By Sophie Mei-Lan Slack, bursary recipient 2012/13
Caption: Sophie (second from right) with fellow Journalism Diversity Fund recipients at the annual celebratory lunch in 2012
Most organisations require you to ‘tick boxes’ before you can even contact them. Whether it be your name, age, gender, sexuality, religion or even medical history, it is essential that our bureaucratic society know about you. I, like many other Journalism Diversity recipients, have never fitted in a box.
I’m a young mum but not young enough, I am mixed race, but count as ‘other’ on forms, I’m dyslexic but you can’t see that, I come from an impoverished area but my qualifications are too high. The list goes on and that’s without mentioning my hugely diverse family and upbringing.
Happy families: Sophie with her step-dad and daughter at Pride
I used to follow the crowd, attempt to fit the ‘norm’ and most of all I dreamt of a quiet life. All this dates back to my pre-journalism days.
I had always wanted to work in the media but it has been a slow transition from working in entertainment, being the story, to reporting on other people’s stories. The latter I greatly prefer.
And now I thank the people who have been homophobic, racist, sexist and whatever else to me. Because without you, I would not understand the world and the stories we need to expose: hate crimes, invisible communities and other social affairs.
I often hear people complain about diversity schemes but I would ask them what their workplace would be like without a broad spectrum of individuals?
And anyway, being diverse doesn’t come without its trials and tribulations. Because people, like me, who don’t tick the standard boxes, tend not to have the financial recourse nor the confidence to achieve great things without such schemes like the Journalism Diversity Fund.
Journalism is not just a ‘tick box’ in my career, but it is my life. All the aspects of who I am and what I do, influences my work.
I want my own daughter to grow up in a world where opinions and differences are celebrated, rather than spending her youth trying to fit in. The media has the power to correct the balance. Good, responsible and interesting journalism can address this.
I have finally overcome adversity to love my diversity. People still try and trip me up on the way but this is no violin sob story. These prejudices have enabled me to access and understand people in seldom-heard communities.
Being a journalist gives us the ability to stand up for social injustice, listen to the unheard voices and be vehicles for people to express themselves.
So there, I am lucky to be diverse. I credit my lateral thinking, speaking five languages and my constant flurry of ideas, to my roots.
Journalism Diversity Fund has given me the equality of opportunity to pursue all of my ideas, which I hope will lead to a fun and fruitful career in journalism.
Sophie is the founder of Verita Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter: @SophieMeiLan or @VeritaMag