In this blog we hear the stories of three members of our senior management team talk about challenges they have faced in their careers around issues such as caring, disability, parenthood, race and gender – and their thoughts about how we can all support a more inclusive workplace.
I have thrived in the corporate world for over 23 years across four industries and three countries. I have also continually fulfilled my passions, such as publishing books, running marathons, coaching, writing and speaking. My biggest learning is that fulfilling dreams does not have to be at odds with your career.
I give life my all – a life without passion and purpose is half-lived. Themes I gravitate to include purposeful growth, value creation, end-to-end thinking, productivity and people. My core attributes are agility of mind, diversity of thought, and ability to find the story that connects seemingly uncorrelated information. Solutions are only as good as the people behind them, so I focus relentlessly on people as well as process.
Technically, I’m Indian by ethnicity, British by nationality and Singaporean by residence. I’m a single mom to two children. Challenges are just the norm, and they fire me to go further. Pushing our limits helps us understand where they lie – sometimes we surprise ourselves.
My background and diversity are my strengths, and I’d never trade them. They give me grit, determination and empathy. Having seen exclusion first-hand, I know how it feels, and I seldom need training to be inclusive – it’s part of who I am.
Diversity is not usually associated with men in a corporate environment as the focus is more on the ‘glass ceiling’ – the barriers women face – or the ‘bamboo ceiling’ that Asians encounter. But with changing times, I feel men find it as difficult as women to carve a niche for themselves.
In my 25-year career spanning industries, I have managed various roles and portfolios across finance, operations and business development. The challenges I faced were linked to those facing Indian society.
I didn’t attend an expensive school or get a university degree from an upscale college. My sole aim was to earn a living, make a career, and be successful in whatever I do. Not being part of the ‘affluent fraternity’ limited my networking and growth opportunities. But it never deterred me, rather it gave me a resolve to succeed.
Rather than trying to fit in, I learnt to be comfortable in my skin. I taught myself boundaries don’t exist. I learned to swim in my twenties, picked up long-distance running in my thirties, and completed many 10,000 metre runs and half marathons.
‘The greatest oak was once a little acorn that held its ground.’I live by this idiom, and I share it with my children – always give your best effort irrespective of results, as they will eventually follow. You will be a better version of yourself with each passing day.
I decided to go back to work after having children to achieve my ambitions, but it was difficult knowing the feeling of ‘mum guilt’ would be tough. I realised just how important it is to work for a company that cares.
I had not foreseen the challenges around caring for my disabled son. It exaggerates that guilty feeling, and opened my eyes to the lack of awareness about carers in the workplace, and lack of employees with disabilities. How many employees in your business are carers or have a disability? Many companies do not record this information as much as they do for other diversity and inclusion statistics.
A fifth of working-age people in the UK are classed as disabled. In 2022, the government met its goal of one million more disabled people in work ahead of schedule. But the disability employment rate was still only 53% in 2021 – 28% lower than for able-bodied.
I hope for improvements in the workplace, so people like my son can fulfil their potential when they reach working age.
Business leaders need to do more to support existing and prospective employees with disabilities. This can include simple things at the beginning, such as diverse representation in recruitment materials, understanding candidate needs at interviews, and training managers to minimise biases.
Businesses can also do more for carers. They can gather statistics on carers in the workforce, and ensure policies and processes do not impact them negatively. They can also offer carers more flexible benefits and working conditions, and better support.
There have been some positive developments. The moves to hybrid and remote working have been great news for disabled workers and carers. Employers are more aware of employees’ mental health and provide more support.
Celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking wrote, ‘Disability need not be an obstacle to success.’ By focusing on an employee’s skills, rather than concerns and stereotypes around disabilities or caring responsibilities, businesses can access a wider pool of talent with diverse experiences.
My experiences with my son have opened my eyes to the prejudices, and enabled me to educate my colleagues on the impact of living with a disability. Openness and communication are vital to achieving equality.
Support from Delta Capita
Delta Capita want all our employees to feel included, regardless of their gender, background or any disability. Employees that feel supported feel happier, and have more sense of belonging and engagement at work.
Are you looking for a new workplace that values diversity and employee wellbeing? Check out our latest vacancies here.
Also find out how Delta Capita are reinventing the workplace through employee-centric projects at our Reinventing Hub.