On Thursday 19th April, myself and Minnie, ran SheSaysMCR’s second instalment of the year. Finding our voice at KPMG, we ran a session to unpick “Great British Diversity” and had a truly incredible lineup of speakers.
The timing of the event couldn’t have been more apt. With the prevailing news about the Wind Rush Generation, we set the scene for the evenings event amongst conversations about what diversity means, what diversity means in Britain and of course, how things like the the Wind Rush scandal can happen at all.
We were lucky enough to have a mixed audience, of all genders and even had one attendee bring his young daughter along to hear about diversity too. That’s exactly what SheSaysMCR is about.
A lot of the conversations and reflections have stuck with me, but here are 5 of my biggest takeaways:
1. Create an environment to be your authentic self
Adaobi spoke about her experiences growing up black in Britain – more specifically in South London, having to change her accent to avoid stereotypes and aspiring to grow up to be white.
It was during her talk that I realised how much of what she was saying was stuff I had been through and had failed to recognise in myself. When you grow up in an environment, where the only successful people you see around you are white – you assume success comes only to those of that race. You therefore unintentionally try to be white, trying to cling on to synthetic things that you think will make you successful.
In order to be our true selves, we have to accept our differences and recognise that we all have different life experiences, starting points and references. Once we can accept differences and appreciate everything that makes us unique, we can start building a space that allows us to be our true selves.
2. Take responsibility for your actions
Rosie Moth dug deep into some differences between support structures in the UK and US and mentioned that one of the biggest differences she noticed is that in America, people are – generally – more willing to take responsibility and own their decisions and therefore consequences.
Rosie spoke about how the way we see the world can affect the opportunities that we create for ourselves, and that if we try to focus on the change we want to bring – we can do it. A big takeaway for me was to make sure I take responsibility for all of my decisions (or there lack of). I felt empowered to know that it’s up to me to make things happen, to take control of my future and change the world.
3. Things are pretty crap right now
Kirsty’s honesty was heart warming. She didn’t shy away from bluntly saying how it is, and going into detail about how bleak she finds the current political and social situation.
And you know what, that’s a good thing. We all too often convince ourselves to be positive, but sometimes you need to sense check the positivity with reality to better understand how to pursue real change.
Kirsty helped me realise that we need to recognise that things are far from perfect at the moment but that means there’s so much room for improvement. A room full of people speaking about their frustrations is a starting point, continually critiquing what’s wrong is great but it’s time to turn words into action. Please see my next point.
4. There is hope
The final speaker of the night, Chelsea, explained how she’s created a job for herself to fund and train young women to get into coding and STEM subjects through Liverpool Girl Geeks and Innovate Her.
Her talk left me feeling inspired that despite so many things going wrong and abundant inequality in STEM subjects and education, there’s still so much going right. People like Chelsea have taken the future into their own hands (point 3) to build environments to be their authentic selves (point 1) and to help build a future that they can be proud of.
If that doesn’t give you hope, I don’t know what will.
5. I’m not alone
Not only did being in a room full of people who wanted to openly discuss diversity, and more importantly inclusion, fill me with a feeling of belonging, but knowing that there are people out there who have had similar experiences to me and who are trying to change things for the better – makes me feel a part of something.
I left SheSaysMCR on a cold Thursday evening, knowing that I wasn’t the only one who grew up wishing I could fit in with my friends more. I left knowing that I am responsible for what doesn’t happen, as much as what does, in my life.
I left knowing that no matter how bad things are, there’s still so much hope and so many amazing people doing good things.