Can I come on board?

Time to process and digest

It has taken me a while to process the recent Black Lives Matters protests, news about diversity / racism and even longer to process my own experience and feeling. This is not an easy subject to put down on a piece of digital paper, my thoughts on diversity, inclusion and racism have always been stored in my memory as a reminder for myself, rather than expressing on a personal blog and publish it for general consumption.

Trouble at the top

Recent events seem to have dramatically changed the conversation among society and in particular in the construction industry. A recent article in the Architect’s Journal, written by Femi Oresanya, Principal of HOK, has highlighted, yet again, the lack of diversity within the built environment sector, particularly at senior positions, and as a professional dominated by white people, as mentioned in my last post, how can we create cohesive places for the many but designed by a few?

I am a man of Chinese heritage, born and raised in colonial Hong Kong, enjoyed a middle-class upbringing from parents working for the government as civil servants, before studying in the UK for my higher education and universities. I have never once thought I will be treated differently when I was studying here. If anything, I would think my Hong Kong heritage will be my way in as part of the conversation.

Powerful words

However, the powerful words shared by Sylvia Aehle, first posted on Twitter and subsequently published on Dezeen, has resonated with me. Not only do I browse through potential companies’ website to see if there are any non-white persons, (there is very little chance of finding Chinese architects, given there is only 6% of BAME architects and the Chinese immigrants are around 0.7% of the population in the UK), it certainly gives me an indication on their attitude towards hiring someone that doesn’t look like them.

I do remember vividly someone suggested I should have an “English” first name, as it will be easier for people to remember and will sound more westernise when applying for jobs. I rejected that out of principle, even though many people from Hong Kong has an English name, but I never feel I need an English name as part of my identity so why should I do something because it is popular and convenient?

While I have my fair share of injustices throughout my career, but my struggles are pale in comparison with the many being shared on social media from other ethnic minorities, my silver lining could be I am “getting it off lightly”.

No more talking, time for action

Instead of being negative, I have decided to take actions by express my opinions and offer to make a difference in any way I can. I have recently engaged in conversation with Samantha McClary, editor of Estates Gazette as she pointed out the endemic problems in the real estate sector, together with webinars from our industry such as the UDG, pointing out the issue of not having BAME role models in senior positions. One would hope there will be more actions than talk this time around.

To take solace from the current situation, the article from Michelle Ogundehin, ex-editor of British Elle Decoration magazine is truly inspirational.

“If one door closes, find another one to open. And if you believe that a door was slammed in your face on the basis of your race, religion, appearance or whatever, then you do not want to work for that company or institution anyway…. Don’t waste your energy battering down an unappreciative door. Divert it straight back into your worthy self.” – Michelle Ogundehi

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2 thoughts on “Can I come on board?

  1. Ming its an interesting article, and thanks for sharing. Difficult subjects need to be addressed head on & in this country I don’t think we are very good at it. I hope the Samantha McClary engagement and other future engagements help shift.

    1. Thank you Walter. It is not an easy subject to write and I hope there will be actions that will be of benefit from the conversation with Samantha. Will keep you posted.

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