The First Must Lead To More

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Edward Enninful OBE has been named the UK’s most influential Black person and role model after winning this year’s Powerlist Black Excellence Awards. He just so happens to be the first Black man to hold the prestigious and influential position of Editor-In-Chief of British Vogue. Having done so much for the representation of both the Black and LGBTQ+ community in media, this award is just another milestone on his stack of successes.

There has been much debate about whether we should continue to celebrate ‘Firsts.’

For those of my vintage, who have the battle scars of facing discrimination and prejudice for many years, we maybe aren’t as enthusiastic about Firsts as we used to be, especially in the ‘pioneering’ days of the 70’s and 80’s. Much of the enthusiasm waned when the celebration of the ‘First’ didn’t lead to many more after.

This stood against the truism of ‘if I can see it, then I can be it.’ If someone up there looks like me, that gives me extra motivation and inspiration to get there too – It can be done.

Firsts can serve as milestones for inclusion upon which we can all build off to spark important conversations. They are also a source of hope and motivation for a younger generation of leaders who aspire to reach the top and bring about impact.

There’s a vibrant generation out there who are keen to see actual change happen, who are becoming more involved in delivering real transformation, and it may well lie with those Boomers like me to perhaps guide them. It can still be uncomfortable for many of us to speak up, it goes against what we had to learn since we were young, but it’s now time to provoke the difficult but necessary conversations about inclusion and progress. Edward has never shied away from speaking up.

Upon the announcement of his success, Edward said: “Apart from me, it’s incredible that it shines a light on Black people really breaking boundaries, who are unafraid and champion what it means to be truly diverse in their own industries. So, I’m honoured, more than anything, to be a part of this family.”

There are so many here in Britain who have continued to play a part in driving change, many quietly but solidly every day without any profile or perhaps being noticed. From the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Marcus Rashford in sport to Lord Simon Woolley and Baroness Doreen Lawrence in the House of Lords to name but a few. There are now those driving progress in business, academia, public sector, charities to community organizers; we stand up and salute all those who broke through and laid the pathway for others to follow.

McKinsey’s and Scientific American research showed that racially diverse boards outperformed industry norms by 35%, so we must still ask the challenging question: How much longer will we still need to celebrate Firsts?

When choosing the best team, why would you leave out those who are different? The time for changing is today, not tomorrow.

 Thought for the Week:

It is vital to be the help that you once needed, for those on their way up.

Top Tips for Becoming an A Player:

  • It is our difference that is our strength.

  • The most valuable friends are the ones who make you see the world differently.

  • There is one thing we have in common – our diversity – celebrate it.

  • Wisdom comes from listening to others, especially those who are not like you.

  • A scar is to remind you where it went wrong.

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