AB Thinks  →  7th May 2021

Advancing diversity in IC

AB Thinks

Katie Macaulay’s guest for Episode 47 of The Internal Comms Podcast is a leading light advancing the diversity and inclusion agenda in our industry.

Advita Patel runs her own consultancy, Comms Rebel, and is co-founder of A Leader Like Me, a global initiative to help under-represented minority groups progress further in their careers.

She is also a qualified coach, mentor, public speaker, podcast host and a Board Director for the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR).

Here is just a handful of the thoughts expressed by this most energetic of IC experts during a thought-provoking conversation with Katie Macaulay.

#1 People in IC from diverse backgrounds must not pull up the ladder behind them
For people to feel like they belong in a profession, they need to hear voices that represent them. So it isn’t about ‘once you’ve made it, you close the door and don’t help other people along with you’; it’s about keeping that door open, holding your hand out and bringing everybody along. The more we do that, the more we can make change happen.

#2 Simply being seen can help others conquer imposter syndrome
One of the challenges faced by under-represented people in organisations is not seeing leaders like ourselves at the top table, and so we struggle with imposter syndrome. You start questioning: ‘Do I actually belong in this space? How come I made it and nobody else who looks like me or sounds like me is here? I must have just been very lucky. I’m just going to keep my head down and crack on.’ We need to make sure we get the support we need to come out of this imposter syndrome phase. But it’s also on the organisation to be aware that people in the business may not feel represented or that they don’t belong.

#3 You are in a position of power to advance the diversity agenda within your organisation
As leaders within internal comms, we have our own sense of responsibility to be that leading light, to be that change. Because if we don’t do it, then how can we expect our organisation to do it? It’s easy to turn a blind eye and think, ‘It is what it is, there isn’t enough representation, but what can we do?’ and move on. But, as communicators, we have a very privileged position in some of our organisations to advise our leaders, to help them understand why inclusivity and belonging is so important. I am a true believer in the power of language: in internal comms we manage that kind of work, so we can influence how our leaders might think too.

#4 It’s OK to make mistakes if people can see your intentions are good
People really worry about the language around diversity and don’t want to be called out. Cancel culture is real: it puts the fear into people, and stops people talking about it in case they are perceived as racist, sexist or homophobic. What I say to those people who are struggling is, ‘It’s fine to make the mistake because you are learning from it. The majority of people are very forgiving if they can see that you’re making an effort to understand who they are and what they’re about.’ For example, I’ve learned a lot about non-binary language recently, so that I can be as inclusive as I can. I’m asking people for pronouns now. It’s baby steps: learning and accepting that you are going to make mistakes, and that’s OK as long as you learn, you move on and you educate others around you.

#5 Be kind to everyone, but most of all to yourself
We’re very unkind to ourselves at times and say things like, ‘I’m so stupid’, or ‘This might be a silly question’. But if we spoke to ourselves like we were talking to our best friend, or someone that we loved, then we wouldn’t feel so bad about ourselves. That’s why I stay on the positive side of things as much as I can.