What diversity and inclusion means to me

Naheed Khan with her sister.

What diversity and inclusion means to me

I was recently asked to work on a diversity and inclusion project for one of our large retail clients and I jumped at the opportunity. Most people think that diversity and inclusion are just buzz words, but for me it’s more personal than that.

As a first generation child of immigrants, growing up in 1980s England was awkward, to say the least.

Racial tensions were at a height and led to many riots across the country. In response, my parents, like many of their counterparts, increased their resolve to hold onto their cultural traditions, which they channeled through their children.

Stuck between two cultures, as early as primary school I realised that I was different – and it had nothing to do with my inability to sing in tune (which embarrassingly, only dawned on me in the middle of an audition in front of the whole school). Rather, it was because my head teacher called me to her office to “check over” a letter that had been translated in to various languages, including what she thought was my first language. This was awkward because whilst I was bilingual, English was my first language.

My awkwardness with myself grew as I moved on to high school where, as a Muslim attending Catholic school, I received a lot of attention when all I really wanted was to be invisible.

Diversity adds value – who knew?

However, after being called upon to counter-debate someone during an A Level Religious Education lesson, something shifted in my psyche. I didn’t realise it at the time but I had been called upon for my input due to my differing religious views, something the teacher intended to give the lesson richness.

To my surprise, I drew on my personal beliefs and I was knowledgeable and was able to add value to the lesson – how about that?! Being able to put those views across in a structured way gave me confidence and I started to realise that maybe, just maybe, being different wasn’t so bad.

As I have moved through various phases of my life I have found myself in this situation time and time again and each time I have embraced it, not only learning from others around me but also learning from myself with the knowledge, experience and expertise I have developed as a result of my points of difference.

How diversity and inclusion benefits business

Whilst working on the aforementioned supplier engagement project about diversity and inclusion, I was prompted to think about this in commercial terms and I realised that any organisation’s success and competitiveness depends upon its ability to embrace diversity and realise the benefits, some of which include:

  • An increase in productivity and competitive advantages and solutions targeted to the shift in consumer demographics
  • An increase in creativity through cross-fertilization of ideas and ways of working, including bridging generation gaps
  • Flexibility in working patterns through globalisation
  • International language skills

Diversity is more than just a buzz word. In today’s workplace, as the workforce and working patterns are changing, it can hold the key to fostering new ways of thinking, reaching out to a wider range of customers and growing your business.

Applying my belief in diversity to my work is one of the reasons why I am a member of Women Impacting Storebrand Excellence (WISE), a non-profit professional development organisation within store brands that has been created by women in this industry.

One of WISE’s guiding principles is collaboration to drive innovation and success. This is synonymous with my work as Supplier Engagement Consultant, working with private brand retailers and their suppliers to facilitate them working together as one team. One of the benefits of this team work is generating the resource to be innovative which in turn leads to success for both parties. You can find out more about our work around supplier engagement here.

Naheed Khan

Naheed is one of S4RB's Supplier Engagement Consultants, supporting the day-to-day management of communication activity for leading Retailers and Brand Owners.

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