Laura read "Women’s Room" when aged 7. Re-reading the story aged 17, she realised her own experiences, especially around inclusion, is what politics is about.
Politics in a social sense is distribution of services, who gets what, who counts, whose experience is promoted and whose is vilified. Our own personal experiences are a political point and are what count, what happens to us is a reflection of how and where we live. The statement ‘Personal is political’ comes from a book that Laura first read when she was 7, called Women’s Room. Re-reading the story aged 17, she realised her own experiences, especially around inclusion, feeling left out and not being given an equal chance are what politics are about.
Politics in a social sense is distribution of services, who gets what, who counts, whose experience is promoted and whose is vilified. Our own personal experiences are a political point and are what count, what happens to us is a reflection of how and where we live.
Laura states that we are the experts on our own lives, other people can comment and even influence, but only we are the experts. Our lived experiences, perceptions and those closest to us, all impact our views, which is why eyewitness reports are always slightly different. We all have our own reactions even to the same experience, thus generating varying outcomes. Tied into this we also often have group beliefs rather than individualistic, which can reinforce our biases and perspectives.
When you visibly occupy a minority position, people often assume that every conversation relating to this needs to be something you are part of. Laura says, for her the challenge comes when she may not be personally offended but she knows the topic is offensive, who has the right of responsibility to raise if a topic is politically offensive? People often feel the need to be a role model for whatever characteristics they represent, which can be exhausting and comes with a huge sense of responsibility. It means they often need to have disruptive and challenging conversations and this forms part of the political balance, as is something they must learn to live with. Laura says we need to change the balance, so instead of just focusing on the minority group, we look at the general population and living/working with inclusion and diversity issues every day. We want to help everyone to be their whole selves. Often diversity and inclusion topics cause people to feel uncomfortable or concerned as they do not want to get something wrong. As part of a minority group Laura says she respects people’s curiosity, it means they are comfortable enough to ask questions. She says there is no shame in not knowing the answer, only shame is not asking the question with the right intent or waiting and listening to the answer. The way we communicate helps people understand our intent.
Many workplaces have Diversity and Inclusion on their agenda, but to be implemented it has to have a business benefit. Often people are recruited to tick a D&I box, but if systems are not in place to support this individual within their role then it will never be successful. Similarly, employees get tired of engaging with work that does them no good. We want to know the outcome and that our contributions are valued.
Laura has recently started to write poetry, something she originally did purely for relaxation purposes and is in the process of turning this into a book. She says poetry has always been her inner story, our experiences and stories of self are all silent stories until we decide to share them. We act as our own protectors and chose which stories to share and how edited we make the versions. There is power in these untold stories and in the silence. We live in such a fast past world; we need to allow ourselves time to listen to the stories that are already there within our space.
SEE Change Happen
Professor Laura Serrant OBE