My parents have a lot to answer for.
They gave me two pieces of advice which have influenced me throughout my life.
Advice from mum: travel the world (challenging to fulfill with my fear of flying…).
Advice from dad: progress as far as you can in your studies and in work.
Their collective advice meant from an early age, I developed an interest in people and the world in general. Aged 10, I described myself as a ‘cosmopolitan’ since for me, variety is the spice of life.
In comparison to many of my students from similar backgrounds, I have had so many opportunities which have allowed me to reach this point in my life. The foundation of these opportunities were based upon parents, teachers / lecturers and career advisors who inspired me and believed in what I was able to do. In other words, people who, in their own way, echoed the advice of my parents.
So, what of the biases that I have experienced?
The limits / biases that I face start with the equal opportunities section that I complete as part of any application forms.
The boxes that I select for ethnicity, gender and faith immediately highlight the facts that I am ‘different’.
On paper, I would be described as a female, Black British African, Muslim.
It all starts to become interesting as soon as anyone meets me as they quickly realise that I don’t quite fit into any of the boxes which are used to categorise me. How does one get that across on paper?
It is even more interesting when others then place me into additional boxes which reflect their perspectives of my abilities and potential. The most common box is the one which says ‘this is how we see you and this is how far we think that you can go’. When I experienced periods in my life when I have been unclear about who I was and what I truly had to offer, I have inhabited the box that I was placed in, as a way of fitting in. It’s only when I started to recognise how small the box was that I start to realise that not only did it not truly reflect me, it also meant that I was placed to one side and pretty much ‘ignored’.
Through the generous support via my PLN (initially through @jillberry and @ottleyoconnor), I have been able to understand who I am as leader and recognise what I am able to offer. In addition to this, #WomenEd and #BAMEEd have really helped me to celebrate my ‘differences’. Futhermore, my collective tribe accept me for who I am yet continuously push me to do better.
So even though I acknowledge the biases which may influence how others see me, I believe that there are no limits to what I put my mind to do.
As I said at the start of my blog, my parents have a lot to answer for… :-)