Representation: be the change you want to see

As an Indian born in England, I love my fusion life; my multicultural group of friends and I

crave a roast dinner as much as a curry. But representation of a Indian people like me was

difficult to come across growing up in the 90s. It was either the the glamorous brown faces

of Bollywood and the white characters that filled all my forms of British entertainment. So few were the examples of British Indian representation that I’m sure many settled for the

limited examples... There’s a reason so many of us likened our lives to Bend It Like

Beckham (albeit with less football) and loved Jay Sean (or Raghav, but that’s a debate for

another time).


To those that don’t understand why it’s important that ethnic groups are presented in media

or society, it's quite easy to explain. Studies show that representation has links to building

self-esteem, a sense of belonging and even shaping perspectives of future potential. It also

benefits the wider population by educating those less familiar with Indian culture. Today,

perceptions are formed by the narrow portrayals of stereotypes rather than the true diversity

of the Indian population that is so often not represented in the mainstream. It’s probably why

I get asked so frequently if my parents own a corner shop or if I, a Hindu, am celebrating Eid.


What surprises me the most is that the search for representation continues in my adult life.

Not only do I continue to seek books written by Indian authors so I can find hints of my

culture scripted on pages or jump on Netflix shows with an Indian character (even just a

token one - beggars can’t be choosers), but I also look for this representation at work. In my

life outside Instagram I work in business. For me, seeing diversity on executive boards and

in senior positions is incredibly important.


According to the latest census data from 2011, people classified as BAME in England and

Wales represented 13% of the total population. Compare this to the diversity of the FTSE

100 companies’ leadership teams, BAME representation was only a mere 3% in 2019

according to recruitment consultancy firm, Green Park. Given that this stat buckets up all

ethnic minorities too, I can only wonder what the number is for Indian people alone, let alone

Indian women, like myself. Certainly when I look around for Indian women in senior positions in business, the role models are few and far between. It had made me question if there’ll ever

be a seat for someone like me at that table.


Then someone, an ally, said a few words to me that stopped me in my tracks and made me

rethink. She said: “Why wait to see that representation? Why not be the change that you

want to see?” Mind blown.


I reflected on my ally’s words and my perspective began to change. Instead of waiting for

representation to appear, I want to be one of the people at the wheel, driving the change! To

join me on the journey and navigate the road to representation, here are my top tips that

anyone can implement to amplify what makes them unique:


1. Find your allies that can open the doors or provide the forums for your voice to be

heard. Or even just give you the confidence to share your voice.

2. Find ways to tell your story because this is a form of education and inspiration. I’m

doing this personally through my account (@themistrywriter) and finding ways to do

this professionally to support conversations about diversity and inclusion within my

organisation.

3. Find ways to support others. Even if you’re just sharing someone else’s story, in

reality you’re supporting and amplifying their voice. That’s powerful.

4. Create platforms for voices like yours or participate in the ones that exist. I was

overwhelmed to discover platforms on Instagram, such as @asianwomanfestival,

where I finally see representation of people like me in the multitude of shared stories

and artwork.


Think about it. If all 21,000 or so followers of @asianwomanfestival shared just three of their

own stories, that’d be over 63,000 wonderfully diverse nuggets of inspiration for people like

you and me. That’s almost as many stories as there are people living in Loughborough.

No matter what our relevant fields or walks of life, together we can provide, through our own

crafts, the inspiration for future generations that we’ve spent so long seeking in our own

lives. So this, here, is my call to arms. To you, grab your pens, keyboard, paint - whatever

your medium. Your story matters, your story can inspire and you too can help drive the

change so that traits you feel passionately about and that make you uniquely you are

represented.


Meena is a Midlands-based British Asian. By day, she works as a full-time retail professional and by night, she pursues her passion for writing. She writes about her culture, being an ambitious woman and her experiences in life. Her aim is to share the stories that have shaped her in the hope that it entertains, empowers or inspires. Find her on Instagram @themistrywriter.


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