I never operated on being conscious of the fact that I was a woman or a minority

In Conversation with Baroness Usha Prashar

Paddy Siyanga Knudsen: If I could just come in there, because I feel like I should bring in a question. Just to get a flavor, but how was it really having this? what you would call an intersection, I think, across, you know, you had sort of this across identity as a migrant, as a young woman? And, and, also, you know, so how was it sort of trying to break through what you would call a glass ceiling? In this time, compared to what, you know, what we see today? How was that like?

Baroness Usha Prashar: Well, I think, for me, people ask me a question. Often, I think one of the things which I would say to people, I never operated on being conscious of the fact that I was a woman or a minority, I mean, I focused on doing the job and having the confidence to do that. But I think what for me was good is that when I got that mainstream job, the number of responses and letters I got from people in the minority community, particularly women to say, Look, you've done it, and that is we can do it, too. So, I think the one thing I would say to you that, you know, it's very important, not to be too conscious of the fact you know, because you can actually develop almost like a victim mentality, and I'm a woman are black, and therefore, you know, and of course, there are challenges, you have to bake perceptions and so on. And sometimes you got overlook with how people treat you, you can either kind of react to it, or you overlook it and say, you know, it's either coming from prejudice or ignorance and you just don't really let that get you down. And then of course, if you do the job properly, you know, one thing leads to another. So, I think having made that transition, the rest is sort of history in a way.Then, I kind of decided to take some time off and had kind of you know, kind of a portfolio career but in all the things I've done, I've never lost sight of the fact that you know, to me promoting equality, dealing with discrimination is an integral part of my whole being. And after sort of having had five years of portfolio career, the other breakthrough was when I became the first woman, a chairman of the parole board, you know, which is really, you know, again, another kind of breaking the glass ceiling. And after that, I became the first civil service Commissioner, which was actually recruitment into the civil service on merit. Now, that, again, was very much at the heart of establishment, the mainstream job, you know, to me, it didn't really matter, I was a minority, and I was actually involved in recruiting, you know, and interviewing senior civil servants. And along the course, of that, I also served on the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, as well as having done the work. And then, I became the first inaugural Chair of the Judicial Appointments commission, which was actually, you know, selecting judges, again, the dimension, there was a vote on the pool and make sure that we actually had more judges for minority committee. So, these were tough issues. But the point was, it actually had to be done. And then, of course, I was made member of the rock inquiry, you know, which again, was a mainstream. So, in a way, I think what that illustrates is that, you know, I managed to kind of get into the some of the biggest hedge fund jobs. And after my pro board stint in 1999, I was made appear in the House of Lords. But I continue to do other things. And alongside I also did a lot of work in the voluntary sector. Because I became Chair of the Royal commerce society, I established along with Simon Hornby, the National Literacy trust. So, in a way, I think, you could say that my motivation has always been to make a difference. Yeah, that's what I focused on that.

Paddy Siyanga Knudsen: Baroness, in terms of your motivation. And I also wondered, what was the feeling of home in these moments? So, looking, you know, looking at the journey, I've just plotted some dates, I guess it's, you know, from Kenya, to New York, to Leeds, to Glasgow to London. What's that connection of home for you? And how did that influence sort of your journey?

Baroness Usha Prashar: Yeah, I mean, I think the connection of home is, you know, during that process, you actually begin to see yourself as kind of a global citizen, you know, I'll be honest, because Kenya was Africa, Indian heritage connection with India traveled a lot. And therefore, in a way you feel that you are a global citizen. And I think it's very difficult to explain to people, to be a global citizen is actually very enlightening, you know, people say, and, of course, I think you've got to be very short of your identity of who you are. And when I say to people that you know, one thing, I want young people from minority backgrounds to say, we have self-esteem, be very sure of who you are, because you feel rooted and grounded, that actually gives you the confidence. And I think that is something you've got to work on. Because you've got to give people a sense of who you are, what your identity is, and yet be able to sort of navigate your way and glide from one culture to the other to be able to sort of actually deal with that. And I think that's quite enriching. As I said earlier, you can be part of a culture and yet stand outside it, you know, and because you can stand outside and you can see what's actually wrong. And I think that's probably has given me the strength to see what are the reforms needed in some of the British institutions. And I think the employment you can have in terms of what changes are needed. And of course, as you know, that I also went on to become the Deputy Chair of the British Council, opposite to projecting button to the world. But again, there I wanted to shift it because to me, it's not just one way it's now what neutrality the world's changing. And therefore, that interaction and I think all my experience, you know, that into developing in a very different perspective. And I think we've got to sort of highlight that, you know, people tend to focus on Oh, this is how I did it, this is how I was discriminated against the point is, you got to get over it……..

For watching the complete interview, please access our GRFDT YouTube Channel.


Interview Date:   Thursday, Nov 05, 2020
Person Name:   Baroness Usha Prashar

© 2012-20 GRFDT, All Rights Reserved.Maintained by GRFDT.Designed by Abhinav Jain