The unintentional role model

Published on : 1/1/19
  • A week on from the publication of the EMpower role model lists in the FT, where I was announced as Number 1 on the top 30 ethnic minority future leaders list, I am still coming to terms with what this means as well as the associated recognition.

    The awards night was a fantastic occasion where I met so many inspiring people from BAME backgrounds and those involved in the diversity and inclusion agenda.

    I was struck by the amount of talented, driven people doing amazing work in their workplaces and communities. I personally felt proud to be placed alongside these individuals for recognition of our achievements.

    And now on to me. Did I set out to be a role model?  Or did I ever think that I would ever be recognised in this way for my achievements?  The answer to both these questions is no.

    Suki Sandhu shared on the evening and in his recent blog about the importance of role models the negative view some have that young black boys can expect one of three career paths: sport, music or prison.

    As I shared on the night, I studied social policy as a teenager and read the frightening statistics relating to the educational achievements of young black boys from single parent families in the US. I remember thinking ‘I’m a young black guy from a council estate with a single mother – am I just going to become another statistic?’

    These negative projections of people from ethnic backgrounds have a potentially damaging effect. It permeates into people’s unconscious bias from all backgrounds and negative media reporting simply reinforces it.

    My story stands in the face of this and reflects many of the unheard stories of ethnic minority children who, like me, growing up see their mothers working very hard to give them the best future, just like my colleague Michelle Delicies shared in our Origins network podcast on role models.  This personally instilled in me a strong belief that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything. I’ve carried this ethic into my professional life to deliver successful results.

    I’m genuinely passionate about helping others to develop and driving real change in the workplace so people from BAME backgrounds are accepted and have the same opportunities to develop and succeed. We all deserve to have this privilege in our lives.

    So, I didn’t set out to be a role model but I am very happy to be one.

    I am pleased if the accolade and the attention of being nominated Number 1 on this list highlights more widely to people I do not know that there are many young  black men and women, who are hardworking and striving to achieve success.

    The recognition I hope also plays a part in kick-starting the change needed to increase diversity in senior management across all organisations.

    But the main reason I am a happy and proud to be a role model was illustrated in the moving and impactful moment of my night: two different women came up to me and told me that they would be telling their sons about me to inspire them to achieve whatever they want in their lives.

    Now, I’m quite an intentional role model.

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