Words: Ashford Mills
I usually keep clear distinctions between life at work and life outside of work, as in previous companies, I’d experienced a culture that was mainly get in and get out as soon as possible.
The culture at Clear Channel is completely different. The company has strong values and an ethos. The Fairness value is a great example, and as I’ve said before, I don’t feel like Clear Channel is ever just paying lip service; they are actually responsive to people’s suggestions and commit to things.
Personally, I remember being frustrated when searching for roles before I started at Clear Channel. A serious question to my cousins was: “Where can I work where I won’t be the only black person there?” The response was candidly: “the 4x100m”.
I fell into working with the Black History Month (BHM) working group in 2018. I’d initially missed the first part of the question when being asked to join, but being new and eager, I said yes and hoped for the best. It’s been a fantastic experience and the team here are motivated and empowered to pool our talents together to engage and work with others, and help celebrate a meaningful culture event.
In 2018, a lot of BHM coverage was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Windrush migration which we incorporated into our thinking. We considered the message that we would like to support this year, and agreed on something that we could expand out beyond the 31 days of October and have a thread running through the whole year. We chose “Smashing Stereotypes and Expectations”.
Stereotypes are tricky. They allow for quick judgements to be made based on past experiences and information received but they are slow to change.
The problem, of course, is that people are not programmed in a factory to be all the same, and taking the time to understand an individual, their ability and personality, is an investment a lot of people don’t make. In social interactions, most people feel comfortable with their ideas and would rather not challenge themselves to look beyond what they think they know. In the working world, this should be different. In business, you have to at least demonstrate competency and skill to be part of the conversation, but fighting perceptions is always something that BAME people have to do.
Often I suffer from bouts of impostor syndrome; feeling like I’m on the edge between everything going well and the wrong project coming along to undermine all the goodwill and reputation I’ve built up and confirm stereotypes. To feel responsible for the perceptions of others is taxing. Ultimately though, when dealing with those pressures I have to keep focused and reassure myself that things within my control I can change, and those I can’t control, I can change my attitude to.
There have definitely been people in my life before me who showed more options do exist. I suppose the effort I put into maintaining my own personal standards and achieving my goals could give others the motivation not to settle for low expectations. I’ve participated in mentoring sessions with Brixton Finishing School and Inspire to help promote diversity in the industry and to talk about the challenges and successes that are out there for BAME people first-hand. In my personal life, I try and ensure my son and daughter can find reflections, both from my wife and I, of South-east Asian and black culture, and in turn of themselves doing great things. It’s important to share the information to the next person, like passing the baton in a relay race.