Pearls of Wisdom: Spotlight on Cultural Diversity with Pearl Proud MAICD

“Don’t wait at the door for someone to let you in - every space is open to you.” As a mentor, Pearl Proud’s advice to anyone wanting a seat at the table is simple: Don’t wait for permission. “The world is for all of us - I’m in the world, therefore it’s for me.”

Speaking in an interview with WOB’s Cultural Diversity Committee member Bernadette Masbayi, Perth psychologist Pearl shared her experiences and many "pearls of wisdom" on her board and leadership journey, including her perspective on the double jeopardy of culturally diverse women being under-represented, her mindset approach to leadership, the reasons she joined a board in the first place, her thirst for knowledge and her sage advice to non Anglo-Celtic women looking to join a board. 

As a proud Zulu woman from Durban with dual South African and Australian citizenship, now living in Perth, Pearl has had a long and impactful board career, including being the first culturally diverse Chair of Community Arts Network (CAN) and the first culturally diverse Chair of an organisation of CAN's size and stature. 

Since being head girl at school, inspiring and leading others comes naturally to Pearl but she says it was after attending a leadership colloquium at Monash University’s Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership that she “shifted into a really full ownership of leadership as a way of being”.

“Through that program, it gave me a mindset where leadership is not a thing, but it's who you are. One of the mindset shifts that I underwent was to think of every space as one that's accessible to me. It was a brazen position to go into and to take, but I think it then opened up a whole range of avenues for me because I was not self limiting.”

Pearl said this especially important message for women and culturally-diverse people in the governance space.

“We do know that there's a shortage and there are limited opportunities for people of culturally diverse backgrounds in the governance space, and it's even more so when you are female. We also have an under representation of females in governance space, so we're both female and culturally diverse. It becomes a particularly challenging double jeopardy.”

When it comes to getting more women from culturally diverse backgrounds into the boardroom, Pearl said it is important to acknowledge that while it may seem inaccessible it is vital to support people’s leadership and governance journeys.  

“Coming into spaces that don't feel familiar or that don't feel facilitated can seem daunting and difficult,” she said.

“But I can say, I’m very conscious of what I bring in, which includes my heritage. We’ve been hearing a lot as women that we need to take our seat at tables with a mindset that there's something I'm bringing - and that includes my heritage and my perspective.

“I speak for all diversities when I'm in a space because I'm one of the diverse. When I'm in those spaces I'm representing women, I'm representing people of colour, I'm representing people who are diverse in a range of ways.”

Six Pearl’s of wisdom

  • Be curious: We can go about the world and not be curious enough about things and situations and people. So being curious is a really fantastic approach to take. In the governance space, we might want to be curious about spaces where decisions are made about our lives, and boards are places where decisions about lives are made.
  • Be interested: Curiosity is a really healthy thing to have, but also be interested, generally speaking, in life. We need to be reading things, listening to programs, debates and opinion. We also want to be noting when things are being said or are happening. If there's a policy decision being made, let's be interested about what it's for and why it's being put together. If an announcement has been made, let's take a closer look and  lean in to work out if it's going to affect us and affect people in our lives and how we might relate to it.
  • Reflect: A lot of the time we hear things and we don't pause to reflect on them. When you’re driving, for example, just reflect on things you've heard or that you've read, that you've noted in recent times.
  • Share: Be willing to share. Not because you want to be opinionated, but you want to be sharing perspectives, you want to be sharing things that you come across, because you can generate conversation that way.
  • Get a mentor:  A mentor is a good choice to make every time, every stage of our lives. Please get a mentor. I've been mentor to others, but I also engage in a core mentorship, meaning that I find value for somebody else and I receive value from somebody else.
  • Be active locally: Start closer to home and be active in the sphere of your own life and where you engage daily or weekly, and that might be a community organisation or committee such as as a school P&C. 

About Pearl Proud

Perth-based Pearl, MAICD, is Clinical Services Manager and lead of the Cultural Diversity Psychological Service at Life Without Barriers. A proud Zulu woman who originally hails from Durban in South Africa Pearl sits on a range of boards, including Chair of Community Arts Network (CAN). 

She is also  on the advisory board for ECU SChool of Business & Law’s Centre for Work and Wellbeing, a member of the Research Steering Group for Curtin University’s Journey to Home project and an advisory group member of Partners In Culturally Appropriate Care
(PICAC)  for the aged care sector and a founding patron of Perth Writer’s Festival.

You can find out more about Pearl on her LinkedIn profile HERE