WOMEN ACHIEVERS: Elaben Mistry-Jackson

This edition’s female achiever most definitely has had a remarkable journey. She is a social work lecturer at the University of Bradford University, so you can imagine the assiduous, challenging, yet fulfilling career our achiever has.

Her drive, passion and ambition is evident as she has achieved what only five others in the country have. She is appointed as one of only five Equality Assessors for the Premier League football clubs. Her role as an equality assessor has meant she has been responsible for taking Manchester City and Newcastle United through the equality standards that are set by the Premier League. Influential don’t you agree? Let’s meet our woman achiever Elaben  Mistry-Jackson.

You are a social worker lecturer at the University of Bradford tell us a little more about your role?
I am Programme Leader for the BA (Hons) Social Work degree and really enjoy what I do. The role involves overseeing the delivery and daily running of a degree programme. My role involves teaching various modules on the programme, supporting students and staff and contributing to academic research. My area of interest is Equality and Diversity. The most rewarding aspect of my job is watching students; of all ages develop both academically and personally throughout their time at University. I experience a great sense of joy seeing students celebrate their graduation with at families and loved ones. It is actually a great honour to support people that achieve educational success.

WOMEN ACHIEVERS - Elaben Mistry Jackson2What made you choose to work in academia, rather than take on a more ‘traditional’ profession such as being a doctor or lawyer?
I have never considered myself as ‘traditional’, which has probably influenced my choice of career and given me the confidence to follow my own interests. Throughout my upbringing, which has been influenced by living in Bradford within an Indian household, I cannot deny that there have been some cultural expectations around career choices, but I did actually have the freedom to choose for myself and follow my own interests. I did originally train to be a Secondary school teacher at Newcastle University but decided this was not for me at the time. Looking back, I think I was always interested in challenging injustice, oppression and inequality which led me to re-train as a social worker and work with the most vulnerable and powerless in society. Being influenced by a desire for a sense of justice, I have also rejected the cultural view of what is deemed acceptable as a career choice for Indian females. Working with vulnerable groups in society, both in the UK and abroad, has given me so much experience, wisdom and knowledge that I feel it is only now right that I should pass it onto others. In a sense, I have come full circle and ended up where I started; in teaching!

You are also appointed as one of only five national Equality Assessors for Premier League Football clubs. That’s very exciting. Tell us more about what this role entails.
The role involves visiting Premier League football clubs and assessing the work they do against a set of equality and diversity standards set by the League. Football is such a universally powerful forum and acts as a vehicle to influence attitudes and promote social change to help benefit people all over the world. To date, I have worked with Manchester City, Manchester City, Newcastle United, and Leicester City with Everton and Sunderland on the horizon. It has been a privilege to be given access to the clubs behind the scene and the opportunity to work with staff at all levels; from Chief Executives, Board members, Heads of HR, marketing, safeguarding, player and supporter engagement, community engagement, operations and the academy.

We’ve often seen celebrities talk about equality and diversity at awards functions such as the Oscars and how we are still very far behind in representation. How do you hope to ensure that representation is better within football?
It may come as a surprise to many people, but football clubs are now genuinely trying to be very active in ensuring the club is inclusive at all levels of the club. I was very sceptical before I had access to the clubs but do see lots of initiatives and good practice that are happening and do see clubs trying to change the culture within clubs. Football is a very powerful language and a great tool of engagement, which can be seen with initiatives at a grassroots and international level. The best examples I’ve seen include stadia accessibility improvements, clubs supporting LGBT supporters, promoting actions to increase supporters from various minority groups and hard to reach communities in society, improvements to recruitment practice to remove bias, conscious bias and language training to all staff and players, involvement of external agencies in the club to advice and guide, the recruitment of female and disabled engagement officers and improving catering facilities to provide a diverse selection of foods. Take Bradford City for example, they have the Bangla bantams and a LGBT supporters group, which is very encouraging. Events such as the recent British Equality and Diversity Sports Award and the Fans Diversity award at the Footballer Supporters Federation awards really help to promote equality and positive role models.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done within football at all levels and the work I am involved in is a move in the right direction.

WOMEN ACHIEVERS - Elaben Mistry Jackson3What challenges do you face (if any) in carrying out your day to day role as an Equality Assessor for Premier League Football clubs?
One of the challenges that I face is accepting the level of money that is involved in modern day football. After all, how can we justify a footballer earning £200,000 per week when another person can be earning £400 per week and feel this is fair? This is the biggest inequality in football that is difficult to digest.

What or who has been your greatest influence in your work and why?
I could say Matama Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, Indira Gandhi, Mother Theresa, but as cliché as it may sound, it is my parents. They have overcome such adversity and austerity to be where they are today. They came from the Gujarat, India to the UK in 1961, to face such economic and social disadvantage. They could have returned to Indian but persevered through the hardship, prejudice and loneliness to carve out a good life in the UK and gave their children the opportunity to pursue their dreams and ambitions. For this, I am very grateful. This has greatly influenced my work ethic and the level of effort and commitment I make. I feel lucky to be able to do something I enjoy and gain a great sense of achievement from.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
I don’t really measure myself through my professional achievement, but more in terms of achieving a really happy work/life balance where I have a great family life and enjoyable satisfying work life.  Generally, I think to be respected for what I do when I do it well is a great accomplishment.

What one thing have you learned through your career that has served you well over the years?
Have courage and self-insight!

Leadership is about doing the right thing, management is about doing things right!

Everyone is powerful and can change things for the better.

You must do what you are passionate about as our working life is long and you can’t short change yourself by doing something you don’t care about or doesn’t make you happy.

We are a long time dead!

Aint what you do it’s the way that you do it.

We all have something to learn from everyone.

A mentor once told me to get a mortgage and a pension in that order, ha!!!

What advice would you offer anyone who wanted to work in your field?
Follow your interests and don’t be afraid to aim high. If you are passionate about challenging injustice, working with the most powerless in society then consider choosing a profession such as social work to enable you to do this. There is nothing more satisfying than to know you are doing something worthwhile for another human being!

Finally, what’s the best advice you have received in your career that you wish to pass on to our readers.
Get a mortgage and a pension!!

Don’t take yourself too seriously!

The key to being happy is to work out where your interests lie and don’t compromise on this when looking for a job. Find one that matches your interests, passion and curiosity in a field you enjoy.

Your working life is long, so be kind to yourself and find a vocation you love!

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