Get to know Shalini Sequeira – Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant
What’s been a defining moment for you as a woman in your career?
I’m going to pick two! Being a founder of my own business – I am an executive coach and I also facilitate leadership programmes – was a game changer for me. It’s enabled me to collaborate with fabulous companies like Shape Talent, that share my vision of an equitable world. The second defining moment for me was getting my first Non-Executive Director position – where I am role modelling being a female, non-white leader and adding to the diversity in the boardroom, which I’m super proud about.
What’s your view on the current state of gender equity?
Looking at the data, I can see that the position of women as top leaders hasn’t moved forward much over the last decade. When proportions of men and women at entry level in most sectors are equal, it feels frustrating to me that at top level there is still in 2023 a massive skew towards men. When I left university, I honestly thought that by the time I was 30, the glass ceiling everywhere would have disappeared and I remember telling that to lots of people! Given that there is so much work still to do to achieve gender equity I’m glad I’ve ended up working for change in this area.
What have you read recently?
I recently re-read “Family Matters” by Rohinton Mistry. I first read it ages ago and reading it again there were all kinds of nuances about families, older relatives, career and life events that I completely missed the first time around! He is a wonderful novel writer but for me, his other book “Such a Long Journey” pips this one to the post.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
After work and looking after my two small children, I have limited spare time! So these days I’m prioritising seeing modern plays at the theatre with my husband, going to yoga and fitness classes, and travelling. I also love seeing my friends – when we can all find time in our busy lives. And finally, I’ve just stepped down from being a trustee of a charity and I’m looking for my next charity role. Actually, reading that, I must have a bit more spare time than I thought….
Do you face the double burden as a woman with a career and if so, how do you manage it?
I’ve faced many of the dilemmas challenging the women I coach. I’ve worked in environments that were tough for women, tough for people of colour and tough for working mothers of young children. Being a woman of colour with young children was really hard.
The thing that helped me most was being objective about my situation, trying to look at the wider context, and then using that knowledge to make some good decisions for myself. In some cases, once I understood the context and the system, I ended up leaving those workplaces; but today I would start with having some courageous conversations and seeing what impact I could make with those in positions of power. Latterly when I’ve had those conversations, they have made a huge difference.
What is your own experience of the Three Barriers and what tips would you give women navigating their own barriers?
I found this question really hard – which of my many experiences of the Three Barriers to draw on? One of the things that really held me back early in my career was a combination of no role models, no mentors and no sponsors. Knowing what I do now, my tips would be: from day 1 of your role, take agency, by which I mean try your hardest to find people who can mentor you and who will advocate for you, and keep close to those people. Don’t be afraid to ask things of them; remember they care about your success and want to help you. Look for role models inside and outside your organisation and follow what they are doing. And finally, pay it back – you can be a role model, a mentor and even a sponsor of people who are coming up through the ranks after you!