When you’re in a situation, you deal with it. It’s usually when we stop and look back, we realise how far we’ve come.
As a woman of Asian origin working in the Middle East, in an industry that for the longest time was predominantly male, and who suffers from amblyopia (‘lazy eye’), I look back on my journey as one of learning, and of realisation.
I learned to overcome the shyness I felt because of my eye condition, to challenge the norms that as a woman I had constantly been fighting against: for example, the assumption that Western women are more capable, or that they are inherently more successful. Now I am doing what I can to fight the fight for diversity.
Lazy eye is a condition many might not consider to be a disability, but I can tell you having lived with it, that it does hugely change how people see you, and in turn how you live.
At first I found being accepted a struggle, be it at school or work or in social gatherings. People would often ask me ‘is there something wrong with your eye?’ as they were not sure if I was looking at them while addressing them. I’ve shed a few tears in the ladies’ room, especially in my early professional years, over that kind of thing.
Thankfully, when I joined Standard Chartered, I found it to be a place accepting of everybody. I remember once being in a big meeting about sustainability. I was presenting, and I turned up with this big stack of paper because I couldn’t present using the screen or my eye would get tired. I was so nervous, everybody looking at me, but I found the courage to tell the others why I was doing it this way, and that was the first moment I knew Standard Chartered was an inclusive organisation.
The others were so kind and accepting of me, totally understanding my position, and it was one of the times I’ve felt most accepted at work. It really wasn’t an issue, and I now have the confidence to speak out about my condition, as well as about diversity and inclusion in general, which are so very close to my heart.