I want to tell you a story of a dinner that I attended back when I was a postgraduate student.
This dinner would go on to shape the way I view inclusivity, especially for those starting out in their field.
That night, I was lucky enough to be sat next to a distinguished academic who I looked up to and whose research I greatly admired.
As I sat amongst the experts and other students, listening to all of them give insightful comments on current events in their respective fields, I found myself desperately trying to overcome my fear of saying something stupid in front of this particular academic.
Once I found my voice and managed to give some input (nervously, but at least I got some words out!), we found some common ground between our research and shared areas of interest – and though I felt unsure of myself, he was kind and patient and really listened to what I had to contribute.
At one point in the conversation, when this person and I were talking between ourselves, he started his next sentence by saying ‘Well, in our field…’
And with those words, I was welcomed into the fold, into the wider family of researchers in the area. Me – a doctoral student with no publications to my name (a key form of currency in any academic field)!
It was a huge moment for me. Suddenly, I believed in a future where I would contribute to society in the same way that this esteemed academic had done. Where I wasn’t a lone voice in a sea of academics contributing to research in the field, but where I was part of a community, united in contributing to knowledge and furthering the conversation.
That night, I learned first-hand that the way we speak to people is powerful.
Words play a big role in helping others imagine themselves in new identities, in new ways of being.
At some point in the past, this distinguished academic had been a student like me, looking to someone or something to show him what was possible. Now he had become that person who inspires, who welcomed new academics into the field so generously.
I have brought this lesson into my everyday practice.
How we help people come to the table is an essential part of our work at Peridot. We want to help people in achieving their aspirations, and to think bigger – to think about entry to places they potentially haven’t considered before.
Sometimes you need to see it to imagine becoming it.
To celebrate this year’s Trustees’ Week, we are launching the start of a series of short Q&A blogs with trustees from a variety of organisations. We hope that in reading their stories about how they became trustees and what their roles involve, others will be inspired to consider becoming a trustee themselves.