The West Country Women Awards – where recognition is key! From all walks of life, every corner of our communities, our goal is to celebrate the achievements & triumphs of women across the region.
It is being run by Alexis Bowater OBE, journalist, broadcaster and women’s campaigner, and award-winning businesswoman Tess Stuber. They have now a new mission, and they want you on board, because this time it’s not just about business, it’s about everybody’s business!
We interviewed one of our finalists, Zehra Zaidi, who has campaigned to improve the representation of British people from ethnic minority backgrounds on civic symbols such as statutes and legal tender, on what Diversity and Equality means to her and who:
Founded the We Too Built Britain Campaign
Is part of Diversity Built Britain Coin – coins honouring the contribution that ethnic minorities have made to the UK
Launched 'John Ystumllyn', representing friendship, kindness, community and tolerance
Was part of the Hidden Heroes campaign - lesser known heroes to be remembered as a statue
Campaigned We Too Planted Britain - a community gardening scheme
Campaigned Right to Grow - using public land to support growing healthy fruit and vegetables for community kitchens
What does diversity and equality mean to you?
Diversity and equality to me means:
Creating an environment where everyone feels and is able to thrive;
Building a culture of empathy, flexibility and creativity;
Building an organisation that becomes more than the sum of its parts because people feel more fulfilled and are able to thrive.
Why do you think it is important to celebrate and champion diversity and equality?
Every organisation is based on relationships and trust. Championing diversity and equality means you are celebrating each other’s unique contributions and creating an environment of fairness. Each person knows that walking into work every day, whatever they put in, they will get out – and then some!
What had been your experience in advocating for diversity and equality in your professional and personal life?
The projects that I do outside of work via We Too Built Britain are all about diversity and equality, and supporting social cohesion between people of different communities and social backgrounds.
In terms of advocacy, I have found storytelling to be key – this is a very interpersonal space where you must connect to people and you need people’s support to succeed (at least in my cases trying to get a few historical firsts in terms of representation); I have found collaboration to be essential (it’s an area where you have to be ingenious with your time and resources and therefore pooling ideas and building a true collective of like-minded people can be so rewarding on many levels. I have found that there is always common ground available if we find the time and space to listen, to learn and to grow together.
At work, I am currently working on a project that looks in new ways of organisational practice for the “public good” (#BeyondtheRules - Dark Matter (darkmatterlabs.org)). The organisation is looking deeply into diversity and equality and has always supported my voluntary projects as they feel I can bring aspects of those to my creative, innovation role at work. This in turn gives me the space to thrive, and juggle work and outside voluntary projects.
Why do you think it is vital for employers to prioritise diversity and equality in the workplace?
It makes us all better, more empathetic, more creative and creates a culture of greater fulfilment, productivity, and in terms of human resources you may find you can not only attract a wider pool of talent but retain them.
Why do you think awards like the West County Women Awards are important?
To be recognised by your peers in the region for this sort of work is overwhelming. I feel immense pride that this area of diversity and equality is being celebrated, and I feel the potential network of greater women and organisations something I hope we can build on.