Changing Perspectives: A Brittle Sweet Symphony, that's life!

27 September 2023
Sneha Shetty

The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiences to inspire us all to change for the better.

I'm Sneha Shetty a Digital Director at iProspect, Australia, and it's been a long way for me to get here.

An unconventional life based on something that limits you only helps one grow into a person who constantly challenges boundaries and perceptions. As someone who is culturally diverse and differently-abled, I've dealt with negative perceptions at the workplace and in life around gender equality, ageism and looking different over many years.

Many of us manage a private impact that may be invisible to others. For some of us, it’s more obvious to spot. My knee is my visible one. In media, we review historic data for key learnings to plan ahead; similarly, it’s our experiences in real life that help us grow.

At the age of 11, I started falling sick. I don't remember how it started, but I remember being in pain throughout my childhood. I had Arthritis (joint pain), Nephritis (kidney issues), and Avascular Necrosis of hips (hip surgery), with my knees giving up on me, resulting in knee surgery - all possibly caused due to an autoimmune disorder.

With limited chances to make friends, I spent most of my teenage life with my siblings and cousins at home. However, my childhood was a happy and a memorable one.

Years of going through the wrong treatment only caused a domino effect on what I experience in my life right now. A life with a disability, or that's what I may seem like to an outsider who watches me pass by - the girl with a limp.

However, in my mind, I'm Pamela Anderson running in slow motion on a beach. IYKYK :)

Covid was hard on everyone, and it was for me too. I lost my job a week through the lockdown as I carried the responsibility of my child and parents. I was forced to accept a job with lower than minimum wage to fulfill my obligations and avoid a notable red flag / a career gap.

After everything I had already been through, the emotional toll was significant, and I lost the ability to walk. The flow on effect of poor mental health affected my physical – causing my knees to spasm and lock into a bent position. I looked possessed every time I tried to walk to the living room from my bedroom.

This was the turning point as I recognised the strength of mental wellness in its impact on overall life. I chose to do something about it. I prioritised my health, my family and my career, landing a job in Melbourne media.

I’m an 'almost' 40-year-old Indian woman who left behind the life she knew and moved to Melbourne 5 months ago, with a 5-year-old in tow and a supportive husband – for my dream job. I took an opportunity to relocate and achieved this with 'worn down' knees that severely restrict my movements.

My agency offers three wellness days across the year to take care of ourselves. I consider myself privileged to be a part of this country and the media industry, which is doing so much to bring inclusivity. These conversations empower me to be my true self without stereotypical definitions of ablism, cultural identity or gendered expectation.

The support of my agency and our industry has strengthened my resolve that my physical limitation doesn't define who I am; it only makes me stronger.

Inclusion in the workplace is about ensuring that everyone feels valued and respected as an individual. As leaders, we can do that best by being more empathetic, progressive and keeping an open mind. Create a safe space by listening to different viewpoints and see your company grow four folds.

My life has been about pushing myself and raising the bar to achieve. “Don't tell me what I can't do!" is a phrase on the show ‘Lost’ that really resonates with me. Because I know I can do more than you could ever imagine. To those experiencing a hard time, "Believe in what you want from your life and work towards it". Manifestation or Magic – believe it will happen.

To broaden your understanding of DE&I, complete the SBS Core Inclusion course – Australia’s leading online DE&I training course – available for free to MFA member employees. Access ends December 2023.

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