After a short, summer hiatus, Inside your Brand returned with a bang last Thursday by welcoming Salma El-Wardany – an Egyptian-Irish Muslim writer, poet, speaker, BBC radio presenter, and business owner who also works as Solutions Driven’s Chief Diversity Officer.
As for Salma, she introduced herself to IBY’s host Dan Fellows as “another shouty woman. That’s my actual Twitter bio,” Salma laughed. “Someone trolled me on Twitter with that comment but rather than be offended, I felt rather pleased about it. I thought that is one of the most fantastically accurate descriptions of me and you don’t even know me that well!”
While Salma may have created and curated a thriving portfolio career, “everything I do is connected by how we tell marginalised voices, the voices that we haven’t heard for so long, and how we put these centre stage and create brands, businesses, radio stations, and communities that have everyone at the table,” she revealed.
In this respect, the two-time TedTalks speaker was full of praise for Solutions Driven – an international recruitment agency based in Scotland that has recently introduced a DE&I promise. Salma said: “They are an incredible business who are really prepared to actually make tangible changes when it comes to diversity. They understand that, as recruiters, we have an incredible opportunity to change the workforce.
“We have a responsibility – we are the gatekeepers. We hold the keys to offices, workplaces. Solutions Driven brought me in, as Chief Diversity Officer, to do work internally and also to work with their clients to see how we can help.”
Host Dan was curious to know what “Chief Diversity Officers actually do on day one?” Salma replied: “Day one is figuring out where everyone is and where everyone thinks they are. That’s always two different things. No one in business is ever where they think they are with their DE&I strategy.”
When asked as to what a Chief Diversity Officer or a recruiter could and should do if a client doesn’t care about DE&I, Salma had this answer: “Push back and challenge [them]. Say ‘please tell me why so I can understand where you are coming from.’
“More often than not companies don’t want to hire diverse talent either because they don't have the education, ability, or resources or because they are afraid. The reluctance invariably comes from these things, it’s never intentionally malicious, and it’s a recruiter’s responsibility to smooth and soothe those fears.”
If you’re listening to this episode and struggling to place Salma’s accent, her hybrid accent is a result of having lived in Ireland, Ghana, Egypt, and Newcastle – an experience that has undoubtedly informed the person she is today.
“Having a foot in different worlds has made me consider different ways of living,” Salma mused. “ There is more than one way to live. There is more than one version of life. When people get stuck in the same job, community, culture, family, and friendship circles, they can sometimes forget there is more than one way of living.
“When I travel and live in these different places, I am constantly reminded that there are 1,001 different ways to live a life. All these different ways – if we are open to them – can inform our decisions, our businesses. I am always pulling different ways of doing things, from all of those different lives.”
Catch episode 15 of season two of Inside your Brand over on Get-Optimal’s YouTube channel.