Naheeda’s Story - Marketing & Communications Executive, Energy & Utility Skills
The diversity and inclusion agenda in any sector, should strive for a workforce that reflects its society. When I began career mapping four years ago, what I was looking for in a company was their values, ethics and environment. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to be ‘the only brown girl in the building’ and as I was searching for my first role post-university, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Graduate? Check. Female? Check. Ethnicity? British-Bangladeshi. Check! On paper, I appear to fill a certain specification and I have no qualms with that. Growing up and going through school, I noticed a few things about race: 1) excluding healthcare and academia, I didn’t see enough women that look like me in professional roles, 2) people of different races are not celebrated enough in our media, on our screens and in our societies and 3) are there a lack of opportunities for people from a minority ethnic background?
My marketing career started at university but has continued and evolved in my current role at Energy & Utility Skills. Early on, I was pleasantly surprised at the efforts the company were taking to ensure their workforce were representative of the community. It was then, however, I noticed and thus began to worry about the lack of diversity in the wider sector.
During large external meetings and events, you meet a variety of individuals with careers many would aspire to have. Yet sometimes you look around a room of 200 people and you realise you’re probably only one of five from a BAME background, one of the few women in the room and 99% of the time I have been the only female with a headscarf on. Finding yourself in a situation like this has both pros and cons. It has, nevertheless, sparked conversations and you begin to appreciate that people want to educate themselves, grow their businesses with a diverse culture and ensure their recruitment processes establish good inclusion practises. But we still have a long way to go.
There is definitely room for improvement and the initiatives the energy and utilities sector is taking are steps in the right direction, including the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership’s Inclusion Commitment, an employer led initiative aiming to attract, develop and retain a more diverse workforce, reflective and inclusive of the communities it serves.
The first step to achieving a workforce that reflects our society, begins with ourselves as individuals before we look to drive positive change in our companies and institutions. There are no limits to educating ourselves, listening to people from minority races and backgrounds who are sharing their experiences and allowing us to understand what we need to do to tackle discrimination. With every step we take to confront the diversity and inclusion challenges in our society is a step in the right direction.