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Meet & Greet: Safia Ann Kukaswadia, Global Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Burberry


 

In this week’s interview, myGwork member Safia Ann Kukaswadia shares her career adventure in the world of fashion, starting out as a hand embroiderer to championing inclusion and change as Burberry’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Manager. She highlights how she is working with other creatives to address key challenges facing minority communities to gain fair representation within fashion and why the industry needs more LGBTQ+ role model leaders. She also provides a glimpse into her work and social life.

  


 


myGwork: Can you tell us a bit about your career journey to date?

 

Safia: My career journey has been quite the adventure! I started out in fashion as a Hand Embroiderer, then fell in love with the commercial side of fashion, working my way up through people & retail management roles to where I am now; in the diversity, equity & inclusion space. I’ve been very privileged to have had a fantastic career journey so far, and have learnt so much in every organisation I have been a part of. Throughout all of my roles, I have always stayed true to myself and championed inclusion, so I am proud to be in a position to make meaningful change now, especially within an industry I am so passionate about.  

 

myGwork: What's the most challenging aspect of managing people right now?

 

Safia: Making sure everyone feels connected. We are all surviving a pandemic, and each of us is doing that in the way that is best for ourselves – or trying to figure out what the best way is! It can be easy to do this in silo, and to forget that not everyone has the same circumstances. Building relationships virtually can be so challenging, and as a very dear friend said once ‘We tend to forget we are all humans behind that virtual screen’. I believe in taking a step back at times, resetting our energy and reconnecting as people to ensure everyone feels included and valued as part of the team.

 

myGwork: What attributes do you look for in new recruits and why?

 

Safia: Curiosity and the understanding that no one knows everything are super important. There are always new lessons to learn, methods to trial and areas we can improve on. Diversity of thought is key to a well performing team, and so I aim to ensure the teams I build have mutual respect for each other, not just listening to, but hearing each other and working together collaboratively. We all have different perspectives, lived experiences and purpose, so we should all do what we can to create space for and support one another to grow.

 

myGwork: How important is LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace for you personally?

 

Safia: It’s vital that everyone is able to share their voice and feels like they can be their true selves in the workplace. It’s just the right thing to do. There are too many people who haven’t seen leaders, or role models who they can relate to, myself included. Our workplaces are an element of our lives, so why shouldn’t we be true selves there?

 

myGwork: What's your favorite inclusion campaign to date and why?

 

Safia: Such a difficult choice! Quite a few stand out to me, but if I have to choose one then it has to be Axe/Lynx ‘Find your magic’. This campaign, and the ones that came after it, really embody the idea that there is no ‘perfect type’ of man, and masculinity is not defined as or restricted to those stereotypes and pressures that we all know so well. It really is a masterclass in brands embracing inclusion and modernising their  marketing while staying true to their core brand. 

 

myGwork: How do you encourage staff to have a work-life balance, especially with the increase in remote/hybrid working?

 

Safia: There isn’t one solution for everyone here, each individual’s rhythm and needs are different and so it’s super important that we all take time to establish what those are. Your personal wellbeing should be a top priority, as we all know that we can’t be our best selves when it isn’t. Being honest with ourselves, and communicating with colleagues about what we need whilst working remotely builds trust, empathy and goes a long way towards achieving a healthy work-life balance.  

 

myGwork: What's the biggest highlight of your career to date and why?

 

Safia: It has to be taking on the role of Project Manager for the British Fashion Council’s Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee. The Committee was launched in mid-2020, and is made up of a number of thought leaders, creatives and change makers who all share a common goal of addressing key challenges facing minority communities in gaining fair representation within the fashion industry. It is a real privilege to be a part of such a meaningful movement, especially as I come from a creative background myself, and have experienced exclusion within the industry first hand. To be able to drive positive change and truly make an impact, especially for future generations, is just wonderful.

 

myGwork: What was the last book you read? Any interesting take-aways and would you recommend it to fellow leaders? 

 

Safia: Strong Female Lead by Arwa Mahdawi, a Christmas gift from my partner that was read, re-read, loved and now has been passed on to my parents to read! It speaks powerfully to the fact that traits typically associated with women such as empathy and collaboration are strengths, and not weaknesses as we are led to believe. An incredibly compelling read, I highly recommend it to all.

 

myGwork: What was your last holiday destination and where do you plan to visit next?

 

Safia: My partner and I did the NC500 recently, which is supposed to be a 500 mile trip around the North Coast of Scotland but turned into a 1800 mile trip for us - from London, around the North Coast and back via our hometown of Liverpool! Was an incredible adventure, with the most beautiful scenery and amazing weather, and we are actually planning on going back this summer to visit the places we didn’t have time to see. Our next trip abroad, will be to Italy in the summer to see friends we haven’t seen since pre-pandemic times and attend a family wedding – I cannot wait.



 

myGwork: What do you do to unwind at the end of a hard day?

 

Safia: I like to reset my focus, either by going for a long walk (either on the waterfront or to our local park, my best friends puppy is a great walk buddy!) hitting the gym for a workout and swim, or doing something creative – usually cooking. After I’ve mentally reset, I will usually be found on the sofa in front of a documentary or a old movie, with my other half, our cat and many many snacks!


Safi will also be speaking at our virtual global WorkPride 2022 Conference this year. Click here to sign up and find out more.


You can find more about Safia and connect with her here.

 

 Check out some of myGwork's other recent Meet & Greet interviews, including:


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