Unsa Chaudri, Senior Consultant at Agilisys, details how women role models have inspired her to succeed – both at Agilisys and in becoming the first BAME woman councillor in her seat.
I joined Agilisys in 2016 and I think that since then the company has worked hard to become more inclusive.
The formation of the Agilisys Women’s Empowerment Group (AWE), which I’m a member of, has helped bring the topic of gender equality to the surface. That has led to the formation of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which widens the discussion further. I’m pleased to chair the BAME group within that, which is something I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do four years ago.
Further positive work is taking place regarding the gender pay gap. I worked with HR, as a policy lead for AWE, to tailor some of our adverts so that they aren’t so gender biased. The more gender-neutral language is used, the more we encourage people from different backgrounds to apply for both leadership and technical roles.
The key for me is that Agilisys has a number of women championing their roles within the business. The likes of Louise Ah-Wong, Zoe Wilson and Sue Lees are leading change and doing a great job of championing the success of women and providing role models for the rest of us to aspire to. I would love to see more women in leadership positions so that we can amplify this work further. For this to happen I believe we need women and men to work together, both at work and in life outside Agilisys.
Outside of work I am a local councillor (I was the first BAME woman to be elected in my seat) and again, it’s through my women’s networks that I see change being driven. I’ve benefitted from this personally – I’m a member of the Fabian Women’s Network, who I did a mentoring programme with. Through that network, I was supported and encouraged to stand for election. Without this support I perhaps would have been more unsure in my own confidence. It’s good to have people who are similar to you championing your cause or acting as role models, because it resonates more easily.
I’m keen to do my bit and give something back. I’ve been back to my old school – a girl’s school – to talk about my career and inspire students to follow suit. I’ve also attended careers fairs to provide insight and I mentored two women at my old university to help them get jobs after they graduated.
I believe we can all learn from people who aren’t from our own background or gender too. This can be more challenging, because people aren’t as aware of how they can help (or be helped).
Taking this into Agilisys, it’s important we have a mix of people in our workplace – and I’m talking about diversity across the board, not just gender diversity – because people from different backgrounds have different perspectives and can bring a different way of thinking into the business.
As I said earlier, I think we are taking the steps needed to move us forward and achieve greater diversity. This year I have been fortunate to have been nominated for a BAME award and our Elevate East London Chief Executive, Sue Lees won the Woman of the Year (ENT) Award last year. By sharing these successes across our networks, we can make a difference because we all have really big networks and in local government everyone knows everyone.
Ultimately, we need everybody to play their part. It’s not about having a token person, be it women, BAME or otherwise. It’s about ensuring that our teams are reflective of the society we live in. That’s a message we need to take into the wider discussion about equality too. I think we’re closer to gender equality than BAME equality. Often, I’ll go to a meeting and I’ll be the only BAME person there. We’re moving in the right direction and International Women’s Day is a great help in stimulating conversation about the main issues. But there’s still a long way to go and a lot of work to do.