Sawida’s story

‘'Hi everyone,

My name is Sawida Magba-Kamara and I have been working at Benefex for nearly 6 months now! And very much enjoying it, however like most other places I have worked, I definitely notice my visible differences from the rest of my colleagues. Which of course is not a bad thing, but something many others may not think about when entering a new workplace.

When approached by the United team to share my lived experience, it was an exciting opportunity for me to share what it feels like to look like me and to be in my shoes with so many of my colleagues that look different and therefore have a very different experience of life

As a young Black woman, I often find myself at the intersection of society being part of two very distinct underrepresented groups. In saying that I believe my intersectionality is my superpower and allows me to tackle life from a unique lens.

Although a superpower to me, there are very real things that affect me in life and the workplace because of my place in society and I would love to take a moment of transparency and share some of these with you.

I sometimes fear that I will never reach my Career/financial goals

Black women – regardless of whether they are from the UK or elsewhere – have the lowest probability of being top earners (Quarterly Labour Force Survey)

I am constantly reminded that Black women face a concrete ceiling always making less than our male counterparts as women but also always falling behind our white counterparts as black women. We are rarely advocated for a singular group and at times in my career, I have worried that I am being undervalued and may never become a top earner or progress to certain heights in my field. In previous roles, I have been stalled for promotion due to my manager not being able to see my value and openly sharing that he failed to relate to me in a way that he saw fit, which was an incredibly disheartening experience. In saying that I do have hope that as we continue to speak up and shed light on these issues we will see changes.

I fear that I may not be able to bring my full self into the spaces I occupy

Black professionals experience 13 different microaggressions more frequently than their white and Asian counterparts. Black women often feel the need to conform to certain westernized standards of what a professional should look like. (COQUAL - Being black in the United Kingdom)

As a black woman culturally there are things that are very different about me from my colleagues and peers one of the main things is I have a very different hair texture and different ways of styling and getting it done. I also have a different name which may be hard to pronounce for some. At times it can be very nerve-racking entering a new space or even a familiar one with people making countless comments about changing your hair or expressing the difficulties of saying your name without even bothering to try because it just must be different because it is not a common English name. It has taken me a long time to gain the confidence to correct people when they incorrectly say my name or ask to shorten it so it is easier. It has also taken me a long time to express myself through my hairstyles and wear my natural hair proudly without worrying about fitting into the cultural norms. It may be surprising but talking to my peers you wouldn’t believe how much anxiety these little things evoke within us as black women in society.

These are just a snippet of the things that uniquely affect people like me and I hope sharing them will allow you to be more curious and think more about the different experiences that people around you may face.

To Benefex I say thank you for always making me feel like a valued member of the team and giving people like me the space to express themselves freely. There is always space to grow and I leave the framework from the COQUAL study on Being Black in Britain below:

• Audit- First, assess the current state. Company leaders need to understand the current state of the Black professional experience and what inequities exist in the way Black professionals are treated, hired, evaluated, promoted, and compensated.

• Awaken- Bring those insights to the rest of the organization through thoughtfully designed conversations and resources for the benefit of all employees. Leaders and employees alike need to have open discussions and educate themselves about the barriers Black professionals face.

• Act- With the knowledge and understanding developed in the Audit and Awaken phases, companies must build solutions that specifically target dismantling barriers for Black employees and establish accountability at all levels.

May we all see the importance of levelling the playing field and making everyone feel valued and accepted always.''