you’re taking a nighttime drive, or just want vibes in the summertime, listen to my music.

On her enemies-to-lovers relationship with jazz 

The first time I heard jazz, I hated every single minute of it. I was in Houston, Texas, to celebrate my auntie’s med school graduation, and she had a party at a jazz club. I was just like, ‘I don’t understand this music. It sounds like noise. Why am I here?’ But I swear to you, in one moment, right before we left, it just clicked, and I thought, ‘This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.’ 

I think being forced to be in that space for three hours made me appreciate the music and want to know more. ‘OK, the drummer is doing something completely different to what the guitarist is doing. The piano is doing something completely different. They’ve all got different time patterns, but it still sounds beautiful. How?’ 

Today, I’m a Norah Jones babe. I love Nina Simone, Miles Davis and Nat King Cole – I listen to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ every day. I also just love Robert Glasper and his Black Radio albums, and Braxton Cook is amazing.


On continuous learning and leading with grace

As a DEI practitioner, I think people forget that you are on a journey, too. For instance, I don’t know everything there is to know about pronouns, because that knowledge is ever-changing – it’s fluid. I’ve had situations where people have tried to catch me out, but that just proves that even practitioners make mistakes, and that we’re always learning. 

That’s why, as the expert, you need to lead with empathy and grace, even if you don't agree with the other person, or if their beliefs don't align with your morals and your values. The aim is that they will grow on whatever journey they’re on. That won't happen if you’re attacking them.

On Shoreditch’s best-kept secret

I love big gigs, but I also love the intimacy of venues like Troy Bar. It’s so small, and the performers are literally right in front of you. The same people go every week, so you can really build a community there – and it has the best Caribbean food ever. 

There’s also an open mic every single Tuesday, and it’s such a safe space to sing if you just want to give it a try. Even if you’re not good, they won’t boo you. It’s just like, ‘This is her first time, let’s celebrate.’ I remember when I did my first one – none of the friends who’d come had heard me sing before, and I was like, ‘What on earth have I got myself into?’ But the reception was so warm, and I left feeling really good. So I just love Troy Bar. 

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