I always advocate for taking time out to learn and develop, by attending training and events.
Recently, I attended the CS Local – Leadership through Role-modelling, organised by Bernadette Thompson, Race to the top G6/7 chair and Nafesa Sal.
The presentations were diverse, including a presentation to raise awareness about the need for people from the black community to register and give blood. This presentation touched a chord.
The speakers were from different Government departments, sharing aspects of their leadership journey, with anecdotes that the audience could relate to. Using different styles and metaphors to describe their leadership journey. The presentations were illuminating and energising.
Listening to the speakers share their career journey and passion for their work, voluntary roles and personal development, rekindled the spark in me, that sometimes gets dimmed by the pressures of everyday life, mixed with the challenges related to gender and racial inequality.
What made this conference stimulating enough for me to spend the entire day in attendance, was the brief given to the speakers. It was clear that the theme was not ‘just’ to aim high in your career, but prepare yourself to do so. It was this approach that made this conference particularly interesting for me.
It was apparent that the panel and many of the attendees who were mainly from the African, Caribbean and Asian diaspora working across Civil Service, had similar negative experiences of racial/gender discrimination and isolation. This shared experience which transcends Government departments, roles, grades, etc, a repercussion of institutionalised racism, sexism, classism, and other isms, is what I argue needs to change. To do so, will take more than black staff in senior positions, because as Audre Lorde elegantly states,
“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”
In my humble opinion as I’m feeling humble at this moment, as oppose to contrary. Is nothing is solved by becoming the thing you are trying to destroy.
When becoming a leader, irrespective of gender, race, class, etc, when an individual seeking career advancement is no longer yoked, they are not eager to seize power (become a senior manager) in order to solve the problem of under-representation.
They critique the existence of power itself, with the aim to become better, more efficient and inclusive leaders.
Returning back to Lorde’s statement: “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. The tools remain the oppressors, so long as he/she controls them. Once ‘we’ are prepared to reclaim the notion that the tools, as in the positions of leadership, belong to all of us. Then ‘we’ will be in a position irrespective of grade, to use these tools to make the Civil Service truly inclusive.
On a final note, let me share some of the top tips from the conference.