For International Women’s Day 2021, we hosted an incredibly well-attended Zoom event, themed around “Women in leadership”
The panel for this event consisted of our friends Wupya Nandap, Monica Tuohy and Simran Chawla, and was hosted by our CEO, Benaifer. The event featured the premiere of our video with staff discussing the question “What does a good life look like to you?“, and also featured great stories from each of our panelists.
Unfortunately, a planned Q& A section of the event had to be cancelled, due to time constraints. However, we felt it would be a shame for these questions to go unanswered, so we asked our panelists to answer the questions in writing. So, please read on for insights and entertainment aplenty.
The first panelist to answer these questions was Wupya Nandap, a lawyer and longtime friend of Hopscotch.
Q- How to lead as a minoritized woman?
WN- For me, leadership comes in different shapes, sizes and mediums, so even though I am still quite junior in my legal career/profession, I still try to lead by example for those who are still trying to get into the industry. Being raised by a single mother, I know first-hand the innate strength that women possess, and, for me, that means doing what you can to level the playing field and give others the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
Leading as a minoritized woman, to me, means recognising and being outspoken about the disparities and inequalities that we encounter, as well as studying and believing the data, because the data shows that most organisations and industries are not where they need to be. Leading as a minoritized woman means educating yourself and others around you to understand the fundamentals, and look for the little ways in which you can be more inclusive, as well as the intentional actions you can take to call out racism and/or unconscious bias when you see it. It means helping those coming behind you, because you realise that a lot of industries are not run as a true meritocracy.
In reality, there are a lot of biases that come into play, which mean that working hard and being smart is not always enough. If it was enough, then we wouldn’t struggle to have women and people of colour (who I’m sure we can all agree are capable) rising through the ranks and holding senior positions. My guiding principle has always been to lift as I climb, to bring people along with me, and to pave the path for others coming behind me and to make their ascent that much easier than what I experienced.
Q- How do you represent your community through your work?
WN- Giving back in a tangible way is something that has always been very important for me and so, despite the demanding nature of my day job, I have always remained active in my wider community through my pro-bono, volunteering and graduate recruitment roles.
I volunteer at legal clinics providing advice to those that are not in a position to pay for it, I mentor a diverse range of individuals from various backgrounds, and I speak on panel sessions, to encourage and support individuals and to let people know that regardless of your background, race, ethnicity, gender, you are still able to achieve your goals and your dreams – as cliché as that might sound!
Q- How has COVID widened the inequalities of the intersectional groups?
WN- I can’t begin to count the ways in which COVID has negatively impacted communities and intersectional groups. The immediate effect for me is the devastating impact of the pandemic on poverty levels and inequality. Women, especially along with the elderly, disabled and migrant population, are suffering the most from this pandemic. In the UK, women were about 1/3 more likely to be working in a sector that was shut down and, even in scenarios where women are able to work from home, they are 50% more likely to be interrupted than men, due to their childcare and household responsibilities.
Ethnic minorities have also been hit much harder and are recovering much slower than others, with hundreds of black-owned businesses going under as a result of the pandemic. These issues are even more compounded if you happen to be a woman of colour. We have also heard about the higher mortality rates amongst members of the Black and Asian ethnic groups because these individuals are more likely to live in more deprived areas and work in higher risk occupations. This is also exacerbated by the institutional and structural racism that these ethnic groups are already subjected to, in addition to the everyday experiences of discrimination.