There is no better time than Black History Month to reflect on how to achieve inclusion, diversity, equality and belonging in the workplace and beyond. This conversation is ongoing and the work to reach this point is never really done, but it is vital for all members of society to reflect on their privileges and consider how we can work to become masters of diversity and inclusion. Therefore, there is no better person to enlighten us on this subject than Bernie Davies.
A best-selling author, a diversity and entrepreneurship leader, a business mentor to many, she certainly needs no introduction. Ahead of her event ‘Mastering Diversity: Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Belonging in Wales’ on the 18th September at Cardiff City Hall, we were lucky enough to sit down with Bernie and talk all things inclusion and diversity. How did she get started? What advice does she have for businesses? Let’s hear what Bernie has to share.
Your career to date is extremely impressive! Talk to us about everything you’ve achieved and how you made it here.
“Well, I’m 60 years old so there is a lot of career to share! Originally my background is in law. I practised law for 21 years. It was my career in law and my time in Cardiff that led me to understand the qualities needed for entrepreneurship. As my practice grew, I realised that I loved the business side of things, so I began to serve entrepreneurship. I always inject my personality into my work and this led to doors swinging open for me. In 2012 when I was at the top of my career, my Mother passed away in Jamaica. I took some time off, but, when you have a purpose, you cannot deny it and my purpose came knocking. My husband and I opened a Caribbean restaurant where I was surrounded by people, who helped me to heal. After talking to customers for a while, a few asked me to be their coach. I had been feeding these people literally, but I wanted to start feeding their spirit, soul and mindset too. Then, I wrote my first book – Your Business, Your Way – which became a bestseller. I began running diversity and inclusion workshops for businesses and then wrote my second book – Mastering Diversity. My Mastering Diversity event at Cardiff’s City Hall was to encourage the businesspeople of Wales to build and nurture a mindset that will push Wales into an era of profitability. All of the work that I have done is just a piece of the puzzle. Together… that’s where the magic happens.”
You’re an expert in diversity and inclusion, what would you say to businesses who are trying to achieve this?
“Don’t be afraid. A lot of businesses are scared of trying to step in the right direction in case they get it wrong. Think about understanding and learning. Read books, expose yourself to a variety of topics, speak to people in different sectors and from different backgrounds to you. The purpose of life is not just to be understood, but to understand, and this naturally leads to increased diversity and inclusion. The distinction between equity and equality in the workplace is also very important. You cannot achieve equality in the workplace if the people at the top of the business do not support or encourage this change. Equality and inclusion always begins with people at the top.”
Thinking beyond business, how can we become more inclusive as a society?
“Wales is lightyears ahead compared to some places, but there is still work to be done. I think that we need to consider the disabled more, as access in many of the older buildings in Cardiff can be an issue for them. There is also a greater awareness of the LGBTQ+ community now, but a lot of people are still not understanding the importance of accepting them or learning about their struggles. Knowledge is power, so make yourself knowledgeable. How are we meant to change if we do not know?
There is work to be done across the board, not just in business. However, entrepreneurship is the lifeblood for any economy, so we need to make sure that this reflects what we want to see in society. It is important for everyone of all ages, races, sexualities and genders to recognise their own privileges. When you recognise your privileges, you can open your mind. When you change hearts and minds, you change people, and when you change people, you change what happens.”
Thinking about opening your mind, October is Black History Month. Why is this so important?
“The African Caribbean community in Wales is relatively small, so Black History Month gives people who may not have thought about it before an opportunity to open their minds to a different point of view. When white people talk about these issues, the impact is much stronger. By engaging in these conversations and providing a platform for these discussions, we are already celebrating Black History Month.
Many of the speakers at my Mastering Diversity event, that took place last month, touched on Black History Month and the importance of learning from other people’s experiences. It is all about reciprocity; I want everyone involved in my events to learn something. As I said before, knowledge is power.”
You have so many things to be proud of, but what would you say is your biggest achievement to date?
“I am proud that when my Mother passed away, I didn’t give up. I’m proud of my multicultural family. I’m proud that I have had the opportunity to speak at the UN. I’m proud of my Lifetime Achievement award. I am proud of all of my work; I am only here for a short time, but my work will last forever, so I am running my race to pass the baton on to future generations. But, if I had to choose one thing to highlight, I am most proud that I am able to bring people together to have conversations like this.
My crowning moment of this year is my Mastering Diversity event. People from all across Wales came together in the heart of Cardiff, all in the name of diversity. At this event, one mind with one mission came together to be better – and when you have that, something incredible will happen.”