As Indian actress Aishwarya Rai sweeps cinema-goers off their feet in Bollywood movie Bride and Prejudice, HR professional-come-bhangra-dancer, Balvi Macleod, plans to take the corporate sector by storm with a workshop that combines her passions for diversity and traditional Punjabi dancing.
“Diversity is still very new on the agenda and although organisations increasingly recognise it, hardly anybody is actually celebrating it,” says Macleod, consultant on culture change and diversity to government organisations in London.
“I am passionate about encouraging organisations to celebrate diversity, to address the cultural awareness deficit, and to take diversity a stage further than merely meeting government agendas. Diversity needs to be linked into people’s lives if it is to make sense.”
Government employees may soon find themselves bearing bindis and bangles and swaying to the beat of the dhol drum to celebrate diversity. Macleod, whose background is in learning and development and management development as well as diversity, is currently in talks to run sessions for government employees, and has run diversity and team-building workshops for companies such as telecommunications firm Vodafone.
“People get fed up with being asked whether they have an equal opportunities agenda – it shouldn’t just be about ticking boxes, but about winning hearts and minds, having some fun and celebrating the successes of the multicultural society we live in,” she says.
“The workshops are about doing something new and innovative, using the music to take people out of their comfort zone in a comfortable way, and opening up their perceptions to other cultures.”
Macleod believes her workshops are an easy, fun way for predominantly white-staffed organisations branching out globally to introduce employees to cultures they are not familiar with and to enhance productivity, particularly among black and ethnic minority staff.
“People will work more effectively if they see there is a fun element to coming into work, if they don’t feel their ideas will be just thrown out or that the colour of their skin will show up more if they talk about their culture.”
As a Punjabi Sikh married to a Scotsman for 19 years, and who worked for 15 years in the predominantly white town of Newbury, Macleod is no stranger to straddling different cultures. But she points out that for many British people, there is very li