WORD PODCAST: Women on Racism and Discrimination
Baishakhi Connor: A Voice for Change in Australia’s Fight against Systemic Racism
Baishakhi Connor, a technologist turned investment banker turned management consultant turned corporate transformation leader, is a woman of resilience. In an interview with The Creative Cooperative’s interview series, WORD – Women On Racism and Discrimination, Baishakhi candidly shares her personal journey of migration to Australia, the challenges she faced, and her ongoing efforts to combat systemic racism. Baishakhi’s story serves as an inspiration for women of colour and highlights the need for change in Australia’s social and professional landscape.
Difficulties Settling In and Systemic Racism’s Impact
Baishakhi arrived in Australia at the age of 29, having already gained international work experience in various countries. Despite her qualifications and skills, she encountered significant obstacles in finding employment. It took her a full year to secure her first job in Australia. She reflects on the bias she faced as a woman of colour, particularly through unconscious judgments based on her name, skin colour, and accent. Baishakhi’s experience highlights the existence of systemic racism in the country and the impact it has on individuals’ well-being, aspirations, and overall lifestyle.
The Far-Reaching Effects of Systemic Injustice
Baishakhi emphasises that systemic injustice goes beyond overt exclusion and segregation. It perpetuates stereotypes, limits opportunities, and shapes individuals’ beliefs and aspirations. Lack of representation in leadership positions and underemployment are byproducts of systemic racism. Furthermore, individuals affected by systemic injustice often experience mental health issues, physical health disparities, microaggressions, and higher rates of incarceration. Baishakhi connects these consequences to broader societal issues, including violence and the need for social reform.
Baishakhi’s Advocacy and Initiatives
Baishakhi’s personal experiences motivated her to be an advocate for change. She actively uses her voice to address unconscious biases, discrimination, and injustices in various settings. She participates in panels, interviews, and podcasts to raise awareness about these issues. Baishakhi also utilises social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, to share her experiences and shed light on the need for cultural diversity and inclusion. Moreover, she has taken on formal roles within her workplace, including participating in Coles’ belonging StickO to promote diversity and inclusion within the organisation. Through mentoring and sponsoring individuals with less representation, Baishakhi actively contributes to creating a more inclusive environment.
Maya Cares: A Valuable Resource for Empowerment
Baishakhi expresses her excitement and support for Maya Cares, a chatbot launched by The Creative Co-Operative. She commends the technology, content, and vision behind Maya Cares. Baishakhi highlights the importance of the “Equip” section, which encourages individuals to recognise their right to belong and to voice their concerns without feeling ungrateful. She finds the resources on recognising racism and microaggressions particularly helpful. Additionally, Baishakhi acknowledges the practical resources available for self-care and mental health support, which she believes would have been valuable to her during her early years in Australia.
As we strive for a future free from systemic injustice, let Baishakhi’s journey and commitment inspire us to advocate for equity, challenge unconscious biases, and foster a society where everyone can thrive and belong, regardless of their cultural background or skin colour.
About Baishakhi Connor
Starting life is a tiny town in India, Baishakhi has gone on to carve a diverse career spanning four continents and stretch her boundaries in ways she could never have imagined. She has a senior management role at one of Australia’s largest retailers. She joined her first Not for Profit Board role in 2021. She volunteers, mentors, writes, speaks, and is currently flexing her muscles into Powerlifting. Baishakhi lives in a tri-cultural tri-religious family with her Australian Catholic husband and Afghan Muslim foster daughters. As foster mum of 2, step mum of 4 and step grand mum of 5, her life is a busy blur of family, fun and food.