The “Difference” Advantage … because every day is ours


This is a reminder that whilst being a woman (and maybe also a mother) in a senior role remains a difference, this gives us a unique freedom of thought and drives diversity of thought and innovation in the workplace. I call this the Difference Advantage. Please always remember this value especially if the day-to-day challenge of the difference is, at times, hard.

We are all moulded and restricted by society norms, perceptions, and rules. Communities are informed and influenced by very similar sources of information and, as we know, groupthink often prevails. Workplaces are micro-communities often layered with even more norms, perceptions and rules so groupthink thrives.

The Difference Advantage gives us the opportunity to be on the outside and see the bigger picture. As late arrivals, we have the advantage of learning from past trends. We can adopt those that work, ditch those that don’t and, most importantly, pave a new path that is a better path for all.

There is a default position for many in the narrow conditioned environment established and trodden by the same kind. The expectation of conformity lies heavily on their shoulders.

By shaking up workplace norms, perceptions and rules, we will help lift the weight of generations of expectations of conformity on those who do not share our Difference Advantage and will diminish groupthink.

I realise now that I have always taken advantage of any differences I have had the opportunity to experience, both personally in every school, university and country I have been to and later, professionally, in working environments. Being born and raised in Sweden to an Indian father and English mother gave me an immediate Difference Advantage. Moving between countries in the Middle East and then to England, and changing school systems from Swedish, to International, to American, to British only served to add differences to my armour and gave me more freedom.

Spending my legal career in traditional British workplaces then gave me further unexpected Difference Advantages from being a woman and mother (both of which I had expected to be normal).

As a woman in a traditionally British, predominantly private school-educated, male environment, I had the Difference Advantage in not being male and not being British. It gave me freedom to not wear the grey suits and black shoes; to engage with colleagues on a personal, natural and emotional level; and to see through other lenses and have different perspectives.

The Difference Advantage made the hierarchy invisible and, most of all, made me feel like none of the norms or rules were meant for me. I felt little of the expectation of conformity. Colleagues at all levels often said that I was brave. I realise now that the bravery was just in the Difference Advantage.

– Tania Tandon

Photo courtesy of Jill Wellington
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