On Representation and Norway’s Foreign Trailblazers

Representation in all aspect of life matters. It matters every day and everywhere – in media, in our professional, social, political and personal lives. For many of us, it is comforting to feel that we can relate to someone or something. This might give us a feeling of community or reinforces the notion that we are not alone in our experiences – be they positive or negative.

Representation is important for everyone, and the lack thereof, is equally as important to address. For some of us (and depending on where we grew up or currently live) our childhood and adult lives have been filled with books (academic and otherwise), games, movies, media content, music, and options for basic essentials that we either could not identify with or does not reflect our existence. While many of us have accepted a lack of representation as the status quo, and most times, we barely think about it, it is only when we see, hear or experience something that we can truly identify with, does it become apparent – that something has been missing all along.

So why does representation matter? Below are 10 of the many reasons why it does.

Representation matters because it

  1. provides a realistic view of the societies we live in.
  2. offers an important medium to collect information about the world.
  3. ensures that everyone is in the room and that no stories are missing.
  4. helps people embrace their cultures.
  5. creates awareness about other cultures.
  6. reduces discrimination and bias.
  7. enhances the expectation of each individual (i.e. so that they may reach for higher than they would have otherwise thought they could).
  8. highlights and embraces diversity in all its forms.
  9. reduces our need to make assumptions and instead, encourages listening and learning.
  10. permits everyone to see themselves in their heroes or role models.

At Diversify, we believe that the importance of representation cannot be overstated. As an advocate and ally for representation we want to raise the voices of people with different perspectives, genders, nationality, and beliefs who in some way or form are walking the walk and making diversity, inclusion and opportunity a part of their daily breath. On our part, we want to be loud about representation and diversity in various spaces including work, classroom, community, political, and socio-economic.

As such, we have been working on a series to showcase people, and in particular women, from diverse background who have come to Norway and opened a window where they found no doors. Their stories and endeavors are not often mainstream, but we believe that their work and their insights need to be known because they are trailblazers. In their own way, and purely out of passion, they have become vocal advocates for change, started their own businesses, or established organizations that serve as a bridge to shorten the arduous journey for others like themselves, who are currently in the country or those who are just arriving. 

We have been inspired by many people who have shared their experiences, frustrations, and perceptions with us. We have been amazed by their resilience, strength of character, bravery, passion and determination despite challenges faced and ahead. We are fascinated by people who have come to Norway as immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers or trailing spouses and broken through thick walls and mountains, so that others like them, might only have to break down a door. We have learned from those who have given up amazing careers in their home countries to live in Norway, whilst job searching, being active in the community, learning the language and raising children. We have heard from those who defied insurmountable odds in their personal lives, to the extent of being ostracized by their communities and families, to live an authentic life that reflects their basic human rights – and in so doing, given others in similar situations the permission to do the same.

Their ability to carve out a path for themselves and others validates one of our core beliefs that with the right tools and community, we can all take the driver seat in our own lives. Sometimes all we need to see is someone we can relate to or who looks like us doing something, to gain the courage to try. 

As is our mandate, for many of the people we have met and continue to meet through Diversify (individuals, businesses and organizations alike), representation, inclusion, diversity, and opportunity is parts and parcel of their existence – they work or yearn for it.  They want ‘real’ access to employment opportunities, to feel that their views and experiences are represented in society and they want to feel included. And whilst representation, diversity, opportunity and inclusion take various forms and translations to each individual, the end goal is the same.

So, how are we going to move the conversation about representation and diversity forward?

In the coming days and weeks, in continuation and as a part of our mission to provide a platform that encourages the sharing of experiences and opinions that resonate with many, we will also begin highlighting the experiences and the work of the people who inspire us. We hope that just as they have motivated us with their work, that their life experiences, endeavours and resilience will also inspire you to try. In other words, because of them (and because they did) we too, can.

We look forward to sharing their stories with you. So stay tuned :).

We are aware that there are many people in Norway that are doing great work towards a more inclusive and diverse society. We are also equally aware that we do not know them all. Nonetheless, we hope that through our work, we will continue to meet with them and will have an opportunity to share their work with you.

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Chisom Udeze

Founder of Diversify, Diversify Consult, HerSpace & The Annual

Chisom is an Economist, a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Strategist, and a 3 times founder of impact driven companies. She has over 14 years of experience working with organizations like the European Commission, The United Nations, ExxonMobil and The Economist Group. Chisom is analytical and a data enthusiast. She is passionate about interrogating the cross-sectoral relationship between society’s inhabitants, resources, production, technology, distribution and output. She efficiently and effectively unlocks complex systems, interprets data, forecasts socio-economic trends and conducts research.

Having lived and worked in 7 countries across 3 continents, she is highly adaptable to different circumstances and people, and thrives in uncertain environments.

As the founder of Diversify and Diversify Consult, Chisom and her team work with companies, institutions, governments and civil society to develop sustainable DEIB strategies and embed measurable diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and society. In addition, in 2022, Diversify launched the Diversify Nordics Summit, the largest conference in the Nordics that gathers cross-sectoral stakeholders to amplify DEIB in the Nordics and beyond.

In 2020, she founded HerSpace, a diverse and inclusive co-creation community for all genders, with particular focus on women and non-binary people. In 2022, HerSpace launched HerTech, Women in Tech incubator, for women-led companies, with a focus on the inclusion of diverse founders. 

Chisom is a thought-leader in DEIB and a passionate advocate for mental health and wellness. She writes often on DEIB and justice related topics, some of her work is published on Forbes.

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