January 9, 2015

Can you be what you can’t see?


When I started my career as a graduate account executive, I happened to be seated directly outside one of our Board Director’s offices.

As I observed this Board Director go about her day-to-day management of one of the agency’s biggest clients, I decided she was everything that I aspired to be ‘when I grew up’.

Her name was Paulette Stephens and she probably didn’t realise what an important influence she had on me.

From my experience and observations, Paulette was an inspiring manager, fostered fantastic relationships with clients and was eloquent as well as elegant. However just as importantly for me – perhaps even more so – she was also a woman of colour.

As the only black member of the agency in a leadership position, Paulette was tangible evidence that everything that my parents had instilled in me was correct. That if you worked hard enough, nothing would ever hold you back from what you wanted to achieve.

When I was promoted to a board position quite a few years ago, other than telling my friends and family,  I also thought of Paulette and sent a silent thanks to her for providing me with that all important inspirational-kick-start.

Although I do believe that anyone and everyone can shoot and reach for what their heart desires. I also believe in the need for strong role models to show young people that nothing is impossible. Consequently, it is concerning to see that many organisation’s Senior Leadership teams far from reflect the gender and racial diversity of their own organisations, let alone those of their consumers

So can you be what you can’t always see? On balance I’d say absolutely, it is totally possible.  But isn’t it lovely and more powerful for everyone to have that inspiration to help them along the way?


09.01.2015, Sadia Siddiqui, Client Services Director at Livity