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The Elephant in the Room
23 minutes | Oct 15, 2021
46: Finding your voice and identity with Chandana Agarwal
ShownotesMy guest on the 46th episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast this week is Chandana Agarwal, President North, 82.5, Ogilvy Group, India. With over 2 decades in advertising she has helped launch and build brands in India that have been appreciated globally and have gone up to win international Creative and Effectiveness awards.In this episode we talk about her growing up as a girl in Hyderabad; her lived experiences; her journey into advertising👉🏾 Surviving/thriving in agency culture; fitting in and being more 'man than a man'👉🏾 Unpacking what it means to be a single woman in India; shifting the victim mindset👉🏾 Norms of beauty, a legacy of India's colonial past👉🏾 Setting up the Marigold Society for Performing Arts, how it anchors her sense of femininity, beauty, giving her a voice and an identity beyond work👉🏾 Setting up Subah, an initiative to support women who have lost their husbands or partners in the pandemic👉🏾 The people who inspire her and being her own favourite person. Thank you Chandana for sharing your time, for being driven by your dreams and passions.Memorable Passages from the episode👉🏾 Thank you so much Sudha for having me over and it's so lovely what you're doing, bringing so many perspectives and point of views from different cultures together. So hats off to you. 👉🏾 Yeah, so we're two siblings, I'm the younger daughter of the two of us really. Thankfully I grew up in the South of India. We're North Indians who grew up in Hyderabad. For the listeners who don't know where Hyderabad or how India works, Largely there is the Aryan culture in the North and there is the Dravidian culture in the South. Hyderabad happens to be a cosmopolitan city in the South and that's when I grew up. It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, really thinking back. My father comes from a very large family and he has many younger brothers. And I think after my mother all his brothers ended up having daughters and therefore my mother kind of bore the cross of starting the trend of having only daughters and I think somewhere it rubbed off on my psyche. I was made to feel, almost grateful for being alive. 👉🏾There was a lot of pressure on my parents to say, I wish you had a son, the younger child should have been a son. Though my parents never consciously or subconsciously even hinted at that, but I think that baggage, that pressure was always there. There was a great hurry to be financially independent. I was always excelling at what I did, because I don't think there was luxury to kind of take life as it comes. All my choices in my subjects was based on the career prospects that they would open up rather than what I really wanted to do. And I just think that what I'm saying is not unique to me. It's true for the entire generation of women, all of us that grew up at that time in the country. 👉🏾 So yeah, there was a hurry to kind of learn how cycle to learn how to kind of get on a scooter you know you were just in a hurry waiting to grow up and make yourself useful. 👉🏾 That's an interesting story in itself. In the year that I was graduating from my MBA Institute, there were not too many marketing companies that came to the campus and I did not make it to the few that came. And I kept crying and crying and weeping and my father kept trying to reach me and I refused to come on the phone, obviously, there were no mobile phones in those days. And finally, he got across to me and he said, "Bhai, what is happening? Why are you crying?" And I was like, My career is over I have not cracked a job. And my dad told me one thing that stood me in good stead. He said, a company only gives you a job, you make your career. And that just propelled me into taking things in my own hands. I left the campus, I took a bus to Bangalore. I went knocking to various advertising agencies and I thankfully cracked a job with FCBUlka.The rest is history as they say or we make history as we go along.👉🏾 No Sudha, I think you or we or all of us at that time, got into a kind of tunnel vision. We wanted to fit in. We wanted to prove that we are more 'men than men' around. We kind of dressed in a certain way, we spoke a certain language. We wanted to prove to the world that we could take it on our chins and still stand tall. All of us and I shouldn't be talking for everybody, but me personally, I'm very ashamed to admit this, but I used to say, "Oh my God, there's a woman driver, I don't know what is going to happen".👉🏾 So you wanted to disassociate yourself from being a woman and you tried really hard to be more man than a man even. I guess at that time it didn't faze us, we were all hungry, we were all trying to fit in. We all wanted to kind of prove to the world that we could be as good. Looking back, I do believe that a lot of time could have been saved. A lot of work could have been more productive. A lot of heartache could've been saved if we were who we were. But I don't think any of us realised at that time that we were curbing who we intrinsically are. 👉🏾 I remember, I started smoking because most of the conversations would happen in the balcony outside and you wanted to be a part of that conversation. I would see matches because I wanted to be a part of conversations and sports does not interest me at all because I believe unless you've played a sport you can't really vibe with it. Following matches and to smoking and to living a certain way. Women should be born in their forties and then they should find the way back. I think forties is so liberating👉🏾 I just think firstly there’s somethings about being a single person, which are universal irrespective of the gender or the country, which is you need to do create self-love. You need to love yourself enough. You need to kind of value yourself, respect yourself, find yourself interesting enough to spend time with yourself. You need to be extremely disciplined, I think, because I've seen a lot of friends from home being single is a phase right? They're single for the weekend, or they're single for a week. And the choices you make are very different. But being that this is your life, then you need to lead a certain way.👉🏾 So I think those are some of the things that are universal about being single. And then there are somethings which is, what happens when you fall sick? The fact that the society looks at you be a little more dishonourable or that many friends don't want to save your number under your name, the fact that women friends don't want to invite you on the weekends when they are with their family. 👉🏾 So there's a lot into being a single woman and then there is the whole world of do's and don'ts about being a single woman in India, in Haryana right? Which is one of the most patriarchal societies in the world, which is the whole judgemental-ness of people. The fact that right from the security guard to your next door neighbour is looking at you suspiciously, 👉🏾 So yeah, I think that being single, there is so much expectation that you start seeing yourself as a victim and every small incident becomes a symbol of something larger. And I think somewhere in my head, I changed that about seven years back and that's led to a very positive attitude, both in my own reaction to the world and I think in turn the world's reaction to me. If I called the carpenter home to do some repair job, and he came about 2 hours late, in my mind I used to process it as, because I am a single woman and because I'm a woman who's asking him to come and he knows that there's no man in my house, he believes he can get away by taking it for granted. And when I change that to believing that I'm not the victim, he's a poor guy, who's working somewhere else and maybe his job didn't get over on time and I started seeing him as the victim, I think everything for me has changed since that time. It's very easy for me now. I think everybody respects me for who I am and what I do.👉🏾 So I think the long and short of it is this, that it's not easy to be a single person anywhere in the world. You need to love yourself, but you also need to kind of change the mindset. I think it's more in our minds than in the world's mind and if you become a giver I think everything is easy. 👉🏾 Sudha I think, I was an extremely complex and complicated child now that I look back and think about it. Because I was a north Indian who grew up in south and I was dusky complexion as I continue to be. There was a lot of finger pointing, that happened. I used to dread the time that I used to go back to visit my relatives during my summer vacations because I constantly heard she's become like somebody who belongs to Madras, which essentially means that you're dark complexion, and there would be a lot of conversation with my mother to say, get her to eat this, get her to drink this. Why don't you take care of her, why don't you do this? How would she get married? So being dark was something that was looked down upon. Constantly, you know, things like this colour will not go well on you. Red you can't wear, Yellow you can't, this lipstick you can't wear. 👉🏾 Every time I went for a wedding. I was made to dance on 'jiski biwi kaali' and I used to dread that. But at that time I used to go and hide and run. And I remember I used to give my new clothes to my best friend to wear because I thought it would look better on her. So being dark complexion, dusky complexion was one thing and then there was this whole thing of being the son, not being the son, being a boy, not being a boy, being a girl, not being a girl.👉🏾 So between these two, I really didn't know who I was what I wanted to be and what is it that I wanted to project to the world. I think since then I've come a long way. And I'm extremely comfortable with who I am and I can wear all the colours that I want to. I wear all kinds of clothes that I feel very good about being who I am. So I believe that women are almost cordoned or boxed off as per the society's norms of what being beautiful is. And that's been true for so many cultures rights? So I guess it's the same thing that continues and I think it's up to us to kind of feel good and then feel beautiful.👉🏾 That's true. There can't be an excuse for this yeah. The first excuse comes to my lips is , that's what the market buys, but hey, there's no excuse for that. 👉🏾 I just think that there's never any one thing that leads to an action like this. I think lots of things in the universe come together, collude together to kind of push in a certain direction. In my case when I look back at why this happened, it can be one or two triggers, but this space Marigold and dance occupies in my life is something that possibly words cannot capture.👉🏾 It's made me anchor my sense of femininity, beauty. It's given a stage, it's given a voice, it's given a language to who I really think I am. In fact, people say that I use my hands a lot more than most people right? So they believe that I carry the aura of being a dancer in my corporate world as well. So specifically at that point of time in my life I used to learn dance at somebody's house and for whatever reasons she didn't want me to continue there. So there was reason for me to kind of start my own academy because dance I knew was going to continue to play an important role in my life.👉🏾 Dance itself had given me a lot of joy, a lot of confidence, a lot of beauty. And I wanted to spread that to other women, and that was the other reason why I wanted to start Marigold. So while all of this was happening, I just think through dance, I've connected to so many beautiful, wonderful, strong women from fields that I would've never interacted with earlier. I've created good karma because I get such lovely messages for being the medium through which people have fulfilled their childhood dreams of being on the stage, of continuing dance, of being cured out of their depression and grief. 👉🏾 Also, I think professionally the glass ceiling exists for women, no matter what we say and very frequently our sense of identity starts getting fused with the designation on our visiting cards. And I know you've gone through struggle with that for some time. And I think Marigold somewhere allowed me to create a cushion for myself. It allowed me to define myself in a way that wasn't just linked to my job. So in that sense, I'm really, really grateful for having found dance or for dance having found me. 👉🏾 Thank you for bringing it up, it's something that we started on the 17th of May. I went through COVID all alone right? And that was a vulnerable time for the entire world and being alone kind of brings out various insecurities to the fore right? So I first started by creating a volunteer group in my own condominium, where I got the RWA to invest in a few oxygenators, a few cylinders and a few steroids, life-saving drugs to say that we know we need to have this in our condominium, God forbid any of our own residents feel that. Because in my own head, I was just battling with this whole thing that God forbid, something happens to me, who do I reach out to what will happen to me? So I think it came from self-defence and it just opened up a world to me. We all saw the outpouring of humanity that happened. This is essentially for women who've lost their husbands or partners to the pandemic. And we realised that no, this kind of grief is very, very unique. In the sense, most of them were not able to bid goodbye to their partners and this was all sudden, it happened in a period of 10 to 15 days. Most of them saw their husbands go to the hospital and then never come back. They were not there as a part of the last rites. They did not get to experience the grief and therefore live through trauma. And there was a need for these women and what they're going through, nobody else can go through and there's nobody who can talk to them about it, except for other women who are going through a similar grief. 👉🏾 And therefore Subah is our attempt at creating an ecosystem for women by doing multiple things. So a) We're an ecosystem and we've got tie-ups with lots of coaches and counsellors and we train them on grief handling. Each Braveheart as we call them, because we don't like to use the word widow. Each brave heart is assigned a buddy or a coach depending on her life stage. We do a lot of career counselling, we've helped women restart their careers. We've got tie-up with some of the best people in Korn Ferry who kind of train women, how to create their LinkedIn profile, how to apply for jobs, how to prepare for interviews. We do a lot of financial advisory in terms of all the money that they're getting from their husbands PF account, gratuity, et cetera. How would they invest it to make sure that their kids future safe. We do a lot of taxation consultancy. We do a lot of legal consultancy. On the Saturday we are doing a session with what is the emergency first aid you can give to children because all of them are single parents now. So yeah, the attempt is to be able to create an ecosystem of volunteers and supporters who can help Bravehearts rebuild their life. 👉🏾 We've got 178 Bravehearts. We're a community of 320 people as of today, so that’s a 170 Bravehearts and the rest of them are volunteers. So out of the 176, I think we've touched everybody's life in some way or the other. So there's a WhatsApp group, there's a Facebook group, they all connect with each other. They've now formed almost city-wise circles and we've got people from US, Australia, Bihar, Assam across the world. And they all find support within their own age group. We've got a Noida group now who meets offline once in a week, they go to each other, so children's birthday parties etcetera. So I think somewhere Subah has brought a ray of light not just the 176 Bravehearts but to the 300 odd people in the community.👉🏾 I think Chandana is evolving, I think we're all work in progress. I don't think Chandana can be captured in one or two words or adjectives. I love being a woman, right? I love the feminine gender and we are on the first Navaratra which celebrates the feminine energy. I absolutely revel in being who I am, I love myself. In that movie 'Jab We Met this woman says 'Main aapni favourite person hoon' (I am my own favourite person).👉🏾 I also believe I'm a woman of action, I'm extremely resilient. I think life makes you resilient, I don't think any of us is born like that. But yeah, I think who I've become today is a strong, resilient, opinionated, khadus woman being who she is. I think I'm spoilt and I take pride in it. 👉🏾 I think self-made people inspire me, I think I'm complex about not having the pedigree that I would've wanted. I would have want it to be a Harvard graduate, which I am not. I believe that people who create themselves, people who kind of, build themselves up from scratch are people I respect and admire.👉🏾 And there’s inspiration all around I think all of us are Mothers. I think the Bravehearts that I interact with are phenomenal women right? For me, 2 things that I respect in people are honesty and resilience and the ability to kind of be self-made to not be faced down by what life throws at you. And I think an average woman inspires me. All women, I think face so much and go to so many challenges.👉🏾 Not at all Sudha, Thank you so much and tight hug.Follow Chandana Agarwal on: LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chandana-agarwal-3313816/Twitter: @0dc21330495d4b2Marigold Society of Performing Arts: https://www.facebook.com/kathak.marigold/Important Links👉🏾 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/how-you-label-something-will-define-how-far-it-can-go/articleshow/77829066.cms👉🏾 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/boxed-in-stereotypes-how-women-have-been-depicted-on-the-screen/articleshow/81132029.cms👉🏾 https://gurgaonmoms.com/sharetocare-series-with-chandana-agarwal/
21 minutes | Oct 7, 2021
45: A conversation with Koray Camgoz, Director of Communications PRCA
Shownotes: In the 45th episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast I spoke with the unflappable Koray Camgoz, Director of Communications and Marketing at the PRCA. For many of us in the industry he is the 'go to' guy for anything to do with the PRCA. Koray is passionate about DEI and has been deeply involved in all PRCA DEI initiatives including REEB and EIAC. In this episode we talk about the last 18 months, its impact on the PRCA, the industry, restructuring of the PRCA Board, and the launch of the Race and Ethnicity Equity Board(REEB). 👉🏾 We also spoke about the memorable/scary moments from the last year;👉🏾 Progress on DEI in the industry👉🏾 The Accessible Communications Guidelines launched in partnership with Current Global👉🏾 PRCA's partnership with DWP for the 'Kickstart' scheme and it's success👉🏾 PRCA CMS as a gold standard for inclusion and accessibility👉🏾 The people who inspire him in his personal and professional life.Memorable Passages from the conversation: 👉🏾 Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be with 👉🏾 So I graduated back in 2008 really at the height of the financial crisis. So I graduated in English at a time when there were very few jobs available, not just in public relations, but in the economy generally. So I undertook quite a wide range of internships, I worked on placements and internships in charities like Action Aid and also the Department of Works Press Office before going back to university.👉🏾 So I went back to uni the following year and I did a master's in media and communications at Brunell and then a few months later, I moved out to New York and I joined an agency called Tiberend Strategic Advisors, who are kind of a healthcare/financial services firm. And I worked with them for about six months before moving back to London and then joining the CIPR where I stayed for almost I think seven years in total in various roles working in policy and then lastly as PR manager for three years, and then joined PRC Ain 2019. So it's been about 10 years in total now, since I started. 👉🏾 It was a really interesting time. So I think obviously that the events of last summer really kind of accelerated the appetite for change and the urgency that everyone felt. I think to be honest with you, the industry has been well aware of the need for change on diversity, inclusion and you're asking specifically about race and ethnicity, and I think that the awareness of the need for change has been there. And it's been something that people have spoken about and committed to in various ways. But what we saw last summer was a kind of a massive accelerant in the urgency of it.👉🏾 So I've worked on diversity inclusion issues and initiatives for the best part around eight years in various capacities. It was something that I worked on while I was at the CIPR as well. And as I said, I think there's been some good initiatives and some good work that's taken place, but last summer, just kind of really heightened the need for genuine and meaningful change.👉🏾 So for us, what that meant was really creating something brand new. We wanted to create something that was not only championing best practice in the industry and making sure that we were providing all the opportunities for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse professionals that we could. But also something that would help keep us accountable as well as an association. And I remember, I think you were part of that. At the first meeting of REEB where we were discussing kind of ambitions and what we wanted to do and it was quite rightly pointed out to us by the committee itself, that our board was unanimously white at the PRCA and that was something that was indicative of the problems that we were trying to solve.👉🏾 So it was down to us to address that situation and it's something that we managed to do quite quickly, although we're still at the very early stages of that process. I think we're now up to about 20% of our board who are from diverse backgrounds. So it's something that we are increasingly conscious of and REEB really has guided our efforts on that.👉🏾 And I think that in turn gave those volunteers the confidence and the assurances that we were serious about this being something that genuinely grounded in creating meaningful change for the industry. 👉🏾 I think it's important to know that everybody on the board, the board as it was and indeed as it's now, really acknowledged the gravity of the situation. And as I said at the beginning, I think what happened last summer was really a wake-up call. And I think people have been aware and cognisant of these issues for a number of years. There was a renewed sense of urgency, and that was felt by members of our board as well and as you quite rightly point out there were a number of people who made the decision to step down. People like Tony Langham at Lansons, is a good example of that and I think what that did was create space for other people to join.👉🏾And those people, as you've quite rightly pointed out we owe them our thanks, but we are also increasingly aware that it's what should happen, and it's the change that needs to happen if the industry is serious about moving on and taking a real stride forward when it comes to race and ethnicity in PR. 👉🏾 Yeah, there are many. Probably more scary than memorable. I would say, I mean obviously, we went through what every organisation went through at the outset of the pandemic, which was flat-out fear and uncertainty really. We furloughed quite a large number of staff members and unfortunately had to make redundancies as well. So that was a really tough time. Tough for the people that had been furloughed but it was also tough for the staff who are still there really, and delivering more output, more campaigns, more events than ever before but just with fewer people on hand. So it was a very difficult time. I've got two small children at home as well so it was particularly, when the schools were closed, it was a really, really tough time. So that was definitely the hardest point I would say. Another point that sticks out was not long after really our first major virtual conference, which was the international summit, which took place in May of last year. That was a real game-changer for us because it was the industry’s first virtual conference, there was a certain amount of trepidation over how it works and whether we'd be able to deliver it on the scale we wanted to with quite a depleted team.👉🏾 But in the end we put on a really great event. We had 700 people join across two days from all around the world and that was unprecedented for us. And I think, more importantly, it proved that this model could work and there was a future in the virtual events space and that really was a lifeline for us, so that is another one to put out. And finally, probably the most positive memory was just a couple of weeks ago when we had our summer reception in London, which was just a lot of fun, we had around 200 people come along for that and to see people face-to-face again, and to meet people who I'd met online for the first time was a lot fun and yeah, that was a really happy memory. 👉🏾 So I think one of the great things about working for a professional is body is that when a crisis hits or when there are hard times, I think you see the very best in the industry. You see people volunteer their time and fundamentally I think crises like these bring out the whole point of a professional body because it's all about community. It's all about networks, support, development, learning, and these are all the values that really come to the fore during a crisis.👉🏾 And they absolutely did for us last year within days really of the pandemic being declared, we were really inundated with requests from people who wanted to support. And as a result of that we created our "COVID-19 communications task force", which was really the vehicle for support that ran for the rest of the year and it delivered a whole number of webinars, free consultation services to any businesses that needed help and then alongside that, it also produced some really practical guidance on how to steer your agency through a downtown like this. And for many it was a lifeline and since then we've been contacted by a lot of people, who've been really grateful for the support that they've provided and that was led by I mentioned Tony Langham earlier, who's been hugely helpful in that regard, but also by Rachel Friend and Rod Cartwright as well. So yeah all of those people I think deserve an immense amount of credit.👉🏾 So that came about through us speaking with George Coleman. So George is the CEO of Current Global, he's incredibly passionate about accessibility and inclusion. So George grew up with a deaf father and really have been kind of pivotal in creating and driving best practice communications in terms of accessibility. So we've worked with George's team to produce quite a comprehensive guide about 34 pages long and it's really just packed with insight tips and templates that you can go away and apply to your own day to day role. But I mean it is such a massive issue and it's one that I feel like the industry the is sleeping on at the moment. You have 15% of the world's population that have some form of disability of one form or another. And when you consider all of the collective buying power, you're talking about a massive audience, which is currently being excluded. So for comms professionals that's a real opportunity to engage a new audience and that hopefully will be supported by the guidance that we've developed in partnership with Current Global. 👉🏾 Yeah I would just add that a lot of the changes to that are just really straightforward and simple and I'll hold my hands up, that I wasn't aware of quite how simple some of them were, so for example, we've now put on in excess of 200 virtual events since the pandemic began. But we only since working with George we've realised how easy it is, for example, to include live audio captioning on zoom events, which is something that we now advocate. Similarly, Microsoft accessibility checker, which is a really great free tool that anyone can use and you can use it just in the way that you would with the spellchecker. So there's lots of really simple and easy steps you can take to improve your comms and your accessibility. 👉🏾 So Kickstart launched earlier last year, I think it was on March last year. Fundamentally it's a scheme that's designed to support young people aged between 18 and 24 who had been to the most at risk of long-term unemployment as a result of the pandemic. Essentially the scheme involves employers creating six months placements and then being reimbursed for the salaries for those young people by the government. So essentially the government is funding these placements, it's a really brilliant initiative. It's one that our members have responded to incredibly well. We've created over 80 roles for young people who would otherwise be on universal credit and yeah, it's something that, we're incredibly proud of.👉🏾 Obviously the government is seeing the urgent need to kind of help young people because whenever there's a big crisis or an economic downturn on this scale, invariably it's young people who come off the worst and we've got good relationships with the DWP and with other government departments and we quite quickly recognised the benefit, not only to society for this, but for the PR industry. And we became a gateway organisation very quickly. So we are essentially helping members to take advantage of this scheme. 👉🏾 It is and it's something that I think globally is respected as kind of a hallmark or a Kitemark because of excellence in our industry. So those that aren't familiar with, the CMS stands for the Communication Management Standard, and it combines various elements of ISO 9001 and 'Investor in people' with criteria that is specific to PR and communications, it's available to consultancies, it's available to in-house teams, and it's also available to virtual teams as well. So it was introduced a long time ago, it was introduced in 1998. It's been continually updated, it covers various aspects, kind of business planning, financial management, client satisfaction, diversity, et cetera. But I think the good thing about CMS is that it's always kind of developing and it's always learning because best practice itself is always moving, particularly in this industry.👉🏾 So we're always talking with industry experts and outside the industry on how it can be improved. And accessibility is certainly one of those areas that we're doing that one as well. But you quite rightly say I think in this day and age, businesses are looking for more ways than ever to prove that they are not only committed to making profit but actually just committed to being good businesses around and having a positive impact on society. 👉🏾So the CMS is really a powerful vehicle for organisations of all types to be able to do that. And to be honest with you, it's proved very popular, particularly over the pandemic. There are a lot of agencies, large and small, and in house teams as well, who are taking advantage of it. And the good is that once you are accredited and you've completed it, you're eligible for our matchmaker service, which is an opportunity to win new business as well. 👉🏾 I think the first thing to say is that there's never been a better time, I think to enter the industry. Personally, I've been hugely passionate about diversity and inclusion, since I started working in the industry. I think that this is a great time because I think agencies and in-house teams have never been more aware of the need for change. So I think the fact that we have a new generation now, who are able to come in and help create the change that this industry needs is really exciting. So my advice would be, be a hundred per cent committed to yourself and to your own personal values, don't feel the need to assimilate or adjust because it's in your interest and it's in the industry's interest for you to be true to yourself. And then on a more practical note, I think this has always been the case in PR I think as much as you can try and develop your networks, blog, access communities, use the PRCAs networks and services to try and build your profile. And yeah, I think it's an incredibly exciting time to work in the industry. So that would probably be my advice to the next generation. 👉🏾 That's a good question, there’s probably like a professional and a non-professional example. On the non-professional side, I'd probably say my dad is probably My biggest inspiration. He's now 82 but he is in great shape, touch wood. So he's just an incredibly driven person who is incapable of standing still and always doing something. So he was born, in quite primitive circumstances in the 1930s in Cyprus and worked his way to London and built a small business and even now to this day is still working hard and in various capacities. So I'd have to say him. 👉🏾 And then in a professional capacity I'd say Scott Galloway, he is a marketing professor at NYU, I'm just such a huge fan of his and I find him really inspiring to listen to because a lot of his advice is just about life and happiness and making sure that we're keeping sight of the things that are really important in our lives and I think that is a really important one for those of us who work in a fast-paced industry like ours.👉🏾 It's a pleasure. Thanks very much for having me and thanks for all your help on REEB and with the various PRCA initiatives and of course, for all your leadership on the EIAC as well, we're really grateful for all the brilliant work that you've put in.Follow Koray Camgoz on: LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/korayc/?originalSubdomain=ukTwitter: @KorCommsRead more about Koray: 👉🏾 https://www.prweek.com/article/1591923/prca-poaches-ciprs-koray-camgoz-head-communications-marketing👉🏾 https://commshero.com/commshero-week-event/koray-camgoz/👉🏾 https://www.vuelio.com/uk/blog/koray-camgoz-appointed-head-of-comms-and-marketing-at-prca/👉🏾 https://wadds.co.uk/blog/2020/5/27/pr-will-re-emerge-from-covid-19-leaner-smarter-and-better-connectedPRCA DEI news and links: 👉🏾 https://www.prca.org.uk/REEB👉🏾 https://wadds.co.uk/blog/2021/4/21/accessible-communications-guidelines-published-by-prca👉🏾 https://www.allthingsic.com/prca-publishes-new-accessible-communications-guidelines/👉🏾 https://www.prca.org.uk/membership/groups/sectoral/eiac👉🏾 https://www.prca.org.uk/event/4930/change-for-good%3A-building-an-equitable-%26-inclusive-pr-industry👉🏾 https://www.vuelio.com/uk/blog/prca-gateway-for-dwp-kickstart-scheme-greenlights-60-new-pr-jobs/
24 minutes | Sep 23, 2021
44: A journey to understanding the Indian caste system with Sudha Singh
Parallels have been drawn between racism in the west and casteism in India - both are social constructs, both privilege groups of people, limiting the life chances and horizons of millions of people because of where they are bornFor everyone interested in race, an understanding of caste it essential. Pulitzer Prize winner and author Isabel Wilkerson says, "We cannot fully understand the current upheavals, or almost any turning point in American history, without accounting for the human pyramid that is encrypted into us all: the caste system"Since, I re-started my DEI journey a couple of years back after hitting a career wall I have been advocating for a fairer, equitable and more representative industry and society. As a founding member of the Race and Ethnicity Equity Board at the PRCA and Co-Chair of the Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council, I am passionate about what I do and am determined to help bring change.I talk about about race, ethnicity, equity and inclusion all the time, so I think it would be very hypocritical of me to not talk about caste - the proverbial elephant in the room and the pervasive inequalities and inequities it breeds. So, over the coming months I will be speaking with subject matter experts, thought leaders, academics and individuals to throw more light on this behemoth that castes a dark shadow over our society. I am no expert, so this is an exercise in learning and mainstreaming conversations about caste and hearing perspectives from those who continue to be marginalised and afflicted by it. My hope is that people stop considering being 'caste blind' as the gold standard for fairness (both in corporate India and society); and start acknowledging the deep divisions that exist in our society and the caste penalty that millions of people pay every single day.In this episode I also speak about 👇🏾👉🏾 India's affirmative action programme a world first that is enshrined in its constitution which was written by a visionary, intellectual giant and Dalit, Dr B.R.Ambedkar👉🏾 Isabel Wilkerson and her take on caste in India👉🏾 A recent Pew Research Centre Report on religion and caste in India 👉🏾 Caste, Privilege, and its manifestationsThere are also a few sound bytes from people sharing their personal views on caste in 2021#societyandculture #inclusion #fairness Listen here👇🏾👇🏾https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-elephant-in-the-room/id1540074396?i=1000536469957Memorable Passages from the Episode:👉🏾 Welcome to The Elephant in the Room podcast. Today's episode is about caste, what it means to me, my personal experiences, the Indian constitution and a recent Pew Center Report. This episode is standalone but over the coming months I hope to explore the various dimensions of caste with subject matter experts, individual and leaders from the Dalit community and my broader network. In today's episode you will also hear voices from people across India and their personal views on caste. 👉🏾 What does caste mean to me? As someone who grew up in India, I have always been conscious about caste and it's insidious hold on our lives and how it permeates the very fabric of our society and being. With the advent of new technology, and 24x7 media - caste inequities and atrocities are more visible now than it was a decade ago. But, like most people caught up in the humdrum of life, I have never done anything about it - except to push back if it threatened to infringe upon parts of my life. 👉🏾 When I launched The Elephant in the Room podcast last year, it was with a view to mainstreaming conversations that are taboo, speak about people's lived experiences and give voice to issues that are important to building a fairer and more just society. As an advocate for equity & inclusion it would be downright hypocritical of me not to talk about the deep inequalities that exist in the society from where I come. So this is my opportunity now to learn about this behemoth that castes a dark shadow over our wonderful land.Vox Pop👉🏾 For most professional Indians their social identity is rooted in where they work, their designation, what they earn, what they own - which is linked to class. Once you have crossed that barrier there is a guessing game, about where they are from based on their surname. Indians are notoriously curious, aspirational and interested in other people's status and standing in society - this is usually to size up and see where they stand. And it is not considered rude or nosy to know about the history of a person who is perhaps standing in front of you in a queue within 10 mins. 👉🏾 When I was in school, people often thought I am from southern India because I was one too many shades dark to be a North Indian. After marriage I took my husbands surname - Singh - which is ubiquitous for northern India. People often ask me are you Punjabi/Sikh? And if I said no, they wanted to know where I was from then. My parents were born in the Rajput community but are not from Rajasthan. I felt a sense of shame admitting that my parents were from Bihar a state in Eastern India - being called a Bihari was like a slur - the associated stereotypes were - uneducated, backward, cannot speak English and of course, Bollywood has contributed to perpetuating that myth. Regional stereotypes abound in India. The other factor for me was that I felt I belonged to the state where I grew up, rather than where my parents came from - the values, the culture, the people - it all resonated with me. 👉🏾 So, what does it mean to be a Rajput, were there some norms, behaviours that one had to adopt because you were born a Rajput. Not in our household but that does not mean that those norms did not exist or do not exist. Being a Rajput accorded me numerous privileges at various touch points in my life - so much privilege that I did not realise that I was different. My first experience with exclusion was only when I moved to the UK, and became a minority and outsider. That experience deepened my empathy and understanding of exclusion and what it meant to be the other. 👉🏾 Isabel Wilkerson is the author of 'Caste: The lies that divide us' and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. And if you don't already know, she is the first woman of African American heritage to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism. On the Indian caste system she says and I quote:"A caste system endures because it is often justified as divine will, originating from a sacred text or the presumed laws of nature, reinforced throughout the culture and passed down through generations.""As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theatre, the flashlight cast down the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power: which groups have it and which do not. It is about resources: which caste is seen as worthy of them, and which are not; who gets to acquire and control them, and who does not. It is about respect, authority and assumptions of competence: who is accorded these, and who is not."And if you want to know more about Isabel Wilkerson there are links at the end of the shownotes. Vox Pop👉🏾 In India caste and religion are strongly intertwined - one is the lifeblood of the other, they feed off each other. There are many who would disagree, but this is not a question of our personal beliefs but of ground realities. I grew up in a household where there were no conversations about caste or religion. Religious occasions were treated as high points in the year for cultural and social interaction. Holi was about colours and abandon; Durga Pooja was about new clothes and Diwali was about food, clothes and extended families. 👉🏾 Like most middle class Indians of a certain age - my brothers and I went to a convent school. That they were run by catholic nuns did not matter and that we had to go to church and learn hymns did not matter either to my parents - as much as the fact that they taught in English and the standard of education was good as per the expectation at that point in time. A lot of the convent schools were subsidised by the government - so fees were low and they were encouraged to have students from economically disadvantaged background. The extent of co-mingling and friendships I cannot really comment on - but I was friends with most of my classmates and nobody at home was controlling or telling me to engage or not engage with certain groups. 👉🏾 I feel proud to say that India has the largest and most comprehensive affirmative action programme in the world. It is enshrined in Indian constitution. And the constitution written by a visionary and intellectual giant and Dalit, Dr B.R Ambedkar.👉🏾 And just to demystify the word Dalit. What or who is a Dalit? Dalits were the lowest in the caste hierarchy, the untouchables. Gangadhar Pantawane, a Dalit writer from Maharashtra defines Dalit as a notion of change and revolution. He says,"What is Dalit. To me, Dalit is not a caste. Dalit is a symbol of change and revolution. The Dalit believes in humanism." Dalitness is a matter of appreciating the potential of one's total being.👉🏾 Fundamental Rights are enshrined in the Indian constitution; including the right to equality, the right to freedom and the right against exploitation. In an attempt to correct historical injustices, the Indian constitution banned discrimination on the basis of caste. And in a world first introduced affirmative action announcing quotas in government jobs and educational institutions for people from scheduled castes, tribes and the lowest in caste hierarchy. This was a concerted effort to correct historical injustices and provide a level playing field to the traditionally disadvantaged. 👉🏾 Affirmative action has since expanded to include new categories and the Indian Supreme Court has capped reservations at 50 percent of total jobs and seats. In 2021 caste is a sensitive topic of discussion, the affirmative action programme is controversial as numbers of employable Indians grows and jobs become scarce. In a fiercely competitive education and job market - caste, especially the quota system is a potential flashpoint. Caste is the principle that drives electoral politics and like everywhere in the world politicians are not averse to pitting one community against the other as they fight for votes and quotas. 👉🏾 For an equity & inclusion practitioner I am fascinated with the depth and breadth of the Indian affirmative action programmes but also the learnings on how much angst it has created in communities who are not beneficiaries. For us to understand the success or failure it would be important to have a detailed caste census something that does not exist at this point in time. And for which major political parties have been clamouring in the last year. 👉🏾 Highly educated Indians are fiercely protective and proud of their caste and the social norms that come with it. Does it mean that they are all discriminatory? In India, caste is not just limited to Hindus, Muslims and Christians also have the caste system - something that is unheard of outside the country. People convert to escape the dogmas of one religion but in their new religion they continue to have a low status inherited from their past life. 👉🏾 Today, Caste is definitely, the big elephant in the room. It is not something the middle class or upper classes speak about or acknowledge. I have had fierce debates with perfectly decent human beings about caste and 7 out of 10 individuals in urban India will tell you - that corporate India believes in meritocracy (which in itself is deeply flawed); that the media is indulging in sensationalism on atrocities by attributing a caste dimension to the story.Vox Pop👉🏾 The immediate trigger for this episode was deeply personal and troubling experience. My 30 year old niece fell in love, which in itself is troublesome for her conservative mother, and to top it her beau comes from a working class background and from a caste perspective is low ranking. There are so many things that are wrong with this situation a) the lack of decision making power a 30 year old girl has in 2021 is not just disturbing but worrisome. b) The role of patriarchy in the decision making process. 👉🏾 They say art imitates life and this entire episode had the makings of a melodramatic Bollywood movie. The biggest concern in the family was, ' What would people say'? 'We are going to lose face?' 'What if it does not work out? Kudos to my niece for standing up to the family - but her strategy was more around wearing them out. When I consider my own girls and their ability to make their own decisions - I feel proud of them. Not because I have allowed them to do that - that is not a power I have to give. But, because I have inculcated in them the importance of treating everyone with respect for who they are and irrespective of where they were born or what caste or religion they belong to. We must be able to live the values we espouse and show our children and future generations that change is possible and that there are people in world who are taking the necessary steps to enable that change. 👉🏾 A Pew Research Center Report from June states that nearly all Indians today identify with a caste, regardless of their religion. The survey finds that three-in-ten Indians (30%) identify themselves as members of General Category castes, a broad grouping at the top of India’s caste system that includes numerous hierarchies and sub-hierarchies. The highest caste within the General Category is the Brahmin, historically the priests and other religious leaders who also served as educators. Just 4% of Indians today identify as Brahmin.👉🏾 According to the report most Indians do not feel there is a lot of caste discrimination in the country, and two-thirds of those who identify with Scheduled Castes and Tribes say there is not widespread discrimination against their respective groups. This feeling may reflect personal experience: 82% of Indians say they have not personally faced discrimination based on their caste in the year prior to taking the survey.👉🏾 Still, Indians conduct their social lives largely within the caste hierarchies. A majority of Indians say that their close friends are mostly members of their own caste, including roughly one-quarter (24%) who say all their close friends are from their caste. And most people say it is very important to stop both men and women in their community from marrying into other castes👉🏾 While not obviously visible in the metros, caste permeates all aspects of social life. And this complex hierarchy is based on a highly regressive book called the Manusmriti written a 1000 years before Christ was born. In rural communities caste hierarchies are more open and obvious - with lower castes living on the outskirts, not allowed to share water from well with upper castes and upper castes sanctioning intercaste marriage. 👉🏾 I have not read the Manusmirit neither has most of India. Hinduism where this caste system is embedded is not prescriptive on one seminal text to be followed to be a true Hindu - so it beggars belief why people would continue to drag this thing that does more harm than good into the future. According to me progress is when human beings adopt new and better ways of doing things and let go of the old. So why not for this antiquated social construct? Perhaps because it helps protect the power and privilege of a few.Vox Pop👉🏾 There is no one homogenous India, no linear thinking about what is right or wrong; often times it is opportunistic, cash your caste when it takes you forward. And by no means am I the only person of Indian origin who feels only horror at the continued marginalisation of poorest and most disadvantaged in the country. 👉🏾 I will end with a quote from Dr B R Ambedkar, "Caste is not a physical object like a wall of bricks or a line of barbed wire which prevents the Hindus from co-mingling and which has, therefore, to be pulled down. Caste is a notion; it is a state of the mind.” “The caste system does not demarcate racial division. The caste system is a social division of people of the same race.”👉🏾 Thank you for listening to today's episode and if there was anything you found interesting do drop me a line, I would love to hear from you and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast - The Elephant in the Room. And look forward to seeing you again next week. Follow Sudha on: Twitter:@Sudha1404 LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sudha-singh-424ba53The Elephant in the Room Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-elephant-in-the-room/id1540074396Website: www.thepurposeroom.orgImportant links: Pew Report: https://www.pewforum.org/2021/06/29/attitudes-about-caste/👉🏾https://thediplomat.com/2021/08/what-attempts-to-measure-indias-caste-system-get-wrong/Isabel Wilkerson: Caste: The lies that divide us👉🏾 https://www.npr.org/2020/08/04/898574852/its-more-than-racism-isabel-wilkerson-explains-america-s-caste-system👉🏾 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/28/untouchables-caste-system-us-race-martin-luther-king-india👉🏾...
44 minutes | Sep 17, 2021
43: Mantras for navigating workplace barriers with Romeo Effs, CEO Lumorus
ShownotesThe Elephant in the Room podcast is back this week with our guest Romeo Effs, Founder and CEO of Lumorus, a global consultancy focusing on addressing the disconnect, inequality and upheavals within society that stem from a lack of sustainable, forward-looking governance and leadership.In this episode we speak about his name (Romeo), journey from Jamaica, a fairly successful international corporate career..........Experiencing racism in the UKHis views on adapting like a chameleon (or Code-Switching) both as a survival tactic and as a strengthThe epiphany that prompted the setting up of LumorusWhy it is important to take an intersectional lens to address issues around equity and inclusionHe shares his mantras for men of colour navigating the barriers in society & the workplace. Role models and what drives him on this journey of changeWe also spoke about the concept of 'bringing your whole self to work' currently bandied about as the panacea to all ills. Success of the concept usually rests upon the idea of psychological safety within teams and organisations.To put a cat amongst the pigeons - should we not consider whether we really need to bring our whole self to work? Or only those parts that enable us to fulfil our potential and thrive? And what does that mean in reality. Romeo also believes that people of colour have been over-mentored, what they need now is sponsors - people who open the doors to roles, promotions, bonuses, prestige projects within the organisation.If you want to know more listen here 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾Memorable passages from the podcast:👉🏾 Right, So I'm Jamaican, I was born in Jamaica but I have mixed heritage. There is a mixture of Cuba, German and a mixture of yes, Irish, African going on. And so I spent most of my life growing up in Jamaica, my dad used to be an accountant. And my mom was an English literature teacher. So yeah, all my values and everything that I live by now was because of that childhood or growing up in Jamaica. Yeah.👉🏾 So you're right. I did move mid-career. I moved to the UK when I was 35 and it just happened by chance because I came to the UK to study, to do my masters and the intention was to return to Jamaica. I had my businesses there, I was very involved in politics. I was on a trajectory to be either a member of parliament or being appointed an ambassador or a senator and given a ministry My political mentor at the time became prime minister, which I worked with him on in terms of the campaign. When I came to the UK, I went to a really, really great university Cass Business School, it's now called Bayes. And while there, I was able to have a tremendous network of individuals from all over the world. People from Bangladesh, from India, from Greece, from Africa, from the UK. But, I was able to meet a lot of these amazing individuals who were just kind of exposing me to other stuff that was happening in the world. And I created this quantitative method called the xxxxxxxxx test, which while doing my master's, which is a quantitative method of analysing risk in supply chain, financial risk.👉🏾 And so while at the conference, my dissertation was sponsored by, I think the third-largest software manufacturing company in the UK called AG Barr PLC. So I moved to Scotland and lived there for about four months, doing this study this research on their supply chain and just being there and being able to see how they operated, being able to travel to their different locations across Europe and just seeing how things work.👉🏾 I quickly realised that in Jamaica, I was a big fish in a small pond, but in the UK, I had the ability of growing into a whale because it was like an ocean. And so I then started exploring the notion of staying in this country. And then after I did my dissertation, the company AG Bar PLC then hired me for a year. And so I ended up staying. And quickly after I was headhunted into Accenture which was also another massive eye-opener because I was able to travel, work with the likes of Marks and Spencers, DHL, Ericsson, Nokia.I was travelling, Africa, Europe, all across America and I learned a lot. And so for me, the whole notion was, why don't I just soak all of this up? Because when I got much older, I would be in a better position to contribute better to my country, Jamaica, if that's what I wanted, And to come back to your point in terms of what do I think attributed to that level of success that I've had here in the UK?👉🏾 I would say it was definitely my Jamaican origin and roots and the way I was brought up by my mother and my grandmother. Because when I came to the UK, people had to point out what racism was to me because I thought people were just being rude and I would just pretty much kind of tell them off. Because I grew up in a country where everyone looked like me, the prime minister, the doctor, the xxxxxxxx, everyone looked like me. So for me it was like, why someone treating me different? Why am I different from someone else? Why am I so-called quote-unquote, exotic? Why am I ethnic? What is ethnic? Right? I had to learn all of this. And it wasn't until then I started asking, what is this racism? And I had to be taught what racism was. But my mother/grandmother they instilled ethics, a sense of integrity, a sense of morality. A sense of believing in myself and a sense of spirituality. , which I think is the basis of who I am and it taught me the whole notion of, you are the only person that can set limits for yourself, right? You are in control of your life. You are the painter that painting that masterpiece. And so you have control, no one else has control in terms of where you go or what you achieve. 👉🏾 So that kind of drive was instilled in me that look, no one can set limits to you. And in Jamaica we have the saying, "down the road me a go". Meaning, I am heading in a certain direction. And when someone said "down the road, me a go" it simply means that if you're in my way, I'm going to either go over you, under you around you, whatever, but get out of my way, because that's the direction I'm heading in.👉🏾 In certain circumstances, it can either be a strength or a survival technique. And you're right. I wrote about this in my book 'Enthusiasm Unchained.' And the reason I say that is because I remember working in corporate, I was not able to be my 100% authentic self. And companies keep saying, oh, you should bring your hundred per cent at work. But to be honest with you, if I bring my hundred per cent Jamaicanness at work, that is not going to work right? People are going to look at you strange, they're going to report you. All of the stereotypes that they have about Jamaicans or people from ethnic background, is going to come up. So it is not true, that people from an ethnic background can bring our a hundred percent to work.We have to choose what we can bring into work. And what I found in the UK was that, yes I had to be a chameleon. When I'm home with my community, I behave in a certain way. When I leave to go to work, I behave in a certain way. When I was in corporate, they had this thing called dress down Friday. Dress down Friday was never applicable to me because, if I dress down, first and foremost, the minute I go and get on the tube, I'm being stereotyped right? Especially if I wore something like a hoodie or something, which I love, I love hoodies.. As a Black man, people just start looking at you strange right? White old women start clutching their purses and all of that because they just have this stereotype. So for me in corporate, it was a survival technique and this is what I say to a lot of ethnic minorities that I coach and mentor in corporate. If corporate UK is where you want to survive, if that's where you want to build a career and be successful, you have to understand that it's a game and you have to be able to learn how to play that game. And learning how to play that game is code-switching, which is another term, right? You have to learn how to fit in, how to build this executive presence, which is a term or a feeling which was developed by, white straight male, to be honest with you. And so you have to be able to understand what that is and be able to develop that in order for you to grow.👉🏾 So yes, for me, it was an advantage because I learned that quite quickly. And also a survival technique. But yeah, being a chameleon and being able to switch is very important. I'll share a story with you, in my early career, this was when I was in consulting. I got called by someone from HR and got a complaint that people believe that I was being aggressive in the office with my language. And I was like, what? And they're saying, sometimes you're nice and calm, but then sometimes you raise your voice and you start speaking in a language that no one understands. And I got to realise that what was happening was that sometimes I was at work and I would get a call from an elderly relative back in Jamaica. Now I know my great grand Uncle or my great grand Aunt, don't understand the Queen's English right? And in my culture, if you try and speak to them, as we would say, you're speaky spoke, are you trying speaky spokey with them by speaking the Queen's English, they see that as being disrespectful.👉🏾 So when I'm at work and they call me, I would go straight into my Jamaican dialect. And that was the issue, right? People thought I was being aggressive because I would switch right away and start speaking to my elder in my Jamaican dialect. And if you understand Jamaican, we can be very harsh in terms of the way how we pronounce our words. And then I had to start educating people around the whole notion that look, I can't call my elderly aunt or my elderly relative and start speaking the Queen's English because as far as they're concerned, I'm being disrespectful if I do that. Right. So that's how I have to be able to communicate with them. So those are some of the nuances that even though corporate UK wants to say, they want to be inclusive and they want diversity. They want diversity and inclusion on their terms, right? Not in the authentic true sense of what it needs to be. 👉🏾 When I work with corporates, I tell them, I'm like, look, you guys need to stop telling people to bring their a hundred percent to work, because that is impossible.If I was to bring my a hundred per cent, although I'm bald right now, I'd probably cornrow my hair or have it in locks. On my dress down days. Oh my God, like I would just turn up in some Jamaican outfit. I would bring my plantain, and rice peas and my jerk chicken in the office. So, it's not true for them to say that. And that goes for most people as well, actually. Unable to bring your a hundred percent to work.👉🏾 So Lumorus started when I left corporate in 2014. And so it didn't start as Lumorus, it started out as something else. So when I left corporate, I really wanted to do something that I felt could make a difference. Because while I was in corporate, I started a number of networks for people from an ethnic background to help them to kind of progress because in most of the organisations that I work in, the UK, I was the only person of colour or the only Black person at that level.👉🏾 And so I would seek out these other people from ethnic descent and I would coach them, I would mentor them. I would make sure that they have what they need. I would become their sponsors. I would be their voice in the room. And my last big corporate role was working for a company called Mitie Group PLC. And while I was at Mitie, I was their group director of supply chain and projects, Mitie is 85,000 people in the UK, there were about 3000 directors. I was the only Black director at the time. But of 85,000 people, 50% of them were from an ethnic background because, the company is one of the largest facilities management company, security firm, engineering, most of the people who work, you know this, are people from an ethnic background. So I designed a project to diversify the supply chain and started looking for suppliers from a diverse background. So woman-owned suppliers, ethnic owned suppliers, suppliers from an LGBT and disabled background. And I found it very hard to find them, and those who I found they didn't have the skills or the know-how in terms of dealing with a company of our size, because Mitie is listed company. And so I embarked on a one-year program in terms of training some of the suppliers in order for them to be able to do business with us.👉🏾 And over that year, we trained I would say about 200, 250 of the suppliers and we incorporated about 120 or so of them in the Mitie supply chain. And won a number of awards across Europe for this work in supply chain diversity. I spoke at the house of Lords. I helped to write policy documents, that number 10 used, in terms of supply chain diversity.When I left corporate, I wanted to kind of continue in that vein because I just had this inbuilt feeling that I needed to continue helping and using my knowledge and my skills to help people to gain the success that they need as well. Between 2014 and 2018, which is when the name Lumorus evolved. I did a number of things, one was when I left corporate I started a small private equity called Aspire group. And we were investing mainly in ethnic owned businesses. And I would bring my skills to these companies, help them to build their strategy, help them to get funding, help them to grow. Within 12 months I grew the business from 0 to 27 companies in the portfolio.👉🏾 And I did that for about two years and then I had, an epiphany, in 2015 I suffered a brain aneurysm. So I lost sight, I lost mobility, I couldn't speak, all of that. I remember being in that hospital and the doctors kept saying to me, Mr. Effs you're suffering a brain aneurism. And I remember quite clearly just lying there and just saying, I'm like, God, listen, this is not a request right now, this is a command anywhere you have those healing angels, I don't care where they are. You need to send them right now because I have shit to do. Right. 👉🏾 And I remember just lying in the hospital for eight weeks. I was in a room that had a window, but the window looked out on a wall. There was no television, no nothing. This was after I came out of intensive care and I just had a lot of time to think. And I remember, one night I was just there thinking, what is happening? Like, I lost my most prized job in 2013, my job title, like back when I was at my Mitie was the king of my being, it open doors for me right. And so after losing that job I got extremely depressed. Because I lost my mantel, I lost my crown. And I remember feeling the same way when I was going through this, with the aneurysm, because the aneurysm happened at a time when I just signed one of the biggest deals for the private equity firm to help distribute funding for a government program throughout the south of London.👉🏾 But Lumorus didn't evolve until about a year or two after that. So, I had all of these three different things going. I had the boardroom secretariat, I had the strategy consulting. I had empire builders, which was dealing with the ethnic business and ethnic minorities, et cetera. And I still felt as if there wasn't that connection and I wasn't on the right path. And that realisation also came after the brain aneurysm, because I was just thinking that, if I had died, what would my legacy be? What would they say at my funeral? What were the things that they would talk about? 👉🏾 And so we started out by writing the word legacy, framing it. And so the legacy then turned out to be this foundation, which I named after my mother and my grandmother called the IBRIE foundation. Which works a lot in developing countries, helping to develop the next leaders, using young people and especially focusing a lot on women initiatives. And then we said, how the hell do we fund that? And then that's where the business And so we kind of looked at the three entities that we were working on and we looked at the stuff that we were really good at and we pulled those out. And then we saw where they all fitted in the notion of governance, organisational health, and sustainable business practices. And so that's what we currently do at Lumorus. 👉🏾 So we say IBRIE foundation is changing the face of leadership, one individual at a time, and Lumorus is changing the face of leadership, one institution at a time. So we work with companies around to make them more purpose-driven. We believe that companies should operate in a way that is good for both people. And when I'm talking about people, I'm talking about their employer population. And, their customers, the community that they work in, planet, around the environment and also the wider community and the wider world, justice issues, et cetera. And to be profitable as well but to be profitable in a way that is sustainable. Not only for them, but for the business as a whole. 👉🏾 I strongly believe that we have an obligation for those of us who have kind of gone through some of the obstacles and paved the ways. We have an obligation to help those that are behind us right. We should leave trails so that people can understand and see, oh yes, okay this is how we kind of get there. I currently run a mentoring circle, which has about 30 people from around the world. I also do a youth shadow board where I have a group of young people that I take into the boardroom with me so that they can understand the whole notion of governance and how businesses work. Because, I strongly believe that boards are the custodians of the culture of an organisation. And the board sets the tone in how the organisation is governed and run and the impact that it has. And businesses are very powerful instruments in our society, right? They donate to political parties. They lobby to change policy. They have people that work in them that live in communities.So if you can impact the people within the organisation in terms of the way, how they think and the stuff that they believe and inspire them to do good and to change and transform, they will take those new kinds of thinking into the community and there's a snowball effect.👉🏾 Good question. `And especially on the back of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year. I had to seriously stop and reflect. Because, yes, Lumorus we do a lot of work in...
18 minutes | Sep 2, 2021
42: A conversation with Saleem Khan, British Asian Trust on responding to the pandemic in India
A conversation with Saleem Khan, British Asian Trust on responding to the pandemic in India: It is difficult to forget the harrowing stories/scenes of patients dying for lack of oxygen in India earlier this year, when it was ravaged by the pandemic. A BBC report called it 'A nightmare on repeat'. It was heartening however, to see governments and businesses the world over step up to support India during this terrible crisis. Amongst those responded swiftly was the British Asian Trust that raised over £5 million for its 'Oxygen for India Emergency Appeal' with over 20,000 people donating. My guest on the 42nd Episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast is Saleem Khan, India Director of the British Asian Trust (BAT). In this episode we spoke about 👉🏾 BAT's unique model of harnessing the diaspora for supporting the development work it does in South Asia👉🏾 BAT's $11 million Education Development Impact Bond. And how impact bonds are innovative financial instruments to raise funding for the social sector👉🏾 The continued funding squeeze on the social sector exacerbated by COVID and the role of innovation and collaboration in addressing the shortage👉🏾 The changing expectations of donors and how quickly they have adapted to be more flexible/accommodating allowing programs to pivot to address the COVID crisis👉🏾 Shifting focus of donors to end outcomes👉🏾 India Recovery fund with a focus on 1) Increasing vaccine uptake 2) Sustainable Livelihoods 3) Supporting children orphaned due to COVID including their mental wellbeingThe conversation was uplifting and energising because Saleem is a glass half full kind of person. If you want to know more listen here 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾Memorable passages from the episode👉🏾 Lovely to be here Sudha and thanks for having me. 👉🏾 It definitely was and you're right, I've spent more than a decade in Citibank and then close to seven years with a UK based private sector firm. And overall experience of more than two decades on the, private sector side.I remember that phase, it was about six years ago where, you hit that phase in life where in your career, you've come to a point where your learning's just plateau and you don't tend to enjoy what you're doing really. So I needed to look at doing something different. And I wanted to, I started evaluating sectors, which are growing sector, sectors that I can apply my skills aptly and sectors which require those kinds of skills. And that's where, I identified the social sector and frankly for me, unlike most, it was not just the motivation of doing social good. It was the mix of being able to apply my private sector skills into an area or a sector which would really benefit out of it. So this was about six years ago and then social sector was considered to be like a retirement option, something that you'd take up, when you hang your boots. And people would call it like a Jholawala job where👉🏾 In fact, when I took up this option that I had as well. I had people calling me and having serious conversations "what's wrong with you, what has happened?" Or some making jokes "Oh it seems like you've made a lot of money and then now you're just going to the world of social good". The sad part about the social sector is, one, at that point in time I thought there was some incredibly talented people, but there was a need for a lot of private sector talent, to come in and to work upon building that sector one. Two, it also was marred with this whole reputation that, in the social sector, you don't get paid at all. So you would take like huge salary cuts, will go into that job because you just want to give back to society, et cetera. And what I've seen changing over this last six years Sudha is a lot of that has really changed. One, there has been absolutely brilliant movement from the private sector to the development sector, after me I saw some amazing people who have joined the sector and people have come to realise that if you need good talent, you need to pay to get that talent. So a lot of that has also changed and that's leading in a lot more private sector talent coming into the development sector.👉🏾 My motivation was to start with a new sector applying skills into that sector, but right now, I think it's incredibly motivating to be doing social good, supporting your country really making sure that development is happening and I've been fortunate to work with some incredible organisation in the sector as well.👉🏾 So British Asian Trust actually was set up about 13 years ago by our founding patron, his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and members of the South Asian diaspora. And diaspora communities are people who have a South-Asian origin but currently do not reside in those countries. For example, Indians who are born in India who have an Indian origin, but do not currently live in India, but feel very very strongly about issues in India, want to come forward to support and to address this issue. So you're very right in saying that the British Asian Trust has actually done an incredible job of harnessing the support of the diaspora community. Our work is really talking for itself.And you are already aware that British Asian Trust with the South Asia focus is currently working primarily in four countries, which is India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Just by the design of the fabric of India, the vibrancy of the social sector here, a large part of our work has remained in India. But all that at the back of the incredible support that we enjoy from the diaspora. 👉🏾 Firstly, just to clarify impact bonds are not bonds that get listed or traded. They are a form of an innovative financial instruments, where investors come forward and provide flexible funding, which essentially acts like working capital to service providers to carry out interventions. Now, outcomes are pre-agreed and outcome targets are predetermined. There are outcomes funders are those who join the consortium and pay for the delivery of outcomes and they pay back the investors the working capital, with a fixed return on the delivery of the targets. 👉🏾 The key here however to note is, that the funding involved is flexible and it allows service providers to focus on their delivery of the required outcomes without really worrying about reporting, activities, inputs, et cetera. So B.A.T actually brought together a consortium of investors and funders, for this education impact bond, which incidentally is the world's largest education impact bond.👉🏾 It includes the Michael & Susan Dell foundation, Comic Relief, Mittals, BT and the investors here are UBS Optimus. It is an initiative which is bringing thousands of children from the communities in India, read and write better. And it's completed three years of the four years of the intervention and this included one year of the COVID challenge and is delivering excellent education outcomes. 👉🏾 So B.A.Ts endeavour is actually to test out, new and innovative finance instruments and put out evidence to create this market in India. And I'm talking ahead of time but, currently we're at the helm of launching a similar initiative on the skilling side, which is going to be with the government of Indias' National Skills Development Corporation(NSDC). It is timely right now because of the COVID impact and the issue of unemployment in India. This particular initiative is going to bring thousands of unemployed youth of India actually, back into jobs. Help them stay in jobs and there is going to be a deep gender focus on this. The focus is going to be on women and girls really. It's a very very exciting initiative where the government is coming in for the first time into an innovative instrument like this, there is international capital partnering along with local CSR capital. So we'll be making that announcement very soon and we're hugely excited about this solution. 👉🏾 That's absolutely true. Actually, a different kind of fundraising. And COVID, if at all has challenged the overall status quo. I mean traditional ways of fundings have been seriously challenged Sudha, right now. So it is time to innovate, it is time to partner, it's time to collaborate and come together and do large scale intervention. So that's what initiatives likes these are all about. 👉🏾 So you're very right Sudha, COVID has definitely hit us hard and basically the overall sector has been significantly impacted and more specifically grass root organisations, where the situation is not looking very good. But let's look at the positives that the situation has currently brought. Firstly, the sector has come together closer and that has resulted into such strong collaborations. And collaborations are not easy, to form as you will agree. But we saw so many collaborators taking shape, it's continued to do absolutely brilliant work by complimenting on each other's strength, that's one. 👉🏾 Secondly, innovation has come right to the centre of the table, traditional ways of funding, like I said earlier, like grants etc.... these have been seriously challenged and now innovative ways of fundings are being tested out. And most importantly, the government has been extremely forthcoming, right now. And as we saw in the last few months, forthcoming in having dialogues, they are wanting to see how they can partner with private capital to do longer-term impact work. And that is resulting into some brilliant public-private partnership, which is the best way for carrying out long term development work at scale and have also, with the government involved, you have answers for sustainability as well. So, all in all, I think it's worked out brilliant for the sector. The challenges have been there, but slowly I think we'll tide over to that and what we are left with at the road ahead is looking incredibly exciting. So I'd like to take a very positive lens to that Sudha. 👉🏾 On donors, let me be frank, we witness donors being super flexible and accommodative off the COVID situation Sudha. Being flexible and allowing programs to be pivoted to the current situation and also flexibility of the usage of funding, which is so required. Many examples of donors, taking a pause on the programs and supporting organisations to sustain and tide through this situation. One thing I must highlight here is that that has definitely been a shift in mindset of donors. And that shift in mindset is they are now more open to focusing on the end outcomes and not really worry about tracking activities, inputs which traditionally was happening. 👉🏾 So, for remaining relevant actually now to your other part of the question, organisations need to be able to make that shift as well. Shift of focusing on end outcomes and having flexible funding but also be comfortable with the fact that the funding will be applied only if the outcomes are delivered. So it's not an easy transition, for NGO's on the ground. In fact the British Asian Trust is actually currently driving a piece of work which working with on the ground NGOs to help them become outcomes ready as we call it. The initiative basically aims at building NGOs of the future who will be able to receive large scale multi-year funding with capacity and an understanding of delivering end outcomes really. So we are now currently testing this model out with a bunch of NGOs on the education side. But the whole idea is to really do this at scale and truly create NGOs of the future in India. 👉🏾 You're very right. Firstly we had an excellent 'Oxygen for India' emergency appeal. It brought together thousands of individual donors, included trust foundations, corporates to support India and tide through the emergency situation with a very tight focus on oxygen, which was the key issue at that point in time. And as the situation has now improved we've started focusing on the recovery phase, and have launched the India Recovery Fund, which focuses on three key areas. 👉🏾 Firstly increasing the vaccine uptake by building capacities of the government, so we have better reach to the rural and remote India, because the only long-term solution to this issue is vaccination, so there is a focus on vaccine uptake. Secondly, focusing on providing immediate and sustainable livelihoods to communities who've been severely impacted due to the current lockdown situation and huge loss of jobs, actually. And lastly, focus on children, children who've lost parents due to COVID and also focusing on the children of the communities, there are socio-emotional impact, focusing on their mental wellbeing, of our children. So these are the three areas of our focus. The support so far has been incredibly encouraging, and we hope that we continue to strengthen this intervention with more and more donors, including the diaspora coming forward to support this initiative as we take it forward.👉🏾 Wow. Sudha as I mentioned earlier, truly there's no better time than now to be a part of this brilliant sector. The feeling of waking up every day and continuing this journey of supporting the development of our country and that with brilliant colleagues of the British Asian Trust is incredibly motivating and energising for me every day. So yeah that really keeps me going. And it's just the motivation of the work that you do and the satisfaction that you take back before you sleep every day, is a great feeling. 👉🏾 Wonderful talking to you Sudha. Thank you very much.Follow Saleem Khan on: LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/saleem-khan-73387774/?originalSubdomain=inTwitter: @saleemkhan_73Follow British Asian Trust: https://www.britishasiantrust.org/Other important links: 👉🏾 https://www.britishasiantrust.org/support-us/bat-insights/oxygen-for-india-with-he-alex-ellis-nachiket-mor-dr-ajay-nair-saleem-khan-and-farzana-baduel/👉🏾 https://www.britishasiantrust.org/support-us/india-recovery-fund/👉🏾 https://www.dtnext.in/News/TopNews/2021/06/11195644/1300328/London-cycling-event-to-raise-funds-for-Covid-relief-.vpf👉🏾 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56909285
24 minutes | Aug 26, 2021
41: A conversation with Sumita Ghose, Founder Rangsutra on building a sustainable social enterprise
Shownotes: Sumita Ghose my guest on this episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast is the founder of Rangsutra - a social enterprise working with artisans in rural India. A Fulbright Scholar and the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship for Leadership, Ghose set up Rangsutra with a goal of bringing about socio-economic development and inclusive growth to rural India by engaging both the community and market. But, the venture almost didn't take off because a leading public sector bank refused to give her a loan since she did not have collateral. A determined Sumita raised the seed funding from a 1000 artisans who she had worked with in the past. Today, Rangsutra is co-owned by 2000 artisan shareholders along with Ghose, Social Venture Capital Fund Aavishkaar and Fab India's Artisans Microfinance. Sumita's ambition for Rangsutra is to be a global brand but also to show the world that there is a way of doing business, which is good for all. In India the partnership with FAB India and IKEA who have a similar value system has helped Rangsutra to grow from strength to strength. Listen to her Sumita speak about her journey. 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾"I swear by the waves of the sea and seashore, that we will change the warp and the weft of society. And this change can only happen if it begins with you. You have to be the change you want to see the world and the world will change accordingly". This song by Kamla Bhasin, developmental feminist activist and poet is the inspiration for these women artisans engaged in bettering their lives. Memorable Passages from the episode👉🏾 Thank you, Sudha for having me happy to be here. 👉🏾 So I grew up in Bombay and went to school and college there. And while growing up there, one of the good things that I experienced right from school was that there was the sense of you can do anything you want. Because there are so many opportunities, there are so many role models of people that you can emulate unlike a small place. So I was always interested in crafts, I learned from my mother to stitch clothes because being a Bengali every Pooja we used to get three sets of clothes, and my mother would stitch those clothes for me till I was about 15 years.👉🏾 But when it came to deciding about college I sort of chickened out from focusing on this and I decided to go in to study science. But in college a year of laboratories and chemicals just put me off totally and I switched to the humanities focusing on economics but I must say I wasn't clear about what to do even at college. And then after I finished my last paper in Economics, I came back home and I told my friend I just cannot study anymore.I need to work. Of course who's going to give work to an economics graduate I mean, there are millions of economics graduates. But a friend of mine came across a post for a sales person in a store called 'Artistic' and which made and sold the most beautiful products, mostly handcrafted products. And I applied there and I got a job and for two years, it gave me an idea of the amazing craft heritage that we have whether it's in woodcraft, metal craft, semiprecious stuff and Pichwais. There was a little workshop where some of these products were made, specially handbags. And I realised that the people who were making it were really not getting a good deal. They had the skills, but they obviously were living a hand to mouth existence. And of course, growing up in Bombay you know how it is Sudha you've lived in Bombay I think.👉🏾 As an adult you are very conscious of the inequalities in our society.So that stayed with me, of course, I didn't know what to do with it, but I was conscious of it. It was in college where I met my future husband, he wanted to do something, to bring about a change. And he opted for a subject called rural development, which was offered for the first time in Bombay University and there were only two students who took it. So through him, I got to know a little bit of the challenges that rural India faces. And then of course I finished working in Artistic. Then I said, I must do a Masters in Economics, and I really enjoyed the Masters in Economics.👉🏾 And at that time Sanjoy he was studying at the Institute of management in Anand and after that we decided to get married, and I must say that 70% of what attracted me to him was his unusual choice of career or profession. So, that started a new phase of my life. 👉🏾 So as I said, I embarked on another journey and went and lived in Rural Rajasthan for 10 years. And it was another country. And while there it was very clear that the position of women, the status of women was very poor, there was a lack of opportunity that women and girls and boys also had in terms of education and health. But they have this amazing craft skills and also knowledge of traditional agriculture, organic agriculture. So that always stayed in my head as a part of something to focus on and to bring to the world. Normally people see rural Indians as backward and they need to be developed and they need to be empowered, but there's something that they could also give to us. So this stayed in my mind 👉🏾 And then I left Rajasthan. Sanjoy and I both went to work in Assam, where we had a very bad experience and basically it was, we got into confrontation with the ULFA and they abducted Sanjoy and we had to leave the place, me and my children and my other colleagues. And it was obviously a turning point and it made me question a lot of things because it made me question. The model of rural development that we are following, is that the way out or do we need to do something which is a little bit more owned by the people? You know, where we look at people, not as beneficiaries of our projects, but whatever we want to do, we do it in a way, which is co-owned and where there is active participation and ownership.👉🏾 So after this terrible period in my life, I got a chance to go to the United States on a Fulbright fellowship, doing a Master's in conflict transformation. And it was a time which really gave me an opportunity to step back. I was going back to college after like 20 years almost, I was just about 40 then and that was a great time and I was actually writing a paper on for this master's degree 'on organisations needed for the 21st century with a focus keeping conflict at the back in perspective. So one of the conflicts I decided to focus on was really the growing inequalities amongst Indians, specially in the light of opening up of our economy after 1991. People like me, us, who have had education, have had so many opportunities open to us because of globalisation.👉🏾 But the people I had worked with in rural India were struggling just to stay in that place. So I felt that this was a potential for a source of conflict and what can we do? And so that's when I thought of the idea of Rangsutra, the name hadn't come to my mind, but I thought of it as a space. A platform, if you call it or a space, in which we can get people from different parts of the spectrum - like I chose craft, so people who make the craft, people who design them, people who sell them, the retailers. Why don't we get them all together and create a space where each one can see the importance of the other, understand each other and use this space to create an organisation, not just to sell products, but also to ensure sustainable livelihoods for rural artisans.👉🏾 Yeah, so setting up Rangsutra, we registered a company, by we I mean the artisans had worked with before and some team members, because we decided that it has to be for profit. So we registered a company, but that's easier said than done after registering a company, we couldn't really raise the funds to run it. Because we didn't have a three-year balance sheet, none of us had collateral. So what I did was go back to all the artisans I had worked with in my life in Rajasthan, asked them if they were willing to chip in money and I was very concerned that they would say no. But, they actually bought the idea and a thousand of them put in a thousand rupees each. 80% of them were women, that's 800. And we got 10 Lakhs, which was our first equity. So, I would say real ownership of all the stakeholders is something which is the bedrock of our model. With that kind of a mindset then each one of us will do our best, whether it's the designer creating the product, whether it's the artisan doing the embroidery because she knows if she doesn't do it well, it will not sell. So, that's one main thing the ownership. 👉🏾 The second thing that I would say is very important is that, earlier, all these artisans were working from home. Home-based workers for various reasons, it's simpler for women especially to work from home, there were no public spaces in villages in which they could call an office. But, we decided after a while, and this was when we had started our partnership with IKEA actually, that we should get them to come to centres and work together so that they can learn and grow together. At Rangsutra we believe in co-ownership, co-creation, we create the new designs with our designers and artisans work together of course, with the market mind. We get the orders, we buy the raw materials so that the quality of the raw materials is good. We help the production planning. Each village has someone called a craft manager, who we've trained and she knows the craft, but she also shows leadership quality and so she sort of supervisors the rest and we take the product right up to market. 👉🏾 So actually, I knew FabIndia and the owner of Fabindia, William Bissell, right from my Rajasthan days, when we helped Fabindia to set up a school for their artisans in another project of Rajasthan. And then subsequently because we were working with weavers , we had some experience of supplying to Fabindia but it was very shaky, I mean we'd get one order for the next two years. So when we started Rangsutra, William Bissell was one of the people that I was talking with right from the beginning. And not only are they our retail partner, they have also invested in the company so that we can have the resources we need to grow.👉🏾 And with Fabindia again it's a partnership. It's not just a transaction of a supplier/vendor. But it's a partnership where we have learned a lot from things like standardisation of products, we learned about running a business actually. How do we ensure that we have enough raw material, enough inventory, not too much, not too little and the basics of making a profit and loss statement every month, how to run a successful enterprise at a village level, district level.👉🏾 So the IKEA partnership came about six years after we started Rangsutra, Where I was a little restless, I have this tendency to be restless every five years. So I was a little restless that, you know, what else is there? Because we can't just be making shirts and kurtas. So in that search I came across a project which was funded by the IKEA Foundation, on women's economic empowerment in Eastern UP. And it was in Varanasi, a city which I had never been to but had heard a lot. It's supposedly the oldest living city in the world. And so I was drawn to Varanasi, I went there, we got the project and that's how we started. And it was the development project, in the sense that we actually helped train the women to learn the craft, to manage their work and then when the project got over after two years, I told my IKEA colleagues that, look you can't let us go now, you're the biggest retailer in the world, give us a chance. And, I must say they were very open to it, and they started a new project, it was a project then now it's part of mainstream business. It was to work with what they call next-generation social entrepreneurs. So business not just for profit but for empowerment of the people who are engaged in it.👉🏾 And that partnership again has taught us so much, we couldn't believe that from a small place like Mirzapur or Gyanpur in Eastern UP, that you could make products to sell globally. And that gave us a lot of confidence, IKEA has been amazing. They have helped us, literally the ABC of export business and making textiles for the world, we learned from them. And touch wood the partnership grows from strength to strength. 👉🏾 Yeah, so, it's a group of women who are singing this song which says that "I swear by the waves of the sea, that we will change the warp and the weft of society. And this change can only happen if it begins with you. You have to be the change you want to see the world and the world will change accordingly". It's a song actually written by lady called Kamla Bhasin, she is someone I've learned so much from and Jagori. In my early days I went to workshops there and we learnt the song there.👉🏾 You're absolutely right, It is a risk being so dependent on two large buyers. So what we have done is we have started diversification and from next month, actually, we'll be working in a bamboo cluster in Jharkhand. So you know natural fibres is the next vertical we get on to.👉🏾 And definitely looking for other global buyers who have the similar kind of orientation, like Fabindia and IKEA have in the sense that it's not just about the product, but also the people who make the product. And so we are trying hard to forge these new partnerships, so if anyone is listening to the podcast that is interested in partnering with us, please do so. We are very keen to partner with other global retailers. 👉🏾 Yes, it actually has been very sad and you know at Rangsutra again, we are fortunate to have good partners who did not cancel orders, who also gave us relief for the artisans and chipped up with whatever little we had. The government, I think they just were not prepared and didn't know what to do. I think they have tried in their own ways - giving orders to small self-help groups of women to make masks for example, because everybody needs masks. But, I think in terms of a longer strategy, I don't think very much has been done. But what is good is that there are many organisations which have got together and are helping artisans in different ways by selling their products on their platforms or online platforms, by helping them to digitally photograph the products, helping them with marketing them. So I think it's been more of the community of craft organisations, which have supported the artisans.👉🏾 It's sad actually, it's really sad that they were abolished. Maybe they needed a change, they needed to be transformed in the way that they were operating, but definitely one needs a body to support the artisans because otherwise, they're so cut off from everything, not just financial resources, but market knowledge information. So definitely it's sad that they had to stop that. Hopefully, there'll be something new in place, I know that artisans themselves are trying to get together and we're all trying to get together to form our own body, but let's see how that goes. 👉🏾 So right in the beginning, it was quite tough because when the first lockdown happened, they didn't have access to basic stuff, like ration that they needed to buy. It was difficult they hadn't stocked up so much and the far-flung villages were cut off. The only good thing is in most of these villages, they grow their essentials, including vegetables and of course grains but it was very difficult. But one thing I can say is that compared to the workers who are working in factories in the big cities, who had nothing left and who had to walk back to their homes. Our artisans, because they were based in their homes and they had other things to fall back on. Like for example farming or cattle you know some of them have cattle, so milk. So they have these other things to fall back on, so that's the beauty of rural economy that not everyone is dependent on just one occupation. 👉🏾 Most important thing is that I would sum it up in a line where one of our guiding values, respect for the customer, respect for the producer and respect for each other. By respect for the producer what is non-negotiable is that they have to be paid a fair wage, they need to be skilled we need to provide that opportunity because they've not had opportunities before. Respect for the customer for us, it means that if you have promised a certain quality and a certain delivery time, you have to stick by it. So that's important and of course, respect for each other. So this is like, non-negotiable. Inclusiveness, that we try and include the most marginalised. So most of the artisans we work with, traditionally come from what is called, scheduled caste or you know, backward caste. And they're in such a situation because they've not really had the opportunity to skill themselves. We work hard to ensure that they get the necessary skills and resources to grow. So that commitment to artisans, the compassion, is a non-negotiable.👉🏾 So the dream is to build it into a global brand, and the brand that stands not just for beautiful handcrafted products, because yes Indian crafts are known for that.But to show that there is a way of doing business, in which one can be profitable, sustainable, thriving. At the same time, ensure that the artisans, the ones who make the products they benefit equally, if not more. That all profits are shared with them and thirdly, most important is that through our work we do not harm the environment. And in that sense working with handcrafts is very low energy, we don't use much electricity in our weaving, no electricity in fact. And what we have tried to do is now whenever we do need in some cases power, we are tapping into solar power. So yes, to show the world that there is a way of doing business, which is good for all.Follow Rangsutra and Smita Ghosh on: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sumita-ghose-5567795/?originalSubdomain=inTwitter: @RangsutraWebsite: https://rangsutra.com/about/Other important linkshttps://www.indiawest.com/news/india/empowering-village-women-an-ikea-initiative-partners-with-rangsutra-to-create-sustainable-livelihoods/article_f163e650-baac-11e7-b5b5-8b97cc08683a.html
20 minutes | Aug 19, 2021
40: 'I Lead' survey, the state of women in communications in India: A conversation with Kavita Lakhani
The Elephant in the podcast is now 40 episodes old/young, I am not fussed💃🏽💃🏽💃🏽For the 40th episode I had a quick catch up with Kavita Lakhani, about the first edition of the 'I Lead' survey by WICCI PR & Digital Marketing Council & IIM Kozhikode. The survey which had over a 1000 respondents from across India, looks at the barriers women face as they move up the career ladder; progress made so far and also makes recommendations on frameworks for helping women succeed. What the 'I Lead' survey does is capture data that can be used as a foundation to design interventions at the industry level or organisational level to help women progress Kavita and I spoke about the good, the bad and the ugly from the 'I Lead' survey 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾👉🏾 The dismal representation of women at leadership/C-Suite level👉🏾 Equal Pay👉🏾 What women want? 👉🏾 The need for a defined career path and mentoring 👉🏾 The challenges at the policy level, skill set level and mindset that are holding women back👉🏾 Recommendations on upskilling, mentoring and network If you want to know more, listen here Memorable passages from the episode👉🏾 Thank you Sudha for having me back. The last conversation was a fun one, and I'm hoping that this one will be. We have a lot more to discuss today.👉🏾 One of the things that I wanted to say before I get into this survey, that no chamber of commerce & industry in India today has the representation of the communications industry.And when I started this role at WICCI. That was the first ask if I was going to come on board in the Women's Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WICCI), I'm going to start a communications council and that's where the journey started last year. And one of the other things that I also understood was that there was no documented study of Women in leadership roles or Women in communications and their journeys that was carried out by academic think tank or institution. And that's where I reached out to the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode. They've been at the forefront of gender diversity initiatives and I felt that they would be a wonderful partner because they have been championing gender diversity for several years now.However, they had not focused so far on the communications industry and that's what we asked them to focus on. The respondents for this particular survey, were not limited to either public relations or corporate communications. It went far deeper, because there is no such study that actually covers all the communications disciplines including advertising, journalism, corporate affairs, content, media. And we wanted this to be a comprehensive survey, this is almost like a benchmark for the industry as well. 👉🏾I think a lot of work has gone in, in the last couple of years, and companies have kind of really moved towards ensuring better gender diversity. For example a good number of participants, nearly two-thirds of the respondents of this survey, they said that male and female employees are evaluated on equal parameters. And that I think is a big, big win. The other thing that they mentioned is that 67%, which is once again, nearly two-thirds of the respondents believe that their organisations value and nurture ambitious women. And typically ambition and women are not words which go well together. So I think this was a very interesting point that came through in the survey. 👉🏾 Also, another very heartening fact was that more than half of the respondents stated that women are being provided upskilling opportunities. And I think this is more relevant now because with COVID and with all the things that are happening around us, with the technology changes that are happening in the external environment, upskilling is an absolute must-have. It's not an optional thing any longer, so I'm glad that the respondents felt that women are being provided upskilling opportunities which which we have said clearly, there is an intent to have more women in the workforce. 👉🏾Also, there has been a lot of movement towards ensuring that organisations are perceived as safe places to work. So nearly 75% women agreed that their organisations are really working towards encouraging them to speak up against workplace discrimination or harassment and towards ensuring that there's a safe and inclusive culture. And I think these are very, very positive statistics for India. It clearly indicates that companies are taking DE & I very, very seriously. So I personally felt that these are good, good statistics. 👉🏾 So, you know when we started out the survey, one of the things that we said is that, in the communications industry, you see a lot more women than you would see in any other profession.👉🏾 So you see nearly 64% of our workforce at least at the entry level, it's 50% women that enter, but as you go forward, as you go higher up the ladder in the communication industry, It kind of falls to 34%, which is not too bad, because if you look at the national average you see that at a dismal 14%. So 34% in the communications industry is actually good. It's not a bad ratio. Though it could be better, it could be a 50/50, but 34 is not bad. But I think the real problem lies as you go higher up towards leadership levels. So you have a mere 3% at the top leadership levels, and that's where the problem is. 👉🏾 So essentially, the downside, that the survey really kind of spotlighted for us was that while 66% of the respondents, agreed to the existence of gender diversity. So there is, there's a gender diverse culture. But 61% felt that equal number of men and women are not in leadership roles. And this is not a very good statistic right now, this is something that we have to move up and tackle. It's in fact, ensuring that more women don't drop off their careers at mid-management level. So that's a challenge that we have to resolve. 👉🏾 The other thing that the survey brought out was that less than half the women around 42% believe that equal pay for equal work is not practised. And that I think was a scary statistic, I would say, while opportunities and all are there, but they're not getting paid. Women are not getting paid and this seems to be kind of reflecting what's happening worldwide. So we were not surprised when we were hearing this, we were hoping it would be better. But worldwide, you hear about this all the time and what we were surprised to hear was that it's happening in the communications industry as well. So this came as a bit of a surprise for us. 👉🏾 Also a good 53% respondents felt that organisations don't have a clear career growth path for women, once they kind of take a break or they go on a sabbatical or they take a maternity. There is no policy or there is no clarity in terms of where are they going to go? How are they going to be upskilled? How are they going to be, taken towards leadership and that is another area that organisations need to work on. One more absolutely overwhelming statistic was that 79% women feel that their organisation considers home investments, so, you know, if you've taken a break for senior care or childcare, that's considered as a gap when you are being assessed for promotion. Or you're going to be possibly assigned a critical job or a hot job, like they say, so you might not be considered at all for it. And like 79% women feeling like that or believing that that's the case in their workplace, that is something which really kind of was shocking for us actually. 👉🏾 I think there are some very simple things that we felt, clearly the gaps are there existing, the gaps that have been identified are at three levels. One is at the policy level, the second one at the skillset level and the third one is at the mindset level. And what we did was we actually put together a framework. And we said that when it comes to organisational policies, I think it's very important that organisations now walk the talk. So DE & I should not be a point that is kind of thought through by the HR teams. It has to be a culture through the organisation. It cannot be a day for celebration on International Women's day. So it's something that has to be really carried down through the DNA of our organisation, and in the sense that whatever policies that are being created, they have to really be designed to support women and they need to be the foundation of the workplace, which is committing itself to diversity.👉🏾 So for example, we talked about women coming back after the maternity break or a sabbatical. What is the policy to ensure that they are kind of upskilled or given a career growth path, which will take them towards leadership, which will retain them within the organisation. So is there any thinking around it?👉🏾 So that's very, very important. I don't think there are enough companies doing that at all right now, that's an area that they need to focus on. Another area, which is really to take care of the gap, relate to skillsets. Once again, women who are returning after maternity or a career break, they need to be upskilled. There are also some challenges in terms of technology, understanding of technology or barriers adapting to technology. I think these are areas where really organisations can play a huge role in terms of upskilling or training women. Also, mentoring is a very, very important part of everything that organisations can do. I don't know of too many organisations in the communications industry that have a formal mentoring program. In fact, there are a handful and that's one area which is easy to plug because if you have a role model who is a woman or a man, you basically have a mentor who is looking out for you and guiding or helping you navigate towards your leadership journey. So that's an area that organisations can focus on. And the third one is really, about support systems, ensuring that you have networking groups, and areas where you can talk without being judged essentially. And this is to ensure that, you're getting conversations around any pain points for an aspiring woman leader to help her navigate her career better. So I think these are very simple areas, simple interventions, but I would say they're very meaningful and they'll go a long way.👉🏾 I just feel that number one COVID has had a disproportionate impact on women, women in general, whether they in communications or in any profession. And unpaid care work continues to be a women's responsibility with women spending on an average five hours per day on domestic work, versus 30 minutes on an average spent by men. And these are not my statistics, this is not my experience. This has come from the Centre for monitoring Indian economy, which is fairly reputed and I think we can trust the data there. But I think what makes me feel really good is the fact that I see a lot of change, during COVID.👉🏾 And I think once again I see it in mindsets big time. So women are very, very vocal now about their aspirations to be in leadership positions and I've seen that sea change happening. In spite of all the kind of extra work, domestic work, that's been kind of loaded in their lives during COVID still I think their aspirations haven't died. And I think that's where the opportunity lies. 👉🏾 Also I think they've been able to get a lot more inspiration from the conversations that are happening across the industry, across organisations. So what I'm sensing is that, they're actively looking out for now opportunities to navigate their careers better. They're looking for mentoring opportunities, they're looking for upskilling opportunities, and for networking forums. And earlier on before COVID, I think it was a bit of a hurdle because you needed to physically be at work, and then you had home responsibilities.👉🏾 Now I think you can do a bit of networking online. You can do a lot of upskilling online and mentoring too. In a sense, some women have really turned COVID into an opportunity for themselves and I think that is a big, interesting change that I've seen in the last year. 👉🏾 On a different level, I think also a lot of organisations I've seen are recognising the benefits of having equal representation of genders and they are working towards it. So, in a sense they are trying their level best to provide opportunities to women, to up skill and all of that. So there's a push from the women and the push from the organisations and I think that is really making that difference happen. 👉🏾 Also a lot of conversation within the industry circles, a lot of appreciation and applauding and recognition of organisations that are really working on a DE & I initiatives. There's a lot of discussion around best practices. And I think all in all, I can only see this becoming better. I think we are all better for it and I can only see that we are going to kind of keep bettering our statistics. I'm hoping by the time we do the second edition, we don't have any downsides I'm really being optimistic there, but yeah, this is what I'd like to see, I think there will be change and we are already on the path. 👉🏾 Yeah, sure. I just like to say that, when we started out this year there were three key initiatives that we wanted to focus on.👉🏾 The first one was the I Lead survey, the second one was all about upskilling programs and we've started on that as well, to really focus on personal branding and how can you make a difference in the industry by training yourself and, really working on your own self, you know, upskilling your self. And the third one was that how can you really get a mentor to help you navigate your career? Should you be having that mentor? Do you need any guidance there? And there was a very strong, I would say response, even in our survey in the I Lead survey, saying that women at the mid-management the aspiring women leaders, are essentially losing out because they don't really have either the motivation, the role models or the right kind of guidance. And we felt that through the mentoring program, we'd be able to really address that gap that exists today. And, that's where the idea of actually starting a program for women in the communications industry. 👉🏾 And it's my pleasure Sudha to partner with your company as well as Mentoring Matters, which is an India based company, to really bring this program for our mentees in India, the women leaders who are really looking to go to the next level. It's going to be a program which will really focus on women who are at the age group with work experience of eight to fifteen years. And focus on very specific areas, building their soft skills as well as functional skills. We are hoping to start out around mid-September. In fact, we are going to be calling for mentees to self nominate and they will be going through a stringent selection process before they make it to the final 15 or 20 who will be selected for the program. So we are hoping to make some really meaningful change for the industry through this program. 👉🏾 Thank you so much Sudha it's always a pleasure being with you.Follow Kavita Lakhani on: LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kavita-lakhani-8660611/Twitter: @kavitalakhaniLinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/wicci-public-relations-digital-marketing-council/Twitter: @WICCIPRDigitalOther important links👉🏾 https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/wicci-iim-kozhikode-launch-i-lead-survey-for-women-professionals/article33973616.ece👉🏾 https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/survey-finds-roadblocks-to-women-in-communications-industry/article35573983.ece👉🏾 https://www.campaignindia.in/article/biases-prevent-women-from-leading-professionally-wicci-survey/471415👉🏾 https://www.mediawire.in/blog/trending-content/what-women-want-equal-pay-formal-succession-plan-and-mentoring-for-leadership-roles-83260948.html👉🏾 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/42-women-in-communications-say-equal-pay-for-equal-work-not-practiced/articleshow/84796865.cms?fbclid=IwAR0Wu_-F0nYMJ4Qqo1NmvW54v37wbxB3BBA971G_o-TyotBlZoCYFIMRKkI
25 minutes | Aug 13, 2021
39: India's first 'Annual Adivasi Development Indices' Report a conversation with Dibyendu Chaudhuri
Shownotes: Indigenous people make up 8.6% of the Indian population i.e. a staggering 104 million people (give or take) but they continue to live on the fringes of society and development. In terms of scale only 13 countries in the world have a population over 100 million. In India, they are known as Adivasis (or the earliest inhabitants of the continent), they are not a part of caste society. Their world view is of a non-hierarchical relationship with nature and people. A worldview considered backward by majority, modern industrial society worldview.Non-Adivasi Indians have very little or no idea about this non-homogenous group of people and have very little interface with Adivasis or their way of life. India has several laws and constitutional provisions that recognise the rights of indigenous peoples to land and self-government. The Indian Constitution also provides for positive discrimination in employment, higher education and political representation in the Indian parliament and state assemblies. However, these positive discrimination efforts do not seem to have worked. The HDI, human development index of Adivasis in India is 30% lower than the national HDI. Adivasi leaders, activists and academics believe this is because it does not recognise them as different and does not allow them to define and design their own development agenda. From a measurement point of view there is a shocking absence of systematic effort to periodically track the impact of various development programmes. So, on 9th August which is the 'International Day of World's Indigenous Peoples' PRADAN announced India's first every 'Annual Adivasi Development Indices Report' or (AADI). Listen to my conversation with Dibyendu Chaudhuri from PRADAN to learn more about this brilliant initiative. The photo is of Jacinta Kerketta, poet, writer and freelance journalist and Gunjal Ikir Munda an assistant Professor, folk musician and folklorist talking about the Adivasi worldview and celebrating the language and culture. Memorable Passages from the conversation: 👉🏾 Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to talk about the indigenous people, their ideas, philosophy, and their issues. Thank you so much. 👉🏾 So what I know I can tell you. World wide indigenous people have their own diverse languages, cultures, rituals and world views. World views means their way of living, their philosophy, their relationship with nature, their relationship with their own neighbours, the way they structure their society, their livelihoods, their knowledge system, or even their language. All these are shaped by this philosophy which you may call tribal worldview, the indigenous peoples’ worldview. Now, what is common among all these indigenous people worldwide is that all of them faced the same challenge throughout history and that challenge is the attack they faced from another worldview, the so-called modern worldview, which is based on you know, hierarchy, personal progress, exploitation of nature.👉🏾 Now this worldview dominates the indigenous people's worldview. The worldview of indigenous people is considered backward by this modern worldview. In fact, all of us, you, me, probably all of us, are subscriber to this modern worldview. So as a result, the indigenous people have been asked to follow the same path that the industrial society, the modern society has followed. So in this clash of world views, indigenous people started losing their culture, their way of living. However, they never could fully be part of the modern society, nor the modern society could provide them everything that would have been required for them to be able to grab the opportunity available in the modern society.👉🏾 Now let us come back to India. In India, people who were originally not part of the caste society and actually remained away from them are considered indigenous people. In Hindi we call them Adivasis, they also want to be known as Adivasis. They have a worldview different from the non-Adivasis.👉🏾 This world view is also of a non-hierarchical relationship with nature and people. They believe in togetherness and for them, community wellbeing is considered more important than the individual progress. They think that they are part of nature. They take things from nature in a way that does not hinder the process of natural rejuvenation, because of their association with nature, they have developed a knowledge system that is more social. Social in a sense that it belongs to the community. So though there have been many clashes with the caste society and monarchy in India, even 2000 years ago, there is no evidence that the caste society people used to think of Adivasis as backward or inferior. They were considered different, but not backward.👉🏾 For example, you may know Kautiliya was an Indian political economist, he wrote a book called Arthashastra. So there he mentioned how to defeat the gansanghas. Gansangham can be translated as democratic states run by the tribal assemblies. As they were threats to monarchy, but there is no mention that they were backward. Calling them as backward happened during the colonial period. When British colonisers came, they started using the term tribe and the sense of backwardness was imposed.👉🏾 That was where this group of people with a different worldview and culture became known as backwards. So tribal means backward. The same pattern continued even after independence, the mainstream people continued to think of them as backward and could not recognise that there can be multiple world views. Apart from that, the Adivasis of central Indian plateau since the colonial period and after the independence also have been displaced and dispossessed for development projects, such as large dams, construction, or establishing a mining projects or mineral factories. So on this 'International Day of World's Indigenous Peoples', which was yesterday, the world recognises that there can be multiple world views, multiple ways of living. And this multiplicity is recognised on that day. 👉🏾 I can talk about the purpose. Since independence many programs and schemes have been launched by government of India and even non-government agencies to improve the situation of the Adivasi people. The government of India in its fifth five-year plan came up with the provision of something called tribal sub-plan. Which is basically an allocation made by the central government development of scheduled tribe people in the state. Scheduled tribe people are the Adivasis. So mostly these terms in India are used interchangeably. There are other state and central schemes as well so there are other poverty elevation schemes as well, Like the Employment Guarantee Act, you know about NREGA, Right To Food Act, Right To Education Act. All these are not targeted towards only the Adivasis, they also safeguard the interest of the tribal people the Adivasi people. 👉🏾 However, the situation of people in central Indian plateau is not changing. This is still one of the most poverty-stricken pocket in India. The income gap in India is generally attributed to the very low per capita income residing in this area. And if you think about other parameters, such as life expectancy at birth, literacy rate, infant mortality rate, these areas shows worse results in comparison with national figures. Further, within the central Indian plateau, Adivasis are most marginalised. If you compare Adivasis with non-Adivasis, even within the central Indian plateau. The HDI, human development index of tribes in India is 30% lower than the national HDI, of India. 👉🏾 What are livelihood outcomes, income, food security, dietary diversity, what kind of food you eat, whether you get to get all kinds of foods. The other parameters are also very, very poor. However, there is a lack of systematic effort to periodically track those livelihood outcomes. 👉🏾 Annual, Adivasis Development Indices Report is supposed to show the policymakers in a periodic manner, what is happening to the livelihood of Adivasis, so that changes if needed, can be done in approach and allocation of resources. This will help that administration and policymakers to design and implement schemes and programs based on ground realities. We had a wish to include the entire central India in this study. However, for resource constraints, this year, we will start with two states. We have already started with two states, Odisha and Jharkhand. 👉🏾 Secondly, it will create a database that can be used to compare the situation of Adivasis of central India with the rest of the population in India. In terms of their resource base, livelihood sources, income, food adequacy, nutrition, health situation indebtedness, all these things. And thirdly, it will also help general citizen of India to know about Adivasis and their current status. or livelihoods canvas. 👉🏾 There are some reports, but they are scattered. Like it was done once upon a time, but then there was no continuous effort. So the specialty of AADI is, it will be an annual report. There will be a periodicity to this report. So you'll be able to see if there is any change or the things are static. 👉🏾 So let me start with the conceptual framework of the study. There are six aspects that have been studied in order to make an assessment of the status of livelihood. So first one is the cultural ethos. I was talking about the worldview. So this worldview reflects in culture, in which livelihoods are practised. So the cultural ethos of our community influences the thinking of members in relation to their own life goals in relation, to their interaction with resources and also with each other. So that is very, very important. The first one is cultural ethos, in which the livelihoods are practised. Second one is the resource base within which the livelihoods are practiced. Like the natural resources such as land, forest, water. The quality of those resources, access to and control over those resources. So those are very, very important. So this is the second thing. The third thing is external intervention to improve those resources. Like external intervention by government, external intervention by maybe agencies. One more fundamental part is the attribute of the households themselves, like their skill level, their knowledge level, their health, their education.👉🏾 So this is the attributes of the households. Based on cultural ethos, resource base, external intervention and attributes of the households, any household does some kind of a livelihood activities. So then we will have specific activities practised in livelihoods.👉🏾 And the last point is based on all of these five things, you get livelihood outcomes, and those livelihood outcomes are in terms of food security, dietary diversity, income, also health, also education. So this is the entire framework. We obtained information on cultural ethos of the communities as well as on certain dimensions of the resource base and external interventions from intellectuals who belong to Adivasi societies, from activists, from our donors, societies and academia through interviews. 👉🏾 We talked to Dr Virginius Xaxa who is a very, very eminent personality in India, as far as tribal studies are concerned. We talked to James Herenj who is an activist. We talked to Dayamani Barla who is an activist who is also famous for a movement called Koel Karo movement. And we talked to Dr. Bipin Jojo. We talked to Gunjal Munda, we talked to Jacinta. So a lot of prominent people. And then information concerning the local resource base and issues of external influences, so all those were obtained through focus group discussion in the villages. Then information on household attributes and livelihood outcomes were necessarily obtained, through household surveys. The sample size was 5,000 for the Adivasi households. And we also took around 1,500 non-Adivasi household as a control sample size. And it was decided in such a manner that we'll be able to make statistically significant inferences at the state level. So we'll be able to say something about Jharkhand, we'll able to say something about Odisa . 👉🏾 At the same time, the sample size will let us make a comparison between major tribal groups, major tribal groups means like Santhal, Oraon. Those who are like more in numbers in terms of their population and the particularly vulnerable tribal groups. These are called PVTG in short, these are smaller tribal groups who traditionally used to be artisans or shifting cultivators. And the population of these group of people are very, very well less. So we'll be able to compare all the variables between these two groups, like the major tribal groups and the PVTGs. 👉🏾 So research and advocacy unit is spearheading this work mostly and we have taken help from academicians, activists to design the study. We took help from Nandani Sundar from Delhi university We took help from again Johnny Oommen you will be knowing he's a doctor. Yeah, so James Herenj, we took help off So, yeah. Then we designed based on their feedback and probably after the first report, the first draft report comes up, we'll again, go to them, we'll take their feedback. And based on that, we'll rectify our report. This time we have started with Odisha and Jharkhand and we have a plan to include more states. 👉🏾 This is a very, very interesting question. See, I read many history books and it talks about many factors, so I'm not going to history. But, ultimately for different historical reasons, the Adivasis by and large live in forest fringe areas or in forest areas in the central Indian plateau, in the forest itself. So I'm not here talking about the tribal groups of Northeast India. Their story is entirely different. Now it is true that since independence, the central and state governments are working to improve the situation of Adivasis. However, two things happened, which have been largely overlooked. Firstly, the Adivasis continued to say that they were different and they should be allowed to decide their own part of development.👉🏾 But the state didn't hear that, they heard that Adivasis wanted development. They didn't hear that Adivasis are also saying that we are different. So Adivasis were not given the chance to decide their own development path, they remained beneficiaries rather than designers of their own destiny. So the acts like PESA which is actually an act for self-governance of Adivasi, didn't get fully implemented in letter and spirit, but had it been implemented fully, it would have changed the entire scenario of self-governance. 👉🏾 So PESA gave the Adivasis an opportunity to self govern themselves. Self-governing means they will have authority and say over what is going to happen with their resources? What is going to happen to their lands, forest. So ultimately the Grahm Sabha, which is governing body within the village, is a traditional governing body of the Adivasis.👉🏾 I would not say it has hindered. It has not yet been implemented fully in its letter and spirit. The issue is PESA is an act, now the states, which comes under PESA, there are 10 states, they have to formulate their own rules. Now four states, which are more or less like the most Adivasi dominated states like Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh they have not yet formulated. PESA has not been implemented fully in no states. Even the states who have made the rules, they have not also fully implemented it. The problem is it has not been implemented fully and probably it's because some people in the area may not be wanting this to happen and that's why it's not happening.👉🏾 That will be an important step in the struggle for Adivasis identity. Adivasi worldview is about living with nature that I already talked about and worshipping nature. This is non-hierarchical and on the other hand, if you look at the mainstream religious ideologies, such as Christianity or Hinduism, these are based on a worldview which is hierarchical that gets reflected in their rituals. Now, Adivasis are continuously saying that they are different. This distinction has not been recognised. They have been considered only as a set of poor people. The recognition of a separate tribal religion will be a step towards the recognition of the fact that there exists many ways of living and all these ways of living are legitimate. So that's why this is very, very important. 👉🏾 It is in our ambit of work, PRADAN works with Adivasis to strengthen in their livelihood and this includes agriculture, horticulture. In fact, 50% of people with whom PRADAN works are Adivasis. 👉🏾 Now talking about forest-based livelihoods. It includes two kinds of intervention from PRADAN. One is called the Tasar seri culture, which used to be the traditional activity of the tribes. They used to rear Tasar Cocoon,. PRADAN helped them improve the quality and quantity of Tasar host plants and trained Adivasis to identify disease-free layings with the help of microscopes, so these are the interventions. This has reduced the risk of crop failure to a great extent. There are village-level groups who are involved in Tasar cocoon rearing. Through their producer companies or cooperatives, they sell their products and the co-operatives helps to negotiate price, as you already said. 👉🏾 Another forest-based activity was the cultivation of Lac. And PRADAN also helps to reduce risks involved in this activity by providing training on controlling disease and pests. For agriculture and horticulture activities also PRADAN is in the process of promoting, farmer producers organisations. This helps them to identify crops that can fetch better price in the market, FPOs as they're called, helps the farmers with sustainable cultivation practices and it also helps in input procurement, in bulk and thereby reducing the production costs to a great extent.👉🏾 Another strategy is to rejuvenate natural resources by soil and moisture conservation,...
31 minutes | Aug 5, 2021
38: Can performance vocabulary be a competitive advantage for businesses? A conversation with Maya Sadasivan
Shownote'Performance Vocabulary' is it just jargon? Or does it serve a purpose?The pandemic has forever transformed how we live and work, it has already thrown out of the window traditional wisdom that workers need to be in the workplace to be productive. The only certainty in today's world is the uncertainty. In this uncertain environment, businesses are having to rethink ways to being able to deliver effectively on their financial goals, have a highly motivated workforce, happy customers and also meet broader societal expectations. All this while navigating a world in a constant state of flux. The reality is that across the world many employers are also getting ready to get back to in-person work; but all employees are not. We are all trying to process new ways of working and also evaluating our relationship with work. It also does not make it easy that different countries are at different stages of the risk mitigation journey i.e. their vaccine programme; rates of infection; government advisory etc. The expectation of employers and employees also differs from country to country and across generational divide. There are no homogenous groups that are for in-person or those against. This may lead to different levels of engagement or dis-engagement or productivity or lack of if, which in turn is likely to impact motivation/morale and ultimately bottomline. In such scenarios what can organisations do to build a cohesive culture of performance - at the individual employee level but also at the broader organisational level? In the 38th episode of #TheElephantintheRoom podcast I spoke with Maya Sadasivan a leadership coach about the evolving role of managers and teams within an organisations and also performance vocabulary.👉🏾 What can organisations do to ensure that individuals and teams are able to still deliver and be productive?👉🏾 Performance vocabulary, what it means in practice👉🏾 Building a team or organisation wide performance vocabulary👉🏾 Is it a competitive advantage?👉🏾 Should the C-Suite be championing it? Who owns it?👉🏾 Performance vocabulary and it's role in defining culture#motivation #culture #productivity #ownership #performancepsychologyListen here Listen here 👇🏾👇🏾https://lnkd.in/d-t2dbyhMemorable passages from the podcast👉🏾 Hi Sudha. As usual, it's a pleasure and a privilege to be able to share my thoughts and talk with you. 👉🏾 Yes, I know, I was just thinking, where do I start? The role of managers has literally transitioned from maybe, the first or the second gear to the fourth gear, and it has simultaneously redefined a lot of workplace, structures and strategies. And it's almost as if the managers, without warning, were thrown into the deep end and nobody's asking, "do you know how to swim?" They not only have to swim themselves, they have to ensure that the team also swims. In fact, it is a point to be noted that the managers have often realised that from individual contributor, when they started handling teams, they moved from doing things, to getting it done. But in today's virtual world where you have team members distributed across geographies, across time zones, across multiple domains which need to be coordinated. Suddenly you find it's not as simple as just getting it done. And the managers that I have interacted with have often realised that it is no longer about technical competence alone.👉🏾 The managers now are under pressure to bring in an element of character competence. In fact, Sudha I have seen an amazing rise in the number of critical programs or the life skills programs that we call you know, how we refer to in our company. And it is very heartening that managers have realised that technical competence alone won't do, character competence needs to be built. And I think that is one of the major changes that the managers are adapting to, in this virtual world, which the pandemic has really made or rather established as a new norm. 👉🏾 It is interesting when you realise that when people are face to face while they do realise that there is a kind of a limitation to transparency across hierarchy, it doesn't really matter so much. In the sense where you can see people around you, when you can see your team members, you can see your manager. Somehow there is a compensation that happens for the lack of transparency, whereas in the virtual time, this becomes a major, major issue. And one of the first things that the companies should ensure, enforce and establish is transparency through communication channels. Not just one channel or two-channel, but with as many channels as possible, there should be complete transparency across hierarchy, across the task forces, across teams. In this context, I would like to mention the concept of objectives and key results, this concept is quite old in the sense the genesis was in 1950s and sixties. Having said that in today's virtual world, I have found there is an increased understanding and appreciation of this tool called OKRs and one of the principal aspects of OKR is the transparency it brings across board in terms of goals, in terms of process incurred, in terms of system. And this is what I believe strongly Sudha, that companies should establish. I mean, there are many other things that a company should look at. However pivotal to everything is transparency through communication channels. 👉🏾 Very true. I mean, if you look at it today, the need for a company's vision-mission values, to be linked and aligned to every employee's work suddenly has become the need of the hour. I mean there were times when people would just walk into office, walk out of office, do the task that was delegated. But suddenly people are asking, why am I doing this, and how is it benefiting the company? And the reason for that, I think Sudha is, work from home has kind of skewed the work-life balance. Isn't it ironic that sitting at home our work-life balances become skewed and so all the more reason that employees are asking, what is this task that I'm doing, why is it required for me to be up till 10:00 PM? And what is the value that I'm contributing to the company when I do work till 10:00 PM? And therefore, like I said, that transparency element comes in. And this transparency encourages commitment, belonging involvement, support, and this is what I meant by character competence.👉🏾 Thank you so much for giving me this space to actually share my thoughts on this Sudha. It just happened that the number of interventions I was doing increased during the pandemic, there was more requirement and requests from managers to help streamline and align their teams in terms of performance and productivity. And during the training need analysis, I started asking managers, what do they mean by performance, and what do they mean by productivity? And then when I would meet the team members and I asked them, so what's performance for you, what's productivity for you, I realised that there was a gap. And so I kind of got down to exploring a little more and understanding. The bosses demand for efficiency and a team members submission of that efficiency didn't seem to match. You know, the boss would say, I expect more ownership from you and the team members like, "Hey, I am demonstrating ownership", but the boss looks at it as accountability. Now, what is the difference between accountability and ownership? And in fact, I think one of the things I realised was everyone uses language, the way they have learned it, the way they understand it and the way they are comfortable using it.👉🏾 And this is where the gap came between, expectations and outcomes. And so I came up with this structure where I facilitated teams and their managers to come together to create clarity on what is the meaning of the word they use, when it comes to work. So if the manager says accountability and they say responsible for execution and if the manager says ownership is responsibility for the outcome of the task. Suddenly the employee shifts from completing the task to hanging around and supporting team members so that the overall team task is complete. Immediately you see that accountability translated into ownership. 👉🏾 Similarly, a lot of employees believe that they have skill. That means they know how to do something and they do it well. But the bosses were asking for competence, and it was like the cloud of ambiguity that was hanging over and the team was like "okay, listen, what's the difference between skill and competence?" and then the manager would give an example. And that is when the team understands that, skill is knowing what to do, knowing how to do it, doing it well and doing it error-free. Whereas competence is, when there is a pressure of time, of infrastructure, of abilities and then you still deliver, that skill becomes competence. Okay now, there's clarity. 👉🏾 Another example that I'd like to share with you is when we talk about the experience. You know Sudha it's very easy to say, "Okay I have 10 years experience in the industry. I have 12 years of experience in the industry. I have 18 years of experience". What exactly does this experience entail? And I remember with one of these teams that I was working with, we actually sat down and wrote down. Okay, someone says 15 years of experience, what are your expectations from this guy? 👉🏾 And when they wrote the expectations, there were so much of divergent thought process that was going on, that everyone got excited to come on the same page. And they actually created an experience matrix. And if I may share with you the first level of experience was, that the person know how to do damage control. The second level of experience was okay, the guy knows how to do damage control. Does the person know how to identify problems when a requirement comes? So is he a problem finder? The next level was, okay, the guy knows how to do damage control, he knows how to anticipate problems, but does he flag it and does it give solution options?👉🏾 And the fourth level of experience was, he does damage control, he identifies problems, he flags and he gives solutions and most importantly, independently, he preempts. Suddenly, you know the amazing thing Sudha? Not only people were very clear about what was expected of them, suddenly they started having a career path. And managers realised, "oh, this makes my appraisal much easier. And this is where I coined the phrase 'performance vocabulary.' 👉🏾 Let me share with you the concept of collaboration. And I think it's a buzzword nowadays. Everybody says, collaborate, collaborate. What exactly does collaboration entail. And when I shared this confusion and the teams they came up with their own definitions. And then we come up with a team definition. And one of the most interesting definitions that came up for collaboration, is it is coordination plus cooperation. And coordination is process-driven, cooperation is people-driven. And then I asked a question. So do you want your team to be process-driven or people-driven? And it is surprising a lot of people first instinctively said people-driven and then paused and said, "Okay no, we want to be process-driven and during exigencies, we need to be people-driven. Fair enough. it's up to the team to decide what works for them. And I think that is a beauty of performance vocabulary, as a team, as a business vertical, or as a company we create performance vocabulary that manifests performance and productivity for the employees.👉🏾 This is a good question and I think when today's virtual space, so tempts people to pass the buck because nobody's really visible, visible, and I think one of the most hated and the most frequently used line is, there's a connectivity issue. And when that comes into play and you wonder, okay ultimately on whose neck is the guillotine? That makes people pause and say, "Hey, not my neck". And so here, I would like to share with you that I strongly believe that the vision-mission values of a company, should not that be restricted to the website. It should actually be leveraged. A leverage to build work culture. 👉🏾 Let me share a particular company's value system. So like they have an acronym BRISK. B refers to benchmarking to be the best in the market. R refers to recognising contribution. I refers to improved collaboration. S refers to satisfied customers and K refers to keeping pace with the market trends. Now when you look at this acronym, BRISK, it strikes me that it is such a perfect way to develop work culture, that is sustained. And it helps to actually define, performance means, doing the best based on customer requirement. Productivity means doing the best in the minimum time with minimum infrastructure. Now this space would naturally require the company as a whole to own performance vocabulary, and they can use their vision, mission and values to distill clarity in performance words. 👉🏾 What are performance words? You could look at transparency, what does it mean to be transparent? What does it mean to be flexible?👉🏾 What does it mean to be agile? How is flexible different from agile? What is the meaning of, say effective versus efficient. In fact you know Sudha, a lot of teams with whom I have worked, I have asked them to create a document that is an organic dynamic document, where as a team grows into the project and evolves in its work function, they're able to keep adding vocabulary and keep building it. And anyone who joins the team, is introduced to this vocabulary so that there is absolute crystal clear understanding of expectations, right from day one. So the company should own performance vocabulary, but it could be built in to be customised for teams and team requirements. 👉🏾 Absolutely and what'll help to unify it all, would be to keep it within the ambit of the company's values, vision and mission. 👉🏾 Understood. I believe that a lot of teams and a lot of companies, instinctively have a top down approach in terms of clarity, on what performance vocabulary is. So the boss says, this is efficiency, this is efficiency. The boss says this is effectiveness this is effectiveness. Now the question is, does the boss explain to anybody, what is efficiency or effectiveness or do they expect the employees to go to Webster, Oxford dictionary and figure it out themselves? 👉🏾 So here, my point is, if a company does not bring people, its employees onto the same platform in terms of expectation, understanding. Then the fallout of that would be, there would a lack of transparency, there would be a lack of clarity, there would be a lack of focus and there would definitely be a lack of cohesive sustained performance. So this would be a fallout and I think perhaps companies don't use the jargon, performance vocabulary. But in their own way, in their own style, do try and bring in clarity. It's just that I believe if you use the frame performance vocabulary, your KPIs become clearer, your performance management tool becomes easier. The employees understand what is expected of them and outcomes suddenly are so obvious and so meant to be achieved. 👉🏾 Ahh this is interesting. I believe that would depend on the dynamics of the company. If it is a hierarchy driven company, then obviously it'll be top-down. Otherwise, if it is a company, which by the way, situation more often nowadays, where there's a lot of lateral growth, and there's a lot of deconstruction of hierarchical aspects. I think there what happens is the whole performance vocabulary could be a contributor to organic, dynamic space. And it had to change, you know, as you bring in diversity, as you bring in multiple domains into the same company, automatically the performance vocabulary will need to be adjusted, accommodation, fine-tuned. So I believe that performance vocabulary needs to be organic and dynamic and I believe it needs to be revisited periodically. Rather than an ownership of an individual, I would recommend that the company's vision- mission values, trigger an understanding of what is it that you expect and what are the outcomes and therefore define performance vocabulary.👉🏾 I think one thing a lot of managers have told me that they are struggling with their teams, when it comes to commitment, when it comes to, clarifying on time when it comes to involvement and when it comes to taking pride in not just their achievement, but the team achievement. And when we were having these discussions, I realised that, commitment, clarification, involvement, achievement. These are very task outcome words and when you kind of analyse this, when does commitment come? When a team member feels accepted by the team. When does a team member feel comfortable to clarify? 👉🏾 When there's a sense of belonging to the team. When does a team member get involved, not only in their task, but the team’s task? When they feel supported, they reciprocate support. And when do they feel a sense of achievement is when there is, an atmosphere of team pride. So we realised that while we were looking at task outcomes of commitment, clarification, involvement and achievement. We were actually struggling to build acceptance, belonging, support and pride. And it was absolutely magical Sudha, when teams came together to focus on creating this acceptance, the sense of belonging, the sense of support and pride. Automatically these
24 minutes | Jul 29, 2021
The importance of 'cultural competency' in today's world: A conversation with Melanie Chevalier
Reams have been written about how Facebook's grand plan to connect millions of Indians to the internet went horribly wrong and they faced one of their biggest setbacks ever. You would expect that a company of that size would know better than to trip on poor understanding of local culture and aspirations. As someone who started my working life in India, I have lost count of the number of times multinationals come in with a campaign or an idea that has worked for them in another market(namely HQ), that they want executed verbatim (an occasional client would consider language). While the world appears fragmented the reality is that we live in an increasingly interconnected world. And if we consider the local context and the UK it is more likely than not that your co-workers, employees, suppliers, customers are likely to be from different cultural backgrounds. The ability to engage effectively with people who are not like us or cultures that are different does not come naturally to everyone. Being able to successfully navigate internally and externally is a skill, it requires us to develop some level of cultural competence. My guest on this episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast is Melanie Chevalier, Founder of Creative Culture. Melanie set up her consultancy long before it was fashionable to talk about culture and cultural diversity. Her passion is rooted in her love for languages and her upbringing as the daughter of expats - living in Taiwan, Brazil, Cameroon, France, Spain before settling down in the UK In this episode we talk about importance for cross cultural understanding for businessesHow important is language in understanding cultural nuances and barriers? Making sure local cultural insights are used at the design process of campaigns/processes. Rather than trying to fit it in at the last stage - when it is more likely than not that it is too late. How cross cultural understanding has moved up the agenda of the C-suite?What can organisations do to exhibit cultural sensitivity? Poor understanding and it's impact on the bottomline? We also speak about future tense languages, best practice, examples of those who are doing it right and what organisations can do to get started on their journey. Memorable passages from the interview:👉🏾 Thank you very much, it's a pleasure to be here. 👉🏾 Sure. So I'm Melanie, I'm French a hundred percent as it happens, but I was very fortunate to be the daughter of an expat, which means I was raised around the world. So I grew up in Taiwan, Brazil, Cameroon came back to France for a few years and then moved on to Spain and then the UK, which I've been living in for 16 years now.👉🏾 So really very much of an international background. I went both to the American and the French schooling system, which obviously opened my mind to different ways, very different ways. And so it was only a natural that I ended up studying languages and I had a really keen interest in marketing and advertising. So I built my career really around my passion for languages and cultures and prior to setting Creative Culture, I spent a few years in transcreation which is typically the process of adapting creative copy to multiple languages, but always retaining this really important cultural aspect behind it, both in terms of the company culture, tone of voice and values of the brand, but also from a country culture perspective.👉🏾 Sure. So as I was mentioning before I set up the business, I was in transcreation, solely. So looking a bit at the end part of the process when you're communicating to different markets. And I realised that there was a gap in the market whereby the cultural element was always left to the last minutes, which was always too late because effectively as much as you can adapt some copy, if concepts or messages are irrelevant to a culture and they won't work, well there's not much you can do.👉🏾 So this leads to either cultural disasters or local markets not using the assets that are developed centrally. So I wanted to come up with a concept which I have named Creative Culture where we would have a much more holistic view of culture and we would really look at taking it much more upstream in the process to really give, central teams or global teams the tools they needed to understand their markets before they finalise a concept, an idea, a campaign. And really by infiltrating all those local insights, you would really enrich the whole process.👉🏾 So effectively what it is we do, is cross-cultural consultancy and the idea is really to come and support international companies and brands in developing messages and concepts across international cultures or local cultures, I should say, by providing this level insight and understanding. So it comes in many different shapes and forms because we work with marcomms, we work with brand, we work with corporate digital. We also work with HR and learning & development, but it's providing whatever knowledge and intelligence that seems require to understand multiple cultures. 👉🏾 And the way we do this is we have a network of over 2,800 experts in over 120 countries. And that pool of talent is growing everyday because typically we have new requirements across different industries or specific subjects, new countries of course. And historically we were doing, as I mentioned a lot of international work but over the last couple of years, we've been having a lot more requests around domestic work and cultural sensitivity, obviously in light of what's happened with black lives matter, I think there is and particularly, I guess, in the UK where a lot of our clients are, this needs to make sure that the messages are coming across in the best way to lots of different cultures and subcultures within one nation. 👉🏾 I think the answer is because obviously the world is getting more diverse as we go. A lot of people think actually the world is very global it's an oyster and it's great we're all very similar. The reality is actually cultures are mixing more and more and it's making the landscape a lot more fragmented and complex, obviously to understand because there's no such thing as an Indian person or a French person, and that being a profile that ticks all the boxes to some sort of framework that could allow you to understand that. But also because cultural differences and cultural diversity is actually a strength. And historically it's actually been seen as a challenge and one that's a lot of global teams, sort of feel they can't handle and they will just leave to the local markets to deal with.👉🏾 But the reality is if you don't give the platform to the company in itself and particularly at a global level to have this understanding of how it functions . Well, it typically doesn't because you become an entity that is very siloed and an entity that has a lot of conflicts because people don't speak the same language typically, and it's not just a language of a country. It's just, they don't think in the same way. They don't know how to collaborate together. 👉🏾 So, it becomes very difficult if you don't get it right. And you're right, I think we're having very different conversations now over the last few years. There's more of an understanding of the importance of it, but I think many businesses, still don't know what to do about it and how to tackle that. And from our perspective, if you have this knowledge and this understanding, actually you get real competitive advantage because at the end of the day diverse teams are more productive, they're more creative, they challenge the status quo because there's not the one way of thinking. It's very similar to diversity and inclusion as a piece, but in the cultural sort of area, because you're more representative of the world out there and the people you're talking to, to whether they are employees internally or consumers externally. And so I think it really allows brands to thrive and have a point of view on things.👉🏾 So to me, the businesses that will get this rights first will have a huge competitive advantage compared to the others. Hopefully we'll get to a place where everyone levels up, but I think it's a really powerful tool. 👉🏾 It is very important language is our main form of communication as human beings. This is how we interact effectively. And actually many studies have been undertaken to prove that languages have a real impact and really shapes our behaviour and how we think as people, without us understanding just as do culture as effectively. And there was a really interesting paper entitled 'Talking in the present, caring for the future' language and the environment, and effectively it is proven that future tense languages impacts our behaviour.👉🏾 So english is a future tense language, because you say next week I will do this, or I will do that. Other languages like German, Finnish and even Chinese do not have any distinct future tense. So typically they go next week I do this. And it concludes the study that the speakers who have a language that is not future tense, have more ability to put themselves in the future because to them there's no barrier the future is not actually something that may or may not happen. You're already in the future and you're building it. 👉🏾And in people's behaviour to the environment-specific is really interesting because the survey shows that there would be a 20% increase in individual's tendency to help protect the environment, if they went from present tense to future tense languages. So it just really, really, really influences how we speak. So I think it is absolutely critical to be aware of it and aware of the differences between a language and another. And going back to diversity and inclusion, the whole piece around inclusive language is also absolutely fundamental to change people's behaviour towards being more inclusive obviously.👉🏾 Absolutely, I think the topic has moved up the agenda for sure within organisations up to the C-suite, I'm not sure yet, but hopefully it's making progress somehow. But I think it also depends on geographies, typically going back to the Black Lives Matter movement it has had a huge impact in the Western world and particularly in the Anglo-Saxon nations, such as the US or the UK. But the conversation is still in its infancy or non existing in some countries, particularly in those that historically have not been very culturally diverse. So you take for example, countries like Russia or Korea, Japan or China. It's not considered as a challenge because typically they haven't been faced with diversity as much as other countries have to date.👉🏾 So they're not even aware that it might exist or it is a thing. So I think it's definitely coming up and I agree with you, there is an absolute need to upskill people because there's a lack of confidence. People know it's important and they want to make a change, but they don't know how to go about it.👉🏾 So a lot of the cultural understanding work that we do specifically is external audience facing. So that will be anything between marketing and branding external, in that sense. But within organisations it might come from internal teams that work at an international level and are struggling and they don't necessarily go through HR directly, but the piece around cultural sensitivity that is tied into diversity and inclusion is very much HR and learning and development driven.👉🏾 I think the key is to provide the teams with the right ammunition and the tools to becoming aware first and then sensitive in a second stage effectively. So there are lots of different ways of doing this of course. So cultural awareness training is one way so understanding how to work with different cultures, the fact that we speak and behave in a different way and how we can align to each other, because at the end of the day it's about reconciliation, and us coming to a common ground where we can communicate in a constructive manner together. 👉🏾 There are lots of academic work around this and tools we have. Trompenaars who is one of the masters of cross-cultural, intercultural management. And he's developed many, many tools across the years, they're really useful tools to use as teams. Inclusive language training is also very important, it goes back to the element of this is not inbred in people, they don't know how to do it. They are unsure of what should be said or shouldn't be said and how to go about it. So they need to be taught on how to communicate in a more sensitive manner and across different cultures that is also very relevant. 👉🏾 I think then another element is to remember, to allocate a budget to it. We still see too often, companies thinking, "oh it's great" in principle, but when it comes to actioning it they go, "oh well, we don't really have a budget for this". And the same goes for diversity and inclusion, by the way. And I've seen this over the last 12 months a lot. And sometimes it doesn't mean allocating an extensive budget, but some trainings that are top line are sufficient on some areas to really raise this awareness and for people to be a bit more cautious when they're communicating across cultures from, different places around the world and who would do it differently from them. 👉🏾 Working with the right experts is obviously really important because there are processes that can be implemented along the way. Typically again, looking at marcomms, developing global campaigns. There are steps you can take at the beginning of the process to ensure whatever you're putting across resonates before you actually go to your markets and it's either too late or they push back. And I think tying it into the conversation for recruitment is also very important because you have to be seen as wanting to be diverse and embracing diversity and cultural diversity. So trying to make a conscious effort when you're recruiting to look at teams from different horizons, from different cultures and so on is really also a way to exhibit that you're wanting to be sensitive and inclusive.👉🏾 Absolutely, but obviously we are all in the midst of COVID. So you need to give companies the benefit of the doubt that they're looking to catch up. So we'll see how their react in the next 2, 3, 4, 5 years. 👉🏾 There are plenty, I haven't thought of concrete examples specifically, but internally both globally and at a domestic level, it does create divides between teams and people. So obviously that in itself has a really negative impact in many many different respects of course. But not understanding each other is one of the worst things that can happen when you're trying to build something together, so this is really a big one. 👉🏾 The one vision only side of things is also something that impacts performance, productivity and profitability because effectively we're just going down the same narrow route of thinking in the same manner, whereas bringing that diversity can create quite the opposite of course. And people can become difficult because they're not feeling they're being heard or given a voice in the process. So it's really, really important and obviously all of this has an impact on retention and attrition within a business. 👉🏾 Externally, there is also quite a lot of consequences, poor corporate culture always has an impact on an employer brand and attractiveness, so it is harder to attract talent. The lack of relevance also has an impact on sales, if you're communicating in a way that is obviously not relevant you're not attractive, people don't trust you as a brand. So, that has quite a bit of an impact. Obviously there's a lot of elements around developing products or service offering that is again not going to be relevant. And a lot of crisis management is required when those mistakes happen. So it's something that can be very costly in very many ways, the impact on the brand and what you have to do to salvage the brand from some cultural blunders can be actually a lot more expensive than you would imagine.👉🏾 Yes. So one I really like, sadly we're not working with them, but I've read a lot about it and I think is really interesting is HubSpot. So they have integrated and embedded cross-cultural intelligence and diversity, what they call diversity inclusion and belonging into their strategy as a company and including global expansion. One example is how they choose their office locations, they base it on their diversity and inclusion values, which are very much focused on gender. And they do that because they want to ensure the employees that they then recruit in specific markets where they've expanded, feel comfortable and included. 👉🏾 And so when they opened operations in Latin America, they did a really thorough study of the whole continent and they ended up choosing Columbia as a location because it was the country with the highest support rate towards women and LGBTQ+. So this is how they made their decisions of opening offices in that location, in that region. And they also have a lot of training around anti-racism that is global and mandatory, so they don't give a choice to employees they actually make them all attend those training courses. And they also have a really good inclusive language policy, you can see on their websites the adaptation in languages like Spanish is genderless. So they've been really early in implementing this.👉🏾 I think that again, its where culture and diversity and inclusion overlap in one sense, but I think it's a really, really good example of that. And then a company adapting to a local culture. I think Yum brands, which owns several restaurant chains, including KFC in China, they've been really, really successful because they have known to stay local.👉🏾 So they have avoided the sort of standard offering that a lot of fast-food chains do. They've started sourcing local food. They've hired local staff and they've adapted all of their menus of course. And they've managed their company in a way that they're seen as part of the local community, as opposed to foreign company sort of arriving and imposing its way through local countries. And apparently there's very much of a family feel to the employer-employee relationship. So it's one that's worked out really, really well. And as we know China is a market that represent...
28 minutes | Jul 22, 2021
36: Ekpedeme 'Pamay Bassey': Leading by example
Major fan girl/woman moment, last week when I met the incredibly inspiring Ekpehdeme 'Pamay' Bassey to interview her for The Elephant in the Room podcast 💃🏽💃🏽💃🏽 I have been stalking her for a while now on LinkedIn, after reading her book 'My 52 Weeks of Worship'. The book really resonated with me - it helped me move forward at a difficult time. In this episode we speak about her background; her career choices; using learning as a superpower; kindness; laughter; the weight of emotional burdenWe also spoke about 👇🏾👇🏾👉🏾 Her dual roles at Kraft Heinz - that of a Chief Learning Officer and Chief Diversity Officer; the synergy between the two roles and how she has prepared for success👉🏾 The role of L&D in a post-pandemic world, how has it evolved to meet the changing needs of managers and leaders from a skills perspective but also from an accessibility point of view👉🏾 The changing role of leaders during the pandemic. And the key attributes leaders need to navigate successfully through the pandemic and beyond👉🏾 'Learn like an Owner' and 365 days of Learning. 👉🏾 The relevance and importance of IQ, EQ and CQ👉🏾 Her passion for comedy and improv and how it helps her at work👉🏾 'My 52 Weeks of Worship' project. And its relevance in today's worldThank you Pamay Bassey for your generosity and time. If you want to know more subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Google or your favourite podcast platformMemorable passages from the podcast:👉🏾 Fantastic and thank you so much for having me. I'm happy to be here. 👉🏾 It's so great because that's a question I get often, but for me it was not the weirdest path that you might imagine. And so symbolic systems is a discipline it's interdisciplinary, and it draws from computer science, philosophy, psychology, linguistics and logic. And I chose AI as my specialty, because I was really fascinated by artificial intelligence, but the whole major was focused on understanding how people learn, how people process information. How people make symbolic representations of information. And so learning was part of that whole kind of conversation and when I was done, I really thought I was going to stay kind of in Silicon Valley and work on some of the products around creating intelligent computing. But I found a program at Northwestern that was run by AI researchers, but it was in partnership with the consultancy Accenture. And they said, now that we know how people learn and how people process information, let's try to create engaging and interactive and interesting learning environments in a corporate setting. And so that was the first kind of combination of like my interest in learning and corporate, kind of my first corporate job and I mean, that was the beginning of my path into learning and development and that's been the through line in my career since then.👉🏾 I am very, very blessed. One of our first corporate leadership principles is work as a team. So I'm blessed to have a great team. The senior leaders from the top of the organisation on down are focused on supporting the creation of a continuous culture, a learning culture. And one of our values is we demand diversity. So again, from our CEO on down, really having the support across the organisation too, so that we all do the work together, I say amplify the work that we do to create an inclusive and a diverse workplace. But the connection to me is really kind of neat, I think because when you talk about diversity and inclusion, diversity is more about representation.👉🏾 It's a fact, we live in a diverse world. There are people from different walks of life that are at this moment coexisting. So it's a fact that you know, that we're living. Whereas inclusion is about learning, it's a choice. How can I make sure that everybody has a seat at the table? How can I make sure that I'm asking people to share their experiences and their voices? How can I as a leader practice being inclusive in every meeting as I'm making decisions, as I'm making hiring decisions, as I'm making decisions about the business and so the diversity and the learning piece, I think fit really well together because I think that the journey is the learning journey.Learn something about someone who's not like you ask questions, be curious, and then make sure you're bringing those different perspectives to the table throughout is kind of the way that we move.👉🏾 It's all of those things, frankly. I mean, I think once we all in various parts of the world going into quarantine at different times there was a focus on how do we keep people engaged? How do we make sure they have the information that they need? But they're still learning and growing and developing and delivering. We are lucky at Kraft Heinz because we have what we call Ownerversity, which is our corporate university. And certainly even before the pandemic, creating a vibrant kind of digital space where people could come and learn and find materials to help them grow and develop.👉🏾 And so in some ways, when you say, what is the role of L and D? It continues to be making sure we're providing access to learning experiences, training, learning materials that help you to learn and grow as a human and also in your current role and in your career. And so that was something that luckily we already embraced before the pandemic, but certainly depending on what your experience was, you were in quarantine, you had more time to learn or you needed to make sure that you stayed connected. And so a lot of our programs, for example, that might have been face-to-face, we fly people for some of our high potential programs or nomination based programs. We were having to transform those into virtual programs and one of the things that I love is in each of those programs, imagine I'll give you an example, we have a program called the 'Leadership Masters', where we have senior leaders who are coming in to learn from each other and develop their leadership skills. Every program, whenever we had breakouts any part of the program, where we required like two, three small groups to get together and speak, it was an opportunity to connect in a way that we weren't able to do because we weren't in the office.👉🏾 And so we invited speakers, we have a speaker series and 'learn like an owner' speaker series. 'Learn like an owner' is our initiative, kind of our learning culture initiative, bringing in thought leaders and business leaders to come and speak to the entire organisation, which is much easier to do when you are in a digital space than if you're trying to fly someone in and then you're juggling you know, time zones, et cetera.👉🏾 So it was interesting to see how the impact of our learning initiatives changed and grew when we had to work virtually, but at the end of the day, we're in a time still of such great uncertainty and I'm a believer that learning can be a superpower when you don't know what to do, you ask yourself, what do I need to learn in order to get through this?👉🏾 How can I learn my way through this? And then if you embrace the fact that you can be a powerful learner, even when you don't actually know what to do next. Gather the information make the next right best decision and then tackle the next decision. So learning and helping people to embrace that learning superpower is I think the responsibility of learning and development L & D today.👉🏾 I am someone who tries to lead by example. Certainly, I know that sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't, but in the case of, and I'll take you back to 2018, which is when I joined Kraft Heinz as a Chief Learning Officer, this is back when my position had not yet been expanded to and diversity. And I said, well, how can I have an impact on this organisation? First, how can I step into a role that frankly was new and big to me? I wanted it to be successful and I wanted to show the organisation that I could contribute.👉🏾 But also coming into a situation where perhaps I saw an opportunity to enliven the learning culture. I said well, if I'm going to do that, I should start learning myself. And so I made a commitment to learn something new every day for a year, I called it 'My 365 days of Learning' and I shared it out. We have an internal app, which we call the ketchapp, cause of course we are Kraft Heinz. And every day I would read an article I would share, this is what I learned next day, this is how long it took. Most importantly, because a lot of times people say I don't have time for learning, I say but this article took me 15 minutes. This snippet took me five minutes, sometimes, of course, I went to conferences which were a day long, but literally day by day from February 2019 to February 2020, and I had two hashtags learn like an owner, which is a nod to one of our company values, we own it, own your own learning and development. 👉🏾 To your point, when you see a challenge, ask yourself, what can I do to learn what I need to get through this challenge and make time for learning and that's where the modelling came in, is you know what? We all have packed schedules I do as well, but I'm going to just make time every day 15 minutes, 10 minutes an hour, whatever it is. And so by modelling that I hoped I could accomplish two things, one is to find out what was in our corporate university, because I was brand new to the company and I wanted to make sure if I was telling people to go there, that I knew there was great stuff there. And so that was confirmed and actually, I was very grateful about that. And the second was just to show, this is how a senior leader, make sure that they're taking in new information from time to time. And luckily my peers joined me, I had people who made their own learning commitments, we launched a specific campaign called 'Learn like an Owner' by the end of that year. And we've been continuing to do that and more people have been making their own learning commitments and sharing what they've learned. And I think that has had a real impact on our culture 👉🏾 Yeah, it's changed tremendously. And I was in a meeting yesterday talking about how to develop our coaching culture and how there are so many more tasks that leaders, are expected to do and then perhaps in the past. And last year we had the pleasure of rolling out a new leadership framework for Kraft-Heinz, and in the conversation when we said, well what do we expect of leaders at Kraft Heinz?The first thing was delivering results is just the baseline expectation, right? We have to deliver results, it's the price of entry, we're in a business. But we started having conversations about how, how do we deliver results right? We want people to work as a team. We said, how do we win (W I N) work as a team, we wanted people to inspire excellence and navigate our future and really drilling down and creating a whole framework that we use to communicate what we expect from leaders, and then assess them as they go along.👉🏾 And I will highlight specifically out of that framework, we had a conversation about what do we expect from managers, certainly in the framework, individual contributors have different expectations than people managers, than senior leaders. And that idea of operating with empathy and care is part of that expectation for a people manager. We say the framework for managers is care, move, grow. Operate with empathy and care, move with speed and agility, so you still have to get the work done and then grow, grow people to their full potential. So we want to make sure people are growing and learning and developing. And so when you think of all of those things, it's a lot of things, right? If I'm trying to deliver results, but I want to do it with empathy and care. 👉🏾 And I think the pandemic as a backdrop really, really amplified that because people saw people's lives in different ways. I'm looking into your living room, I'm seeing your kids, I'm meeting your family. We want to make sure we understand that we're not working from home because we chose just to work from home. We're doing it because there's like a threat, an existential threat out there. And everybody was dealing with how that impacted them and their families and doing the best to be empathetic about that, be kind to yourself because we are humans and also going through that and our teams to say, okay you need to take this time to go take care of your kids, or you have a parent you're taking care of, or you need just a moment to turn off the camera, whatever the case may be.👉🏾 I think it's a lot, that's being piled up on top of delivering results, but I think going forward to your point, we're not done with this pandemic and we've been forever changed as humanity has been forever changed. And I think the way we do business has been forever changed as well. 👉🏾 You know, I will tell you, I think, you know that I have a background in improv and one of the basic tenants of improv is 'Yes, and'. So I'll just say 'yes, and ', they're all important, right? I cannot say one is more important than the other. Certainly being able to know you do your job, IQ what do you know? Being able to have EQ and listen to people and actually interact and have empathy. And then the cultural intelligence really comes in when we're talking about diversity inclusion, we are wanting to bring people to the table from different walks of life. How can we be curious and humble and say "Oh I've never heard that before. Can you help me understand?" And even more importantly, sometimes if you ask somebody that, and they don't seem to want to help you understand, go do your own research and be humble enough to realise, you know what? Everyone is not required to be my educator, I should take that for the situation that I'm in and then perhaps do my own research, but continue to be curious.👉🏾 And so, again as we talk about the many things that are necessary in order to be successful professionally, those are all important and so trying to figure out how to continually balance them and make time to learn about different cultures, about how to be more kind of empathetic and then also to learn what you need to learn in order to deliver so it's a mixture that's all very important. 👉🏾 Sure. I mean, I think of it as a marathon and not a sprint, right? So when you are running a long race, perhaps sometimes you run fast, sometimes you run slow. Sometimes you kind of slow down to a walk depending on if you're not an Olympic runner right? And I think the idea of having that emotional labor, I mean as a woman of colour, it just is part of my experience. But I need to be kind to myself and realise when I need to be at the front of the conversation and when I need to just be quiet. It's a little bit more difficult for me as I'm a leader, I'm a Chief Diversity Officer, so I will have a voice, and I have over the years kind of figured out, what the cadence is and how much I should give and when I should rest. But if you are in the world and people are constantly asking you about the things that are just, this is just who I am, and I'm constantly having to have that conversation. That's why I tell people, yes be curious, but also, be thoughtful, because there's no requirement for someone to help you understand their way of life.👉🏾 It is something that people have to opt in to do. And if I ask you to tell me about your background and your culture, and I get a sense that you don't really want to talk about that. Then I should back off and I should find a different way to learn. And frankly, I'll tell you, I mean, I'm not a saint sometimes I'll get, I have Pamay as my nickname, I have a long Nigerian name that shows up when I, you know, call an Uber or whatever the case may be. And someone wants to launch in to ask me about my whole family history. And I'm just trying to get to the place right? Sometimes I'm like, sure I'm going to now share with you my whole family history and sometimes I don't want to. I'm tired, I don't feel like it and that's just a very like, simple example of how no one can expect anyone to do that labour. And the way to lighten it is to hold it lightly and ask and be curious, but also be thoughtful, if you're getting the sense that they don't at this moment, want to share with you that history of all the things that have been difficult for that person, in an underrepresented group.👉🏾 Thank you. I appreciate that and I don't take it for granted. You know, I process everything through laughter. It is the core of who I am and I mentioned that, I have a Nigerian name it's because I am a child of Nigerians my parents were born and raised in West Africa, I was born in the US. And you may have heard kind of what is expected of the children of immigrants. And there were a few, you know, there are a few career choices that are accepted and comedian is not one of them. And so when I was younger, I really wanted to be a standup comedian, but I was like, I can't tell my parents that. 👉🏾 And so I ended up studying computer science, which was engineering adjacent, which is one of the approved selections, doctor, lawyer, engineer. But, I've always loved comedy and when I left consulting, I went to a startup, which died very quickly and I was left with kind of a fork in the road, what am I going to do professionally? And I did two things and one of them was to study at second city and I performed as a standup. Sometimes it went well and sometimes not so well. I did some acting, I did some improvising and some of the people who I performed with are now fantastic and committed and are now entertaining many. And I'm so proud of them, I continue to try to infuse humour into everything that I do. When I went back to corporate America, I said I would be on a stage once a year. My last one-woman show was many years ago, it was 2017, I believe. But it's just, I see humour in everything I try to incorporate, certainly as a facilitator of learning. If you make people laugh, that always helps. And I fully expect to be an older woman after I retire on the stand-up circuits someone, getting sympathy laughter from whoever might be within earshot. It's a love of mine that I hold that I hold very close. 👉🏾 Yeah I agree with you absolutely. You know, for me it was a grief journey. So in 2009, I had a very difficult year where I lost my father and my...
29 minutes | Jul 15, 2021
35: Ruby Raut: Co-Founder WUKA, on mission to promote sustainability
SHOWNOTESMy guest for the 35th episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast is Ruby Raut co-founder and CEO of WUKA. Founded in 2017, WUKA is a female-led start up, making the UK’s first ever reusable and leak-proof period wear. The business idea came to her while studying environmental science and learning that 200,000 tonnes of tampons and pads end up in landfills in the UK. WUKA stands for Wake Up Kick Ass because the belief is that nothing should hold women back during their period. The mission is to make sustainable lifestyles accessible to everyone, because sustainability should not be a luxury, and periods are not a luxury. Ruby is also determined to break down the continuing stigma around periods.In this episode she speaks about growing up in Nepal, moving to the UK to find her purpose. Her journey to becoming an entrepreneur. We also spoke about 👉🏾 Challenges she faced starting a business as a women in a new country👉🏾 Period poverty in the UK👉🏾 Government support for sustainable and eco-friendly products 👉🏾'Axe the Period Pants Tax' a campaign calling on the UK Government to remove the unfair 20% VAT charge on period pantsListen to how this gutsy young women is on a mission to create a more sustainable world and empower women 👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾https://periodpants.org/Memorable passages from the podcast👉🏾 Thank you very much Sudha for having me, I mean, it's been quite a while since we spoke and it's been I think a long dream coming to the podcast. So yeah, I'm very, very excited to be here. 👉🏾 So I grew up in Nepal, very Eastern part of Nepal, it's almost like my home is very border to India. So now, and then I say to my friends, you know, like I used to walk to India. And also because we have the open border system. You don't need a passport or anything, So I walk and I'm like in India? So I was born up in the mountains. But later on my family moved to more like a Terai area, closer to India and I came to UK when I was 20. So majority of my life, I lived in Nepal. Family of five Mom, Dad and three sisters. So we didn't have any brothers in the house. So often my sister thought that I was the brother figure in the house. It's nice actually, I miss my sisters and it was really nice to grow up in a household where there was no discrimination between boys and girls. 👉🏾 It didn't. So, I came here. Like everybody comes to Western country or developed country, more finding an opportunity right? So that's what I did. Also, I think when you, are stuck in like the developing country like Nepal you are stuck with quite a lot of things that you actually don't agree with.And I almost flew away from there so that I can explore more about myself and who I am. I knew that being in a very slightly more conservative society I thought that I will never progress. So it was my escape coming to UK either for pursuing education, earning more money, looking for more opportunity, cultural diversity, those kind of things.👉🏾 It was total culture shock for me because I was the girl who I think handful saw any white person or any person of other colours, you know, other than my or people who are of different cultural background, like religion wise as well. I'd never seen anybody from Muslim community. Like Nepal is predominantly Hindu, you know? And Sikhs and Jews, like literally nobody. So it was quite a culture shock from that, and also like language and talking and being polite, something that I never do straight up, you know, like whatever you say, right down to the point, No please, No thank you. So it was a bit of a shock.👉🏾 Entrepreneurial journey. I think that was something that I always had a spark in me since I was very young. So I clearly remember, I think I was 11, 12 years old. And one of the person who was supposed to come and build the house, or carry the sand, or filter the sand so that they can use it for plaster didn't come.👉🏾 And I made this contract with my mother that if I work the whole Saturday or Sunday, my day off, 'will she pay me exactly what she would pay the other person.' And I was always like, conscious about that, kind of you know hard work always pays off. So I had always been like this and coming into London as well. I was quite hustling around like, you have a job, but I used to also like go to flower market, buy some flowers and sell it to the pubs. 👉🏾 For what I'm doing right now, I think it all came through my passion towards women's health, more than anything else and I think my mother is definitely a good inspiration for me in terms of like what is the thing that you're looking in the future and what do you want to help other people with? And, so education yes, definitely because I did environmental science degree. So I think after degree, that was the path I started choosing. Like, is there something that I can do to make people's life easier so that a) they live sustainably, they live healthier lifestyle b) Also like, it's women's right, I think saying there should be a lot of choices around any product that people use.👉🏾 So WUKA stands for wake up, kick-ass. As you can see like, always looking for those kinds of inspiration, what makes people click to actually make a difference? And that's what the brand is all about. What can you do to actually make a difference, whether that's just normalising the topic around periods or like campaigning around taxes, that again affects majority of the people. 👉🏾 You know, whether opening a platform where people have more informed choices about the product that they use, the health condition that they have got so that everybody's informed, they are not alone. And frankly, to be heard, I guess we go through so many conditions throughout our lifetime and most of the time it's often silenced by society, culture, this and that. So what we wanted to do is like, create a platform where you can openly talk about, because most of the time when you need to discuss your problem, then you realise that you are not alone. And there's so many people on the same boat with you. 👉🏾 So Wake Up Kick Ass(WUKA) is all about that, about like not being ashamed and being proud of the things that you have gone through and share that. And also in regards to period, I think periods often have like a very bad vibe. So there are huge taboos around period, like in Asian culture, you're not allowed to go to kitchen. You're not allowed to go to temples, those kind of thing. And we wanted to give a little bit more positive spin, regardless all of this happens, we get on with our life, do things that we do, and we do it amazingly.👉🏾 As you said, being a migrant, coming to a new country, basically I just threw myself into this large ocean, not knowing whether I'm going to swim or sink kind of moment. I did get a huge support from my husband obviously. He's been and telling me like, when somebody says no, just don't take no for an answer. Go and counter ask, like why, why are you saying no, those kind of things. So he has been like a good mentor for me since the very beginning of the journey. 👉🏾 Before I did WUKA, I did this small startup called Food Waste Ninjas. So I used to go around schools teaching students about food waste and why they're bad for the environment. Why they're bad for health. And while I was doing that I went to one of these meeting, with this idea of like oh, I would like to do this in the community. And then the first thing they go like, "oh, you'll never be able to get into schools it's such a hard thing to do". I felt like quite outraged, you know, like they didn't even listen to me. I said, like, you don't have to do any job I will do it. What I need is back up support, to say Hey, you know, we'll support you on this kind of thing.👉🏾And my husband goes like, no you just go and do it, prove them, do a pilot project. You don't have to go to 10 school at the same time, start small. So no doubt I did the same thing and Sainsbury's actually did a good campaign around food waste and I approached them and I said like, Hey look, this is my idea. I would like to run it. And with my 500 words letter, they actually gave me about 35,000 pounds to run this project. And that really gave me this boost, you know, like all it needs is like you have to do in a smaller scale to see whether things work or not. So whether that could be like a research study, whether that could be like actually going and doing physical activities and that was definitely a boost for me to start an entrepreneurship kind of thing and start my own venture. And most entrepreneur will feel it like, I don't know where I'm going, but I'm doing it to see how it turns out.👉🏾 And for WUKA actually I turned to social media and forums and I said like, I'm a research student and I'm trying to learn more about like, if people are happy with the current menstrual product they have, and within 24 hours I got like 800 responses. Out of them, like 70% of the people were saying like, no I really don't like pads or tampons it irritates me I get skin problem thrush. Or they're like too smelly, sweaty. So that was like, definitely like my market research kind of thing. Like, okay, a problem exists over here, but obviously when you are starting a business, the biggest problem is your finance right? How much money do I need? Where do I start? So I turned into Kickstarter. Kickstarter is like a platform where you can pitch your ideas and promise a product, which you can deliver in like three to six months kind of time.👉🏾 And if people really love the idea, they will invest on you. And I just went with like closed eyes. Okay I'm doing this. I think many times it's like being brave. Reshma Saujani I think she did a Ted talk about like how girls are always taught when you are growing up to be careful, you know, cautious all the time. Whereas like boys are taught to be brave, go climb the tree, jump from like I don't know, 6 feet high. They are always taught to be brave and I think that is something that is lacking and that's what I did. Like my part was like, okay, I'm doing it no matter what kind of thing and just went to ahead. The other thing I think that really helped me is like I'm an outsider here, you know, like in the UK. So I really don't care about like what people's going to say to me. Whereas if I was back home, I'd be more cautious about like what my neighbours would say. What my parents would say, what my friends would say. So I think that was definitely a leverage point for me so that I could just come here, do things that I really cared about and just went ahead with it. So Kickstarter definitely helped me. I got I think 112 customers as my first customer who still write to me and it's the most amazing feeling. 👉🏾 Well, when I first heard about period poverty, it actually came as a shock to me like, are you kidding? We are in one of the richest country in the world. And you were saying that people can't afford to even buy a couple of pounds of period product? Like when I think the article from Plan International came in 2018, 2017, something around that time when I was just starting the whole journey really opened my eyes. And then I started really digging into it. It's like, what are the main causes of it? 👉🏾 And then I started watching like some TV programs that show how people live in certain part of the UK. Like if you're looking at Grimsby and it really makes you think, there are pockets of poverty. And it's sometimes family priority, you know, would you rather put food on the table or menstrual product to your family? So that, I think it exists definitely, yes it exists otherwise why would girls be crying in school saying that they don't have any menstrual product to use you know. We did a survey on January this year when the second wave of the Corona virus hit. And that was again another shocking thing for me is like there was another 38% of the people who were really worried that they might fall under that poverty line. 👉🏾 So as soon as you are under the poverty line, basically you are bound to be in a period poverty situation. Well, you are compromising what allows you to put food on the table or the essentials versus having a menstrual product. So it's quite shocking, but there are so many organising agency here in place that you might not have in developing country. So that is the difference. So in Nepal, India, when there is period poverty, people actually don't know where to go and find things, but whereas there's the system in place. There are like charities, like 'Bloody Good Period', 'Freedom for Girls here in the UK. You have got food banks and stuff where people can go in access to menstrual product. But I think in a real-world, all menstrual products should be free. Free from the government, you know, it's one of those essential product. Like if you can go to any public toilet and get a toilet roll, why can't you get menstrual product? And then it's a necessity and not just in the UK, it should be everywhere all around the world. Like we don't have a choice not to have a period that's the thing. And the government should understand that.👉🏾 You know, the whole period market is 52 billion pounds, it's huge right. You have got half of the world's population. If a person is like introduced very early in the beginning, they are your long-life customer. So far I think the challenges have been like the awareness when we first came in the UK, we were the first period pants brand. There was no term such as period pants so we started the term. Now I think it's one of the most searched term in terms of whenever people are looking for menstrual underwear or period underwear. So awareness, people don't know the product exists. 👉🏾 But we have got so much competition now. Like people can see that there is definitely a market and business can see that there's definitely market into it. So the challenge is definitely awareness also, growing up in my family, whenever my mother or my sister had period, I actually knew that they had that they are on the period. Because obviously they used to separate from the kitchen and not go those kind of things. But in here you don't know when somebody is on the period and the culture in the West have been, always taught to hide things. You know, like if you use pads toilet roll and put it in like still 40% of the people flush their tampons and pads down the toilet. There's very little education in terms of like how to dispose. But culturally, they're always taught about like, hide it, hide it, hide it kind of thing in here. Whereas in Asian culture, you can see it it's quite visible. And I think that was one of the challenges for us. It's like, nobody wants to talk about it because it's always been taught to hide about it.👉🏾There was an article, like there are more than 500 euphemisms just for periods, you know, like nobody says periods they say at the time of the month, on the rag you know, all of those kinds of terms, but not so brave enough. But the past three years now periods have gone public and there's much more press coverage on periods, period products, you know, like big celebrity and like TV stars and famous people are talking about period and their experiences whether it comes to endometriosis or PCOS, fibroids and all this kinds of things. So I think the shame still is there. We just need to take that out from the society and then hopefully, then it'll be much more open conversation. In terms of the competition, I think still P & G are more thinking about like how to make profit, obviously with disposable product you're using throw it to consume it kind of thing. So they're are still sticking to that so not so much of a big challenge, but definitely they will be thinking about it, like how to make a sustainable menstrual product.👉🏾 We made little dent into the market by going into the supermarket. So currently we are in 214, Sainsbury's, 168 Superdrug, you know like, Planet Organic, Whole Foods. So we are literally sitting next to tampons, pads, period pants, you know, so they can see that shift. So obviously yes so that's our first step into it. 👉🏾 This is slightly bizarre right? So clearly we have got too many men in the UK government basically who don't understand anything about periods or period products? So I realised this because when we launched, obviously we were the first one, first period pants brand ever. So I went to the HMRC and said like, look, I'm trying to put the correct tax category to my product, this is how it works, it's a reasonable menstrual product. And then they automatically say like, oh, they went to the website and looked at it and it looks like an underwear, obviously, because it looks like an underwear. You can't see much difference and then they slapped in 20% at that time. I didn't have much evidence to prove that, okay they are period pants or do like a scientific lab test and all this kind of thing. So a year later I went back in to say like, look, I think this is not fair, how can a disposable be 5% tax and much more cheaper for people to buy. Which also creates a huge amount of waste versus you have got reusable that creates less waste, more comfortable for people and you're taxing that more. So they said no, so I started a petition we reached 18,000 signature and got a lot of press buzz and everything, everybody together with us, you know, to say like, how is this possible kind of thing.👉🏾 So the government response was a) it's the tax money, so they don't want to lose. And I was like, are you joking? Like you have got a massive tampons, pads here, which creates a huge amount of waste that creates billions of pounds every year. And you are doing a 5% tax to them, whereas tiny, like half a percent of the, the entire market and you're charging them 20%. Also the government goal for 2030 is to move towards more sustainable world right? So taxing something reusable and sustainable product. Doesn't make sense, so the fight is still on. We are still campaigning for it. We restarted the whole petition again with a couple of local MPS and stuff.👉🏾 So obviously they are talking more through the government and we are lobbying more from the customer side But...
21 minutes | Jul 9, 2021
34: Alexandra Evreinoff, MD Involve: On DEI, role models and being an ally
Shownotes: My guest on this episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast is Alexandra Evreinoff, Managing Director at Involve a global network and consultancy championing diversity and inclusion in business since 2013. We spoke about role models and why it is important to see people like ourselves succeeding in the workplace. Involve publishes several annual role model lists recognising and celebrating business leaders and future leaders who are breaking down barriers at work and inspiring the next generation of diverse talent 1) HERoes Women Role Model Lists showcasing leaders who are championing women in business and driving change for gender diversity in the workplace; 2) the Global OUTstanding LGBT+ Role Model Lists showcasing LGBT+ business leaders and allies and the 3) EMpower Ethnic Minority Role Model lists showcasing business leaders who are working hard to smash the ceiling for ethnic minorities in the UK, Ireland, Europe, and people of colour in the United States and Canada. A quick glance at the lists shows that there is no shortage of talent in across industries (no surprise there)We also talked about the importance of benchmarking, monitoring and evaluation of DEI initiatives,The dangers of self-certification as an allyKeeping the agenda at the top table; Those who are doing it well....How organisations can kickstart their own journey'If Not Now, When? campaign that has been signed by over 80 business leaders pledging change including BP, Tesco, StarlingBank, TimeOutGroup, Talk Talk, Greene King, Kier Group and Discovery UK.Memorable Passages from the podcast👉🏾 Thank you very much, Sudha. It's a real pleasure to be here with you today and having this conversation. And I'm very excited and very happy about my appointment and as I truly love working with Involve. And I helped Suki Sandhu create Inolve back in 2013. So it's incredibly important for me to actually see it succeed to the best of its potential and its potential is incredibly high.So in terms of my background, well my father is French and my mother's Spanish and I was born in Brazil and then I spent my childhood like actually spread across the three countries. So Brazil, France, and Spain. Then I went and did my studies in Texas and lived there for five years. And then I moved to London and lived there for six years. That's where I met Suki Sandhu because I was working in recruitment, so Suki's our founder and CEO at Involve. And really the rest is history. So you may say that I have a bit of a diverse background here. 👉🏾 At Involve, we're a global network and a consultancy and we're driving inclusion and championing inclusion in business. So our aim is truly to break the glass ceiling for diverse talent. There just isn't enough representation of LGBT+, women, let's say just diverse talent in general. So for us it's our aim, is to really make sure that we're driving those opportunities that we're helping, supporting that talent, but also making the business world a more inclusive and equitable place.We're actually a type of environment in terms of driving justice as well, is actually key here. So everyone needs to be brought into the conversation from your senior leaders, exec's board to really all the line managers, hiring managers, anyone who has any decision-making power.👉🏾 We basically produce three lists of role models every year. We have our outstanding lists which were the first ones that we started with in 2013 which celebrates LGBT plus leaders and allies in business. Then we have Empower and that celebrates ethnically diverse talent and role models and their advocates as well. As well as Heroes, that champion women in business. Women who champion women in business, as well as the men who champion these women.So role models are incredibly important in terms of your own journey and career development. If you don't see yourself represented at the senior leadership level, you won't really believe in your career progression with a specific company. So in order to advance that, we thought of really featuring these role models in business is incredibly important, just as important as featuring role models in many different areas such as entertainment or the arts world. But yeah, business is just as important. 👉🏾 So basically monitoring and evaluating initiatives is incredibly important to basically gauge the effectiveness of these initiatives. It really allows businesses to get a sense of whether these initiatives are actually working and then adjusting these initiatives or actions and rectify to ensure long-term impact. So in order to do this, we've developed a tool, it's an auditing tool called Radar. So it enables organisations to set up an internal benchmark from which to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the current program and initiatives. And we really take a 360 approach and evaluate a business in terms of recruitment and retention, attraction, development of your talent, accountability, and resources. Basically it allows us to get a picture of where the organisation is in terms of their inclusion maturity, and then make recommendations as to how to improve in that journey.So we will highlight basically the areas which need improvement and really try to share best practice advise on practice, on how to move forward. 👉🏾 Absolutely, so it helps organisations basically draw on evidence-based strategy. We've seen organisations follow a little bit of the D&I trends. So you'll see lots of, you know, rainbow flags during June and lots of conversations happening at certain times of the year, which is great to showcase some role models, some stories, personalised experiences, et cetera. But you need the evidence and in order to get that evidence, you need to listen to your employees and give them the opportunity to voice what it is that they think are their concerns and what they think the organisation could be doing to improve the environment for all. So it's really very impactful work.👉🏾 So, yes in a way I do see myself as an ally, but I would say I see myself as an active advocate rather than an ally. So as I said, like, some people will have kind of like appropriated the tagline of being an ally and then won't have done much with it. If you're not doing much with it, you not supporting the cause if you're not participating in events, trying to educate yourself by listening to podcasts and different initiatives.👉🏾 But what I would encourage people to, if they are calling themselves ally's, they need to truly prove that they are ally's. So for me I'm kind of like, a little bit beyond that because I am well living and breathing really and advocating on a daily basis, obviously that's my job. So in that way, I'm quite lucky, but even outside of work, how can I actually educate myself in other areas that I might not cover during my work time. And also I just wanted to say that in terms of calling ourselves ally's or advocates, it might be worth considering as well, the implication of self-certification here. So, yes, I do identify as an ally but this self-certification and calling myself an ally is not always necessary, and can sometimes kind of like detract from the communities that need support.👉🏾 So I would kind of like really highlight the importance of understanding that the work being done by allies or active advocates is always evolving. So real allies real advocates will understand that the label itself doesn't mean that the work is done. So rather there's always work to do. So things that allies can do to signpost their allyship, is adding for example, pronouns to email signatures and zoom names, like on this call or social media profiles, as a real way to signal a safe space for others.👉🏾 So I think for some organisations they are taking the right approach and they are truly listening to what their employees are saying - diverse communities within their employee base. And I think that is powerful because that is guiding basically their strategy. And I think that's really impactful and those that are following trends like I said, those that are just using this as a box-ticking exercise and not really integrating D&I into everything that they do. Because diversity equity and inclusion is not about just an additional task that you add to your to-do lists.It's about integrating it into every single step and every single part of a business strategy. So if it's not in the values, if it's not in the strategy, it's pointless. Like it's not gonna have any effect. So until actually businesses realise that, they're actually falling behind. Then they're just doing it as a box-ticking exercise. So I think for some organisations it's here to stay for others, they still need to be humble. And, perhaps listen a bit more to what other organisations are saying or external organisations are advising them to do. 👉🏾 It's actually funny you mention that because one of our biggest clients this past year has been a hospitality business and we have done amazing work with them. I think I can name them and I think they would be quite happy for me to name them. So it's been Whitbread, and so we basically did a number of workshops with for their executives and boards and they then asked for us to roll this out. A wider program for all of their employees, all of the employees with line management responsibilities.👉🏾 So it's been really impactful and it goes to show that when an organisation really believes in it and truly integrates D E & I as part of their business strategy. It works, like it makes a difference. And I do believe they will start seeing the fruits of their labor very soon, as well as things have started to open up. In terms of that D E & I fatigue I think that there's been mainly a sense of fatigue from having very centred conversations, very focused conversations. I think the answer here would be to open it up to, okay, let's talk intersectionality. Like how do we all feel about these issues? And yes, there are communities and there are groups that will need more attention than others at some points. And we should not forget that or dismiss that. However, let's open the conversation and invite everyone to actually also share their own experiences and also their thoughts around these topics and how to improve the environment for all. 👉🏾 So in a way, I also think it's important to hold these companies accountable and to really make sure that D&I doesn't fall off the priority list. I think businesses need to put in place systems that hold them accountable for them. 👉🏾 So we have an initiative that we started last year in response to George Floyd’s murder, 'If not now when' and you're familiar with it. 80 CEOs and companies have so far signed up to this initiative and this initiative is to really drive inclusion in the workplace. But these CEOs that have pledged to this, they know that they will have to produce reports and identify areas of improvement that we will support as well through the production of like tool kits and round tables, and we've started doing this and it's been incredibly interesting. But just to make sure that this is not just a tick box exercise, and it's not just a marketing campaign, it's really incredibly important.👉🏾 I will start with, who's not because I think I've already said that. So the companies that aren't prioritising this, and that are kind of like putting it on hold or addressing D E & I as just unconscious bias training, those companies are not getting it. And I don't think they will have much impact with their D&I initiatives. Now that's up to them and I won't cite any because obviously that's not what we're about at Involve. It's not about shaming and I will talk though about those who are doing it well, however, because we have many partners who are doing amazing work, actually, and I could name for example Barclays, who we've been rolling out workshops and trainings for actually their global workforce at this point, which is pretty amazing. And really they've also been very open in the way of running these workshops into that we actually basically gave some advice around how to run these and they truly listened. So it is amazing to build in a constructive way with a partner.👉🏾 Obviously being such huge businesses, they could just want to dictate what they want to do, but they're humble enough and into saying, okay, were doing great, we could do better. So that is an amazing way of operating. 👉🏾 We're working the of Kier for example, Kier group. Very, very challenging industry there and we've just completed Radar. Radar is an auditing tool and we've assessed their business. And they're really, really putting this as a top priority for them. So the construction company doing this is incredibly powerful in my opinion, but then I could name so many as well, many others like ITV, for example, who've just appointed a Chief Diversity Officer who reports directly to the CEO, so Carolyn McCall. And we're seeing also that trend in the D&I world, which I hope it's here to stay, is that D E & I actually sits within the business rather than sitting within HR and that is where we're seeing kind of like the difference and the impacts that it's having. 👉🏾 So I think one thing that I would really really stress is don't be afraid of having these conversations because you really need to initiate conversations in order for change to happen and change won't happen from one week to the next or from one month to the next. Even sometimes from one year to the following year. Like you need to have a plan and you need to actually take the time to actually listen to your different pockets of employees and really make sure that you're galvanising efforts in a constructive and cohesive way so that you don't have separate initiatives going on here and there. But that those people who really want to drive this are actually communicating with one another and really cementing goals, long-term goals so that you can then plan how that will affect kind of like your strategy on a day-to-day basis. So start tracking, reporting, collecting data. I think that's incredibly powerful and important and if you need any expertise, if you want to hear from best practice from other organisations, there are always external organisations and obviously I'm talking on behalf of Involve. So, we have a number of solutions and we've been working with huge organisations and smaller as well, small organisations as well, since 2013.👉🏾 So we've been gathering a huge amount of best practice and really which has helped us develop a bank of knowledge and expertise to advise companies. So I would say don't hesitate if you're going into D&I or anything, don't hesitate to have a third party actually come in and support you. One single person should not be expected to like drive a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for all. These are very big responsibilities and they need to galvanise the approach basically. 👉🏾 So, what really drives me is actually knowing that what I'm doing is having a positive impact into people's lives. And that is why, like when Suki needed someone to kind of like, start this network back in 2013, honestly, it was kind of like, yeah, there's no doubt about it, I'm absolutely in. Like this makes sense. And I've always been very aware of the differences in treatment that people get throughout life. And since I was quite, small, like I've always been aware of that and I think that really drives me on a daily basis in order to hopefully make this world a more equitable and inclusive place. And also obviously with the aim of us to have like a just environment and driving social justice and social change. So always happy to be very involved in these conversations because I do think they help. Even if it helps one person that is one person that, you know it will have made my day basically.👉🏾 A pleasure to Sudha and really keep up the amazing work you're doing with this podcast and actually all the work that you're doing is really fantastic.Important Links: Alexandra Evreinoff: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandra-evreinoff/?originalSubdomain=chhttps://ifnotnowwhen.uk/black-inclusion-in-business-campaign-if-not-now-when-is-launched-with-new-signatories-committing-to-action/https://www.involvepeople.org/
20 minutes | Jul 1, 2021
Age is not just a number with Sudha Singh, Founder, The Purpose Room
ShownotesSo, age and ageism. Where do I start? Recognition of the issue comes I guess with lived experience and empathy. I truly believe that the intersectionality of my age and ethnicity were a barrier to my progress in the industry here in the UK. 6 years back when I was making my way back into the country after a longish stint abroad - I don't believe there were women who looked like me at leadership levels in the industry (feel free to disabuse me if this is just a notion and not a fact). In this episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast I talk 👉🏾 About Serena Williams (go on have a listen to what I have to say about this legend)👉🏾 Hitting a roadblock and finding my purpose @50 and why all women need to start giving more thought to their careers; 👉🏾 Ageism in our industry; 👉🏾 Negative perceptions and myths about people over 50; 👉🏾 A global demographic megatrend and links to the SDGs; 👉🏾 Why organisations should stop taking a siloed approach to engaging with current and potential talent from an inclusion perspective; 👉🏾 The importance of challenging traditional representation of over 50s in the media that perpetuate harmful stereotypes and devalue their contributionI believe that age is not just a number - it is about my backstory; my life experiences; failures and successes. We should not allow a number to define who we are or become a barrier to living life to its full potential.And how brilliant is it that I have not mentioned the absence of 50's in Industry awards even once during the podcast? If you want to know more listen here👇🏾Memorable passages from this episode of the podcast👉🏾 Hey everyone, It's been a great week for me, for England fans and excellent news for bars and pubs. Not so much for Serena Williams though, who had to bow out of Wimbledon injured and frustrated at not having been able to win her 24th title. And before any one asks, I have not developed an all consuming interest in sports. What I am deeply interested in, however, is Serena Williams and her career where it is today. Along with billions of others I have always been a fan of this hugely talented, hard working sportswomen who has been almost invincible for the longest period in time. She has managed to maintain her ranking and status in the world through sheer perseverance shattering records..... until one day she could not....👉🏾 Should she give up and fade away? With a personality and a drive like hers, it is very unlikely. I believe that the game is not as much fun, now it is more about besting herself and breaking a record. I am no tennis expert, nor am I her coach but what I can see is a women who is at the top of her game and has been great at what she does for the longest time ever.👉🏾 As a woman and as a leader I feel we don't give ourselves the permission to stop being relentless in pursuit (PUH-SYOOT) of our goals - so that we are not seen as having failed. This mindset negates previous achievements and we begin to identify with that one failure. In the process we often can't see the wood for the trees. My advice (how brilliant would it be if she did actually listen) She should not allow herself to be defined by that one seemingly elusive record, and not get carried away by the narrative in the media about this invincible, all conquering person. 👉🏾 Why am I talking about Serena Williams? It is because she is a legend and she is about to turn 40. In a sports where the average age of the top ten players is 25 she has defied experts by accepting and adapting to the challenges that come with age. And this episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast is about age and ageism. 👉🏾 I am no font of wisdom, but a few setback in the last couple of years mean I am less naive about where we land in life - being good at what you do does not necessarily translate into success. The long and short of it is that I realised that my career does not have to follow a linear path, that there are different routes to leadership and that the definition of success is different for different people at different stages of their life. Have I said different too many times:) 👉🏾 For me, Unfortunately, I hit a roadblock or should I say a wall at a time when I thought I would be doing some of my best work. What with two of the three kids happily settled in their careers and the third one on his way to completing uni. It was an unexpected curveball not being recognised for what you can do and of course, the empty nest didn't help. It is as if my raison d'etre had been taken away from me. Like most people faced with a difficult situation I was in denial for sometime and then very angry. But, this propelled me on a journey of learning and the launch of my podcast The Elephant in the Room and the my consultancy The Purpose Room. 👉🏾 Incredibly, it freed me up to do things that I had been planning to do for years - volunteering my time for the charity sector; working with women to unlock their potential and best of all being in a position to choose who I wanted to work with and what I wanted to do. Not just thinking about these things but actually doing them. Not to say that I have suddenly cracked the code and become an insider. I am still an outsider, but I am fully in-charge of what I am doing and the choices I am making.👉🏾 Unlike Sereena Williams most women tend to not have a plan about their careers. They work very hard to succeed, those with caring responsibilities struggle with it, until they have emerged on the other side where they find their own roadblock waiting for them. Can planning eliminate all their problems - No. But, what it can do is give you a good view of what is likely to come - and how you could overcome those hurdles or at least work around them. You wouldn't go on a trek without planning the route; you wouldn't go on a trip without thinking of the pros and cons - so why do we continue to disregard and not plan for our careers. 👉🏾 When I spoke to Amanda Fone, the Founder of F1 Recruitment late last year she said something that resonated with me,' When you meet a woman that has got to the top, it is not coincidence, it is not. It is not luck. It is choices that they made'. And for most people with caring responsibilities these continue to be very hard choices. And often for women returning to work after a break The Elephant in the Room is not whether they have the skills or the ability to the do the job but that they want a flexible working options - can they work for three days/4days around their caring responsibilities. It is their ability to voice their needs, to feel they will not be penalised for asking. 👉🏾 The one good thing that has come out of the pandemic is that organisations are more amenable to considering people's/individuals needs around flexibility and remote working. Will that make things easier for women.....! Since I am a glass half full kind of person - I will say that it is one down and a 100 other barriers to go. But, I am hopeful that in the next decade women will dismantle more barriers than they have in the past 100 years. There are incredible women and organisations working to pave the way and there is much to be hopeful about. 👉🏾 When I launched my consultancy The Purpose Room www.thepurposeroom.org last year it was about finding my why? The idea of the consultancy took seed when I was on a quest to find my own North Star. It wasn't easy, I had to step back, take time to breathe and accept where I was. I hadn't given much thought to my career trajectory even though I loved what I did and continue to love what I do. My family and caring responsibilities always determined where I was on the journey. If I became a leader and lead an agency it was by chance and because I excelled at what I did and not because I planned for it. All the soul searching and learning led me to discover that in my 50s purpose has a very different meaning to what it was a decade ago. Now, it is about being intentional and authentic towards reaching a desired goal, and most importantly towards challenging the status quo.👉🏾 Today, It means working towards making the world better for me as well as for others, now I am obsessed with finding ways to make a real difference. A big part of what I do is about giving back and positively impacting the lives of others, family, networks, community, society and the world at large. The 12 Weeks to Leadership programme that we run under the aegis of The Purpose Room is about helping all women understand the labyrinth of cultural and systemic issues that can impact women and empower them with a deeper understanding of the key blockers to career progression.👉🏾 So, being over 50, in the end, turned out to be a liberating experience for me. Though I could have done without the heartache, the closed doors, the lack of support but I am not waiting for someone to lead the way anymore and enable change. I have build my own networks, launched my podcast - so people without a voice have a voice and I live a purposeful life every single day. I want to make everyday count. My role is now of an enabler and facilitator - not everyone needs to jump through the hoops, and suffer heartache or financially. 👉🏾 Like I said earlier I embarked on my learning journey because I hit a roadblock. That roadblock had been building up for years - decisions I had made in my 20s/30s and choices in my 40s - they had all converged to be a barrier that was almost my undoing. The choices combined with my intersectionality - ethnic minority women in her late 40s, without the networks in the industry - that was my undoing, almost. I could not speak up or speak out - this is classic double bind most women face. Which brings us to the question of the make up of the PR industry - we work in an industry that is notoriously ageist and gravitates towards younger people not just because they are cheaper to hire but because leaders believe that older people are unlikely to have the skills or the flexibility to collaborate and engage. And hand on my heart I have nothing but respect for young people today. 👉🏾 The need for agencies to be representative and reflect the societies in which they operate has gained ground in the last year. And agencies have stepped up to their efforts to be more inclusive and diverse. Ageism however continues to be a non-issue and is not on the agenda for most. Our working culture favours younger employees and most leaders actively enable the narrative of younger workers as the silver bullet to bridging the skills gap and business success.👉🏾 Recently WPP CEO Mark Read stepped right into it when he declared at an investor call that, 'the average age of someone who works at WPP is less than 30. They don't hark to the 1980s luckily,' he said. He got panned for it on social media but did not lose his job - ageism and being ageist is still not a thing for which you lose your job. The reality is Mark Read said what most leaders believe and promote, he just got caught speaking about it. It is ironical that this came from a 54 year old white man. He is emblematic of the wider issue at the leadership level. Being older is not a problem for everyone, it is a problem for the disenfranchised, for those who are older and do not have either the power or the networks to make themselves heard or their voices count. 👉🏾 Brands are constantly identifying new ways to reach younger audiences millennials, GenZ and younger demographics, often competing for their attention. Why do they continue to disregard the staggering 23 million people aged over 50 in the UK, people who have the money power - is it youth bias; bias towards what is new? As the PR industry we have to take some responsibility for this, we are complicit. 👉🏾 In April 2019 when Vogue and L'Oreal published a special edition of the magazine celebrating women over 50 it aimed to challenge stereotypes and positively shape perception of age through representation. And I am sure it was some smart PR practitioner somewhere or in their own team who gave them this brilliant idea. So, it is not as if people don't understand issues around ageism, it just that we choose not to act on them. 👉🏾 Population ageing is one of the 4 global demographic 'megatrends'. By 2050 one in six people in the world will be over 65 years of age. A UN Report on World Population Ageing 2019 talks about how declining fertility and increasing longevity is going to lead to a continuously growing share of older persons in the population. It states that 'Preparing for the economic and social shifts associated with an ageing population is essential to ensure progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Trends in population ageing are particularly relevant for the Goals on eradicating poverty (SDG 1), ensuring healthy lives and well-being at all ages (SDG 3), promoting gender equality (SDG 5) and full and productive employment and decent work for all (SDG 8), reducing inequalities between and within countries (SDG 10), and making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (SDG 11). 👉🏾 From where we are today I can see us not being able to make inroads on most of the SDGs. It was my father's life aspiration to retire at 50, he finally did at 55 years of age. Me, I have just found my calling, I don't see myself retiring anytime soon. This is also my second innings. The first half of my life I did what I had to - with The Purpose Room I am looking forward to living my purpose. I have also suddenly found my voice as an individual and the courage to stand up for my beliefs. I am sure this is not unique to me. Age and experience can free you up to speak your mind, say it as it is and be yourself. What could be better than knowing your job and having the ability to give clients advise without having to sugar coat any of it? 👉🏾 Especially at a time when people are beating the drum for authenticity? 👉🏾 Like racial inequality or any inequality ageism is not new. It has been around for aeons, why does it matter now. It matters when you think of how long we are likely to live, that the age for pensions is constantly being pushed back, that we need to work for longer to be able to lead a good life (by your definition) often through necessity rather than choice. But, it also because we still have a lot to contribute to society, working helps us remain socially connected and gives our lives a purpose. To make this a reality would mean dismantling biases embedded within the recruitment process including myths around 1) They are not good at collaborating 2) Are not savvy and don't understand the latest social and digital trends 3) Don't respond well to authority 4) They want a higher salary 5) May undermine their authority or lack of 6) It is a stop gap. 👉🏾 When I was still in the job market, I continuously heard from various recruiters about the skills shortage in the industry. Things have not changed drastically since but recruiters continue to disregard a huge chunk of the talent pool because it does not comply with their idea of who would be a good fit. Organisations need to start thinking about how they can utilise the skills and vast experience of this demography. Much work needs to be done to create the enablers for an inclusive and equitable workforce - why don't organisations take a holistic view of the talent pool, rather than taking a siloed approach. The current approach by most organisations is not fit for purpose. They don't know how to engage with senior talent (and may lack the impetus for doing so) and neither do recruiters. If nothing else the Equality Act can serve to be a deterrent for discrimination based on age. In the past the TUC has called for measures that extend working lives without further widening inequalities.👉🏾 We know that the number of people over 50 in employment has been steadily growing over the last two decades. However, the pandemic and subsequent disruption across industries has especially impacted older workers. More than a million workers over the age of 50 are still on furlough, raising fears of a new wave of redundancies for this age group. The biggest risk being that those who drop out of the workforce are twice as likely to remain long term unemployed. In a recent Centre for Ageing Better report, The State of Ageing Half of workers aged 50-69 say their job is excessively demanding and around one in three say they have a lack of control at work. It says low control and high demand roles are damaging in the short term and unsustainable over a working life. A McKinsey research shows that 25 per cent of an employee’s overall life satisfaction is determined by their job satisfaction. The most important factors in job satisfaction are having an interesting job and having good interpersonal relationships. 👉🏾 What can organisations do to integrate senior talent, treat them as valued members of the team and enable job satisfaction? 👉🏾 As practitioners we constantly work with clients to get their campaigns on the front page of newspapers and create a buzz on social media channels, so we are best placed to champion age inclusivity within the industry and with our clients. A potential starting point is challenging traditional representation of over 50's in the media that perpetuate harmful stereotypes and devalue the contribution that they make to business and society. It also means that people in general and women in particular should also take ownership of their future and not leave everything to chance; review it every five years; engage in continuous learning and leverage your strengths against future skills; be an active part of industry networks; become your own advocate and champion. 👉🏾 Age is not just a number - it is your backstory; it is your life experiences; it is about your failures and successes. Don't allow a number to define who you are and become a barrier to living your life to its full potential. ENDFollow me on:
28 minutes | Jun 24, 2021
32: Not a Role Model with Nicky Merrick, Founder Pink Giraffe
Shownotes: Nicky Merrick my guest on this episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast is the owner of a small business Pink Giraffe, a podcast host, blogger and a speaker. She is also a disability advocate and wheelchair warrior (I quote from her LI bio) creating awareness about how small businesses can be disability inclusive. Since she started the business, Pink Giraffe has pivoted a number of times to adapt to her own changing physical needs but also business requirements. What is obvious though is that she is an astute business owner who has been ahead of the curve during the pandemic when she moved her business online selling digital content to other dance costume makers around the world. Listen to Nicky speak about Pink Giraffe, MS and how it has shaped both her personal and business life, adapting during the pandemic and what drives her everyday. And her strong feelings on being viewed as a role model. If you want to know more listen here👇🏾Transcript of the conversation: 👉🏾 My background is probably a little bit outside of mainstream. We now know that I have multiple sclerosis, but I've actually been ill since I was about 13, but we didn't know and I wasn't diagnosed until when I was 30.So I never actually finished school. I was too ill, I never sat an exam. I didn't do any of that. I never even attended school in the final year. I don't think I did a full week of school since being 12. So I had no formal entry requirements when it came to trying to get a job or applying for university or anything like that, but it didn't hold me back. I still went on and I had success. I had some great jobs, jobs that I enjoyed and that I did well in, and after travelling in Australia for a year, a lot of peoples are like, so are you going to settle down now, Nicky, are you going to, you know, just buy a place to live. 👉🏾 And I panicked and I thought, gosh, what am I going to do? I need to buy myself some more time. I was 25 and I thought, I know I'll go to university, that will buy me three more years where I can be independent and free and not have to worry about grownup stuff. And so I applied to University college Chester and they accepted my application based on merit and an application letter. Which was amazing because, I didn't have any formal entry qualifications, but being a mature student, I think they were able to just take me on merit. And I did a degree in journalism, which was amazing. And I learned so much, even though I didn't want to be a journalist I still learnt a lot, that I've been able to use, particularly in my business life. And in my final year, I was in the middle of my dissertation when I met my husband, who already had three children. My plan to have three years of independence and freedom resulted in me having three step kids by the time I graduated, which was obviously not part of the plan, but I would not change it for the world. I absolutely loved my family. 👉🏾 After graduating, I took a job with a travel company, but with meeting my husband, I then moved in with him and was travelling between Chester, where I lived, my partner was living in Merseyside, my jobs was in Manchester. It was all a bit too much, so I changed jobs to somewhere more local to where I was living when I moved in with my now husband. I worked at a bank and it wasn't very exciting and it didn't fulfil me. It was just an obvious step to take because it was, pretty well paid and it was local, I was on the graduate scheme, it was nearby. But they needed to get rid of some staff and they let me go sort of last one in first one out kind of policy. And I was left a bit, "Oh, what do I do now?". 👉🏾 And Chunky who's now my husband, he was self-employed working in the music industry and he said, why don't you start a business? There's so many things that you could do. So I did a bit of marketing, which I'd obviously learned as part of my university degree. And I set up a photography company called Pink Giraffe photography. And the name, I don't have a clear idea about where the name came from. I set up the photography company based in a summer house in the garden of the bungalow we were living in and on the little veranda at the front was this giant, it was about six-foot straw giraffe that I got from a car boot sale for two pounds. And I'd sprayed in pink one day. And. I think that's where the name Pink Giraffe came from. I used to travel around the UK photographing anything unusual, anything outside of mainstream. So I did a pagan wedding, I did a fairy festival, biker rallies, tattoo conventions, anything that was classed as a little bit alternative. That was my thing. 👉🏾 To be honest, I don't have a clear cut answer to how I dealt with it. I think you just have to pick up and carry on when life deals you these things. I kind of felt at the time, like it was two very life-changing situations to be in, to find out you're pregnant it's like your whole worlds about to change. And to find out that, it was a possibility of MS it wasn't confirmed until after I'd had my little boy. But to be faced with those two things that could potentially totally uproot your life, turn it upside down and just change everything that you did in a day in, day out basis. And if you're going to have two life-changing events, why not have them at the same time, because effectively your life only changes once instead of twice. So for me, having them happen together was easier if I'd had a baby and then got MS two years later, that would have been far worse for me. 👉🏾 I think the changes you have to make for any disability can be determined primarily by the type of disability that you have. So if you are someone who has, say an accident and become paralysed, that is an instant radical change to a life and you have to overnight suddenly rearrange everything, rethink everything, change your house, the adaptations to build so that you can live independently. Whereas with myself, with a diagnosis of MS, which we now know I've had since I was 13. This is a gradual thing, this is not waking up the next day and needing a wheelchair. This is having time to think about it. This is being able to put things in place that make it easier to cope. So one day, I thought, right I might actually need a bit of help walking, so I got a rollator and that would enable me to steady myself, walking and take a little seat if I needed a rest. 👉🏾 And it wasn't until a couple of years later that I needed a wheelchair and then we got the wheelchair, but it was very important for me. I was scared of getting in it because I thought once I got in the wheelchair, I would never get out again. And I've been in a wheelchair for about 10 years now, but I still walk about as much as I'm physically able to. And that may be very little, but those little steps are important to me in my mindset and my ability to live independently. I still need to hold on to that little ability that I have. So the adaptations we needed for the house took several years to put into place. I have level access throughout the front door and the back door. I have a wheelchair lift that takes me from the study here, right up into my bedroom. So I can stay in my wheelchair and get everywhere in the house now. I have fully adapted wet room as an ensuite to the bedroom. Which means if I am bed bound, I can still manage and get to and from my wheelchair between the bathroom and the bedroom. So having those things in place over several years, it's much easier to deal with 👉🏾 I think I did learn some lessons early on. I started my business in 2007 and there wasn't the access to online communities that we have now. So the only other small business owners that I met were at local networking events, which tended to be groups of middle-aged men who were either trying to be entrepreneurs or a plumber or a locksmith and electrician. And at the time I was making fairy dolls as part of my business. So I would turn up at these networking events where there'd be all these men in suits and there'd be women really dressed, trying to sort of compete with the men. And I was there in like a tutu carrying fairy doll and I did not fit in, whereas now in the online world there's space for everybody. And there are so many different ways to access, help us support for businesses. 👉🏾 But I think what I learned early on is not to take it personally. And I think this is a good lesson for life in general. I had one incident with a supplier they designed and made business cards and they made an error. They made a mistake, there was a capital letter missing. It was in the wrong place, it wasn't quite right. And it took all my courage to go and I was in my late twenties at this point and I went to see him and I had to tell him that I wasn't happy, and it was so hard and he really made me feel like it was all my fault. Which it totally wasn't and now I think, gosh, I could have given him what for, but at the time I was so unsure of myself that I went back to my car sort of with my tail between my legs thinking, "oh gosh, you know, I should've done this differently. I should have said something earlier. I shouldn't have allowed this to happen". And I cried, I sat in my car and cried. And then I sat there and I thought,"Oh, Nicky, do not let yourself do this. Do not let this be the beginning of your business". I was about two weeks into my new business and I was not going to let that be the way my business was defined. And I'm happy to say no one has ever made me cry since, I'm much stronger in business now. But I think you have to go through these little experiences to build a thicker skin and to get the confidence so that you can carry out your business without being personally upset and affected in the way that I was at that time. 👉🏾 So, I'm in a bit of an unusual situation and that I kind of got a six months advance on turning my business into a digital business. I had been making dance costumes for the last sort of three or four years, primarily making dance costumes for competitive pole dancers. That was what I specialised in. And I loved it, I still love it. I absolutely love creating costumes and seeing people on stage and seeing their face light up when they see the magic of the crystals and sparkling and twinkling onto the lights, that is totally my thing. But physically it was getting too hard, I was really struggling to get them finished on time and I would never let a customer down. I've driven costumes to the other side of the country to deliver them to people. I have driven to a competition where someone was competing to let her try on her costume for another competition because we couldn't get together. I do not ever want to let people down because these girls put so much into their competition and everything goes towards that big day and the music is selected, the costume is chosen and they all have to come together. So if I didn't get that costume finished in time for the competition date, I would be really letting them down. 👉🏾 And what happened about four years ago, was I was finishing a costume for a girl and we were due to go away camping for a few days. And I said to my husband, I'm going to get this finished tonight. I've got a few weeks before she competes, but I want to get it done before we go away so I'm not thinking about it. Also where we were planning on going camping was not too far from where she lived and I said, I'll go drop it off to her on the way. So we did that and I dropped off the costume. While we were camping I went blind in one eye, it's a condition called optic neuritis, and it happens when you have MS. It can happen not everybody with MS will get optic neuritis. And I ended up in A&E and in hospital for a while. It took three, four, maybe five months for my eyesight to fully recover in that eye.👉🏾 Had I not taken that costume to that customer the day that I did, if I had just left it until I got back from the camping trip. I would have ruined her competition and I don't think I'd have forgiven myself for that. And that gave me a big wake up call that perhaps my disability and my illness has got to the point where I have to make some big decisions about my business. So I decided because I loved the industry, I wanted to stay in that industry. So I decided to stop making the costumes, but to set about helping other costume makers with their business. So often someone who makes costumes is generally come into that business because they either make for their children or themselves or people they know, and someone else sees what they've done and goes "Oh, Wow, could you do that for me?". And that's how they come into it. Effectively they're turning their hobby into a business. And so I want it to help those people with the business side of it. I've been in business for much longer than I have been a costume maker. I've had lots of different businesses from running a nightclub, photography company to running a cleaning business. I've done a lot of different businesses over the years. And I felt I could really help people with that aspect of their business and help them step up into being more professional rather than a hobbyist that just gets paid. 👉🏾 And so, before COVID happened, my business had gone through this change of being a digital business. So all of a sudden everyone else was going, oh, we have to just work online now. And I'm like, yeah, I've had six months practice at this, come on, bring it on. Which was great for me, but unfortunately, my clients were all dance costume makers at the time and all the competitions, all the shows, they were all cancelled and not all of them have come back yet. So it affected my clients. So I set about, working out how I could help them through COVID. 👉🏾 My job stayed the same, but I had to change what I was putting out to my audience because their jobs were changing and their ability to work the way they were working was changing. And I did notice a lot of businesses just took up the challenge and went for it and they put in changes, they started making practice wear practice wear and they started looking different ways they could help their customers. And some of them just sat back and went, oh, well, I'm just not going to do anything then. And I know which businesses are still trading now and which ones have struggled to get back into the flow. I wrote my first e-book in the first month or two of COVID lockdown. And that was just 10 things you can do in your sewing business right now. I wanted it to give my clients and audience. 10 really easy to implement things that they could do that didn't directly relate to processing a customer's order. So I launched my ebook and that went out there and that's how I started helping people in the first lockdown. 👉🏾 It's pretty much identical bar one thing. So our son is almost 12 now, and he's never been in school, we have always home educated, as a choice for his education. So the homeschool thing didn't really come into it. So we just carried on, I'm pretty sure he didn't even notice there was a lockdown to begin with because he was quite into gaming and he was on his computer with his friends and a lot of his friends are around the country and all around the world because they were the home educated children. So they didn't really notice what was happening with the school system, because they're just not aware of it. I was working from home anyway, so that didn't change for me. 👉🏾 The one big change we had, is that my husband, who was working in the music industry all the events finished, before lockdown started, all his events were cancelled. And he primarily works in the live music industry, outside broadcast, live events and auditorium type events you know, like at Doncaster dome, for example, is one place where he worked. And so that all finished. Fortunately for us, he has his HGV license and was able to take a new job, being an employee for the first time in years and he is now a truck driver and he still does that full time, but he works away Monday to Friday. So he lives in his cab, he's what they call a tramper, which is a lovely term isn't it. For someone who sleeps in their truck Monday to Friday. That was a big change for me personally because he's also my primary carer. 👉🏾 I'm very fortunate to have a PA carer, who's also one of my best friends now and she is incredible and she comes and helps me throughout the week. But Chunky is always here because he worked from home, other than when he was on a gig, he would do a lot for me around the house. And I think had our son been a lot younger, I don't think I could've done it, but with him being older now he's amazing, and he really steps up when his Dads away, he does what needs be done. On a weekend he's like a regular 11, 12 year old and he's like no I'm not doing that. I'll do it later. One sec, one sec do it in a minute. But in the week I asked him, can you do this, and he's like, yeah sure, and he does it. My husband doesn't believe me that he's like that in the week. 👉🏾 So there has been the income support scheme for self-employed people. And I was able to access that. But with the changes that happened in my business with reducing the costume making and then bringing in the new business, my income had dipped in the prior years. And so it hasn't been an amazing amount of support. But that's kind of part of what I was experiencing anyway. I knew that I would have a dip in the income with switching to the way I was working. I would have to build up a whole new audience of different people that I was selling to. So I kind of just accepted that for what it is. And I think when you're self-employed you kind of used to just been able to deal with your own issues. I think it's very different, if you have a premise. And I know that small business owners that actually have a premises where people go to like a hairdresser's or a cafe and a pub or that kind of business. I think the support has been valuable for them because there are a lot of ongoing costs that they will still have to pay for. Which for me, I didn't have a lot of those outgoings, so I wasn't affected as much and feel extremely privileged to be in that situation. 👉🏾 Yeah, It is hard, isn't it? It is hard. And I think businesses are so varied these days. There are so many different ways you can be a small business owner, that one rule, and one decision by the government was never going to suit everybody. It was never going to be the perfect fit. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try. 👉🏾 But I think there's been a definite split with people....
45 minutes | Jun 17, 2021
31: Culture, identity and the diaspora: A conversation with Archana Bhat, Poonam Mathur and Anita Gupta
Shownotes:We all know that diaspora communities maintain and nurture their culture differently to people in their home country. They feel the need to foster their personal cultural identity but are also under enormous pressure to assimilate in their adopted countries. For societies to be inclusive and flourish - this is essential. But, for the diaspora more often than not this means hiding some part of their cultural identity to not bring attention to themselves. Food seems to be no longer a taboo, but way we speak, the language we use, how we dress, socialise, live, worship can create barriers to assimilation. Culture also shapes our values - what we consider right and wrong. Like most immigrants I am proud of my heritage and culture - for me it is about it is about food, music, festivities, the diversity of language. Like most Indians I can speak three languages fluently and converse in a couple of dialects.... And like most Indians in diaspora - socialising within the community was the safety net. However, it can be tremendously isolating if you are trying to 'fit in'. So I decided to have a series of conversations with diaspora communities from different parts of the worlds to understand their experiences and think about what the real barriers to integration are. In this episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast we talk about the importance of culture for diaspora communities, in this instance for the Indian diaspora. I got together with three childhood friends who moved abroad either as students or after marriage to talk about their lived experiences, of trying to fit in; cultural stereotypes; language and identity. We also talk about a journey spanning three decades and how the next generation look at their culture. Thank you Archana Bhat, Poonam Mathur and Anita Gupta for this memorable conversationMemorable passages from this episode: 👉🏾 So my first question to you is as an Indian diaspora what does culture mean to you and how important is it to you. Should we start with Anita? 👉🏾 Anita: Indian culture to me means our values of respecting each other respecting what we have and living in peace and harmony, that's what I consider Indian culture. 👉🏾 Archana: So it's a very similar definition Sudha. To me it is a set of values, like Anita has pointed out, which we carry within us, our traditions, the dialects that we speak, our customs. It pretty much encompasses our religion, we can't take it out of that. The food we eat, the music which we listen to or the instruments that we play. So that all contributes or makes up our culture in my mind. And I think to me culture is really important because it gives us a sense of identity. It makes us the people who we are today. I think it builds the community in which we live and the next step to building the community. Of course it makes up the nation who we are wherever we are, whichever part of the world we are in. So culture is really very, very important to me. 👉🏾 Poonam: My thoughts are along the same lines. I think it's my core value system is my culture to me. And yes food and music are a very large part of it, but I also feel that as the Indian diaspora we have certain traits that we were raised with, you know respect, mutual respect like she mentioned, and humility and gratitude. I think we really practice that. And for me, culture is very important because it helps me create a bridge from our past generations to us, to our future generations. So my children have that link to there. So I find that's very important that they have a sense of identity as well and that's not lost in the whole process of migration here. 👉🏾 Sudha: So as migrants there is this huge pressure on us to try to fit in and also be invisible and I think that's also part of the South Asian trait, Indian South Asian trait. What was your experience when you first moved? Poonam would you like to go first? 👉🏾 Poonam: My experience was very unique because I think Canada really allowed, all different cultures to flourish and there was no need to be invisible as such. In fact, I found there was such a large community here, which was something I did not expect. And there was such a large celebration of each festival and everything being part of the mainstream that I did not feel the need to be invisible. Yes, there were certain things that, you had to be careful about like I had a problem explaining to people our family hierarchy, that you work with which specific to the Indian way and the gender-based roles in the family. That was something I found very difficult to explain and I think that part of it, I would say I kept invisible, but other than that, I think Canada was really welcoming to all cultures so I did not feel the need to be invisible. 👉🏾 Archana: Yeah, so I came here Gosh, it was more than what, 28, 30 years ago, but I came here as a student. So as a student, like any other student, you know, I had social anxiety am I going to fit in here, how do you interact with the people? And you try to a certain extent, then you develop coping mechanisms, so my coping mechanism was just interact with the Indian community. So for the first two years, the interaction was only around the social circles within the Indian community. So I didn't feel any difference whether I was in India or whether I was here. After two years, when I joined the workforce I did face like a stereotype anxiety where, there's certain norms which is practiced in the workplace here, which they deem acceptable which I was not a part of. And at that point of time in the initial phases, I just chose to withdraw from the public space, just socialise within your own community. So my main interaction in the first few years coming as an immigrant was just socialising, within the Indian community, that was my coping mechanism. So yes, I felt I did not fit in initially and this was just my coping mechanism just to be among our community. 👉🏾 Anita: So pretty similar to Archana, I came as a student single, landed in Oklahoma where the only Indian kind of community is the students there and professors. Luckily I had my uncle’s friends family who welcomed me and the Indian student association was pretty strong, so they did help me with a job and stuff. So like Archana, I associated with the Indian students mostly, but being in civil/environmental engineering, very few Indian kids make it into that stream. So I was forced to, it was good because my lab partners or my research, people who I had to share offices with and the research assistant or teaching assistant, they were white, they were Chinese. So I did get a good mix to, offset my daytimes with them. In the evenings then again, you go back to your roommates and they're Indian. 👉🏾 Two years later being in civil engineering my first job, like this is like hilarious, I got a job in East Texas. Now East Texas is really countryside, they eat gizzards, they eat liver and here I was vegetarian. And I had really long straight hair, down my back and people used to be like, where are you from? Because they have never seen a species like me. Like never. So they used to call it olive skin colour, they used to call me are you Indian. And I initially didn't realise I used to say yes and then one of my white friends Mike, he said, you need to start telling them you dots not feathers. I'm like, what's that? Like he said, dots, not feathers and I'm like, oh my gosh, so every time I've been saying, yes I'm Indian, they were assuming American Indian. And so then I found my ways around it. I was probably the only Indian in a 200-mile radius for them. And working on the construction sites of, the highways and stuff, it was just difficult and being a woman, being vegetarian. But then, you know, worked myself out of those situations, making good friends and being comfortable. So yes at times, I was invisible meaning tried to keep to my identity as much as I could and push my way saying no, this is who I am. And then I made it back into Dallas to work. And again, I think I was one of four Indians amongst 500 odd people. So I've had a good mix going about the whole time. 👉🏾 Sudha:It sounds something like my experience also. But it also sounds like, as human beings, our default is that if you are uncomfortable in a situation and if you have a fallback option, which is what you had as a student, with the Indian communities, you tend to fall back on them rather than go out and make friends. And I think things haven't changed because it remains the same, we tend to socialise more amongst our own communities than outside communities and it could be a big cultural thing because we are, I think very friendly, loud, we like to talk, we like to engage a bit too much maybe I'm not sure about that. 👉🏾 So what are the one stereotype about your culture that really annoys you? You know, IT person, very docile, or even gender stereotypes, you know that maybe Indian women can't do this or can't do that? Archana, would you like to go? 👉🏾 Archana: When I came here initially and started working and just interacting with society, it's really the myopic view of the Indian culture. So yeah oh, India is a land of elephants, there are tigers roaming around, there is a lot of poverty there, you have arranged marriages, is it one language or how many languages you speak? Oh, worst of all is, you know, yeah India is Bollywood. 👉🏾 They just assume that you cannot speak English well, or you don't have the level of education that everyone has here, but as they start interacting with you in the workplace or even the community, they realise, look not only can you interact with them very well but you're very, well-versed in a lot of subjects. So really what really annoyed me is the lack of education, that's assumption people made, they think you're just off the boat and you can't speak the language, you don't understand what they are saying, but that's not really the case. I think when you land here as a culture, we are more reserved, we are not outspoken at the get- go, we think about things before just blurting it out in a public space. So that's just part of our culture and that's who we are, that does not in any way, indicate that we have a lack of education or we are any less. But again, that comes with time and interacting with society. Now of course the country has changed so much and we appreciate all cultures here and that's the beauty of it. But yes, when I first came here that was my experience. 👉🏾 Poonam: Mine was very similar. People were very surprised that I spoke such good English, especially at work. So they were always very surprised as to how come you speak such good English and it's hard to explain to them. So that was one annoying stereotype, but like Archana said, that's changed a lot over the years and it's very different now of course. And I think the other stereotype I would say is the poverty part, because I remember, even when that movie Slumdog Millionaire came out, somehow they assume that all of India is the slum and people were actually angry here and saying, how can you let your country be like this and how can you have so much poverty? I mean, that movie really influenced a lot of people here and they had this crazy stereotype about India. So it's very hard to address that and now of course, with all the news they see on COVID, I mean, people still view India, unfortunately in a different light. And they ask these questions to which we have no answers as to why does your government not do something? Why do you people not do something about the poverty? So I feel it's a stereotype. Of course, these are big issues but,` every country has issues. 👉🏾 Anita: So of course, same like, you know English or poverty but one thing like stereotyped is the recent TV series about matchmaking, that's a big thing. They are like, oh, how can you just meet somebody for five minutes and get married? So that's a big stereotype, but in my opinion, they have a valid point because, seriously like I was so against it, and that is part of the reason why I wanted to come here because my mom had passed away and my dad was looking to get me married. 👉🏾 And then I thought, let me just do my master's in the United States because I just wanted to escape all that. So they do have a valid point on it because I feel the same and luckily I found him. Funny story in my case is I just knew him for a month and we decided to get married, so it's not that different. And even though we are very culturally the same, he's also a Rajasthani and so am I, there are a lot of nuances where we are a little different. But luckily the food and the clothing and the traditions and the culture or the festivals have all been the same. So it was pretty easy to adjust that way but yes, big, big taboo we have is the arranged marriages I think. And media has helped fuel it even more. 👉🏾 Sudha: Absolutely, you know this new series that was out and horrible again, I just can't abide by them for sort of reinforcing the stereotype 👉🏾 Sudha: It does happen but there's a large number of people who make their own decisions. Different parts of India are so different, it's like one continent over there. But I think things are changing. Any character from the media who's like a stereotypical Indian guy who you hate watching on TV. 👉🏾 Poonam: I think Sudha it's improving and in character I saw on a show I watch, like I binge-watch it over and over again. It's called Schitt’s Creek and I love that show. So there's an Indian character in that. So he's very, typical he's like a stereotypical Indian guy, but because it's a comedy, you don't mind it, but of course, if you start analysing it then you're like why are they showing him like such an annoying character you know, he's a real estate agent, he's a photographer on the side. And I guess I didn't take offence to it because it's a comedy, but in the past, there have been especially in all of the Hollywood movies and some of shows, I think the way they show an Indian character has been very stereotypical, but that's changing again with so many Indians coming into the scene. There's another show we have a local show called Kim's convenience. It's about a Korean family that runs a convenience store it's again, hilarious must watch it. So they have some Indian characters in fact, one of the daughter's ex-boyfriends is an Indian guy and that, I found those characters so true to all our people like, so that's what I feel It's definitely changing and they're portraying Indians as how they meant to be, and we can laugh about it too. So it's nice. 👉🏾 Archana: You know, one of them, what I can recollect is a standup comedian Russell Peters. So those are really funny. I laugh too, but some of them are like, you know, wait a second that was probably 40 years ago. That's not the Indian today. So, you know, to emphasise on the accent and to emphasise on just how we interact with each other. Yes, it could be possible that that was true many, many years ago, but that's not the India today. The India today is changed very much. And as a culture we have changed we have our core values, like Poonam has pointed out. But sometimes seeing runs off his show I'm like, No and I just don't it off, and I'm like, no, that's not who we are. And of course, you have to see the influence on the kids because these shows available to our children and it affects them too. 👉🏾 Sudha: We also tend to socialise within our own communities and celebrate our own festivals. Did you find it difficult to settle and make friends outside of the community? How was that experience, Anita, would you like to start? 👉🏾 Anita: Yeah. I have a lot of Indian friends, so my book club or my festivals and stuff is a lot of Indian community, but all my gym friends are very diverse, I have African-American, White, Chinese, Korean Jews, Catholic Ethiopian.but my socialising there helps me a lot too in the evenings. So I don't know, I find it very easy to get along, all my neighbours on my street are all White. So I do associate with a lot of diverse people all the time. 👉🏾 Anita: Yes, for sure, because again definitely, we are stereotyped and in the US, believe it or not, you know, brown person as a brown person, meaning they can't differentiate us between Iraqis, Iranis, Indian, Pakistani, sometimes at least 9/11 time, they didn't know any better. But over the years the IT industry has tremendously helped us, the brown people, like from India, because now they look at you and they go, are you in IT? So that kind of has helped that, they look at us like, okay, these people are extremely smart and they just mean business. They come here to do good jobs and not anything else. So there has been some differentiation over the years, but it does take effort on our part to go out a little bit.👉🏾 Poonam: I think it has been difficult to make friends outside the Indian circle I would say because firstly, my community here is really large. My Mathur community, which is larger than anything I've ever seen even back home. So a lot of our socialising was within the community and it was very difficult to have anything outside. Also because of the way we socialise, because I don't think other communities host these big dinner parties and call like 50 people over and all, it's just not their way. 👉🏾 Poonam: Along with the children. So we socialise with the whole family and they don't do that. So initially we had friends who were non-Indian. But you can only go a certain extent with them, unfortunately. But again, I would say things have changed since then and now even the Indian community has started socialising very differently now, and things are getting better because initially, it was all about these big parties with, hundreds of kids running around and you're bringing these big, dishes out and all you're doing is eating basically from start to finish. And that's what our socialising is about, right! I mean, that's what we do, but that's what I think was a big hurdle too, reaching out to other people outside the Indian community and making friends with them. But again, that's changing and so we do...
23 minutes | Jun 10, 2021
30: Laura Sutherland: PRFest2021 - Sustainability of the PR Industry
Shownotes: We are on our 30th episode. Yayayay 💃🏽💃🏽💃🏽 In this episode I speak with Laura Sutherland about PRFest 2021. PRFest 2021 is spread across 5 days, 15 sessions (across platforms) and has a brilliant line up of 29 speakers. The focus this year is on the sustainability of the PR industry and will include conversations on society, planet, future of work, corporate social innovation and next gen practitioners. Listen to Laura speak about what they have done in the last year to ensure that PRFest is more inclusive, how this year is different from last year and what attendees can expect on the five days. As a member of the steering committee I am really looking forward to moderating the session on Top challenges the PR industry faces and the session 'Is the future of work, working for yourself?' on day four focusing on the Future of work For further details and to book your ticket, £5 pounds from every ticket goes to the Taylor Bennet Foundation 👉🏾 https://www.prfest.co.uk/prfest2021/Memorable passages from the conversation👉🏾 So my name's Laura Sutherland. I am a chartered PR consultant. I have been in public relations now for 20 years, and I have literally just made the decision to move and specialise more in stakeholder engagement. And that's more around, thinking of purpose, thinking of audits or stakeholder mapping. Really getting to know them so that everything that an organisation does is in line with what the stakeholder needs because I really think that's where the most amount of value can come from a relationship, from reputation, but also where businesses have a massive opportunity to grow. Something interesting about myself well I volunteered for our industry, I say volunteered inverted comas, helped out the industry let's say, for around 12 years and in every position from committee members and the CIPR to board director of the CIPR. Most recently as Chair of PRCA in Scotland and Chair of the CIPR Fellows' Forum. But I'm now taking more time out and time to balance life and work, which I think is so important and we're so bad doing it. So I'm now taking some of my own advice and doing that 👉🏾 So PRFest started as an idea in my head around 2013, 2014. And it was because I was getting so frustrated at the number of events that were being held in London with big-name speakers and basically the nations and regions weren't getting a look in anything. It was a real attitude towards the fact that everything had to be in London. And I knew that in Scotland, having worked in PR for, I don't know however long at that point, 10 plus years, that we had massive talent, we were amazing at what we did and that was for all the nations and regions. And so I thought, if you don't like something, help be the change. 👉🏾 So I pulled up my sleeves, came up with a concept for an event. I'm particularly good at organising events, so I thought an event would be a great way to get people outside of London, up to Scotland, and to bring people together to break down these barriers that our industry was so known for. And there were so many industry firsts for the PRCA and the CIPR were both sponsors in the first year and they were both there at the same time. 👉🏾 And it was just great to bring people together and bring a real different kind of energy to the industry about professional development. Not just leaving it up to other people, to help them, but help themselves at the same time. So PRFest has now turned into community and there's probably about 600 or so part of the database, but also part of different groups, listen to the podcasts, come to the event. They attend some of the webinars, but most importantly, there to help each other. And I think that's a real sense of community when people are there for each other. 👉🏾 Okay so last year, everything moved online. And it got to this year and I did a poll and everyone pretty much said they prefer it to be online.So again, it's a virtual event this year. But this year is more of a festival and it is more of you know, taking some of our own advice. So for example, rather than just everything being on an online platform and people clicking through here and go to an exhibition space and bells and whistles that, I don't necessarily think we need. We need to be taking PRFest to where people are. So this year we're across three different platforms. We're hosting some bigger conversations on zoom, but we're also doing tweet chat and we're also doing Instagram lives. So it makes it a bit more accessible for people, some of those obviously are free to attend and you don't have to even register Instagram live and Twitter, for example.👉🏾 But this year's theme is a big it's looking at the sustainable future of our industry. And I don't mean sustainable purely in terms of sustainability, from an environmental perspective, all though that is one part of it. It's looking at how our industry can, not only remain relevant but it can actually help organisations and businesses and practitioners, grow and develop and help ourselves become more knowledgeable, and of value to society. And that is where PRFest really wants to be. It's about empowering and activating practitioners, to be the best they can be, so they can have the most positive impact on societies that they live and work in. 👉🏾 So that's really great question. I think everyone knows that last year, PRFest had a major challenge at the start of June when it was pointed out that there was an all-white program and it really kind of hit home that part of the challenge with PRFest that was that everything was built on my network and my contacts. And it relied basically on me sending out tweets and emails to the PRFest community. So, last year the Driven framework was put together and discussed at PR fest, and then a big crowdsourcing project was put together to then launch the Driven pledge. Which then actually made everyone, look at what our challenges really were, why we weren't being diverse and why we weren't being inclusive in our industry and then we discussed how we could then overcome those challenges. And I did take the pledge because I recognise as somebody in a leadership role in our industry that I have a responsibility to make sure that what I do is more diverse and more inclusive. So I made the decision to pull together a steering group of what you are very kindly a part of, Thank you Sudha, and the steering group is made up of people from all different backgrounds and beliefs and skills and experiences and different countries as well.👉🏾 And together as a steering group, you have brought such massive amount of thinking and just challenging me to become somebody different and to think in a different way. And this whole last year has been an absolute whirlwind of learning, educating myself, helping other people be educated and most importantly now setting that example to other people and raising awareness and the importance of it as well. And in terms of the inclusivity part of it, things like people's abilities, people's disabilities, people's financial positions, et cetera.👉🏾 So this year I made 10 tickets available to PR graduates and students which have all been snapped up which is really great to see. There are 10 tickets still available for PRFesters who are financially challenged just now, but who otherwise would normally make it along to the event. 👉🏾 So, you know, just a quick call to action if anybody wants to get in touch with me about those tickets please do because they are there waiting. We also have again, we talked about the platforms earlier and that means that two of the platforms, Twitter and Instagram live are free and accessible to anyone who uses those platforms. And also Zoom which is a platform I pay for. Zoom has also now integrated subtitles into the recordings and the live presentations which means that potentially people hard of hearing will be able to read the subtitles and it'll be available on the playbacks for later as well.👉🏾 So quite a lot of work done and by no means, has it stopped there, just want people to know that I did take on board last year, what was said, what was discussed. I have committed to doing something and I have done my best so far with my ability and my time and everything else to do the best I can do to make those changes that I committed to.👉🏾 So Future of Work I always think that when we talk quite often public relations, we quite often limit ourselves to the scope and the borders in which we work. So I like to think of it as no borders. And so the future work is a massive conversation because it's not just about the physical place of work as many people are still talking about, you know, do you go into the office or do you work from home? 👉🏾 But it's also about what that future of working looks like. And that comes from, many different parts of the conversation to you know the culture to the physical place, to thinking all of things you've learned in the past year, what you might take, what you might like just leave behind, from sort of bad habits of working. So on Thursday, the 17th, just so everyone knows, they will really look at and talk about what the opportunities are for us, the positive things. Let's not focus on negativity. Let's think about what we've learned and how we can use that to move forward as an industry and really make our agencies, our teams, and our organisations work harmoniously with that 360-degree view, taking all of our stakeholders into consideration. And so it's a big conversation, but we need everyone to be part of it so that we can all learn from it, from our own experiences and from what we liked and what we didn't like in the last year to what we liked to what we didn't like from before COVID.👉🏾 Corporate social innovation means I suppose, quite different things to different people. And so from the corporate social innovation day. Alex Malouf, who’s Head of Comms for MENA, for Schneider Electric, he's going to be talking about how large organisations like theirs, can put sustainability at the heart of the organisation and how that will impact much, much wider than just the organisation. And there's also Katie Buckett from we are 'One Fifty'. She's going to be doing a tweet chat with Jaitika who will be talking about behaviour change and digital transformation. Essentially, if you use the word transformation, you're going to have to have a whole change management program in there as well. And that's about behaviour change, about perceptions and reputation as well. So it's going to be a really interesting tweet chat and that day is going to be on Wednesday, so that's Wednesday, the 16th of June. I suppose it's worth pointing out actually that for the whole entire week, there's an all-access ticket, which is 50 pounds. And all these sessions I've just talked about are included within that. So 50 pounds for the entire week and actually five pounds of that is being donated to the Taylor Bennett foundation who PR fest has supported since I think it was 2017, we started working with them. So it's really good value for money, think of all these conversations you can be part of. You can also participate in as well.👉🏾 So, yeah, it always has to be practical for me so that people can go and really implement what they've learned, but also so that they can then think more about what they've learned. Be more curious about things. So I would like people to leave and go away and write just like five things that they're going to do as a result. Even if it's one thing from each day, five things as a result, it might be to update your professional development plan, because you've been inspired to learn more about other areas. It might be that you have very specific actions that have come up while you've attended PR fest. It might be that you haven't looked at the Driven pledge before, and you may want to go and visit the PR fest website to go and download it and take action.I think five things because that's you committing to taking one thing away from each day to do, and I don't think that's too much to ask. Do you Sudha. 👉🏾 So, let's rewind back to COP, which is the huge big climate change conference where all the global leaders come and discuss and agree on what they're going to do and commit to in terms of the climate change. But climate change is an ongoing thing, so it's more about the climate crisis. Because scientists have confirmed that we are in a crisis situation. So I've been involved with environmental sustainability and climate change since 2014 when I handled the PR and communication for Scotlands 2020 climate group. And we set figures in Scotland for a 42% reduction in carbon footprint by 2020. And Scotland smashed those targets, Scotland exceeded with something like 46% or something like that.👉🏾 And I learned a lot when I was working for them. I learned so much about collaboration, about mentality, about bringing different sections of society together. So whether it's businesses and organisations or actually the public and how that all works. It was fascinating from a PR perspective because it was just a sort of eye-opening experience.👉🏾 When I was chair of PRCA Scotland, that was until last week and how we as an industry should be doing more to push forward on leading the conversation around people, practitioners and reinforcing within both as an organisation the part that they should be playing on reducing carbon footprints, on considering the environment and the impact that their businesses are having on it. And so when I had this conversation last summer it then transpired that John Brown from Don't Cry Wolf had also spoken to the PRCA about something very similar.And so this group was then formed, which John now chairs. And basically, we decided that this group would specialise in misinformation and climate change because so many of the problems around climate change are around misinformation.👉🏾 So we decided that the public relations and communication and industry that we should be the ones who are leading on the story of misinformation on the climate crisis because it's something that we can as an industry raise awareness about and put right. That could be global, that doesn't have to just be something in the UK, but we're doing it in the UK just snow to prove that we can actually do something to actually effect change. We didn't make it to COP sadly, but we do still have plans in place for a fringe event. We are collaborating more widely and we're having really great conversations with the industry, on a much wider scale, big businesses and organisations who we can work with on this huge project and initiative, but it certainly feels good to be involved in something that can actually have such a massive impact on society? 👉🏾 That's like the typical interview question isn't it? You know what PRFest isn't about me PR Fest is about the people that come to it, the people that speak at it, the people that come to it and then speak about it. It's come from being a face-to-face event, a virtual event now to a week-long virtual event with different platforms.👉🏾 I think every year it's just going to keep evolving and it needs to be for the practitioners who are there. I'll still commit to continuing, being more diverse, being more inclusive, having other people input. I always welcome and I want to reinforce that I always welcome people to challenge me, people to have a conversation with me about changing something about an idea, about collaborating. That is how I reckon we as an industry can best move forward. So PRFest who knows where it will be in five years time. But it would be where it's made to be because practitioners have put it there and I'm just the, the pilot who can fly there.👉🏾Absolutely. Well, first of all, thanks for having me to be able to talk a bit PRFest. I've been an industry cheerleader for so long, and I absolutely believe that we as practitioners have to commit to our own professional development, take matters into our own hands and we have to help steer where we're going because it's for our future. But it's not just our future as individual people, if you think about every individual joining together, it's a whole community, it's a whole industry. PR fest is there not as a big forum, it's there because there are so many people that have different thoughts and opinions. 👉🏾 That PR fest is the place where you can do that in a safe way. And I think that important to stress that these conversations are in a safe environment. And PR Fest is growing and it's a happy, positive place to be.And I think it inspires people to do different things, to be different people and to go on and develop further. So my call to action is, book visit PR fest.co.uk. Have a look at the lineup, have a look at the speakers. Buy your tickets on the website, have a look at all the other stuff that goes on with PR Fest. And just become part of it because everybody's welcome. Absolutely everybody's welcome. And if you have any challenges or you have any suggestions for me, then do get in touch with me, I'm always happy to listen and to chat. 👉🏾 Thanks Sudha. I think there's maybe just one other thing I would say and that this year as well I've tried to make sure that the people that are helping put it together, also have that platform to be able to try things and experiment, with some other events, it's always like the big-name speakers and, you know so-and-so will host it, you know a TV presenter or somebody fabulous. But actually, the practitioners we have in our industry are equally as fabulous and they need that experience and they deserve that platform for having put the time and effort into thinking and helping and putting things together. So I'm really pleased that the steering group is able to host the steering group is there and it's actually a big part of the actual day or the, the week, as it is this year. And so a huge thank you to everybody in the steering group for the amazing work that they've done, and that includes you Sudha for all your fantastic work. It's been an absolute pleasure, and I
28 minutes | Jun 3, 2021
29: The road less travelled, my journey to motherhood: Manjari Thakur Gohil
Shownotes: Pregnancy and motherhood for older women is the proverbial 'elephant in the room' in all societies but more so in cultures, where deep rooted patriarchal socio-cultural practices mean what women are supposed to be a married at a certain become mothers by a certain age. My guest Manjari Thakur Gohil, my guest in the 29th episode is a regular trooper, she gave up a successful career moving to the UK for a fresh start when she found love. I have seen her navigate the journey to motherhood, opening herself to vulnerability, heartache but also hope. We share a unique bond of friendship, she is also the younger sister of a close friend Yasmin. I say the name aloud - lest we forget (and that is a conversation for another day). In this episode we talk about the stigma around pregnancies in older women; fertility treatments and IVF; the trauma of being judged by family, friends and society; coping with mental health, and the need for education and awareness amongst girls and women on reproductive choices...... Her Twitter bio, is poignant but reflects her mantra in life, "On a Journey of a road less travelled. Have lived three lifetimes in one and am not complaining..."If you want to know more listen here👇🏾Memorable passages from the episode:👉🏾 So, Sudha I know you since my childhood in Poona and my father was in the airforce. So we moved around a lot. And we finally settled in Poona, and then my education was in Poona and then I moved to Bombay to do my social media studies. After that I continued to work in Bombay in TV. When I joined TV, it was very nascent. So it was not a very deep career. It's not like becoming a surgeon or becoming a nurse. So you didn't have that many role models, either women or men that you wanted to aspire to be. And I felt okay, so where do I go from here? And I thought, I really want to settle down and, find a partner. I had a conversation with my brother and he basically said, don't worry about my mom. So, I started talking to my husband and we got really close and yeah and then marriage the next year and I moved to the UK. So it was not intentional, it just happened. But then when I came to the UK before we got married, I said, okay, this is a place where I can rebuild. I can get a career in another field or maybe in television, again. I really wanted to continue to work and to be part of the working culture. So I thought this is something new. It's another community to be a part of.👉🏾 Yeah, 15 👉🏾 Yes, I have a strong sense of identity. And I think it's my overall experiences in life that have shaped the identity. A lot of people say they identify themselves with their career, or you know, when you say who are you? They said, "Oh I am a nurse or a doctor ? Or who are you? I'm a mother of four". Those are the responses you get. So when people ask me, who am I? I said I'm Manjari. And this has been my response since I think I was 12 and my dad got a bit miffed with me, he said, why don't you say you're Manjari Thakur, why don't you say that? I said because i'm just, Manjari. So my sense of self was always me, and my brand and over the years, I've refined it to be, when people ask me, who are you? So I say, I'm me. Like, I'm me, I'm Manjari and you know, what do you do? Oh, I work here. You know, do you have family? Yes, I have family. So then, everything else becomes a part of the larger global self of you. But I am me first and then all this is attached, 👉🏾 Manjari is opinionated sometimes weak, sometimes strong, depends on what the circumstances - honest, trustworthy, loyal. These are the three core things. And a strong sense of ethics. So my sense of ethics is so strong that it's sometimes, you know, it makes my life difficult. So it's very hard for me if a colleague is not being treated right. Or if a friend is not being treated right, or if a stranger in the bus is not being treated right. And I think my biggest thing is for anybody is to be happy inside, you live with yourself first. 👉🏾 Yes I completely agree. So I think my first obstacle before motherhood was the marriage. When I didn't get married when I was supposed to get married. And I think at some point my parents just gave up. Okay, you know, I think they just didn't want the battle. Because I had a really strong sister, I'm a middle child, so she was ahead of me. So she had already established a lot of these ground rules in the house. So for me it became slightly easier to say, no, I'm not going to get married now you know. So then my dad once asked me, are you never going to get married I said, I don't know, but I would like to start orphanage someday. So he was like, Okay. So when I finally did get married I married a unique individual who comes from a traditional family background but is not traditional himself. So he had his own battles to break that mould. So for him the question never came from him or, it was never something that for us, was an issue. 👉🏾 It always came from other people at weddings. " Oh, so this year any children, with a smile, any good news, as they say in my part of the world. So that was the start and I wasn't ready at that time because I was establishing myself here in the UK. I was very clear that I wanted to get a career going, I wanted to suss the country out. I wanted to see where I can go. I wanted to see what I want to do next. And sort that out before I, think of getting another life into the world because I think that's a tremendous responsibility. I feel you should be in a happy place to be able to make that journey with your child. So the child benefits from you. And then when I decided I was ready, you know, I was old, older and the journey was not easy. So we tried adoption, the UK adoption laws are very, very stringent, and I always wanted to adopt that was something I always wanted to do, you know, single or married. 👉🏾 So we went to the whole process, but it's very stringent and we felt every part of our life was being scrutinised and I don't think my partner, my husband was ready for that. So he was not at the same place as I, and it has to be a joint effort. I didn't want it to be a thing where I'm ready and, you know, I push him into it, that doesn't work. 👉🏾 I think I've done a lot of reading since I've come here. So I think that's been great. So I read a lot of books about people who've written their stories about adoption, and I spoke to a lot of agencies and I think the good news is that the staff in these adoption agencies are very, very patient and generous in their time.So they talk to you very nicely they give you a good understanding as to what you're going in for. Because they recognise the journey you're going to take, where you may not be recognising that yourself. I think the adoption journey the way they scrutinise, whether you're ready for adoption is excellent because they scrutinise every part of your life, which is it's intrusive. 👉🏾 But, I think it's a good thing because what they don't want is for people to, in the spur of the moment, say I want to adopt, and then when they have the child, they rethink it because they have not thought the whole journey through. And then the child is put through another trauma of changing home again. But that child may have by the age of two changed, three or four or five or six homes already because of what's happened in his life. So he's already traumatisedThe journey would take like about a year and a half. There are many many stages. It's all very well worked out, so it makes you think as well, Am I ready for this? Do I really want this? It also makes you evaluate your pattern, your life. Like, do you have support structures in place? Who's going to help? You don't think of these things when you don't have children, because you don't need to right? What they mean by social structure for the child, I think the way they have defined it here is very good because they are actually evaluating every aspect of your life to see whether you are able to support not only the child, physically development wise, but socially, do you have people who love you are able to love the child who will accept the child. The child will meet and see. 👉🏾 I don't think it was terribly expensive, but then I think we found the right place. I think you need to find the right place. We found a really good clinic down the road from here just 15 minutes. We found a very good obstetrician surgeon and the treatment was very good. He was very reassuring at every point. And what I loved about it here, was the fact that they didn't even question, didn't look at you strangely. So why are you doing it now kind of thing, you know, you should have tried it earlier. They were just like, okay, so this is where you want to go and they laid it bare saying that these are your options. And we did try something similar in India, because we had other friends who had actually done it in India and they recommended us to this really good hospital. But there we were judged all the time. And it was a lot about money. I'm sure it was about the money for the clinic we went to as well, but it was just done with so much more decency, you felt human. 👉🏾 You just felt, okay, this person is actually listening to me, actually understanding what I'm saying. He understands my trauma. How hard it's been to come here, to get here at this point, sit in this chair, have this conversation. He understands that or she understands that. While in India it was just like pay your money there, go for that treatment there. Go there, get this, get that, get that, pay money again. You're going through this whole journey to raise something good, positive, beautiful in your life. Something to love care, share, bond. And then you're going through this treatment, which is just money, money. I think somewhere the caring is lost. So we just said no to that and then we went in for the option here. 👉🏾 And I think a lot of people suffer, and I met so many couples, a lot of women, either in the waiting rooms or generally, you know, once I was expecting, random women either when I was having tea somewhere in a station, at an airport or even at the hair salon, somebody sitting next to you, people you've never spoken to in your life. And they would ask questions, you know, oh you're expecting and, oh, this is lovely, and then they'd give you that story and then their journey. I felt all these women are actually sharing with me that things they've maybe never shared because I'm a stranger, they're not going to see me again, but it was just cathartic. So a lot of them shared treatment, fertility stories, which were very sad very disappointing. How much they had put themselves through and you know, how they actually tried to develop themselves after that and how it's changed their relationship with their husband. Some of them have got divorced after because it's just not worked out and there's too much pressure on the marriage. I think it's very important to find the right place where you feel it's right. 👉🏾 No, I did actually approach my GP and he basically turned around and said it's because of the age that they would not put me on. He basically said I could do the tests on the NHS. But they would not put me on the, because of the age they had a limit for that. And I get that I mean, I completely understand. I mean like, it's publicly funded. Why would you put your money into something where, you know, it may not succeed, right? You'd rather give somebody who is more likely to succeed, a better chance. And maybe a couple more cycles to make sure that they have everything they need to succeed. 👉🏾 So they came from some expected sources, so I was expecting those. And there were some which was more curiosity than anything. And then I read a beautiful article online about this lady who had her first daughter when she was 50, she's a freelance writer for the independent. And she basically said that when she was asked questions like that, she basically, she said, I have nowhere to be the evenings. I have been everywhere, I have done the partying. I have done the dinners out. I have been to the expensive restaurants. I have been to movies. I have done things with my friends, so I'm fine going to sleep at eight o'clock or seven-thirty if my daughter is asleep at seven-thirty. And I decided I'm going to use that line. Because I think it's a fantastic line, I have nowhere else to be, I have done everything. 👉🏾 So the most random conversation I had was with the GP receptionist, who yelled at me across because we were in COVID times. So she was like two meters apart, yelled across and said, "isn't it too late for you to have your children?" Because she saw my date of birth, obviously, when I was taking my daughter for her six weeks checkup. And I said, yes, but I have nowhere else to be, I've done it all. I'm happy to be here, sitting with my daughter waiting for a six weeks appointment. And I said I have achieved, everything else I had in life so I'm fine being here. I think you should have a child when you're ready to have a child, if that happens to be late in your life, and you're lucky enough to have it, then why not? 👉🏾 You know, why do we pressure ourselves when we are 20 or 25? Because a lot of us are still children, there are women who I have spoken to who've had their children when they were 20 and now they're in their fifties, but they feel they've lost all that 20 years where they, they could've done something else with their life. They were still children when they were raising children. I think they weren't ready. But I think this is what society needs to be accepting of. That it's not when society says that. Oh, okay. So, you know, you need to have a child now because your nearing 30. Or society says so we need to get married at the age of 25, so you can have a child at 30. I don't think it works like that. 👉🏾 That doesn't mean that, there's no stigma there is going to be stigma. I'm sure when my daughter goes to school, there will be a recognition that I am an older mother. And then there'll be a different challenge with that because a lot of her peers will have younger parents and she'll wonder, why my parents are so much older. So that'll be a different challenge, I don't know how I'm going to tackle, but I know it'll come.👉🏾 I think I enjoyed my pregnancy. The stress was more around me, It's thinking that when is it going to go wrong? Like I was waiting for it to go wrong. So I didn't do any reading after like, I read all the books basically. And then I didn't read anything further because I just didn't know how it's going to go. But forget older women. I think motherhood puts a strain on every woman or pregnancy puts a strain on every woman. And a lot of women are put under pressure to enjoy it because it's so lovely but a lot of them are sick, have headaches or just are uncomfortable with the weight, uncomfortable with change in the body, uncomfortable with how your body doesn't belong to you. You're pushed to go and pee when you don't want to, you're in the bathroom a lot more than you should be. 👉🏾 But there's so much pressure from society, you should be glowing and beautiful. And then somewhere along the line, I realise it's not going to be me. So I'm not going to be glowing and beautiful. That's fine, I just said, okay, that's fine. And I'm not going to be apologetic to myself or anybody else that I'm not that, it's okay I'm not that. Even after my daughter was born like I'm not the cool mum. I'm not going to be the mum who's going to be cool and have a her hair done when out in the sun and the sunshades. I'm going to be the frazzled mom, and I'm going to be continuously running after my daughter. And I'm going to continuously worry about her because that's going to be me and I'm ok with that. 👉🏾 Yes. And my daughter is going to be safe and happy. Safe, happy, protected and well-developed and that's it. I'm not going to be one of those Moms sitting in the park, taking a picture of myself and my daughter looking very pretty because I'm never going to have that time to do all that to myself before I leave the house. I've got a hundred things to do, you know, like make sure to have her food to have her this, if I'm driving, do I know where I'm going? How do I get the buggy in the car? How do I get it out of the car? How do I make sure that she's okay? Is the timing right? They'll have to move it 15 minutes up and down so that she's safe, she's happy, she has a full stomach, a clean nappy, you know, good clothes, she's in a happy mood when she sits in the car. So that means that my hair doesn't get done and that's okay. 👉🏾 So my daughter is 15 months. I don't know whether I have advice, but I can say from experience that, it's a hard gig. There will be many sleepless nights, we've had hardly any sleepless nights, touch wood. She has been sleeping through the night since she was 13 weeks through the night, like six hours and then longer stretches. I feel for me it was all about understanding her. And now I feel that when we have communication going or she can't speak words. I know what she wants, she tells me, she points. You know, she has a few words here and there, but I know where she's struggling. So I think it's a hard gig and people who are in the same situation at some point you will find your balance and your medium, but the initial thing of striking the bond with the child and making sure you're not overwhelmed with the feeling of frustration, that it's too much of a challenge right at the start. You know, you need to keep at it, because then the rewards are rich because you bond, she understands you, she trusts you. She or he wants to be with you and I think that's the biggest reward. You know the smile and you leave the room, you come back, you get a big smile. Where do you see that? I think that's the biggest reward. 👉🏾 Especially when you have, your first baby, a lot of people will tell you how they did it or how it was in their time or how it's wrong, what you are doing. I would say go by what you feel is right. I felt there were a couple of ground rules for me, I felt I was not going to allow my daughter to cry, you know, in the sense that she cries out of, oh where is everybody or loneliness or anger.
34 minutes | May 27, 2021
28: Narendranath Damodaran, ED, PRADAN: The impact of the pandemic in rural India
ShownotesMost of us have seen harrowing images in the media of the havoc wrought by the second wave of the pandemic in India and have heard stories of helpless and desperation from family and friends. The missing piece in this conversation is the impact on rural India - which constitutes above 65% of India. In today's episode I speak with Narendranath Damodaran, Executive Director of PRADAN which is leading on civil society response and working tirelessly with frontline workers to support local communities in the second wave of the pandemic. They work in 9,000 remote and backward villages (in 7 states) touching almost 4.5 million lives every day. In this episode we talk about 👇🏾The devastating impact of the second wave on rural communities struggling to recover from the first waveRapid Rural Community Response (RCRC) to COVID-19 a civil society coalition formed of 54 CSO Poor healthcare infrastructure in rural India and the need to create local isolation facilities for those who test positive. The fear, social stigma around the disease, vaccine hesitancyThe importance of protecting those on the frontline The need for immediate cash injection into rural economies through revival of National Rural Livelihoods Programmes The urgency for donors, the private sector and individuals to step up on funding to support the work being donePRADAN and other civil society organisations do invaluable work by supporting local communities and facilitating government response during times of national crisis - they should be recognised for the pivotal role they play and more importantly have the access to funding to do continue their work. Listen to the full episode Apple, Google Podcasts or SpotifyMemorable passages from the episode: 👉🏾 Last time when the pandemic came and it obviously kind of came as a shock to everybody. But that time it was a fear that it might spread to the rural areas. And then we were kind of bracing for it. But the impact by the time it reached the rural areas, it kind of waned and it was predominantly an urban phenomenon.But this time, it took us by shock, as you said. And this time the pandemic really moved into the rural hinterland. And as everything in this country, when something goes to the rural areas, it kind of goes into a national black box as it were. The public consciousness of what happens in the rural areas is pretty limited. So there is very limited information on what happens in the larger scenario. So even though currently, as we speak, the numbers are waning, the daily deaths and the daily positivity cases, it is reducing. But when it is going to rural areas and the counting is also limited, so we really do not know. But from our own direct experience from the field, it is rampant in the rural areas this time. And it is actually a very difficult situation right now, as a journalist recently called it, it is a virtual hell out there as it were. And there are reports from alternate media, mainstream media is really not covering it much, but in alternate media to personal reporting, et cetera. One is really able to understand and we can counter verify it in our own personal experience.👉🏾: Right, you just reminded me, this is an everlasting image. All our collective consciousness, the picture of hundreds of thousands of people trekking back in the heat. Of the last summer, I think really one will never forget it. And we have equally dismal images from this time, but of another kind. In the initial few days we were also kind of in a shock. I mean, as the whole country suddenly went into lockdown and people started trekking back and really hell broke out and we were also not sure what was happening and obviously, in the urban areas, we were also scared, so we were not stepping out. So we were kind of trying to organise our own lives in the beginning, but then we realised that the rural economy was going into a tailspin.Because there's a huge influx of return migrants and any, and all economic activity in the rural areas that was going on, all stopped. Any of the government programs that we're running like MGNREGA or any other public programs. They all came to a grinding halt. So it was a very difficult situation. People were starving, lots and lots of people just going without food. 👉🏾 Fortunately an organisation like us and a very large number of NGOs like us, we have quite a good presence at the grassroots level. That is right in the village through our community resource persons who are members of our self-help groups or are members of our livelihoods programs. So all my colleagues immediately got in touch with them because they are our first, line of defence. So we got in touch with them conveyed to them about the disease, the protocols, and then we asked them to start spreading the word in the village that what this COVID protocol. So our first response was, kind of mass-scale information, education, communication, using multiple means and mostly through mobile phones. And then obviously physically people travelling there and we had vehicles travelling with announcements and with large posters, et cetera. Kind of informing the community as to what the COVID protocol is and how to keep themselves safe.👉🏾 Then we had all our women community cadre also going around. So this was the first step that we did and this we did across the 7,000 villages we reached out to about 600,000 households. It's about 3 million people roughly. So that is the kind of scale in which we went. But that was not enough information, we had a large number of people starving. So that was a second big area that we had to get involved in. So one thing we did really started doing was we started mobilising resources. We started speaking to our donors and we repurposed our existing monies that we had. You also got fresh resources from a number of donors. So we organised financial resources then bought up dry rations in big scale and then made it into small packets and distributed to over 200,000 households. That was a important thing to be done because people did not have food at home. And next migrants were returning to the villages, and they were obviously not allowed to go into the village because they were coming from the city.👉🏾 So they had to be quarantined. So we immediately got in touch with the local panchayat. The local government public health system and arranged a large number of quarantine centres. And then we also supplied the basic requirements, and most importantly food. So we also ran about 350 community kitchens across our project areas where fresh nutritious food was made. So there were two kinds of people. One was the vulnerable people in the village, the very old or disabled people who did not have other people to look after them.👉🏾 And then we also were regularly in touch with the migrant communities. A large number of them were stuck in their city locations. And they were not able to come back because the public transport was not there. They wanted to get in touch with the relatives. They did not have money, so we were arranging some support for them in the urban areas as well. So there were in a series of steps that we took in order to ensure that some sense prevailed.And then obviously we did that for about four to five months until you know, kind of the peak came down. And then last but not the least was some kind of livelihood inputs because that was a time when the crops were standing in the field 👉🏾 So we had to arrange for large-scale marketing of their farm produce and so that they're able to get some immediate cash returns with which they were able to invest more money into the next crop. We also arranged soft loans for them, for investing into the Kharif. One very important area that we got involved in was to restart NREGA Program, you know the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee program, which provides a hundred days of wages. We did campaigning, not just at the local government level, but also the national level, in order to ensure that the NREGA program restarted. Because that would have been an immediate way of providing cash, you know, ready cash into the hands of the people because that is what they needed most urgently in order to survive as well as to invest.👉🏾 One more thing we did was at the national level, a large number of us NGOs got together and formed the national network of civil society organisation working on a COVID relief. So we call it 'Rural Community Response To COVID'(RCRC) Network. And through his network, we actually took up a lot of policy influencing work in terms of providing agriculture assistance, restarting MGNREGA. 👉🏾 Last time, it was a scare that this will spread into the rural areas. And as we experienced the number of incidences in the rural area was reasonably limited the people who travelled back from the cities really did not carry the virus into the village.There were cases, but very limited, but this time maybe because we became very complacent and there were many so-called super spreader events The states, where PRADAN works mostly in the central and northern belt of the country, the rural health infrastructure is abysmal and if this pandemic explodes in the village we'll not be able to combat it. We'll have to just allow it to take its own course. And exactly that is what is happening now. The system is the most conspicuous by its absence, as we say, there is a large number of infection happening, in our own villages we see more than 50, 60% of the people are positive.And there are deaths, but it is reported as death due to general seasonal ailments or even typhoid or malaria. So there is a lack of information of exactly what is happening. So whatever is being reported is whatever is you know, people say. There's no real testing happening. 👉🏾 In fact In some of our project no testing happening. Therefore there's no identification, therefore, no surveillance or any tracking or any appropriate response. In the rural area there's a total absence of any support system as it were, people are kind of feeling as if they have been left stranded nobody to really look at them.There’s an inability of the system to respond because there are hardly anything that exists If there are ambulances, it will not have oxygen. Tests as I said are not happening. So frontline even the doctors, they are doing tele consultations because the demands on them are also very overwhelming. So at the village level, the presence of the system as we see is through the Anganwadi or the Asha worker, the auxiliary health worker. These are the local people they're semi-trained, but they're also working with a lot of risks because they are also getting infected. They do not have appropriate protection kits, et cetera, they're going out of the way I would say risking their own wellbeing and trying to do whatever they can.👉🏾 So at the village level, there is a gap of any support system and what exists is a lot of fear and people with all kinds of half baked ideas, superstitions, stigma. And a lot of fear as I said about getting tested or even go to the doctor or even going to the hospital. The universal statement that we hear in our villages is, we will not go to the hospital because we've not seen anybody come back from the hospital. So we do not want to go there. We do not want to get tested because God forbid we become positive, we will be ostracised. And, you know, if somebody who falls dead, the dead body also will not be given to us and even at the stage of death we'll not have dignity.There is fear about vaccination, but they're scared because they've seen people who have vaccinated and also got infected. So there is no correct credibility to vaccination. 👉🏾 Yes. I could start with saying what are we trying to do. This time also we were taken by a little bit of surprise and shock because if you look at February, the number of infections of the order of 4,000, 5,000. And suddenly by April, it had become 80,000 in the next month, it went up to 400,000.👉🏾 So the growth curve was so steep that it kind of came like a tsunami. And now it is spread to the villages and it is kind of spread so badly that we do not even know what to do. What also happened this time was the number of infections inside the organisation, PRADAN itself was very high. A lot of my colleagues got infected unfortunately one of my very senior colleague he succumbed to the disease. So the organisation itself was seriously affected, our people in the field a lot of them have got affected. Our frontline workers, from the self-help groups and the community cadre a lot of them also got affected. So our own response was slow because in the first we had to obviously take care of the wellbeing of our own people. So we did spend a lot of time trying to create the protocols and trying to provide the support, assistance and also dealing with just the disease itself, helping them hospitalise.👉🏾 But now we've kind of organised our lives in a way. And now we are also realising the seriousness of what is happening in the village. So our interventions will be at multiple levels. First obviously is to give the people in the village, the sense that there is somebody, somebody you can talk to. Give them, a feeling of confidence and also then making them receptive to any new ideas that are coming in. Because currently what exists as I said fear and stigma, in that space, we need to have confidence and receptivity.👉🏾 My colleagues are regularly in touch with the village people. We're obviously not going there, but through phones and through the community cadre we're trying to instill some confidence in the villagers.If you break it down, it's not a very serious disease to deal with. 85, 90% of the people do not need to get hospitalised. A lot of things that you can contain at the village level. So containment is our immediate strategy. It's also important to contain locally because that is what will help us reduce the load on the already overloaded the health system, where the number of doctors or beds or equipment or anything is so limited that it cannot take care of large number of people coming into the hospital system.👉🏾 So we need to contain them at the rural areas itself. Therefore what we need is mass-scale education of the people. So what we're doing is we're trying to create videos and training modules trying to reach out to as many of our self-help group members and community members as possible, to provide them proper information on what is the second wave. Obviously, there's a slightly more infectious strain, but we can deal with it.It is possible to deal with it provided you follow the basic protocols itself. So that is very important. And since the infection rates are much higher this time, it's very important for people to identify from the very early stage, the day of your getting infected. So this identification of the symptom, and understanding the disease itself is very important. How does one isolate one’s self suppose we start showing symptoms.👉🏾 But if you're showing symptoms, then there are certain things that you need to do. This is the way you need to isolate. And what we started doing if people are not able to isolate themselves in their homes, which obviously is the best thing to do. But in the rural areas, in our villages, it is not possible because you know, in a given household, there are four or five people, the small children, and there are animals and there are one or two rooms. So that is not possible for people to stay away from each other. So we need to maybe create community facilities. Rent or take over a school, which is anyway closed. So take upon a panchayat building, or a government building equip it with beds with basic amenities, water, and the basic hygiene, masks, sanitisers, et cetera. And then housing, those people there. You need to have separate rooms for women, for men for early mild symptoms, moderate symptoms. So it's kind of a little more involved this time compared to the basic quarantines centres we made last time. So here we might need to have oximeters and thermal guns basic equipment and some basic medicines will need to be kept there. We need to provide food to these people. So this is at different stages I'm trying to kind of delineate as well at different levels, what we need to do. 👉🏾 Hesitancy is very rampant. There is fear, as I said, the fear of the unknown as it were. So the basis of everything is a fear and fear arising from a lack of understanding. And that again resulting from lack of someone actually speaking to the people. There is a huge hesitancy on vaccines because they see people who are taking vaccines and still getting infected and some of them getting infected seriously. I believe there's a lot of education that needs to happen around vaccine also. There is a protocol on when do you get your vaccine and then how do you take care of yourself in the early days after the vaccine? So there are so many things, one needs to do, which nobody's telling them. So I think we need to really educate them. And as we know, that is the only way out,👉🏾 I mean, there is no option that you cannot take the vaccine. You have to take the vaccine and we have to get everybody vaccinated. So we need to run as many campaigns and education programs as required. And we'll obviously need to ensure that vaccines are there, that is a big challenge in the country today, shortage of vaccines.👉🏾 But once these vaccines supply starts coming in more steadily we'll need to work with the administration and arrange the vaccine centres as close to the villages as possible. And then maybe literally carry these people in batches to the vaccine centre, get them vaccinated. Now vaccinations are happening, it's also documented so shabbily people once they come back they get a small piece of paper, very rough piece of paper in which they written you're vaccinated. And on the other side, the name of the vaccine is also written, but it's also not very clear, sometimes it's just written COV. Now COV could be Covaxin or...
26 minutes | May 20, 2021
27: Wellbeing+ mantras with Maya Sadasivan NLP Master Practitioner and ICF-PCC Executive Coach
ShownotesMy guest for the 27th episode of the podcast is Maya Sadasivan, a friend I have known for over three decades. A fortnight ago when I mooted the idea of creating a space for women in our network she didn't hesitate for a second. She stepped in, offering to facilitate the WellBeing+sessions, carving out time from her intensely busy work schedule. We recorded the WellBeing+ Mantra session on the weekend and here it is.... The episode is packed with great advice from this leadership coach and mentor about why it is important for individuals to start with their personal wellbeing; simple strategies for coping with uncertainty; identifying certainties; psychological safety; creating mind space and time space..........Listen to the full episode on Apple, Spotify or Google PodcastsPassages from the episode👉🏾 Thank you Maya for being a guest on The Elephant in the Room podcast👉🏾 So The Purpose Room held well-being plus drop-in session yesterday. And we did that in response to the current situation in India. We wanted to provide our small community with a safe space to talk about things that matter to them at this point and talk about how they were coping. So the idea was to create a supportive environment for them. From the session, my three big takeaways were that it's okay for all of us not to be okay. And what the past year has done specifically if you look at India as a country, is that it has brought conversations about mental health to the forefront and into our living rooms, because there's such a stigma around anything to do with mental health. This doesn't mean the stigma has gone away, but that it is more acceptable to talk about issues that people are facing. And the second was that leaders and coaches need downtime too, and it's okay to unplug and not try to save the world. We're constantly in that mode where we react and respond and we want to do something, take some action. So probably the idea is to step back and look at yourself and see how you're feeling.👉🏾 The third point from the young people in the room, I learnt that organisations need to do more to be supportive. Because a lot of the people feel that they're not supported, they didn't have the confidence to voice their challenges to managers. The issues that we need to think about is around psychological safety, whether line managers are sensitised around the needs of employees working from home.The blurring of boundaries between personal and professional, the never-ending day. And the reality is like a lot of people in India, live in a flat. There'll be generations of people living in that house and they may have caring responsibilities or may not have caring responsibilities. Isolation has been a big issue for them and you were there yesterday providing great insights and counsel to the people in the room, on how they could cope or how they could deal with those situations. To start with what were your takeaways from the session yesterday?👉🏾 Sudha, one of the strongest takeaways for me was the realisation that we, as people, we as human beings are fundamentally instinctively supportive. I think in today's times more than understanding, the value is for accepting, are we being unconditionally accepted with all our worries, our apprehensions, our uncertainties, and when we voice it, is there an acceptance that it's okay to feel so?The second takeaway for me was, as one of the participants mentioned, in spite of our hectic schedule in spite of our activity driven world and life, this one hour which wasn't easy, but we all still grabbed because it was so important to stand and stare, to be still to centre ourselves and to be mindful. And, you know, the most beautiful thing Sudha, no one is really looking for or expecting solutions, answers. They were just looking for a space where they could hold each other's hands, centre themselves. And at the end, the energy shift was so high, we kind of got back to our regular life with greater energy. One of the reasons that I initially joined the session was, myself as a coach, I had started asking " am I giving and am I giving enough?" And I'll be honest by the end of the session I realised, everyone is giving in their own way, whenever they can, however they can. And I think that in sort of doubting whether we are giving or not, if we can acknowledge and appreciate ourselves that brings in tremendous inner strength.👉🏾 This is one of the most oft-asked questions, this pandemic has turned every employee, every individual's everyday life into a VUCA space, it is volatile, it is uncertain, it is complex and it is ambiguous. When you look at this space that we are in today, one of the most important need for us as a human being is, to feel in control. And to feel in control one of the most crucial elements is to feel certain. The most helpful suggestion I can make here is, instead of looking at an all or nothing space of certainty, identify what are the certainties in our life today. Love of family, a roof over our head and food to eat. The fact that those of us who are still holding jobs do get a monthly salary. What are the certainties in our life? Even if they're only one or two Sudha, identifying the certainty in our life makes us better equipped to face the uncertainty in our life.👉🏾 This is my first thought that I would like to share that, identify the certainties because all of us have certainties. The second thing is, create that time-space and mind space for being more consciously aware. Not of the people around us, not necessarily your circumstances, because if you notice Sudha, from morning till night, we are running around our day with labels on us. We may be spouses, we may be siblings, we may be children, we may be colleagues, we may be boss, we may be subordinate. But these are labels, which we are living. Through that hectic day find minutes, it doesn't have to be hours, just minutes where you stand and you are mindful. And when I talk about mindful, I'm talking about being relaxed, yet alert, conscious yet, not judgmental.👉🏾 This question of yours Sudha, actually reminds me of the time when we used to take flights and when the air hostess used to announce that when the cabin pressure drops and the oxygen mask drops the first thing you do is give yourself oxygen so you’re equipped to save and support and help people around you.And I think that philosophy just underlines the need today for every one of us to nurture ourselves so that we are capable of handling our circumstances and our loved ones in that circumstance. See at the end of the day Sudha, we cannot give from an empty cup, right? We have to be full of compassion, thoughtfulness and energy. And for us to be full of compassion, thoughtfulness and energy we need to be very sure about what are the certainties that give us strength. What is the freedom we have to be kind compassionate and thoughtful in our environment.And so it is extremely important that we nurture ourselves a little every day, so that rest of the day, we have amazing amounts to share. And to give. 👉🏾 Yes Sudha. It is something that is very dear to me. It's a very simple routine. And in fact when I talked about relaxed alertness and nonjudgmental consciousness. I must admit, Is it simple? Yes, does it come easy? May not be. So here's what I do at the end of the day, no matter what time it is. I always step out of the house, I stand by the gate and I'm very fortunate to have this very fragrant Jasmine climber next to the gate and in that stillness of the night there's a slight breeze and there's this fragrance in the air and I become an observer. I'm very conscious of the feel on my skin, the fragrance I'm inhaling, the stillness. I can almost feel the stillness, Sudha. And while I am experiencing that moment, I am relaxed, yet I'm alert to all my five senses. I am conscious, at the same time I am not judging anything around me. It's almost as if I'm embracing the stillness in the air within me, and I carry that stillness to bed, and I sleep well. Like I said, is it easy? May not be. But is it impossible? Certainly not!👉🏾 You're so right Sudha in that. In fact, let me share with you some things I do, when in the middle of a hectic day, I suddenly feel a little frustrated. At these moments, I tend to have certain things around me. It could be a coaster, it could be a table mat. Anything that has a little bit of a rough texture and then usually I just close my eyes and I feel that the texture with my fingertips. And trust me immediately, I feel centred because I am sensing the texture, I am not analysing the texture. And the moment you stop analysing it just takes a second or two for us to be centred. Another interesting one that I'd like you to try out Sudha is, just close your eyes and hear the farthest sound that you can make out, and hear the closest sound that you can make out.Simple strategies, simple techniques, takes just a few seconds and that is all it requires for your heartbeat to get back to normal. And the moment your mind is just clear, the creativity, the innovation aspect, the energy, everything just comes back.👉🏾 The immediacy with which a company responds to creating safety for their employees is the first step. So for example, there's an MNC that I know that created mantra. It was like "we are a team, we look after each other and we look after ourselves". And every day in the meetings, they would chant this. I know of a company where within three days flat, and the company doesn't have a work from home policy, but in three days flat across five locations, all employees were geared up for work from home.👉🏾 The immediacy with which the companies responded is one of the first steps towards psychological safety that an employee would experience. And then I must admit that after the immediacy of support, there were about six to eight months of sheer confusion where companies had to change policies to deal with the circumstances and the changes.👉🏾 So it did take time. The strategies for employee engagement played an important role. It is not just limited to the human resources, the learning and development team, like the line managers everybody has to come together and they have come together to create this space of psychological safety. We cannot attribute this job as it were to one entity. 👉🏾 So if you look at the HR, they came up with more flexible work hours, to accommodate the work from home space. If you look at the learning and development in many companies, they came up with very apt wellness programs.And like you mentioned, none of us necessarily have the luxury of a corner in the house, which is isolated so that we can sit and do our work. We have bandwidth issues, internet connectivity issues, and these need to be dealt with. And then of course, very important, the third element, the line managers. Here, and I would like to highlight that we tend to ask, how are you only if we are confident that we can support you. And to deconstruct this thought in line managers, I had the opportunity to run a few very specific programs.The line managers have to realise that giving them that empathetic space, creates amazing psychological safety than any physical action of theirs. I have really realised that we don't ask people, how are you? If you're not sure if we can help them or not, and we need to get over that. 👉🏾 Honestly when we look at an organisational perspective, there is a natural tendency to look at senior management. When I think of organisational perspective, I look at it across hierarchy and I think that's extremely important because the crux of the fear factor is in the ground level rather than in the senior level.👉🏾 One of the things that the organisation could do is create greater visibility of the C suite with the employees, webinars session, regular circulars appreciating and acknowledging their employees and in the meantime, offering support. Greater visibility of decision makers across hierarchy with periodicity that is important,. The second thing that I would recommend is that bringing more learning in those spaces. Let me share an example of an amazing consultant that we hired recently. And this person joined the company and within a month, the pandemic hit, we went into lockdown and this amazing leader, she was handling three projects with about 170 employees. None of whom had met each other. And you know Sudha the most interesting thing is, she chose learning as a tool to create connection between project teams. So she sat with the learning and development team, created a series of programs, which were conducted once a week for one hour or two hours each.👉🏾 And then she would use those learning programs to connect with her team members, to share her thoughts and get thoughts from them. So I think it was amazing how creatively a leader was able to create togetherness in teams that have not even met each other. The third point is something that the youngsters who have joined a company could work on, and I think it works at every level. Create relationships with your team members, your managers, so that during a crisis, when you really need support, you can leverage that relationship. Let's look at that aspect. How can we demonstrate sensitivity without compromising business outcomes.👉🏾 This something that has actually foxed me in the last few months, as to how a generation can actually be living in their mobile. Yet, if you ask them to connect with their managers, if you ask them to connect with their team members, the expectation is, I'm new they should connect with me. I would encourage the young generation to be curious.The more they are curious, trust me, the more they will create visibility and the more they create visibility, the more they will find spaces to be included into the team culture. Because you don't know the team members, you don't know what the project is or process is. So be curious, ask questions. As you ask questions you create a persona that says, I want to know, I want to be included. And then as people respond to you, you start building relationships, you start building connects, you start building go-to people and that's how we start getting a feeling of being more included in the team. 👉🏾 And there was this question that you asked about managers, having the need to feel in control. One of the things that I often recommend is that micromanage process and protocol so that you can macro manage people. See we need to give a sense of flexibility and freedom to people. 👉🏾 I think this is so very crucial and so very critical for all of us to know what is a break for us. If we have this clarity Sudha, this certainty, like I mentioned, at the beginning of our conversation, That certainty, "I need a break, why I need a break, how long do I need a break, and how will it affect my work". If we have certainty on this, this will give us the confidence to raise a voice. And when we raise the voice about wanting a break, I would recommend that we talk about that intent. So let's start conversation with why do we need a break. And then we create a space for a conversation, a discussion, a negotiation to make that break happen. It is natural that in an organisation, no matter how understanding people are, there's always an urgent, critical escalation that is happening. And there's always an emergency that's happening. And there's always a deliverable. See, I always believe that if you want your leader to show you empathy, then you as a team member need to show empathy. Trust me, like I said in the beginning, we're all human beings and we are all supportive. We just need to elicit that supportive part of our managers. 👉🏾 I know, in fact I do realise that it is not easy, especially when most of us are not really wired to think that it is okay to ask for ourselves. We may ask for our family members. We may ask for our colleagues, we may ask for our friends. But when it comes to asking for ourselves, suddenly it becomes too much a work. Isn't it strange. Like if our spouse was not well, or child was not well, our parents were not, well. We would not hesitate to do what it takes to negotiate with our bosses. But when it comes to ourselves, you're so right Sudha, we hesitate and in that hesitation, our tipping point is not forward it's backward. There I'd go back to the oxygen mask. 👉🏾 I can actually conduct full sessions on these two points. I would say to be productive, identify your brain alive time. At which time in the day, do you really feel that your brain is alive? And at those moments, usually, it could be anywhere between half an hour to two hours at your brain alive spaces. Slot what is challenging, what is problematic, what needs creativity? If you can challenge these really tough things during your brain alive time Sudha, one is able to complete them faster and when one completes them faster, a larger chunk of time is available for mundane activities. That is one strategy I would recommend for productivity. And for nurturing oneself, something that you and I have discussed, find a few minutes of mind space and time-space and nurture yourself because at the end of the day, we matter we are precious and we are alive👉🏾 Thank you Sudha helpful having me with you for this conversation. And I think the most beautiful part was, you actually helped me articulate a lot of things that I hold in my head and heart, but now it is out there in the space of giving and sharing. Thank you SudhaFollow Maya on: LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/systemicoachmaya/?originalSubdomain=inTwitter: @MayaSadasivanImportant Linkshttps://thepurposeroom.org/wondering-what-stops-an-assertive-you-at-work-place/
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