Redefining stereotypes by showcasing positive Black and Ethnic Minorities contributions, and empowering and inspiring the next generation.
EDITION FIFTEEN 2020
I am…a passionate, determined and dynamic leader who thrives…
Who are you?
I am a passionate, determined and dynamic leader who thrives when using the power of written and oral communication to change, inspire and empower.
What is your present role?
I work as Head of BAME Communications in the Prime Minister’s press office.
My role involves proactively ensuring the Prime Minister has opportunities to engage with the UK’s BAME communities through visits, events and supportive communications; and advising government departments on how they can engage with BAME media outlets to promote government priorities.
Tell us about your life journey so far. What has brought you to your current role?
I grew up in south London between Kennington, Plumstead and Streatham. I went to primary and secondary school in Streatham and attended Streatham Hill and Clapham High School for Girls.
I loved school and always gravitated towards English, drama and languages. I read English at University and was the only Black girl on the course. I did my Masters straight away – at 21. After that, I applied to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism at City University, but failed the news test the first time round, so I worked for a year as a receptionist before applying again.
After City, I applied for a BBC traineeship and was one of 10 out of 9,000 applicants to gain a place on its prestigious Trainee Assistant Producer Scheme (TAPS), where I trained on programmes such as Crime Watch and Newsround and worked on various documentaries.
After leaving the BBC, I ended up having to take a job in a press office – for less money than I’d left the BBC on. I’d just got married and we had a mortgage – but I knew I wouldn’t be back after my maternity leave. When my daughter turned 1, I joined ITV’s Good Morning Britain as a producer and to this day, it’s been one of my favourite jobs. I had a brilliant couple of years there before joining Government.
At first, I thought I’d made a very bad career move, but 10 years and two more children later, I’m still here! While on maternity leave with my third child, I applied for my job at No10 and got the acceptance call the next day! It has definitely been the job that is closest to who I am and I have had some amazing pinch-yourself moments here, from sitting in meetings with Theresa May and Boris Johnson to Idris Elba!
In your field of work, what has been your observation and/or experience of white privilege, discrimination and prejudices?
I’ve been on the subtle end of white privilege all my career. Journalism and media is a very white-dominated field – 96% of journalism students are white.
At the BBC, a Crimewatch Director told me it was only because I ‘spoke well’ that I was probably on the course as it was unusual to see many Black faces.
I have still progressed far slower than many of my white counterparts in government despite having three degrees. I have briefed Ministers ahead of their broadcast interviews and then they’ve walked past me on the street!
I’ve always been aware of prejudice but I’ve never allowed it to hold me back.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were younger?
I wish I’d realised how good I was at what I do!
I wish I’d been bold enough to go for my dreams earlier.
I wish I’d realised that being myself was always the best option.
And I wish I’d realised earlier that success is largely down to discipline, not talent.
What song, quote, statement or image do you find most encouraging?
Any of my Michelle and Barack images always encourages me. I’m at No10; they were in the White House, in the seat of power. Having read their books, I know what it took for them to get there.
Song-wise, it’s an old one but a good one: ‘Go Get It’ by Mary Mary. It always gets me going!
How are you redefining a stereotype?
I’m a Black woman walking up Downing Street and through the most famous door in the world every morning.
I work in the Prime Minister’s Press Office – not as a secretary (as some have assumed!), but as a senior communications professional.
What advice or top tip would you give to the next generation of BAME individuals? (no more than 100 words)
My advice is this: never be afraid to take up space.
Be brilliant, be bold and speak up.
Knowledge is power: don’t waste time being idle; use your time to inform yourself.
Hone your talents and start to carve out the possibilities in your mind, because what you become starts with what you think you can become.
Get around wise people who will encourage you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Always follow up a meeting with an introductory communication – because you never know who can help you on the next stage of your journey.
Never, ever waste too much time comparing yourself to anyone else. Comparison is the thief of joy!