Special with Rabia Awan

Special with Rabia Awan

It’s safe to say we’re all going through a lot during this period. Whilst there is a global community experience of “we’re in it together” during this crisis, clearly there are specific experiences, perspectives and emotions that we all as individuals are feeling.

We wanted to explore these aspects and we were lucky enough to be speaking with Rabia Awan.

Rabia is an Independent HR expert, a former candidate, client, community member and friend of the show. Moreover, she is isolating alone away from family and is experiencing this largely by herself.

Recorded as a special show on the eve of Ramadan
Rabia talks candidly about how the virus is impacting her, how she deals with it and her vision and hopes post lockdown for the future of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Be inspired, eat, play and love within the community on Rabia’s new venture (click below)


The CandidateX team have started contributing recipes and if you have a good one, share a recipe for something that means something to you.

Special – Rabia Awan – Isolating alone during Ramadan


people, businesses, ramadan, hiring, background, , feel, diversity, speaking, friends, , companies, , job, community, chinese, virus, employees, candidate


Man Wong, Rabia Awan, Sunil Dial

Man Wong  00:00

Hey Man here from CandidateX, a quick message before the show. It’s safe to say we’re all going through a lot during this period. Whilst there is a global community experience of we’re in it together during this crisis. Clearly there are specific experiences, perspectives and emotions that we all as individuals are feeling. We wanted to explore these aspects and we were lucky enough to be speaking with Rabia Awan. Rabia is an independent HR expert, a former candidate, client, community member and a friend of the show. Moreover, she’s isolating alone from her family and is experiencing this largely by herself. Recorded as a special show on the eve of Ramadan. Rabia talks candidly about how the virus is impacting her, how she deals with it, and her vision and hopes post lockdown for the future of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. So take a seat, relax and enjoy the show. HI everyone, it’s a special from CandidateX. I’m Man Wong, your host and I’m joined by Sunil Dial, who will be co-hosting with me today. We’re joined by Rabia Awan. Rabia I know you and Sunil have been catching up during this period checking in on each other and some interesting things have been raised and we thought, hey, why not, let’s sit down and do a show about it. So Rabia, hi.

Rabia Awan  01:21


Man Wong  01:21

Sorry we’ve, kept you indoors on the hottest day of the year so far.

Rabia Awan  01:24

Oh, that’s okay. That’s all right.

Man Wong  01:27

And just for the purpose of everybody who’s listening in, could you tell us a little about yourself and how you come to know CandidateX?

Rabia Awan  01:33

Yeah, of course. So, as you guys know, you actually placed me into one of my roles working at a Fintec. For me, I got to know you guys as an agency first. And what really stood out to me and the reason why,  I think we’ve kept in touch and kept such great connections is the ethical approach that you always had, both – as I felt as a candidate and as your client as well. I felt you really understood the businesses’ and you also understood your candidates as well. And so that’s how I got to know about CandidateX was obviously through you guys. And just really buying into who you are as people and what you stood for, ethically as a business and just as individuals as well. So obviously, we’ve been speaking, you know, we’ve been talking about these ideas with me for a while and you know, I am really kind of excited about it. So I don’t think a lot of people, I mean, there’s a lot of diversity cultural diversity initiatives, but I think the vision that you have for it is slightly different. And it’s a bit more in line with what I see the new world looking like as well. And I think it’s so paramount right now with with Coronavirus and what’s happened and all the kind of campaigns that you’ll be launching and doing.I think that’s going to be so beneficial in such a time when diversity and Inclusion initiatives might take a bit of a backseat for the meantime until businesses’ kind of firefight through so many other problems.

Man Wong  03:09

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Sunil Dial  03:11

I mean, Rabia and I are going back as you mentioned, to the very first time we worked together and we have continued conversations but every time we speak we literally could record a podcast upon podcast don’t we? About time we actually got it done officially I think. You are right, and I suppose I was quite keen and speaking to Man as well about getting you on this podcast,  I think you know, I’m seeing a lot of reports, I’m hearing a lot of things especially in this climate and conditions we’re in at the moment but it’s seemed to be really wide and I don’t think there’s enough focus on specifics as well and i think you’re in an unique position and as this goes on this podcast, I’m really keen to kind of get your perspective not only on yourself, but you see the wider picture as well going forward. Seems to be really important to cover that offy.

Rabia Awan  04:04

Definitely. I mean, it’s, it’s definitely been a journey for me, I fall into several, you know, diversity backgrounds. I’m of an Asian background. I’m Muslim and I’m a female. So, you know, I think with me, I’ve had I’ve had struggles in every one of those areas throughout my career at one point or another, either being discriminated because of my Asian backgrounds, or, well, mainly, it’s been the Muslim background post 911 especially, and also as a woman, a lot of the times you are working with very senior stakeholders, and sometimes it can feel like a bit of boys club at places. I’ve had all sorts, I’ve been through all sorts of my career and you have to be very resilient. But I do think a lot of businesses were waking up to those things and really stamping out those kind of prejudices as we were talking about. Anyway, for me, I saw there was a bit of a positive shift and in a lot of areas I just hope we continue that you know, post COVID-19 as well

Sunil Dial  05:13

First and foremost Rabia, and you don’t mind me saying, you live on your own. Obviously with the restrictions and not being able to go out I mean, Man and myself talk every day and we check in on each other, we’ve got kids and juggling that –  is quite hard.

Rabia Awan  05:31


Sunil Dial  05:32

We have the stimulation of that engagement with the kids, etc. But how are you finding this moment in time and how has this been a challenge for you?

Rabia Awan  05:43

Yeah, I’m not gonna lie. I think a lot of people that are on their own they probably never felt so lonely in their lives and that’s echoing from a lot of people I am speaking to that that live alone. I think if you’ve got a flatmate or a partner or children or you know extended family as, as a lot of actually Asian people, you know are living in extended family environments as well. It kind of eases that lockdown. I know people who wind each other up equally. But you still have another human touch. The other day I was saying to my mom, I miss hugging someone, I missed human touch. I can’t remember the last time I actually touched another human. It feels like that. I know, you know how long we’ve been in lockdown. But yeah, it does definitely post its challenges, especially around mental health, which is again, such a great agenda which businesses’ were pushing around mental health awareness. And I think right now, I just feel like it has gone a little bit quiet in some areas on the mental health side. But I think some businesses are equally really stepping up and actually really pushing the whole mental health agenda. But for me, yeah, I think mental health, for me has been a struggle. I think the first few weeks when we first went into lockdown, I almost was having waves of anxiety like oh my gosh, how long is this going to go on for I’m on my own. But afterwards you really kind of get yourself together. And for me, I’ve found,  exercising, talking to friends and family, my nieces and nephews, my family, my friends, everyone has been such a great support network for me. And as I was saying earlier, I’ve actually started little projects on the side, like I’ve started a cookbook randomly. And I’ve started cooking and writing all those ideas down and sharing them with friends, and other people that are really like cooking a lot more at home. So yeah, I’ve had to really, really push myself to keep myself engaged and thinking about something other than the lockdown and then, you know, the economy essentially crashing around us as well.

Sunil Dial  07:43

It’s interesting about something you mentioned there about the social aspect of family because when the restrictions came down for the lockdown it was you know, the your household only. And that’s it. And one thing that struck me and speaking to a lot of others, especially from the ethnic minorities population, what you classify as immediate family, it’s not just your mum and dad, in ethnic minorities families actually are much broader than that. You’ll find that your everyday life is engaged, maybe with a cousin or an aunt and they’re equally Has that been a challenge? I mean, you mentioned that but I mean, how is that especially as you were entering Ramadan as well?

Rabia Awan  08:35

Yeah, it’s funny actually, my sister sent me a text is much like all of you excited Ramadan. Yeah, I said something wrong with me I’m I’m actually not feeling as excited as I probably should be. As I usually am because I’m on my own. And you know, a big part of Ramadan is having that social, you know, social connection. So people open fast together, you know, people pray together there’s a there’s there’s something called throbbing That people do together. And, you know, we’re not gonna be able to do any of those things. And it’s a time for giving It’s time for reflecting It’s time for, you know, really being a community and actually helping other communities as well. I think it’s gonna be really difficult because , for me, I was thinking, oh, gosh, Ramadan, it’s gonna be hard for me, I’m going to miss opening fast with my family, My friends we always open them together. Actually, we do this thing every year where we open one fast at least together, both my Muslim friends and actually friends that aren’t Muslim, we will get together and we open it together just for something to do and to show respect to each other’s cultures and religions. And we’re not going to get to do that this year. So I think we’re probably going to have to find, again, creative ways around it. But yeah, I think coming from an ethnic background myself, I am going to feel that and I did say that to my sister this morning is that I’m really going to feel just being by myself and opening the fast by myself and not being able to have that fun cooking environment where everyone sits together and has a meal. So yeah, I definitely think a lot of people are gonna feel that whether you’re on your own or with your family, you know, it’s an extended network, as you said.

Sunil Dial  10:13

Well, it’s interesting, I’ve worked in various environments, I’ve worked out in the Middle East myself, and it’s also a very important period and on the calendar, it’s that socialising aspect but what usually I found speaking to a lot of my ex – college and friends, it’s that actually being in a workplace during the day, kind of helps channel whilst you’re also fasting itself, how to channel your focus onto your work element. Now, we haven’t got that for the first time in ever, really. So again, that’s another challenge. And, you know, I’ll link this back into how businesses are supporting employees, because in the workplace, it’s probably easier to do that. In Middle East, we did it there. But how do you see businesses? Or how do you feel business can support employees who will be going through this month of Ramadan and being alone at home and not having that social aspect?

Rabia Awan  11:21

I myself worked out in UAE for a bit and it was just normal, Ramadan was a normal thing to do. And, you know, those prayers were normal and all those things were normal. Whereas when I came back and came back to the UK, it’s interesting because on the positive is that when I was fasting and working and sometimes I would probably end up missing fasts as well, because it was back to back meetings, you’re talking all day, you know, you kind of need water. Some people just struggle with it and trying to complete your prayers as well. it’s difficult. I mean, people make it work and make it happen. But some people do find it challenging and I probably was one of them. However, at home, I’m finding there’s more time for prayer and reflection. I don’t have to excuse myself from meeting or find a prayer room. And also the sense that, you know, you kind of don’t feel it as much that because you’re in the comfort of your home, and you’re not around other people eating around you because even if you’re with your family, they’re probably also practising it with you. So and for me being on my own, you know, there’s no one eating in front of me to make me think all that burger, hat burger looks good, or that coffee looks nice. And so yeah, I think it’s got its positives in that sense that I can just get on with fasting, prayer and for reflection, and without all the other distractions.

Man Wong  12:53

I wanted to ask about businesses supporting such religious commitments such as Ramadan? Yeah, in a virtual sense what do you think businesses can or should be doing to support people in this world at this stage in time?

Rabia Awan  13:13

Yeah. So I think in the past comm(unication)s departments and HR departments have been great. Sending comes out saying, you know, it’s Ramadan guy, just be respectful and wary of your colleagues your way be fasting, and so on. I think some businesses are still continuing that through their comms saying, look,it’s a Ramadan season, please be respectful, and they still quite kind of trying to continue that over, gathered from friends that I’ve been speaking to, both as employees and as part of HR and comms departments. They’re kind of ramping up their communications that are going out and still offering that support to their employees that they were before but obviously now it’s more virtual, and you probably don’t have to include things like don’t eat in front of your colleagues, not that anyone ever said that. But  it’s being mindful, that someone’s fasting. So I think it’s, probably a little bit easier to manage because people are at home in their own environment. But I do think businesses should probably still try and do some coms, maybe still celebrate the diversity and have – sometimes they used to do lunch and learns in some places where I worked at. They did lunch or learns around Ramadan, and why do we fast and what it means for us and so on just just an educational tool. So I think maybe it might be interesting for companies to actually continue lunch and learns online and continue those initiatives that they were doing so well within the business but bring it more virtually.

Sunil Dial  14:43

You mentioned that in the office, don’t eat in front of your colleagues, etc. But actually that goes the same for virtual because if you look now I’m sure you guys have got a coffee or a water infront of you. So I suppose there’s still some sort of guidelines around that and even if you’re virtual. We talk about mental health as well. And it can be something as simple as a phone call. Or just checking in, you know, and a message to all listeners, I’ll get a message from yourself because you you check in and are very good at that. Man and myself and Jonathan always check in with each other to see how we are every day. I mean, it could be something as simple as that. Rather than spending thousands of pounds on a special training programme,

Rabia Awan  15:26

Yeah, you’re right. I think you’re very right. I mean, I don’t think any companies probably say don’t eat infront of your colleagues, but they’re probably about like, just be mindful, you know, everybody will be slightly different, but I think you’re right, I think it might just be, how are you getting on. it’s quite hot or, usually wet in the heat, maybe it’s, I don’t know if it’s better or worse, sometimes being indoors in the heat. So, you know, just to kind of check in on colleagues see how they’re getting on and even mentally as well, it can be challenging going without food and water. Obviously, our fasting is completely nothing. Nothing at all. I know there’s different fasting in different religions where they can have certain foods and certain beverages, but we can’t have anything and we have to wake up in the morning for something called Suhur where we actually eat something so it’s like four or five in the morning so we’re up really early then back to bed, then up again to work and then in the evening quite late. The fast opens so yeah, I think that can have, ts own challenges on mental health and being alone and being locked down. It probably feels a lot or sometimes I used to find it actually a nice distraction, just going out for the day and just being busy doing things. And then coming home and opening fast, whereas right now it’s just you. And as we were talking about earlier, I’ve noticed I’ve just been snacking, I’m just constantly finding something. Even if I’m not hungry, I’m just like, Let’s just eat something!

Sunil Dial  16:49

You can only see  head on this video. Thank goodness.

Rabia Awan  16:53

Exactly. So and you know we were talking about this earlier. So I think with with being at home, you tend to snack more, you tend to eat more, and you tend to drink more. Wherwas when you’re out and about you kind of just have your meals or you’re busy doing other things. So, yeah, I think it’s good to kind of check in.

Sunil Dial  17:11

One thing I found, especially working in the Middle East during Ramadan and something you mentioned before, it’s an inclusive time of the year. So it’s not because you’re a Muslim that you’re the only ones doing here celebrating Ramadan or fasting Actually, I found in the evening, especially the Middle East, that it comes to life, everyone breaks fast, and I broke fast. You know, I actually adhered to that when I worked with my colleagues, and I was invited to break fast with them and then for the rest of the evening, you’re kind of up until midnight and above it’s very social, kids, etc everyone because a pattern changes.

Rabia Awan  17:48


Sunil Dial  17:48

Obviously that’s geared up and woth regards to the Middle East, how that’s always been culturally. But do you think that we might take some learns from that maybe in how our working patterns are here in the UK. Working patterns are changing throughout this, period, we were on a call last night at 9 o’clock till 10:30 conducting a meeting.

Rabia Awan  18:07


Sunil Dial  18:08

Because it was the best time because it was quiet and the kids are asleep. Potentially do you think this could have a dynamic change into how if we go more virtual going forwards past pandemic, do you think potentially companies might take into consideration and match changing patterns to work well with their diverse workforce? Maybe

Rabia Awan  18:28

Well, actually, that’s a really good point I hadn’t thought about before, I think definitely, I think there may be a change in working patterns because as you’re saying, you know, some people have childcare commitments, whereas now businesses might say, that’s fine, you can be with your children through the day and do what you need to do.  Especially if you’re a single parent as well, its just you. You can’t do that swap that you do when you’ve got a partner like you do. You look after the kids this time and i’ll look after them this time, which a lot of my friends and people I know have been doing and but when you’re single parent, it’s it’s it’s hard to because that’s that’s the only person the child has throughout the day. So yeah, I think that’s actually a really good point maybe businesses will say, right you know what you can up till you know, however long you can kind of be with kids and then maybe we can move our meetings to the evening. So yeah, I think that’s definitely a good point. I think businesses may change working times and working patterns. And actually what we interesting how this works with flexible working well, so obviously there was lots of change in flexible working while back where everyone can apply for it, It will be interesting to see if people will still need to apply for flexble working or businesses will just be like, you know what, let’s work around this virtually.

Man Wong  19:42

Thhere’s two points there really, one is going back to Ramadan, very quickly, the whole ideology of it being very community led, makes this festival in this period, very interesting to see because you’re isolated. You don’t necessarily have that community feel so for me someone who’s not a Muslim, when on the outside kind of looking in, I have some sympathy for that. But the simple there is one thing that I do know human, human spirit is quite resilient, and how we work ways round into still becoming very inclusive and community minded. It’s interesting because I feel there’s an immense opportunity to go, actually, have we considered everybody? Because usually, you might just send an invite out, for instance,  to open the fast as you say, people may or may not come in and get involved, what you’re trying to do when you’re in this situation is going to go right. I know that those is on their own, we have to get hold of them so that they feel and I’m hoping that’s what we as people gravitate towards to. On the element of the new working world, it really, really is down to I guess what the worker is experiencing, right? Because I think if I removed the children aspect, my wife and I working from home is brilliant. If you think about the basis of if I’m working in the office physically and I have to nip out to maybe get my teethther sorted out or pick up my kid there’s always that awkwardness, whether you have a great relationship with your boss or not. Other people kind of go, Where’s he going? Where’s she going today? You know. And we all talk about this a lot, whereas people may disagree or agree with us when you’re a woman as well, in particular, that you’re held to a different standard doing the duties as a mother, right? Which is ridiculous, but you are held to that kind of observation. Where’s she going? where he’s, Where’s he going? We’re in this world, the only thing that matters when you’re working is – well okay, it doesn’t really matter, because I’m not gonna keep watch on you all day, so if I nipped out after this call to go do something, my kids, but my output is what you’re expecting and what you need. Does it really matter? And and once people have those precedences of interesting once we enter back into this world, how actually the job applicant the seeker, is going to go, “No, unless you’re offering in this this way. I actually think I’m better off doing this way”. And that might segway into another larger conversation about actually does that then save money for organisations, because okay, I can give you this balance, but we won’t pay you as much anymore.

Sunil Dial  22:06

That’s interesting Man. do you think the BAME community then or population will suffer? As a consequence of that? Because businesses are looking at going well, how much? How much do we have to cater? For Candidates and employees from a BAME background, because there’s all these other factors to take into account. So where we’ve been, say struggling, I’m gonna be open and honest about it struggling in specific sectors to build a population of BAME employees and candidates. Do you now think as opposed will this have a negative effect as we come out of this pandemic regards to increasing that population, which was on the agenda before? Before we entered it, so it could pick up the reverse maybe?

Man Wong  22:52

It’s a hard one to say. Obviously, I sincerely hope not. But it depends. As we talked about in many discussions before, I think when it comes to acceptance, it’s about whether you’ve built your company with culture in mind to begin with. And if you do, then you’re accepting of the fact that you’re going to hire people from different backgrounds and their requirements are different. We’re three unique individuals on this call alone what I need and what can be overlapped with what the two of you, but in the main, I bet, they’re very individualistic to myself and my family’s needs, and you are your own and we respect each other in that way. And I think if we can do that, as people and as friends and as colleagues, then if I’m an employer, I have that duty also, if you see what I mean. Beliefs and religious, ideology, and all those things that are important to you, as an individual is a protected characteristic. So in that mindset, I think you need to, you know, Chinese New Year, for instance, is the date in the diary. And if you’re if you live in Singapore, Hong Kong, you get a lot of holiday for that period of time. I think it’s probably not the same thing to say, I need the same amount of time off to celebrate Chinese New Year when I live in England. But if you’re religious, I think that is different because its faith. So, I mean, I don’t want to skirt the answer to your question there Sunil. but I hope no is the honest answer. And I’d be very surprised if people thought of it that way.

Sunil Dial  24:20

I’m a bit fearful if I’m honest, because I think Robin mentioned about after 911 and the thought process and how she fell off to that. I’ve seen so many things in the media. I’ve seen videos going around WhatsApp of people talking about and it’s quite frightening their view on a Chinese population of Chinese people. I know there’s other billion people that fall into that category. But it was a consensus and a blanket approach that they all sudden don’t like Chinese people full stop. And for me, I thought entering this pandemic and what I liked about it was that we all for a moment forgot we had these differences., we’re all on an equal playing field now everything’s been levelled out. Let’s get back to being human beings and being one. What I’m beginning to see the longer this goes on now is the separation beginning to happen, where you get blame. People looking for to attribute blame, you know, they’re trying, and it’s quite scary, I was speaking to someone in Poland the other day and they’re worried about what’s happening in their political horizon over there. So, you know, what I’m concerned about is how this might affect candidates coming from that specific background going for jobs, or applying for roles after this if this growing sort of viewpoint of wrongly so of specific backgrounds?

Rabia Awan  25:47

Yeah, I think so. I think, as we were talking before, there has been some newspapers who we’re not going to mention, obviously, that have been pushing this agenda. I think yes, there’s is this statistic. that there have been, you know, people from certain backgrounds that may have contracted it more, but it’s almost the wording they’re using. They’re spinning it as if that background is spreading the virus. And when they’re talking about someone that’s died from it, they’re mentioning their background a lot more. But yeah, I think with them, you know, when I think different papers, kind of, like always pushing blame on the BAME community to say that it’s always coming from us and we’re going around spreading it, it’s not healthy.

Sunil Dial  26:32

It’s ridiculous. I mean I saw a statistic from NHS right on a population of an NHS employees. And as you can imagine, a large percentage of that fell into ethnic minorities. Now if you’ve got a large population that fall into that bracket out of the whole employees at NHS and you’re seeing the deaths now NHS workers and a large portion that is from the BAME community. So, but they’re not going around spreading it anywhere it is because they’re exposed to it because they’re working every day around the virus and that’s what’s happened. So that contributes to the overall picture about how many people from an ethnic minority background, actually dying overnight because a lot of them work in the health system.

Rabia Awan  27:23

But also other kind of key areas such as transport, health and a lot of certain jobs. Yes, there’s probably a higher number of ethnic minorities in those jobs that are the jobs that people are still going to work and being out there at the moment. So you know, yeah, you’re right.

Man Wong  27:43

Thing is for media, paper, clicks, all that sort of stuff. You need sensationalism, you need clickbait in order to get engagement. Sadly that’s the world we live in. And to your point in Sunil, it is scary and feaful. You know, my mum when it first started, we’re Chinese and her friends that live in the north of the country did experience  some verbal abuse just being out and about. I actually sent sent a picture to Sunil of a note that was left outside of Chinese takeaway of a client of my brothers. He’s an accountant. And the note was vile. Full of racial hatred. Very direct about Chinese being the reason this is here and we don’t deserve to be here and all these different things and it’s prompted my mum in one way or another to stay indoors, more I mean, she’s isolating anyway, but she she literally won’t go out without my dad just for a walk, she won’t certainly won’t go to the shops on her own because she’s in the 60s. She doesn’t need that sort of aggression and aggro. There is always going to be a percentage of people that sit sadly on the ignorant scale when it comes to certain things and then associating race as a reason why we’re in this predicament. It’s not the case at all and people in positions of responsibility and power have got a job and responsibility and accountability to change that narrative. And sadly, you know, the guy over in the White House over in the States, calling it a Chinese virus doesn’t help, because he’s got so many loyal disciples that believe everything he’s saying, sadly. I know what you mean Sunil because it is kind of fearful and it’s such a shame that instead we’re not looking at it from this perspective – actually those groups of people are the ones that are fighting a battle for us, ill equipped-  day in, day out day in day out, that are sacrificing their own personal circumstances to be with their kids in many instances, so they don’t infect them to be with their mums and dads in many instances, so  that they don’t affect them as well on their own, and having to deal with all these things and it’s a shame that the people instead are focusing on the fact of bringing race up for this particular reason rather than observing the fact that actually the virus is indiscriminatory in one sense, because it can affect almost anybody, but its impact is much more specific to people in the BAME category.

Rabia Awan  30:15

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think that’s a really good point that Man has made actually. The virus is not discriminating anyone based on anything. So why are we? Why are we now making this an issue of race or anything else? You know, it’s interesting, I had a friend of mine and she said, you know, before when when we were still travelling, and on trains and so on, so she was going back and forth from work, and she’s actually Korean. And she was on the train and someone said, “Don’t sit next to that Chinese girl”. She said, I felt like saying to them, firstly, it’s not a Chinese virus. And secondly, I’m Korean. So it’s just that ignorance is just that absolute ignorance that’s not helped by the media, spinning stories and making it a focus on a BAME issue because it’s not.

Man Wong  31:01

Korea, ironically, are down to double digit new cases, aren’t they? They’ve got so well controlled.

Rabia Awan  31:09

Now that she said she felt like like, you know, now she feels like rewinding time back and shouting stats out. (laughing)

Sunil Dial  31:18

And this is interesting because we we got back into the workplace and linking this back in, right. So, as CandidateX we’re very big on equality inclusion piece, and we want to look at within the workplace, how do we take this bias ou, especially in recruitment process? Now, with this, taking this into mind, and what we’ve just spoken about there, especially for you be coming from HR D sort of background. How would you propose or how do you think we might tackle this going forwards when we’re doing for example, the recruitment process, you know, someone like, Man going for a job after this, and he has put down Chinese perhaps. How do you think that potentially, we could make this take the bias as much as we can out of that process give him an equal chance of getting a role.

Rabia Awan  32:08

Yeah, I mean, I just I really don’t like it when they have these questions. And I know it’s kind of diversity monitoring, but why? There should be a simple application process that doesn’t make you tell the employer, your background, your diverse background, that I should just be an applicant and a candidate and that’s it. Nothing beyond that. It shouls be, is this person a cultural fit? Are they good at the job, can they deliver and all those things taken into consideration, we should be focusing on someone’s background. The problem  you have there is some businesses that that are that are good at not doing that. If you have a name, that’s a very kind of ethnic name, straightaway, you know, you’re identifiable as someone from a BAME background and so I think a lot of businesses need to almost scrap any kind of identification, that links the candidate to that job, and just focus on the abilities to do the role. How, much percentage of that is based on,  how well they can do the role, how much percentage of that is based on what the job description is, and how they kind of like where the skills are transferable, and actually attitude and cultural fit and other things. I don’t think we should be focusing at all ot, what the person’s background is, which a lot of businesses are getting better at doing. But, there’s people do have unconscious biases. And I think moving forward, I think there needs to be a lot more investment. They need to be a lot more investment in training the people that are in charge of recruiting and making them realise that you know, we’re just looking for skills. And we’re looking for skills, matches and transferable skills we’re not looking for what the person’s background is and how to react when you do fall and find yourself going down that road how to, you know, because we’re humans, and some people will have that. How to kind of snap out of it and just focus on on the role and the candidate as as a candidate, not as a,  woman from this background with colour and so on. I think, yeah, I think there needs to be a lot more investment around those kind of tools and how we recruit in the first place. I think that’s very important.

Sunil Dial  34:24

Do you think company should be held more accountable then? I’m talking about reporting publicising data around this process, because I’m not only talking about paying lip service by if we saw the gender pay gap, for example, came into play. Because of the Coronavirus the deadline for the year was, I think end of March. One quarter of all companies and a footsie 250. Only one quarter reported that within that timeframe, the others hadn’t submitted the report by then, and they were kind of given a leeway because of this so it was extended. Three quarters hadn’t even presented anything at that last quarter, within the last few weeks tells me how much how important might have been for them on their agenda. Do you think there should be a lot more sort of governments or push to get these numbers publicised? So companies have been totally transparent about how they’re hiring?

Rabia Awan  35:18

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I don;t know if I’d be popular for saying this, but I think, yeah, there definitely needs to be a common push for businesses to look at what others are doing and, and actually be very transparent about their numbers. But equally, we don’t want to end up in a situation where companies are just like you were saying , is paying lip service and just hiring to complete their numbers. Like we’ve seen with some of the, you know, initiatives that have happened around the gender pay gap.  I think that creates an environment where when, like for the gender pay gap, for instance, if a woman really was the right person for the role she got the role, you do have some people in the office whispering saying they just got her in, because,  they needed more women on the board. No! she earned that spot, actually. And that’s why she’s there. So I worrythat I don’t want there to be the situation where they’re saying, Oh, it was a diversity hire. So I think we have to be smart about how we do that. Yes, we need to,say right, this is, this is how many diversity hires we made. This is what our workforce looks like. But equally, it’s not just about giving data. It’s about implementing tools to make it a natural process. So you will naturally making diversity hires rather than oh let’s just get a few diversity hires to push our numbers around. And then actually, you know, completely de motivate those people and discredit them.

Sunil Dial  36:42

Yeah, because you’re right. It causes resentment within  a workforce because someone’s got hired specifically because they match a certain background and we need that background to tick a box or for a quota. As CandidateX and my personal  views on quotas and how they work. I’m gonna I’m quite vocal about that as well, actually, because we’re all about equality. And it’s all about the best person getting the job. And I think if companies could actually have something that they could publish to say, actually, this is the highest and this is the main variables,the why behind what we hired against, and this is why we’ve got this workforce. Now, I think a lot of people no matter what background, you’re from will say okay, fine. As we all have equal chance and they’ve actually hired the best person for the job.

Rabia Awan  37:26

I mean, equally, if you’re a white male, you can be discriminated against, you know, anyone can be discriminated against in a hiring situation. And that’s why it shouldn’t just be we’re just focusing on minority backgrounds or,  females or anything like that. It should be we’re hiring the right person for the job. And in order to do that, it needs to be almost, skin deep, it needs to be deeply embedded into the company. From the way you’re training your managers to your recruitment tools that you’re using to the way you’re recruiting to the training you’re giving around recruitment and so on. So I think it needs to be deeply embedded into the business. And it needs to be more than just a statistic about businesses released each year. So this is what we’ve been doing. There needs to be some answers around, how do we make it a natural thing that, diversity hires wants to come and work for us, or that women are on the board. And, they feel like they have got the right to kind of go up there and be there and not be questioned for why they’re there. And so yeah, I think there needs to be a lot of conversation still. There needs to be a lot of thought around how we really embed that into companies really deeply.

Man Wong  38:40

I’m curious, what do you both think then when we come out of this – the lockdown, and grab a coffee on the way into work? Dowe think, actually, businesses will because of this experience become more inclusive and respectful of diversity? Or do you think all the good work around diversity inclusion, genuine  work that was going on but actually come into practice going back into the physical space whether that maintains itself?

Sunil Dial  39:07

From my perspective I mean in ideal world I think this pandemic should be a lesson to us as a human race about the path we’ve all taken up to this point. How things were getting. How fragmented the world was getting. You know wars, disagreement everything. I’m hoping period whilst has been awful, will put things in perspective for us as one. My concern is going back into normality as an SME owner myself, it’s kind of trying to stay alive and trying to understand where can you get the next income from to sustain flow to pay your mortgage take home to support your staff, etc. Now, my fear is that a lot of individuals, a lot of companies might users next excuse to really accentuate their sort of own views and how they believe things should be and operate. And if there’s too many of those, then they will get in the way. Because all the point to is going wild economy, we’re on a global recession, we need to stay alive. And all this gets swept under the carpet. One of the questions I was gonna ask Rabia here from from not only from a BAME perspective, but from an HR perspective, also, is that, do you think the BAME community does enough? Or do you think the BAME groups do enough to help regards to the diversity aspect within the workplace? And by that, I mean, do you think we collaborate enough with each other? The senior members, the sort of figureheads, the mentors, do you think from a BAME perspective that we do enough or are we too fragmented in our approach, and that’s why many businesses are not getting enough information in the right way about actually how you should be building that culture to in case to cater for all of your employees. etc? And actually, this is how beneficial it will be because from an income perspective, it’s like it’s been proven from data that actually had more diverse workforce makes you more profitable. But you just need to harness it in the right way. So I mean, so there’s a few questions in there. But I was just gonna, from an HR perspective, ask,  how do you view that?

Rabia Awan  41:18

Yeah, I think we do and we don’t in the sense that I think sometimes it’s an individual journey is based on your individual journey. So, you know, if I am from a certain BAME background, and I’ve had a great time, I’ve been promoted, my career’s done really great in the business, I might not feel that, diverse tension that’s going around and I might not have had that journey, that someone else in another department or another area of the business might feel. Actually, I’m not progressing forward because of my background or because, you know, because of whatever reasons. So it’s about,  taking a step back, and I think this has actually the Coronavirus has given us time for reflection, like it’s giving people time to reflect it’s given them time to think about what they were doing as managers and leaders and employees and so on. And I think actually, some people have found themselves as well and become more comfortable in their skin. So maybe when we do go back, the world will look new in the sense that people will want to speak up more, but previously maybe they didn’t want to, and say, actually, I want to put my hand up and say, I can see an issue here, within the BAME community that needs to be resolved. So let’s let’s all work together to do that. Whereas before, I mean, I know I’ve probably been early in my career when I wasn’t so confident to speak up, I probably sat quietly and didn’t raise things that had happened to me or that I’d seen, you know, going on around me. And then when I did have that time for reflection, and I grew within my career and as a person and, you know, I then did start pulling people up on those issues and trying to resolve them as a HR leader and both as as an employee, or no,w as someone that goes into businesses and works with them to help them through these things. I’m a bit more vocal about it. So I think maybe I’m hoping when people go back they may be a little bit more comfortable in their skin having time on their own and to reflect, to then go back and raise issues that maybe they were staying quiet on before. But then equally, I think, with the market being, I know, we’re entering into a  bit of a depression, according to some specialists and maybe people will be too scared to lose their jobs. And actually, that’s going to push those people that were confident to speak up before and to not speak out because they don’t want to lose their job. So, yeah, it will be interesting to see kind of where we end up with that one. I’m hoping people will be a little bit more vocal than they have been, and will want to push, you know, the BAME agendas and other diversity agendas forward a bit more. But yeah, there’s always that risk that it might not happen because people are so worried about job security

Sunil Dial  44:16

And that’s why I think things that CandidateX is doing and some others are doing really thing is getting that one voice. [Digital interference], companies with so many things to do on a day to day basis, you know, you have to manage everything. And I think if you could get this support and vice versa, I have all intentions. I don’t care who i hire, I want my team to be the best team does matter who they are. And   by doing that I’m hiring a diverse workforce naturally. I just need some help and how do I structure my business to cater for everybody? And I think, you know, that’s where I think we as everyone really has a responsibility to help each other and may you be a business or an individual to ensure, it’s the right sort of approach. And, you know, and that’s, I think hopefully that’s that’s what sort of the community piece could actually do.

Man Wong  45:10

There’s some practical challenges that I can envision, you know, I mean, I read earlier before we came on to the show, got an alert come through another near on 5 million people in the US that is have registered for unemployment now and that brings the total just shy of 27 million in five weeks. This is an enormous amount of people that are going to be looking for work and that’s very sad to hear. I’m not quite sure what the numbers are going to be in UK, but they’re going to be high, right? I mean, we’re witnessing major, major domestic brands, suffering, you know, I talked to my mother in law yesterday who’s from Mauritius and she told me that Air Mauritius filed to close now, you know, they that’s their national airline. So there’s so many of these things, the Primark haven’t sold a thing in five, six weeks, Kath Kitson the same. So there’s, there’s all these things and what these challenges present are if you are going to come out of this and are hiring. To Rabia’s point earlier, if you’re not equipped with a the know how b the the actual workflow, processes and the tech maybe to take volumes of applicants because that’s what you’re going to get now – volumes of applicants and disseminate the relevant ones for you without bias. So you’re not just scanning names and going, actually, my team is full of fellas and they all love football. So make sure there’s culture fit there in the brand as, as you need a fella who plays football, I mean, I’m being very broad and generalistic. And that’s not what always happens, but I’ve known it to happen that way, in all the time I’ve been doing recruitment, but for us to avoid these things you have to give give these people, these people in positions of power and hiring those those tools these toolkits in order to make the right choices otherwise, you know, we have anything like a fraction of that number than the US are yielding out. You can imagine recruiters or hiring managers whatever it might be, it can be inundated with volume. With volume and they’re not gonna know the reasonable approach to go back to people and they’re not gonna be able to preserve their brand integrity, they’re not going to have to create a positive candidate experience all these different things. And you’re trying to underpin all of this through diversity inclusion, it’s, it’s a tremendous challenge that we can foresee. But hopefully we can segway into into a more positive note.

Rabia Awan  47:24

I think that I can say, we tend to hire people that remind us of ourselves almost course, and needs to be a lot more leaders and a lot of people in leadership roles and almost recruitment roles that are from diverse backgrounds, because then you will be more open to hiring someone from a diverse background and probably be a little bit more relatable as well in some ways. And so I think that’s another challenge as well businesses will face I think there definitely needs to be more recruiters and you know, kind of internal external and more people in leadership roles that are pushing these agendas. Agendas, including kind of HR areas that that actually have a diverse background and people from, you know, a wider diverse backgrounds, because otherwise we will never, you know, we’ll never hire like ourselves as they say, if you can’t kind of think out of your inbox,

Man Wong  48:20

Yeah, I mean, that construct is it has been defined by your own mind, and what your what you’ve been accustomed to. That’s why I feel companies that will do well in these in, in before that, before the virus and through the virus and beyond the virus are the ones that built their companies with culture at the heart of it. Who have always been mindful about that aspect because now we’re in a situation where if you are not capable of being inclusive and working with a diverse group of people, you will fail because you need to collaborate in ways that as we’ve spoken about in this conversation and the other podcast, people are dipping into a toolkit they probably never have had to and it’s an interesting platform as to what people are going to run against at the moment, right? So, yeah, who knows? Who knows? So definitely watch this space with this. I’m just as I said, I was just mindful of time and just kind of segway into sort of finishing there to bring it to to close on a bit of a wider note. what’s what’s in positive for you in this lockdown Rabia?

Rabia Awan  49:19

Yeah, I think, as I was saying that, that reflection, I think their time for reflection. I mean, for some people, actually, this time might affect people’s confidence as well. And so, you know, that’s, that’s something to be mindful. So, you know, as we were talking before, it’s a time where some people have been, you know, their confidence has been affected because of losing a job or other things. Maybe it’s been a time for reflection. And although it’s scary, I’ve been able to, you know, focus on spiritual aspects of my life such as prayer and religion and, you know, kind of get to know myself a bit more and, learn new skills that I’ve been doing online which I didn’t have to do/ Life admin, you know, just this fits that I think that’s been you know, that’s been really helpful for me because it almost cleared a lot of clouds in the sense that you know, things that you didn’t get to do before because it was rush rush rush all the time. And so yeah, for me positive has been self reflection and also just feeling the love of humanity and actually feeling like I know people kept keep saying we’re all in this together we are it is a non discriminative virus. And it’s been a time for me to really learn about people, I speak to maybe on a business level on a deeper level. So I think for me the positive has been actually getting to know people and who those people really are, you know, people that I’d spoke probably spoke to on a work you know, basis and you never really got to know them. It was like great dude. You know, do what you need to do have the have the conversation and move on but I’ve actually had to. And so I think I’ve had a lot more meaningful conversations.

Man Wong  51:04

Yeah, definitely less transactional, isn’t it? You end up going through some levels with people, right? Yes.

Rabia Awan  51:09

Yeah. Very surprising meaningful conversations with people I probably never had been able to have those meaningful conversations with before. So that’s been a real positive for me.

Man Wong  51:19

Yeah, no, for sure. I think I think we can use is really interesting, isn’t it? You know, what the one if we had to extrapolate things that were really positive one a real key one for me is that people seem to be a bit more open to sharing how they’re feeling, which is really important in this situation. I mean, I’d say no, no, no is my mind my moods are like a yo yo, sometimes you know, I am, I struggle with mental health anyway and then being in this environment here. You know, I have feelings of guilt with not giving the kids and my wife what they need and to stimulate them themselves mentally, are they keeping healthy. You know, all that sort of stuff. And, you know, am I working too much so they don’t get, they don’t get my attention and then on some days on I’m really manic and I’m super happy because I’ve got this time with people and it’s, it scares me sometimes, you know, I sit down and take a breath and go, what’s going on? Why am I feeling like this? So I’m, I keep saying these things out loud. And I want to share because I’m hoping other people are gonna say, yeah, I’m the same, so don’t worry. Otherwise, you’re gonna drive yourself mad?

Rabia Awan  52:19

Yeah, no, I’m so happy that you’ve even shared that I think. And I think that’s really important right now with the whole, you know, mental health aspect of this is before maybe we were a little bit scared to say, especially as a leader, you sometimes feel always judged to say, I’m struggling today. And I’m so depressed or feeling so anxious. Whereas now I feel like another possible maybe because we’re all kind of in this pressure cooker, together. Maybe now it’s a bit more acceptable to actually I’m really down today or I’m feeling very anxious or, you know, I’m not feeling great today. It’s okay to say that and I think people are starting to realise that

Sunil Dial  52:58

it’s okay to be human right?

Rabia Awan  52:59

Yeah, it’s okay not to be okay.

Sunil Dial  53:01

Yeah, yeah. It’s okay to have your team to know how you feel because it’s your team who will support you. Like, I totally share everything you both said actually. One thing I think we’ll see some time my children. Funny enough really weird I’ve actually been able to understand where my limitations or boundaries might be as an individual. And what I need to do to prove myself because I’m so used to running 110 miles per hour and actually never take time to take stock of that. And that’s what I was that’s what’s going through my mind now and it’s yeah, it’s quite interesting.

Man Wong  53:44

I think mate as well you know, you’re in this stage in life with we talked about this a number of occasions, you know, you’ve got two kids of a certain age where you’re spending such enforced time. Don’t get me wrong, it is enforced, but it doesn’t mean it’s not pleasurable, and you’re enjoying it where you’ve gone. I mean, you admit this to me needs a damn, I’ve missed so much of them day to day.

Rabia Awan  54:06

Yeah, I was actually gonna ask you both the question as fathers, do you feel more included now in you know, in your children? I mean I’m sure you still make the efforts to be included and be there but do you feel a bit more included now?

Sunil Dial  54:21

I do also feel very scared.

Rabia Awan  54:24


Sunil Dial  54:25

If I was on my own with the two children who are seven and nine and having to teach them and keep them stimulated and do, can run a business or conduct business to generate income to look after them. It’s really scary thought on that, but I do really cherish time. I mean, I’ve seen them more and now, I’ve seen more than now and these last four weeks and I probably last few years.

Rabia Awan  54:52

Who are these people?

Sunil Dial  54:54

Yeah. Yeah, I’ve seen it personalities and in a short brief time that kind of develop them. Wow. I’m so used to just seeing them before go to work and put them to bed hopefully, once I get home and then they got the weekend which are manic. So yeah, but I do also feel kind of still guilty for that. And am I overcompensating now in trying to do everything with whilst we can now but yeah, it is really strange one I, I’m really appreciaive, but I’m still really scared.

Rabia Awan  55:28

How about you, man? How do you feel more included?

Man Wong  55:31

Oh, yeah, I mean, it’s very interesting. I’ve got two kids. My relationship with my daughter is very good and extremely strong. We’re very close anyway. And the difficulty with her is she’s about to go to school. And the time we usually spend with each other in the evening remains largely speaking the same, at the weekends is a bit difficult because we can’t go anywhere now. Whereas before I take her to places, you know, she has classes and all that sort of stuff. So it’s trying to find a different routine with her to keep her engaged. She’s so understanding she’s that she’s not in five year and she knows she’s, you know, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff online now to explain what’s going on to my child and she understands it. And she’s very human about it, which is great because she misses her family and friends and we try and keep that engagement. My son is very close to my wife. He’s only 18 months old, and, you know, it’s not going far as to say that he doesn’t like me really, he tends to he tends to just hit me in the face. But during this period, because we’ve spent so much time with each other, you know, we I’ve kind of just forced my bond with him. So that’s been really nice and all that sort of stuff. But yeah, I’ve never felt unincluded I guess with my family, but this this period has meant that you know, what, you really tests your partnership abilities with your other half is what it is because it’s like, you know, she, I think I’ve mentioned to you before, my wife just recently started a job. So she’s going through a virtual onboarding, which is an another conversation on it’s own. And she therefore has extreme pressures and all that sort of stuff because I, you know, we, regardless of whether you’re in the office or not, you want to make a good impression and do well in your role, find your feet, get to know everybody. So I’m very, very mindful that she, she gets the time that she needs, which therefore means I take the children because they’re the age where I’ve come into the loft to hide away and they’re outside in the garden. But otherwise, if it was raining, they’d be jumping all over me, you know, Sunil and I’ve spoken loads on the video call and their climbing all over me, using me as a frame. They don’t know, they don’t don’t understand what’s going on. You’re on the phone but I want your attention, right. So it’s trying to balance these things, which is difficult and, and it leads back to the point about what we said earlier. I think not everybody is going to work from home with these commitments. But it does make you reflect a lot about actually what is important to me. You know, and I’d like to say, majority of people that you asked hopefully they will say family is what’s most important.  Because I bet for you, being on your own. I bet you miss your mum furiously.

Rabia Awan  58:05

I do I really I’m, I’m dying to kind of see my nieces and nephews and my sister and their partners and my mom and, you know, everyone, I’m just really missing my family. And, you know, sometimes you get so busy and I thought like, as soon as this is over, first thing I’m going to do is run over and see the wall and really missing them. Actually, it’s funny, I was having conversations, a lot of my single friends that were like, great to have a partner right now. So I think a lot of people are having those reflection moments as well. I need to stop putting my career first and actually start thinking about both men and women actually, and actually start thinking about settling down because I think all the single people are really feeling that

Sunil Dial  58:51

Don’t do it! Don’t do it!

Rabia Awan  58:52

Tou know, family connection and children and everything else.

Man Wong  58:58

I’ve heard about people that in relative terms are a new couple. And hey found themselves in isolation after being going out with each other only three, four weeks. And I could really see that going two ways, right? You know, amazingly well which you know you That’s the one or oh my god.

Rabia Awan  59:17

Well, I’ve had actually stories recently where people have actually split up and they’re still living together because there’s nowhere else to go. Yeah, equally. There’s, there’s some really interesting stories of people like using online dating apps and things like, that’s probably another podcast for another day, but it’s a story you’ll probably find out dating in the virtual world. You know, interesting and actually dating the virtual world from BAME community perspective as well, is even more interesting. So,

Sunil Dial  59:44

yeah, if you could put your Sims creation on Airbnb, then anything’s possible, right?

Man Wong  59:52

Yes. And then keep us posted on the cookbook, Robin.

Rabia Awan  59:55

You definitely you definitely Sunil you owe me a recipe, Man if you have one…

Sunil Dial  60:00

I will send it

Man Wong  60:01

Are you taking contributions?

Rabia Awan  60:03

Yeah, I am and just a bit of a background as well. You know, why, why that recipe means so much to you.

Man Wong  60:10

So, what’s the context, you want a recipe that is…

Rabia Awan  60:14

a recipe that makes you feel good, and that you and your family enjoy and why you enjoy it and what kind of background story is. I’ve had so many different background stories from friends that, you know, is originally from Kerala and she said, when her mom taught how to cook and every time she cooks it, she thinks of her mom, and, you know, great times sitting down with a family. So just things like that. Really.

Man Wong  60:35

I think we should offer this out to the listeners as well. You know, please submit some suggestions. This is give me something that we could we could we could produce after after the lockdown.

Rabia Awan  60:48

Brilliant. That would be great.

Man Wong  60:49

I’ve really enjoyed the talk with you today. rabbir and yourself, Sunil.

Sunil Dial  60:53

Brilliant. Thank you, Rabia and I hope you enjoyed the period as well.

Man Wong  60:58

Yeah, good, good. Good stuff be good, be kind, stay safe everyone and we’ll speak soon

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