Panellists urge women to keep going with purpose and motivation

Rupanjana Dutta Tuesday 22nd March 2022 07:43 EDT

The second annual Women in Conversation networking event and panel discussion was hosted by Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar on Friday 18 March 2022 in association with the Royal Air Force. The theme for the panel discussion was ‘charting the unknown and breaking stereotypes’. 

Held at the Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch in London, the moderator for the panel discussion was award-winning public relations and media professional Sangeeta Waldron and the panellists were singer and songwriter Rumer, bespoke jewellery designer Sam Ubhi and speaker, author and leadership coach Sahera Chohan.

In her address to the audience Group Captain Joanne Swainston of the Royal Air Force spoke about the RAF’s approach towards diversity and inclusion, and the opportunities available to women within the organisation. She said, “Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston is a passionate advocate for diversity, and the RAF recognises the energy, value and effectiveness that a diverse and fully inclusive workforce brings to any organisation. We encourage all our personnel to be passionate advocates of diversity. 

“Our collective responsibility is to make sure that everyone can feel valued and included for who they are, what they bring to our organisation, and what they do to enhance the operational capability of the Royal Air Force. And a positive attitude to diversity and inclusion must be part of our normal business, a fundamental part of everything we do, and every action or decision that we take.

“All roles in the Royal Air Force are open to women. It is a place where women can achieve their full potential and have meaningful and fulfilling careers. We are seeing an increasing number of women in senior leadership roles.  

“I believe mentoring and supporting one another is exceedingly important. And events such as the Women in Conversation where we share our experience, wisdom and ways to support one another is very important.”


Panellists challenge stereotyping 


The moderator of the panel, Sangeeta Waldron, in her unique and lucid conversational style walked the audience through the fascinating life stories of panellists Rumer, Sam Ubhi and Sahera Chohan. All three speakers were honest and forthright about the myriad issues they had faced, the barriers to their success, and their self-doubts. The challenges that they faced included a lack of support from both men and women, ageism, patriarchy, lack of a support network and emotional manipulation.

Demanding radical changes in the music industry and talking about her journey, Rumer said that her large Pakistani family were very musical. She admitted that it took a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice to secure a record and described how she took up odd jobs to make ends meet but dedicated one day a week for three years to record her debut album. 

 “I never actually realised how bad it was until I got into the music business,” she said. “I didn't realise there was a system of patriarchy. I wasn't really exposed to it too much. And then when I got into the music business, I realised how dominant it was, and how the whole system was designed for men. It was incredibly difficult because you as a woman are always assumed to be emotional.” 

Sam opined that you need to have originality and drive to succeed. She said that being a woman designer she has been often stereo-typed or racially profiled. She said, “Within the Asian community, you don't really see many female jewellers. So, you are a minority. Most of the traders, gold traders, stone traders are also all men.”

Sahera, who grew up in a white dominated locality discovered her Indian roots much later in life. In her quest for a job as a media presenter, she was first offered the job of a chauffeur for celebrities in the BBC. She went on to describe how she eventually landed a job as a presenter and the story of her “accidental” investigative work that won her several accolades. Emphasising why fighting self-doubt is key, she said, “You can't necessarily control what's happening outside. But you can certainly control what's happening within yourself and your attitude towards it. If I can't get through one door, I'll try another. And so, I just keep going with purpose and motivation.”

The afternoon concluded with a short comment by CB Patel, Editor-in-Chief, Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar, followed by an evening reception with drinks and canapés. 


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