Recalling her life that looked at opportunities, was Angela Chitkara, PR Track Director, City College of New York in her Special Address at #PRAXIS7 on “Why diversity and inclusion are central to effective Storytelling”.
Starting with the quote from Rye Barcott – “Talent is universal, opportunity is not,” she pointed out that there is enormous power in storytelling. Stories can never be diminished or forgotten. And “Diversity and inclusion” are central, which has also been the backdrop of her life; it is evolution, revealing parts of ourselves today as we have never done. Tying it to her personal story, she told us how her storyline emphasised her relationship with others, the different roles that she played out – as a journalist, entrepreneur, educator, brand owner, daughter, sister and bua.
“Teaching is one of the hardest jobs I’ve done. It’s taught me to be open,” she said which helped her reach out to her students who are children from interesting backgrounds. Mentorships and partnerships are key to success. “Today it’s called diversity and inclusion,” she said.
Talking about 21C leadership, she went back to 1947, when we “made a tryst with destiny”. Her grandparents settled in Delhi at that time and her grandfather had set up a school, where the talented cricketer Virendra Sehwag had passed out from. In a similar manner her parents build their lives anew when they travelled to US, leaving everything behind – all in the name of inclusion.
The phase – “coming to America”, moulded her life. Narrating the story of becoming Angela, she went back to age five, when she knew she wanted to be a journalist. Then the process of finding her calling had many mentors along the way, but actually mentorship was lacking. “I came from a privileged background, had access to capital, had experience but there was a lack of inclusion,” she felt. Finally it was in the Military Boys’ School, where found a fit. Her Dad used to tell her “äct like a lady, but think like a man” and it was here that she took his advice seriously!
Success does not come without challenges. After her Masters, she travelled to distant lands and got the opportunity to work on some incredible stories, working with many TV channels. There were setbacks in Singapore and she set up systems in India, all of which were gladly experienced.
“Today we are holding each other, that is the culture; earlier it was take it or leave it”, she shared. Finally perseverance paid off as she finally made it. After meeting Harjiv Singh, Founder and CEO of Gutenburg, she joined up and leveraged her experience there and handled global media relations and also worked for a non-profit. She always played a similar helping role to people who helped her.
Her story also included finding meaning after a personal tragedy, which matured her life. Insisting that inclusion today includes a work-life balance, she stepped into teaching and never looked back.
How does diversity and inclusion connect to business?
Referring to the demographics in US she noted that it is changing. All the research she was involved in, highlighted this factor, as it went from being disruptive to unwrapping the truth.
Saying that “I come from the media industry, which recognised that industries have their respective diversity and challenges,” she added that her research showed that some CEOs have identified diversity within the organisations – recognising women, LGBT and so on. CEOs also made it clear that retention of diverse talent was particularly challenging. In PR we have more people of colour and there are women in management situations too. Quoting the findings in The Holmes Report, she explained that PR firms need to be more diverse. They need to take a stand and just do it. Her recommendations highlighted the fact very clearly – “Include diversity as a major initiative”.
As companies in the U.S. are investing more in diversity and inclusion, the spotlight is now on PR firms to keep up. Her parting shot was – “We are in this together. The time has come, if not now, then when?”