During lockdown, I found myself pondering why so often in a Zoom meeting I was the only person of colour in the room.
As a valued member of Freehold, a groundbreaking networking forum for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender real estate professionals, I addressed the issues of diversity and inclusion, exploring ways to bring about change at its recent Freespeech event.
I was born to Jamaican parents and grew up in New Southgate, but moved to Edmonton, north London, with four older siblings when I was five years old. While they had experienced racism at school, the new neighbourhood changed my life. I was fortunate to experience a more inclusive and supportive schooling programme that nurtured my interest in art and interior design studies.
I believe one possible reason black people have been so under-represented in the industry is that they have not received enough opportunities and exposure. On one level, my education and middle-class home gave me confidence; but on another, I found I was initially more welcome among the non-black community due to being gay, which gave me the impetus to make great career strides in rooms full of white people.
I experienced an element of loneliness at the international design fairs I regularly attended while running my own business for 12 years. But today, initiatives like Black Lives Matter, a global network to bring about justice, healing and freedom to people of colour, are showcasing the global need for inclusiveness. A wave of change is making black people more visible and it is time we are given both the opportunities and the platforms to showcase our talent.
Lack of diversity in the industry has brought organisations such as Freehold to the fore. We need to celebrate, come together, strive for inclusion and equality in our professional environments. It is all about being creative and becoming mentors. I have learned that to create significant change, you have to get involved in these amazing platforms and you will be able to give back tenfold.
Simon Hamilton is partner at Freehold