After two black guys were arrested in Starbucks in America for nothing in 2017 and caused the company to shut down all its US stores for one day to teach everyone about diversity and equality, and then again after the death of George Floyd, which was followed by masses of Black Lives Matter protests around the world, I had the opportunity to play a role in improving diversity awareness here at Virgin Atlantic.
I felt that something needed to be said about a few issues I'd seen, including why we had such low levels of ethnic diversity in the leadership team and a few attitudes I'd encountered. Although it won't happen overnight, I am grateful to our leadership team, who responded sharply, and I believe we are now on our way towards doing good for everyone.
I've had a great time working at Virgin Atlantic, with amazing friends in many business areas, and I enjoy the culture that allows people to be themselves. I wish to see everyone's ethnicity represented at all levels. I am willing to work with any party or upskill myself to play a role in this transformation.
Why is our VALUED network important?
I'm glad the VALUED network was formed and endorsed by senior leadership. However, so far, participation from the white majority is low, which is disappointing. I feel that the VALUED network has an opportunity to bring people to learn about different cultures and traditions, enjoy our differences, provide a safe place allowing people to ask questions without fear of offending or reprisal. However, I also think that it can cause more division if participation continues to be one-sided.
Who has inspired you?
Apart from my father and millions of others whom we will never hear about who gave up their lives fighting for equality, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela stands as my hero. In his closing court statement at the Rivonia trial, which was followed by 27 years of imprisonment, he said, "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs to be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die".
To me, there should be a level playing field. Giving equal opportunities to all races does not mean fewer opportunities for white people.