As an immigrant from Goa, Cleona Lira, chartered financial planner at Conscious Money, says being a woman from an ethnic minority background has its pros.
She says “being part of a minority, [I am] used to dealing with people who are not from my background. This means we naturally tend to be more inclusive”.
She continues: “Not all men are sensitive to the needs of women and how women like to be communicated with,” and therefore she finds it is “more of an advantage” to be woman of ethnicity.
However, being an Asian female and an IFA is not without its challenges.
When she started out as a financial adviser, she said she noticed a difference in the way she was treated at first.
She says: “The men would ask each other questions and seemed to assume I did not know the answers as I was a younger woman. I also noticed that when I did speak I was interrupted more.”
However, through open conversations and time taken for her male colleagues to understand that her way was direct and honest, her male colleagues became “more sensitised” to her ability and needs and started to include her more regularly in their conversations.
She says: “I don’t need male colleagues to change their language or be more politically correct around me. I want to be inclusive and include the presence of white, middle-class men in my reality and I want them to include me in theirs.”
Lift up other voices
Another challenge Ms Lira witnesses is at conferences. “The culture and anecdotes used tend to be geared to whoever is dominant in terms of the population. Usually there is less than 12 per cent women, so the dominant population tends to be white men.”
Ms Lira says that one way to promote inclusion at conferences is for the facilitator to be mindful of who is asking the majority of the questions.
“Is one person asking the questions? Who else is in the room? Are there Black men or women in the room who might want to speak as well?”
In this way a facilitator can ensure that various diverse voices are heard.
As well as promoting inclusion, Ms Lira is also passionate about the practice of nonviolent communication. This practice focuses on a four-step communication process that involves: observation, feelings, needs and formulating a clear request.
Ms Lira explains: “The idea is that when human beings feel connected, it is easier to collaborate and cooperate with each other.
“So often we want to get to an end goal, like going on holiday, but we haven’t spent time working out what you might need, what I might need, and what we would like to happen. We haven’t connected with each other over this. This connection is the key.”
In the belief that “we all have the same underlying longings, motivations and needs, to different intensities”, NVC is ultimately a very inclusive and collaborative practice of communication.