Tag Archive | opportunities

Nevertheless we Persist

 

 

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Last Saturday I was invited to speak at an International Woman’s day event organised by the Smileers. The focus was on “what it takes to build something” I was invited to participate as founder of Path to Possibilities. Here are extracts from what I said:

Success is not lonely: You can’t do it by yourself, so tap into your support network and use them to propel you forward. For those who plan to get married, I said be wise about your choice of husband. Marry someone that loves you enough to support your dreams or your crazy adventure. Your choice of partner can be the difference between soaring or stagnation, it may even derail you completely. No marriage is worth a derailment from purpose.

If you marry a man who expects you to be the sole child carer, sole home maker, or to always take care of his needs first, this may not be compatible with your own individual goals. Much respect to women who have no dreams or aspirations outside of their immediate family, feminism is about informed choice, with no value judgement – family may be enough fir some . But as I said, for me, and for some women our husband, and our children are part of our world, not our world.

Define success on your own terms: Do not let the noise of the world define what success is for you. It may not be CEO. It may not be a six figure salary. It may not be the trappings of wealth or drive for more and more material things. It may be at odds with what everyone considers to be successful. Success is individual to you and your values. Success is rarely compartmentalised either, so you should see it manifesting in every area of your life once values are aligned.

Strengths and weaknesses: in trying to develop ourselves we sometimes think we must always improve on all our weaknesses first. And that we can’t move forward until this has been developed. Sometimes this leads us to focus obsessively on those areas we are not good at at the detriment of understanding our strengths and letting that strength guide us into spaces where we will flourish.

Knowing our weaknesses is important, but the rhetoric that suggests developing them is instrumental to success can be flawed. I used body building as an analogy. I said I apply the principles of bodybuilding into my style of exercise or training. Body builders in general split their training into body parts; so one day they may work legs, next day they work arms, another day shoulders, next is back – you get my drift. There is an intense focus on splitting and training muscle groups together, this system works very efficiently because no part is neglected. Now because bodybuilders do this, they are also very much aware of their weak areas. I know for me my weakest spot is my abdominal- I’ve had two kids and muscle separation and quite frankly it’s been stretched to wrinkles. For a while I obsessed about my abs, I tried to train it hard but then realised it was making my muscle separation worse, so I stopped training it hard, I got stricter on my diet, but then I realised I was cutting out too many things because they bloated me, which made my abs appear worse. I focused so much on my abs I started to forget about how great it felt to be active, or how great my legs were looking or my shoulders, and my back. My point is yes we all have weaknesses, but overly focusing on them may stop us appreciating our strengths and even limit our drive to go to places we can occupy inspite of our weaknesses. The founder of the Smileers Francesca Danmole said ” you can simultaneously be a masterpiece and a work in progress” this is my belief too. Do not let your weaknesses be the excuse. It doesn’t have to hold you back. You don’t have to be perfect to succeed! You don’t need to tick all the boxes. Your strengths can take you far.

Stop waiting for affirmation: I was asked what piece of advice I’d give another female starting their career and I said I’ll say stop waiting for people to congratulate you, to promote you, or to value you. You wouldn’t always get the recognition you deserve or the promotion – if it’s not happening and you’ve asked and it’s not happening then leave! You don’t have to stay in the same job, or on the same path, you can leave. Sometimes the old adage is true ” a queen is not recognised in her own queendom”

I was asked why I stated the charity Path to Possibilities and my answer was simply. I am
here today, not because I’m special, or brighter, or more intelligent , I’m here because I’m standing on the shoulders of many other women who helped my mother. My efforts to educate other children is born out of that knowledge. My greatest hope is that many more of us will realise that we didn’t do it alone and that we can be instrumental in changing and touching other peoples life’s. and although it often seems like a Herculean and thankless task we owe a duty and a responsibility to God, the universe or Mother Earth not just to take, but to give back.

If you would like to join me in making a difference please come and run with me on 1 July 2017 in North London. We will be fundraising to keep more children in education. Last year Path to Possibilities established a library which we can only keep open with support. Please sign up for our annual race, if you raise £50 you’ve done more than enough to help us. http://www.race4change.co.uk

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Above is a picture of the centre I’m desperate to keep open!

happy international women’s  day.

The Butler

I finally watched the Butler and although I know I shouldn’t, I compared it to 12 years a slave. But at least I can now articulate why 12 years a slave simply didn’t touch or move me like the Butler did.

I found the Butler more relevant to my experiences as a black working woman. Without meaning any disrespect, movies about slavery, as important and necessary as they are, have the capacity to delude some people into thinking that black people’s struggles are consigned to a dark time past.

I am uncomfortable with the knowledge that the more subtle and real stories of inequalities and lack of opportunities can’t compete with the sheer gore and brutality of slavery.

The story of the Butler is closer to my story. Cecil and his colleagues working in the Whitehouse often spoke about having two faces. If some black people are honest they may admit that there is still some element of truth in this. Sometimes we bend backwards so as not to appear “threatening, aggressive, feisty or diva -like”, negatives stereotypes often slung at black people- black women.

It took 20 years for Cecil to get a pay rise; pulling the lever of the president in the end. The truth about modern working life is that often white counterparts find it easier to find someone who believes in them. This is crucial for progression. If you don’t have a ‘godfather’ routing for you, believing in you, or encouraging you, it can take that bit longer, even with talent. There is nothing wrong with having a über mentor, if the same encouragement and support is readily available to black staff.

There are campaigns and attempts to redress the lack of equal opportunities in senior management in the UK today. But then you hear some people shouting that “black folks must be promoted on merit” indirectly and naively implying that the talent just isn’t out there, or implying that half of the white men in positions of power are talented or competent. The truth is that a lot senior managers are too complacent and lazy to see the talents of people who may not sound like them, come from similar backgrounds,went to the same university, dress like them and so on.

I also found the tension and discontent between Cecil and his son touching and sad. I see some of that struggle between an older black generation that insist that the younger generation of black people can attain anything BUT if they work twice as hard. It is bullshit advice. Working twice as hard to get exactly what your white friends have is not equality. It is another form of slavery. It is buy one get one free.

The Butler reminds me sadly of my reality at work, I am a minority. I sometimes have two faces, the one that wants to scream when the next senior manager waltz in talking about some half-hearted initiative to tackle or develop talent, because they only just found out that ethnic minorities are mostly consigned to junior roles or middle management. And the face that just wants to enjoy work, my colleagues and progress.