How Role Models Can Change The World
How Melanie Eusebe is shining a light on the black British business community
When she was younger, Melanie Eusebe used to play the flute. She loved music.
Then one day, she stopped playing. Why? “Because I didn’t see anyone else around me that was doing it," she says. "It was as if I had my own glass ceiling put on me.” She tells this story to explain why, three years ago, she founded the Black British Business awards – an annual ceremony that celebrates rising stars in the black business community. Because she admits that if she’d seen a performance by Chineke! (Europe’s first orchestra made up entirely of black and minority ethnic musicians) she might have felt as if music was more accessible. A door that she could open.
Sadly she didn’t see those role models as a young girl and, as a result, gave up music. But through these awards Melanie hopes to make sure that young girls see more women like them succeeding and learn to believe in themselves.
Here she explains how she plans to do it…
Natasha: Let’s start at the beginning. What are the Black British Business Awards?
Melanie: The awards highlight the excellent work of black British business people whose contributions to the economy often unfortunately go unsung.
N: So what was the moment that you were like, ok, I know this is a problem?
M: I started working with women in business and getting invited to awards. I saw progress being made in the gender area, and that made me think: we could really do with this for black people. This would be great for other under-represented groups in our community, in the world. And that’s how it started.
N: Everything you do seems to come back to the fact that you are passionate about uncovering these role models. Why is that so important?
M: There should be a meritocracy. It should be that we work really hard and we get ahead. And quite frankly, that’s not the case for under-represented groups. That’s why it strikes a chord in my heart; I want to be able to acknowledge people that work really, really hard, but don’t necessarily get the platform that others do. And it’s unfortunately by virtue of their sex or their gender, or their nationality, or race.
N: So if you had a megaphone, what would you say to all the men and women who deserve a Black British Business award – the ones we don’t know about yet?
M: I would say even the act of nominating yourself is important. Or nominating others. And it fills your heart when you see someone that you nominated shine. Even if you don’t get through, the exercise of having to articulate what you do on a piece of paper is valuable.
N: And how can we make sure that the achievements of under-represented people are recognised more in the future?
M: I think that in any role where you are a leader or a manager or a voice, then there’s a responsibility that you take on to represent all voices. A leader should not represent only 75% of the team - always make sure that you’re representing everyone.
N: Is there anything different you’re doing this year?
M: There’s more awareness around the topic of diversity and it’s lovely to see different representations of the community coming forward. And an awards programme is great, but I want to leave a legacy. I want to make change. We want some little kid to know that, because of the stripe I earned on my back for you, you’re gonna get through a little bit easier.