Well, welcome to 2021 and to my new regular blog spot at Krystal Alliance. This is an exciting moment for me. Maybe about 12 years or so, I started writing a blog, at that time I was working for a Trade Union. I found that almost everything I did and experienced led to an epiphany or ‘teachable moment’ in terms of equality, diversity, and inclusion -and I felt compelled to share. (You’ll soon learn I am a big sharer!) Ever since then, writing blogs have been part of my EDI practitioner approach. But this, here, it’s the first time I’ve been ‘commissioned’ to write – it was a thrill to be told – “whenever I read one of your blogs it always makes me think, will you write regularly for my new company – on equality, diversity, inclusion and compassionate leadership .”
Well yes, yes, I will – thank you Rob Neil.
But why should you bother reading, what makes me remotely qualified – well what better place to start?
Who am I?
I am the British (Tottenham, to be precise) born, daughter of immigrants (Trinidad and Mauritius, my parents answering the call to come to the ‘Motherland’ and join our amazing NHS as mental health nurses).
I am someone who changed primary school 3 times, who went to a mediocre secondary school and university (Law at the University of North London) and was, in fact, the first person in my family to go to university.
My story will sound familiar to some, regularly through my childhood and teenage years I was overtly or subtly discouraged by those in authority from having any ambition. Yes, I was told explicitly that ‘people like me’ don’t do ‘A’ Levels and shouldn’t expect to get to university.
What won’t be so familiar is – that here I am! Not only writing for this exciting new business but my primary day job is working at a globally renowned, extremely prestigious, and well respected, elite university – King’s College London. As Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, a job I love. A role where I help shape and guide its leaders, its managers, its students, and its future direction.
I often describe myself, without irony, as remarkable and brilliant. Because with my heritage, my gender, my start in life this is not a likely outcome. So, my being a living product of navigating, overcoming, thwarting the systemic inequality that is a fact here in British society all makes me a great practitioner and someone who can help others better understand EDI.
How did I do it? Well I was very fortunate to have strong family support and encouragement as well as some good mentors and coaches along the way. I have also worked very hard, both developing my professional craft and my decoding and navigating skills around our great British Institutions. I realise now as I am in my 50th year I had a lot of determination, innate self-belief and was quite bloody minded, plus I had good ’ code switching’ skills, that many of us in a minority have to develop at an early age .
What’s ‘code switching’? You can read about it here.
“Code-switching involves adjusting one’s style of speech, appearance, behaviour, and expression in ways that will optimise the comfort of others in exchange for fair treatment, quality service, and employment opportunities.” Do a google and you will see there are lots of articles about it published very recently.
The fact that so many people with so much to offer don’t or can’t make it through. That from primary or secondary education they are diverted, end up dropping out of education or giving up earlier than they should because of their teacher’s bias – conscious and unconscious makes them believe they can’t do it. That so many people get stuck at a certain level in an organisation because their talents aren’t recognised or appreciated. That we live in a world where talent and ability are not enough because they must fight through the layers of judgement and reaction often framed as doubts about personal style or ‘fit’. That we force people to learn to ‘code switch’ to survive and progress. All of this has led me to where I am and to devoting myself to preventing others getting stuck in a quagmire of bias and assumption.
So, I hope over the months you will find the various thoughts and perspectives I have to share useful to you. So happy reading people.