Student stories: a lesson in diversity

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Naomi Ngondi is a motivated, tenacious and diligent undergraduate studying Advertising & Marketing at the University of Lincoln. After attending a recent university event at the Sparta Global Head Office, and finding herself impressed by our dedication to diversity and inclusion, Naomi reached out to write a piece on what this meant to her as a black woman soon to enter the world of work. 

 

I first heard of Sparta Global during a careers event my university planned. We had the honour of meeting established industry organisations as well as the opportunity to find out insider information on their graduate application schemes, internships or work experience opportunities.

Marketing myself

I’m currently enrolled at the University of Lincoln undertaking my Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and Marketing. I’m in the third year of my four-year study period and currently on placement. I’m grateful to be writing that sentence because I truly had given up on finding work at one point! My placement search was arduous and soul destroying. I received so many rejection letters that I felt I would never even be able to get a job at McDonalds, let alone in the marketing industry. I was intent on setting myself up for success by ensuring my graduate application process wouldn't be as confusing as my placement search, hence why I opted to go on the trip.

I’m so happy with the information that we were given at Sparta Global and by all other organisations about their recruitment process. Not only that, but I had the opportunity to meet industry giants and network with them! A truly amazing opportunity I would never otherwise have been able to receive.

The real Diversity and Inclusion function

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) are buzzwords I hear a lot, but these initiatives are most important to me as a black woman. This can sometimes mean I face a lot of sexism as well as racism, however I was impressed with how candid Sparta Global was about making sure it is a diverse and inclusive environment. They didn’t shy away from acknowledging that the industry they operate in isn’t as inclusive as it could be.

I think a company or brand that can openly acknowledge the injustices some might face in the world of work - and are proactive in working against these - will become part of the solution and not the problem. It is also the type of company I would like to grow with.

Working together

Your work space - just as any other space - should fairly represent the world you live in. Moving from South Africa to the UK really opened my eyes to the importance of D&I. Everyone should have the right to feel comfortable to work in any field of choice regardless of their identity or orientation. I know plenty of people of colour that get anxious in predominantly white spaces and I also know plenty of women that get anxious in predominantly male spaces. The issue is that for years certain demographics of people have been fed sentiments that diminish or de-humanise minority groups of people based on personal biases. Representation matters just as much as the language used.

If I as a black woman, see another black woman running a successful organisation and being celebrated for it, it would make me more inclined to be confident in my skills and enter the world of work.  Ignorance is bred when we aren’t exposed to things that challenge our thinking.

The corporate responsibility

I expect three things from a company when it comes to creating a more inclusive environment:

  • Acknowledge the issues. No one gets things perfect the first time but being cognizant of the issue makes it easier to create a solution.
  • Plan how to boost inclusivity. How will you ensure minorities don’t feel as though they are there to meet a status quo? How will you ensure that everyone is respectful of cultural differences? How will you break down cultural barriers?
  • Act. Companies these days can seem to think that jumping on the social justice train is the only way to appeal to graduates. We can see through this when it is disingenuous. Advocating for someone’s right to exist in a workplace isn’t a fad and shouldn’t be treated as such. Create a sustainable plan of action that is mutually beneficial and has a crystal-clear end goal.

What D&I means to me

To me, diversity and belonging means not having to straighten my hair at every interview out of fear that my natural hair makes me look unprofessional. It’s me being able to speak up during team meetings and have passion without someone referring to me as ‘emotional’. It’s me being able to sit down with my boss and negotiate a fair salary without the fear that I might be seen as demanding. It’s being able to openly share my culture with others without the fear of ignorant innuendos. It’s me not having to think twice about my actions because I’ve become the sole representative of my gender and race.

The first thing I do when applying to a job role is look at the company’s team page. This is usually a good indicator of how inclusive and diverse the company is. The next thing I do is look at the company values and ethos, do they promote positivity, individuality, room for growth and an open working environment? If so, then I’m more likely to apply for the role -even if the team page isn’t as inclusive as I would like. If the company shares similar values to the ones I listed above, then I know they are open to the idea of growing!