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My social mobility story is one of perspective, seeing things from different sides early on in life. By the age of 8, I'd been raised by an Indian mother, an English father; in a Hindu family, a Christian family; at boarding school, on a council estate; in a big city, and in a small town in the countryside where my brother and I were the only ethnic minorities. By the time I was a teenager, my Dad had met my stepmother and we had four stepsisters and brothers who are half Nigerian – so we also have quite the multicultural family!


I didn't have a conventional upbringing in terms of gender either, my brother and I were mostly raised by our single-parent father, whilst my mother completed her PhD in economics. My mother had already refused to enter an arranged marriage, which also broke with the gender expectations of women on our Indian side of the family in the 1980s.

Experiencing these very different environments so early on in life meant that 'code switching' was automatic, as I didn't have a single 'code'. Having multiple identities meant that I didn't have the same expectations of how I should act based on my ethnicity, class or gender. This meant that I was critical of expectations based on pre-determined characteristics, which allowed me to focus on qualities we determine ourselves such as values and hard work. I also became passionate about understanding how society works, leading me to study politics and economics as soon as I could (from 16 to 22 - A Level up to Master's level).

For me social mobility is about choosing your own path, allowing for equality of opportunity and ensuring that we are able to unlock our potential and contribute to a more meritocratic and productive society. At work, by promoting social mobility we can also foster a more diverse working environment better able to generate more creative and innovate solutions needed in uncertain times. For me, my experience allowed me to find my own purpose and pursue my passion.

The best way to characterise my experience would be describing it as one of intersectionality and both privilege and underprivilege - at times not having enough food to eat as child, whilst later attending an elite boarding school. It meant taking my first job at 14, working 30 hours a week in hospitality throughout my education, but also being fortunate enough to be accepted to study my Master's at the London School of Economics by the age of 21. Although I faced name-calling (the 'p' word) whilst living in a rural area in the 1990s, I later saw the type of the discrimination my half-Nigerian stepsisters and brothers faced in their teens, and was able to compare to the different experiences both my Indian and English parents had.

I chose to specialise in the international development sector where I have worked for more than eight years within International Institutions and Donor Assurance (IIDA) in part because of these experiences. In many respects my understanding of social mobility is linked to my understanding of international and sustainable development. For me, both are holistic concepts based on recognising positive or negative externalities, correcting market failure/barriers to growth, and working towards responsible growth at an individual level, company level and societal level – both domestically and internationally.

In summary, having had the upbringing with the opportunities and challenges that brought me, I learned that there is a richness that different experiences can add and as such I learnt the importance of surrounding myself with people from different backgrounds (as demonstrated by decision to move to East Asia at 22 and the Caribbean at 26, and often travelling for work since…). I also learnt that diversity is essential when it comes to innovation and change, and that there is so much potential out there, and a huge opportunity for us if we choose to invest in and nurture that talent.