We are delighted to support National Inclusion Week 2021, which runs from September 27 - October 3 2021. The theme this year is #UnitedforInclusion, presenting an opportunity to unite all of our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) networks from across the business.
The last 18 months have presented both challenges and opportunities when it comes to inclusion. Online events and meetings have become more accessible for many people, whilst working from home has made things harder for others who may feel isolated or have tried to balance work with caring or childcare commitments.
We are proud of how all of our colleagues, networks and senior leaders have responded to those challenges and we believe that the culture at BLM has become even more unified because of it. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t experienced or seen unprecedented grief, loss, impacts on mental wellbeing, disproportionate impacts on women, young people and lower socio-economic groups. The work now is to find out, through our networks, how we can do more to support our colleagues, and to equip and empower line managers and senior leaders to make the best decisions and to support our industry and our local communities. When it comes to inclusion it has never been more important to unite, to learn together and create a powerful force for change.
We hope that you enjoy the content that has been created this week from each of our networks.
We begin National Inclusion Week today with a focus on our Multicultural Network
Multicultural Network Sponsor, Siri Siriwardene shares details about his life, his experiences growing up and career path and his plans for the EDI Network which brings together colleagues from around the business. Network members also work with external organisations and have recently joined the Urban Lawyers North mentoring scheme, with the University of Manchester. Our Mentors were tasked with assisting black, Asian and ethnic minority students to attain the skills needed to successfully access the legal profession; something which the mentors descried as “incredibly rewarding”.
Meet Siri Siriwardene, BLM Multicultural Network Sponsor
Siri was born in the UK to Sri Lankan parents. He moved to Sri Lanka aged one and returned to the UK aged 10. He believes it’s important to keep your sense of history and explains more about his involvement and plans for BLM’s Multicultural Network.
How do you feel when you look back on your childhood?
I felt blessed that I had a childhood that allowed me to not just be a part of my Sri Lankan heritage but to experience several other cultures (my father worked for the UN and he worked in several countries). It is what has helped to mould the person that I am today. One of the best parts of my childhood was centred on friendships that were multicultural, it made life much more interesting and fun.
Tell us something about your childhood which really shaped the person you are today.
Being sent to boarding school in the UK aged 10 which was in the early 1980s had a massive influence on who I am today. In those days there weren’t many kids from South Asia at the school. I learned and appreciated that if I take that step forward to embrace a new culture whilst maintaining my sense of heritage and history, I can make real friendships and be an integral part of the community. I learned that we all shared the same values and that’s what mattered, not where we came from.
How important is culture to you?
My culture is really significant to me especially as it provides the values that I have always lived to. It also underpins my sense of personal history, tradition and even humour. It also reminds me that we are not that different and that we all have very similar values.
What’s the one standout piece of advice you have given your children as they grow up?
Don’t forget who you are and always take that step forward with kindness and positivity. Hopefully they have listened!
What inspired you to become the Multicultural Network Sponsor at BLM?
I am a believer that diversity and inclusion makes for better innovation and performance and so will make BLM so much better. After all the same group with the same background is likely to only come up with the same ideas and outputs.
How important are allies to the Network?
Allies or those that support the network are crucial to its success. Without them it is almost impossible to get the platform to discuss diversity and all of the good things that multiculturalism can bring. We are blessed with not just general support but genuine buy in from the leadership team which is vital to enabling the EDI network.
What does the Network have in store?
There’s a lot going on! Aside from the creation of a support network we have training programmes, a newly launched mentoring framework and comms activity which includes social media, internal messaging as well as partnering with external groups to build and support the network.