I’d place myself in the middle of the code, which is an improvement compared with when I first started at Baringa four years ago. 

At that point, I was not being my authentic self at all, far down the scale.  Faith is often seen as something private that shouldn’t interfere with the daily world of work, but my headscarf is a very obvious marker of my religion. I’m also female and from an ethnic minority - so I’ve faced a triple layer of challenges at work. And that has felt daunting. 

I’m conscious that I dress differently, but not necessarily uncomfortable about it. When I joined Baringa there weren’t many people who looked like me, but this has changed as the company has grown and incorporated more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) into recruitment. 

No DEI lip service

Baringa isn’t doing lip service to DEI because it looks good externally. There’s a huge focus on making people of different backgrounds feel at ease about speaking up and asking for adjustments to their work life if they need it. It’s something I’ve not experienced in any workplace before. 

It took me a long time to be ok asking for available space and time to pray. There’s still a nagging voice that wonders if I’m being difficult; it’s the same one I hear if a meeting clashes with prayer times or if there are company events and I need to ask about prayer space and clarify dietary requirements.

The month of Ramadan when Muslims fast during daylight hours can also be tricky but the company is always flexible with my schedule so I can start earlier or later. This year my manager even raised it before I did. She said, ‘What’s your thinking about work patterns for this month? Do you need anything from me?’. That proactiveness made all the difference in helping me feel accepted for who I am.

A supportive interfaith community

Our interfaith network is a friendly space where people of different faiths bounce ideas off each other. I remember a new colleague told me he hadn’t asked for adjustments for Ramadan because he thought he was too new to be able to do so.

Younger me would have said the same; I was more hesitant about upsetting the status quo. Now I question why we feel this way; that we can’t voice our needs. It’s about feeling empowered to speak up about what’s important. Having a supportive community helps you realise it’s not just you making lone requests. Others may be asking the same.

Rewriting the code for different times of life

I think the concept of the code varies depending on different times of life. I think as people change, we should be rewriting the code accordingly.

I try to remember that it’s ok not to fit the current “normal” – whatever that might be. While things have improved dramatically in my time here, more can be done to ensure we’re facilitating those with certain lifestyles or personal commitments to do what they need to do and not feel like they’re missing out if they’re unavailable. There’ll always be new adjustments, reviews or adaptations to make. 

I’m not so blindsided that I only want to talk about my religion, but it does have such an importance to me in my daily life. It would be liberating to have those conversations without the little voice in my head casting doubt. 

I’ve put myself in the middle of the code because of the fact I’m still not 100% relaxed in asking for adjustments to accommodate my faith. But I also know that nothing will change in terms of authenticity unless I speak up. 


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