Your Child’s Future Depends On Diversity
It's essential to ensure that diversity and inclusion will be present in various industries.
When I was 14 years old, I had a rare opportunity to audition for an agency to become an actress — this was a dream come true. My dad heard the open call on the radio, told me, and within a few hours, I found myself in front of a panel with my lines and a camera facing towards me.
Shortly after, they requested that I return for the second audition in Pennsylvania. I was beyond excited because I was one step closer to accomplishing my dream, but here’s where it gets real for an impressionable teenager.
As a young, aspiring actress, I instinctively knew that I wouldn’t be as successful as I wanted to because of the colour of my skin. When was the last time you saw a leading actress who was a person of colour* during the ‘90s? Rarely. If I saw a person of colour on television, they played a stereotypical role that further perpetuated colourism, stereotypes, and racial inequality due to our differences.
So, I declined the opportunity. I felt as though I would never be successful if I pursued this path because I wasn’t dainty, blonde and bright-eyed like many leading actresses were at that time.
As a child of immigrants, the expectation to do well and make our parents proud is a constant weight on our shoulders. How could I expect them to invest in my acting career when I knew I wouldn’t be successful? I was better off following a predictable path by going into math, science or business like the family members before me. Ten years later, I found myself pursuing a career in business law just to “be safe” and make my parents proud.
As I got older, I often found myself thinking back to the time in my life where the colour of my skin determined my future before I even gave the opportunity a fair shot. The lack of racial representation across mainstream media had affected my confidence. It made me realize how impressionable we are at a young age and how something as subtle as not seeing yourself on television can affect your confidence and career choices as an adult.
Over the last ten years, we’ve seen a lot more progress in representation across various industries. Honestly, I feel like crying whenever I see significant change. For example, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate for the 2020 presidential election, or when Mindy Kaling debuts her story in “Never Have I Ever,” a Netflix original starring a first-generation Indian-American teenage girl. These are just two significant changes in politics and media that made me feel hopeful for the future.
We’re starting to see a real representation of visible minorities taking the stage on pressing issues in various industries worldwide. But don’t just take it from me. I asked three inspiring professionals from Toronto, Canada, New York, U.S.A and London, U.K., about why representation matters and how it’s affected them in their careers today.
Representation in STEM — Shanghavy Karunakaran, Technology Consultant (Toronto, Canada)
“As a woman of colour in the technology industry, my biggest challenge is the lack of representation. It’s challenging to feel empowered and included in spaces that weren’t designed for your success. On top of this, we’re usually assigned administrative and non-promotable work, which hinders our confidence even further.
To create representation for women of colour, I co-founded an initiative via Instagram called #BrownBabesInSTEM to highlight South Asian women in STEM to connect, collaborate, and create a community. We’ve held multiple virtual events during quarantine with women from over seven different countries. Through this mission, I would like to be a trailblazer for other women of colour who seek to achieve success in the corporate world.”
Representation in Law — Damore Ramwa, Lawyer (New York, U.S.A.)
“Representation in law matters because true advocacy requires empathy and understanding. For me, practicing law wasn’t something that ever felt attainable because it was never a part of my world growing up. I didn’t know any attorneys, and all the ones that I saw in the media were white.
After college, I was privileged to have the opportunity to go to law school — something that many people from my ethnic and socioeconomic background still don’t get due to systemic racial barriers. I never take that it for granted because I know what it means for people of colour. And while I’m encouraged by the diversity I see in the legal profession today, there is still such a long way to go.”
Representation in Media and Business — Mars Kelly, Principal (London, U.K.)
“Growing up in the late ‘80s and ‘90s as a Bangladeshi female, I had the same narrative from my family as most South Asian kids, “You have to become a lawyer, engineer, doctor.” So I took the lawyer route, and my brother took the engineering route. However, after completing law school and being in the legal field, I realized that life had different plans for me.
I was encouraged by my husband to take the path less travelled by South Asian women — entrepreneurship. Fast forward five years later, after successfully launching multiple brands and scaling my own marketing agency, I can now confidently say, South Asian representation matters in my industry so the future leaders of our world can be inspired at a young age to do something different than the conventional paradigms that their parents might pressure them to do.
I want them to see a woman who looks just like them, raised in a family and community just like theirs, and is thriving in a more creative field, paving their own unique path. Seeing others’ success can inspire others to take a less traditional career path than the previous generation.”
It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you live, a lot of people of colour face very similar scenarios when it comes to their career and the opportunities they have within their industry of choice. With the world changing so rapidly, we are starting to see more representation in the areas that never seemed attainable to so many people of colour — that’s a huge step in the right direction!
Hopefully, by sharing our stories and fighting for change and forming diverse relationships, we will make this “new world” a better one for generations to come.
A very special thank you to my contributors, Shanghavy Karunakaran, Damore Ramwa and Mars Kelly, for making this story what it is!
*People of colour represents Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (Asians, South-Asians and mixed-race) (BIPOC)
Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash
Find more of Megan Ramwa’s writing on Medium