Paula Moio discusses representation and why we must all be the change we want to see
Representation is important, for Assistants to be recognised as professionals, for the ongoing viability of our roles, as well as for gender equality, intellectual and physical ability, and racial justice.
We are a global network of administrative professionals from all four corners of the world, and what a privilege that is. But how is that rich and diverse fabric of who we are collectively represented in our community? Can you see yourself?
That was a recurring thought I had every time I attended a course or conference, or sat at our network leaders and influencers’ tables. I didn’t and I still don’t see myself represented equally across the board – and that is just one aspect of the diversity spectrum: race.
For me, this change is long overdue, as I remember not daring to go to a conference until I saw a photo of Julia Schmidt at the first or second ES LIVE, and only then did I feel comfortable to attend.
There are other categories of diversity that, in my view, are equally underrepresented in our global network. And isn’t this ironic, that we are a global network, yet representation is unbalanced?
So, I decided to do something about it and become the change I so desperately wanted to see back then. Changing the landscape – celebrating, promoting, giving visibility and above all being inclusive of those underrepresented and the intersection of multidimensional voices.
It is a mammoth job, and I cannot do it alone. Strategically, the only person, team, and platform that has the global reach I am aiming for is Lucy Brazier, her formidable team and the carefully curated global platform that is Executive Support.
My conversation with Lucy took place whilst she was at an international conference in Europe with a couple of hundred plus attendees, but only twelve of diverse background. That told us a story, and to me, certainly a very familiar one.
And then the tragic and hideous assassination of George Floyd which shook the earth in outrage. We both felt the urge and the need to increase awareness and we knew that was the moment to do some groundwork on inclusion and belonging with our global community too.
That would be our contribution to global change – to amplify the different voices on age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs and ability of our community – simply because for a more just society, #RepresentationMatters and ultimately, if we want change, it starts with us.
We put together a list of names to form a working group and Lucy called each one. And what a powerhouse we now have – fourteen leaders and influencers of different ethnicities from around the world: South Africa, UK, Norway, Kenya, France, Nigeria and the USA – to help shape what I/we hope to be a safe space of authentic voices and more inclusive environment for our network.
To feel the pulse, we designed a survey that would give us exact date and clear indicators of people’s experiences.
The world has become a global hub, a diverse society of abilities, cultures and beliefs yet within the Administrative profession we do not always see this reflected. Administrative governing bodies, conference attendees, C-suites and networks are often not representative of the societies we live and work in. Our industry is often not included when organisations look to make changes and improvements to inclusion and diversity.
As we envision an open and transparent process whereby everyone matters and has a voice, it is crucial that we start off with a consultation to feel the pulse from our global network.
While waiting for the completion of the survey, we are currently putting together a recommendation paper to present at the World Administrators Summit in May 2021 on why amplifying diverse voices will expand our ideas, allowing our community to connect and thrive.
There is power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there is grace in being willing to know and hear others. This for me is how we become.Michelle Obama
I felt strongly about the need to create identity role models so that any individual in our network can look for heroes and find purpose and possibilities. That is representation and it is essential to prevent the disproportional distribution of opportunity by:
- Advocating for open mindedness and inclusive networks.
- Promoting visibility and recognising the value and richness of intersectionality.
- Encouraging reverse mentorship and allyship.
We must be a vessel to defeat unconscious bias by nurturing a fully engaged and inclusive global community.
In creating this project our aim is to motivate and enable newcomers, disruptors, trailblazers and changemakers of all ethnicities, cultures, creeds, races, sexual orientations, and socio-economic backgrounds around the world, to be visible and inspire the next generation.
This will reinforce the sense of belonging and that they too must passionately participate and influence the role of the Assistant in the industry, not only to celebrate the uniqueness in each person, but also to increase awareness of diversity and inclusion. Ensuring that the extraordinarily rich and diverse fabric of what we stand for is truly represented and reflected in our global community.
A strong message from top influencers, movers and shakers that simply says: come and sit at the table with us – this safe space is yours too; have your voice heard.