‘Where are you really from?’ This is a question I have been regularly asked by colleagues and patients alike – and I am not alone. As a mixed-race female doctor, from a working-class background, it’s not hard to imagine how, sometimes, I can find it difficult to fit in with what the public may perceive as a ‘typical doctor’.
Throughout my career, I have always wondered how we can make sure our committees are representative. I am, and have been, heavily involved in widening participation schemes over the years and it still feels that we haven’t got this right.
The BMA junior doctors committee has followed other BMA committees to elect an ‘equalities champion’. As the Severn regional junior doctors committee co-chair, I also sit on the national junior doctors committee, and many members have approached me asking whether we are representative of the junior doctor body. It’s this that motivated me to consider standing for the role.
US payments company Square’s global operations executive Naomi Wheeless discusses the four lessons we can learn for building diverse teams (2021). The most important message from her article is that sticking to what you know doesn’t always work if you want to build a diverse team.
The BMA is a dynamic organisation that welcomes ideas and thoughts from different backgrounds and perspectives. This includes encouraging a range of voices on the committee, from a variety of backgrounds: if these voices aren’t heard, we cannot hope to move with the times and truly represent the workforce.
I was successfully elected to the role in April. Although the role is still being defined, I believe it will shape our committee and how we represent junior doctors on a wider level.
It’s important to me that anyone, particularly those with protected characteristics, are able to speak freely about and contribute to BMA policy. However, if they are unable to speak freely, I will be an advocate for these groups so their voices are heard and fed into overall discussions affecting junior doctors.
I put myself forward for this role because I felt that we, as a committee, had a lot of work to do to improve how representative we are of our members.
I am now empowered to work on ways to ensure that our committee and its executive committee represent the junior doctor workforce, in terms of EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion). This is no easy task: there is lots to consider, including making sure people don’t feel tokenistic.
Much of the work will focus on mentoring and encouraging under-represented groups to stand for our committee. Despite these challenges, I believe we are working towards making the BMA junior doctors committee a role model for other committees, and if we can get this aspect right, others will follow.
More diverse committees make better decisions, and that will help improve support to all our colleagues.
Gio Sheiybani is the Severn regional junior doctors committee co-chair and the junior doctors committee equality champion