Following an interview about her career in the Independent this week, Riot MD Preena Gadher discusses why it’s important to talk about race at work.
Talking about race is never easy – for the person doing the talking or the people listening. It tends to make everyone shift uncomfortably in their seats.
For a long time, I avoided it: I have gained lots of experience over the ten years of running a successful business which I could share, so why should I talk about race? After all, it is only one aspect of who I am. The fear of a backlash when you talk about race is very real too; some people even feel that in speaking out, they are risking career suicide. Read Reni-Eddo Lodge’s superb book to understand what this really feels like, and how to become an ally.
But when you are the only one in the room, something strange happens: there is often an assumption that you are the expert, which can weigh very heavily, though the moment you point out bias when you see it, the mood turns, and a tidal wave of isolation threatens to submerge you. You ask yourself: I’ve got so many great ideas to share, is it really my job to challenge this? Is it worth rocking the boat?
For years I have grappled with this, not least as I have worked, and do still work in industries where almost everyone is white – publishing and PR. But one day, a wise soul told me, as I bemoaned my dilemma with genuine anguish, that if you have a platform, you have a responsibility. It hit me like a truck and after several weeks of soul searching, I realised that talking about race was not optional.
That’s why I became a mentor for BME PR Pros in their mission to diversify the PR talent pool, and continue to champion their work, and why at Riot, we support The Taylor Bennett Foundation, offering PR experience to the next generation of our workforce – sure, we don’t have as much money as the big agencies to give them, but I can openly share my very real experience of navigating a career when there is no-one else around who looks like you. I wish I had had that when I first started out. And that’s also why I talked to the Independent about my experience this week.
Cue the haters…but hopefully the allies too.