Dr Teri Okoro of Toca presented a case for the ‘pathways to success’, challenges and wider societal role we have to play, but chiefly how you need a ‘seat at the table where decisions are being made’. ‘You can take a lifetime to be seen as an overnight success’, she suggested. ‘It’s a journey, not a destination, because you never actually arrive there’. Bottlenecks that individuals experience in organisations, Okoro added, are all about the difference you make in overcoming them for those that follow.
‘You actually need the leadership to recognise that there is a problem before you start to craft some solutions.’
Other speakers included Siu-Pei Choi of Wates Residential, who told a story of how she was given advice on her CV following difficulty getting a job after the Bartlett. She pointed out that having a name that was very difficult to pronounce and on paper didn’t look English was possibly holding me back’, she said. And Manisha Patel of PRP recalled when she told her parents she wanted to be an architect.
‘They quickly turned around and said: “ooh, that’s not a career for an Asian. What’s wrong with becoming a doctor or an accountant?”’ Patel added that she was the first ethic to reach board level at the practice, after 50 years, something she celebrated with Prosecco and samosas. ‘But I have had to work harder, be tougher, be at the top of my game and learn a lot more skills than my counterparts – while having two children’, she said.
Following breakout sessions, suggested ideas from contributors to improve the situation included sharing experiences more, ‘feeding’ change through the education system, encouraging more diverse voices and support for those starting families from companies, encouraging more male voices to speak up and be ‘allies’, pushing boundaries on job sectors to counter ‘pigeonholing’ and disseminating more real-world information and advice about existing levels of bias.
‘The main thing for me to take away’, said Agrawal, ‘is just the support that we all offer each other and knowing who we can all reach out to, to help us all move forward, together.’
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