Why be the same when you can be yourself?
To create campaigns which are genuinely representative of modern society, we need people in the industry who understand what it’s like to be different.
That’s why this month we’re asking Sara Chandran how she feels her background has shaped her identity, and what this means for her career and the industry as a whole.
It’s all part of our monthly Unmistakable Characters series which we use to get an insight into what’s driving people to shake up their industry.
What's your name and what do you do?
I’m Sara, and I’m a consultant at The Unmistakables.
At my previous consultancy, Chameleon, I worked on business to business technology brands, consulting them on their comms and content strategy. Alongside this I ran unconscious bias training sessions and workshops on inequality internally. Working with the senior management team, we changed our recruitment process to help reduce any barriers to joining the company.
My passion for D&I didn’t start there though. Whilst at the University of Reading, I was elected Education Officer for the Students’ Union and it’s where I became aware of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) academic attainment gap. I launched the first ever conference about the issue, bringing together students, academics and VCs to not only raise awareness, but discuss how we can tackle the issue.
How does your identity affect your work and your life in general?
Growing up in East London, I was different. My mother is a deaf Irish woman, my father a cockney man with Malaysian-Tamil heritage, and my brother and sister are half-Nigerian. I was baptised a Catholic, and I pray to the Hindu deity, Ganesh.
When I was younger, being part of so many different cultures and traditions was challenging. I felt I never quite fit in anywhere but now, I realise this lack of belonging isn’t unique to me. No one belongs in one box, or category. Bringing this experience to the work that I do keeps me open-minded and reluctant to generalise, and challenge my assumptions when creating campaigns.
Who have been your role models and why?
All the women in my family are a force to be reckoned with. They’ve all overcome adversity in their lives and are unapologetically themselves. They inspire me to be my authentic self.
Do you think other people see you differently to how you see yourself?
Definitely! People naturally make assumptions based on what they know and have experienced in the world. I don’t mind, I enjoy surprising people.
Do you see yourself in advertising and marketing?
Sometimes. I’ve started to unfollow, and follow, certain social media accounts which has helped diversify my timeline - which I highly recommend!
Are you tired of hearing about Diversity & Inclusion?
I’m tired of tokenisation. For example, people praising Boris Johnson for his diverse cabinet, and what it represents for Asian people. But actually, as Sharan Dhaliwal, Editor of Burnt Roti, put so well, “all they show is that success is achieved when you bend to whiteness. Our thirst is so strong for representation that we don’t care what it is, just what it looks like.” 🗣🗣🗣
We need real and effective representation and diversity.
What one thing would you say to your younger self?
Be proud of your identity and don’t let others bully you out of what makes you unique. And don’t give up on Bharatanatyam dancing!