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Friday 16 December 2022

Name changer: Ethnic Minorities into Leadership

Conference Chair and FDA member Sal Naseem explains why the event has adopted “a more inclusive branding” which “moves away from a term that has become toxic”. 
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Formerly known as BAME into Leadership, the FDA’s long-running event alongside partners Dods has been rebranded as Ethnic Minorities into Leadership. Aimed at enhancing the capabilities and leadership opportunities of ethnic minority individuals, the conference offers hands-on, practical advice for those looking to take the next steps in their career. 

“I think labels matter,” Ethnic Minorities into Leadership Chair Sal Naseem explains . “I think language is important and when you look at the name ‘BAME into Leadership’ it’s actually B-A-M-E into Leadership which meant black, Asian and minority ethnic people into leadership. The shorthand became BAME - and there’s different schools of thought here - but it had become clear the term BAME had become divisive, it had become toxic and it had come to be used as a catch-all to describe a very different range of experiences for a very different range of ethnicities, of individuals, which masked a lot of issues and caused a lot of problems.”

According to Naseem, ‘BAME’ became “a really reductive term used to coalesce a whole range of different issues and different experiences”, which doesn’t work because “people of different ethnicities don’t fall into one bucket”. Reflecting on the previous name of the conference, which has now been running for more than ten years, Naseem suggested there wasn’t necessarily any issues with the BAME branding “at that time” but it had become clear that “thinking has moved on, time has moved on”.

Naseem is clear that “the conference is meant to be a safe space”, “to empower” and “to inspire” and so “it was the right time to re-look at it”. Taking on board feedback from attendees as well as his own views, Sal “pushed for that change” and “was grateful” for the support he received from the FDA, especially Assistant General Secretary Lucille Thirlby, who worked with Dods to implement the changes to the conference series this year. 

“I’m a proud member of the FDA. I’ve been chairing the conference now for over a year and I do it in my own time, it’s an absolute privilege to do it because it’s about giving back,” he explains. “I was sensitive to this issue and I raised it a while ago with FDA colleagues, alongside Dods and, you know, the positive thing is them being open to the discussion.”

Naseem is complimentary of the whole process from “starting the discussion”, to both the FDA and Dods “being open to it”, to then collectively “considering a range of possibilities and actually making a change”. The fact that this happened to smoothly, with different views being genuinely listened to and action being taken “speaks to its own story”, according to Naseem, because “that doesn’t happen everywhere”.


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