”My purpose is not about making tons of money, mine is to empower a generation of young women coming from diverse backgrounds to reach great heights and use their education and talent to achieve excellence in whatever they do.”
BARJIS CHOHAN, DIRECTOR, THE BARJIS INITIATIVE
1. What has the relationship been between the pandemic and diversity drives?
The pandemic has given people the opportunity to pause, reflect, and address their issues and the issues faced by people coming from ethnic minority backgrounds. The George Floyd sad demise has acted as a catalyst to accelerate these difficult conversations – which we have all avoided. It has also raised concerns amongst the inequalities faced by other ethnic minorities. Having these difficult conversations is important, as they will be a starting point to find solutions, to work collectively as a global community; to eradicate injustices faced by black and ethnic minority communities. We must also address the issues faced by overlooked communities within the white communities. White communities coming from less privileged backgrounds do face a lot of barriers and we must talk about the class issue in the UK.
2. You work in fashion – are there links between tech & fashion industries when it comes to equality and inclusion?
The wholesale market in fashion (B2B) is dying at a high rate. Within the fashion industry, there have been decades of elitism and many Designers faced challenges to promote and market their products to stores. However, due to technology and the direct B2C model; small brands can use technology to reach their target audience at the touch of a button. This was well needed, now young and small fashion brands can grow and scale up at a phenomenal rate – which is very positive.
The old business model of wholesale-only benefited the elite community who had connections. This was a barrier for people like me, but I have used innovative and cost-effective solutions with commercial nous to reach my audience. Technology has played an instrumental role as well as having good communication skills.
3. What main challenges have you faced in becoming a business owner?
There have been many challenges, financial, social, and cultural and a negative media image of Muslims. However, being who I am, I have never taken the short cuts by removing my hijab (which was advised).
I always believe that if the work is good, people will take notice. Let the work speak for itself. To build a brand takes persistence and perseverance, there are no short cuts in life. Yes, we’ll face obstacles, negative criticism but if there is a purpose then we’ll make it. My purpose is not about making tons of money, mine is to empower a generation of young women coming from diverse backgrounds to reach great heights and use their education and talent to achieve excellence in whatever they do. We do not have to compromise in our values and beliefs to reach our goals and this is a powerful and well-needed message to our communities.
4. And finally, why should our readers come along to the Women in IT Virtual Summit next week?
It’s simple; surround yourself with people who will inspire, motivate, and empower you. This summit will add value and hopefully ignite that fire in your belly to be the best you can be. It’s only by uplifting others that we can truly find happiness.