January 11, 2021
Rebecca East

An interview with Sereena Abbassi, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Consultant

Fighting for equity in the workplace and taking activism into the corporate space

Sereena Abbassi is an Independent Equity Inclusion and Diversity Consultant and Speaker with a background in Diversity & Inclusion, recruitment, consultancy across the creative industry, and as M&C Saatchi’s Worldwide Head of Culture & Inclusion, Sereena has a wealth of experience implementing organisational transformation within the workplace. Since returning to the world of consultancy, Sereena is currently working with the likes of Sony Music and the Soho House Group, helping to transform and develop them as equitable organisations and drive productivity across their diverse workforces. 

In episode 3 of The OpenBlend Podcast, Anna and Sereena discuss how Sereena got into diversity, the difference between equity and equality and why it's so important to see the world through other's perspective. 

‘We need to acknowledge that people have walked in very different paths and their paths have had many barriers put in place’

Here, we share insight into the points of discussion and a glimpse of what you can expect from episode 3 of The OpenBlend Podcast...

What is equity? Can you bring that to life?

Equality is premised on this idea that we're all exactly the same, therefore, we need exactly the same resources tools in order to succeed. However, we know that the playing field isn't level, therefore we're not the same. We're all coming from different starting points. Equity acknowledges that, and there are lots of wonderful ways that you could implement a really equitable practise within your business.  

But just to make it really crystal clear the distinctions between equality and equity – you know when you're on the yoga mat and your yoga teacher says, "Oh, Sereena, you look like you're struggling there." And I'm like, "Yes, you are right." And then they give you one of those blocks so you can do an amended stretch? That's essentially equity – you still achieve exactly the same stretch, but you actually just need a little bit more in order to do so. 

How do you think a platform like OpenBlend can support businesses to drive productivity through diverse workforces?

I love what you do – when I was at M&C Saatchi, a couple of our businesses used your platform. Most of what I observe within businesses when I'm conducting research for them is that there's just a complete communication breakdown. And I really feel OpenBlend just helps people communicate in a more effective way. I also think when you're working with a multi-national workforce, there are different modes of communication – I used to live in Amsterdam and the way the Dutch communicate is different to the way the British communicate. So I feel like your platform in many ways is able to help different nationalities and cultures communicate in a clearer, more effective way.

Your slogan is to help people connect to themselves so they can better connect to each other – in your opinion, why is it so important in workplaces that we're able to see the world through another’s perspective?

Great question. So the reason why it's so important for us to see the world from other perspectives is until we've done that, we can't create an equitable society. We can't create an equitable organisation. Up until the year 2000, it was completely legal in this country for the police force to discriminate against people based on their race. And there was a change in the law that came about because of the Macpherson Report in 1997. And that report came about because of the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. So, if we're to understand under-representation within an organisation, within a sector, within all different parts of society, we need to acknowledge the macro. We need to acknowledge that people have walked a very different path and their path has had many barriers put in place. 

Another example would be my granddad – my great-granddad was part of the Windrush generation, which started in 1948. And back in the day back, back in the '50s, it was kind of widely accepted that it was fine to discriminate against people when it came to housing. So landlords would say, "We're not going to let our property out to anyone that was black." And my granddad, like many people of his generation, were almost forced into the property market to buy property, because it was pretty much impossible for them to find board and shelter to rent. But when my granddad came to get a mortgage, when he came to apply for a mortgage, he was offered a different mortgage rate than his white neighbours. 

Want to find out more about what drives Sereena to keep fighting for equity in the workplace and more about her many accomplishments? You can access the full transcript, here, and listen to the full episode of episode 3 of The OpenBlend Podcast over at Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

If you feel inspired or motivated by The OpenBlend Podcast, you want to appear as a guest, or you have something to say on the importance of employee wellbeing, smart objectives or work life balance, contact us on hello@openblend.com or leave a review. We are always keen to hear your thoughts on how we can make The OpenBlend Podcast the number one resource for people leaders and HR innovators looking to make a change.

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