Disclaimer: Please note that all commentary and opinions provided in this interview are those of the individual and not the organisation/company they are employed by.
What does “choose to challenge” mean to you?
To me ‘Choose to challenge’, means to not just accept things for what they have been by default, or because it is the ‘norm’. Review, analyse, think, and put forward your thoughts and opinions, even if they are contrary to the status quo.
What impact could Kamala Harris’ appointment to Vice President have on the next generation of female leaders?
It really is about representation and identification. Kamala Harris’ appointment to VP in the USA, as a woman of colour, will open doors for the next generation of female leaders, and will make women, and more specifically women of diverse ethnic backgrounds who did not think it was possible to hold a position of such power, know that it is possible, and aspire to do so. This really should be celebrated.
What are you really, really good at?
I am good at setting a goal and ensuring it is reached, even it if feels like obstacles are in the way. I love taking on a challenge, and enjoying the good feeling once I have completed something at all odds. I am just wired that way, always have been. I also have to say that I am good at organising things and multi-tasking. This skill has really been challenged more recently with juggling work, and two young children under the age of five and home-schooling during COVID-19; not easy. I have been able to navigate this relatively well, largely because of re-organising things at home and work to adapt to the changes, having a good support network which I am thankful for, and more crucially doing what is realistic! It is important that we give ourselves a pat on the back sometimes for a job well done, even if it is a small win.
What has held you back in your career to date and how did you come to overcome that barrier?
Thinking about this honestly I have to say that it has been my name and ethnic background. Whilst things are better now, they are still not where they need to be, and this is poignant at a time where there has been a lot more focus on racial bias as a result of worldwide protests following the death of George Floyd, and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. There has also been a lot of discussion in the media in recent months about the lack of black leaders and female executives in FTSE 100 companies. When I first started out career wise, I found that a lot of job applications I made seemed to be ignored, simply because my name sounded too ethnic. Opportunities were more limited. To overcome this, I continued to educate myself, I also worked on building networks with people in the industries that I wanted to work in, and head-hunters, so people got to know me and my profile and not judge me based on my name and what they think that represented. By continuing to work hard and upskill, this helped to build my confidence, and stopped me from feeling knocked back and disheartened because doors were not opening at first. It helped me to realise that these doors were not necessarily the right ones and that there needed to be a bigger focus on diversity and inclusion for this change. Fast forward a few years later and here I am today, having broken down barriers to become the HR Director for Cass Art, an Amazing Art and creative tools retailer. To be a leader and board representative in the retail and art industry, not only as a woman but a black woman is incredibly important as this kind of leadership representation matters for the next generation of female leaders to follow.
Click below to read the full edition of IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Female Leaders Across The Globe.