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What’s Your Story? Bim Akinmade

Bim Akinmade is a People Advisor and has worked within the hospitality sector for 8 years. Bim Akinmade explains “what’s your story?”…

An image of Bim Akinmade

If you sit back, sink into the curve of your couch and reflect on your life’s events, can you recall how you found yourself in hospitality? If you’re like me, it happened by chance. Hospitality was not something I had a particular interest in nor actively sought to get involved with. In fact, if 8 years ago I was held beneath the heat of a spotlight and probed on what hospitality meant to me I would say food, serving, and hotels maybe?

All things I’d enjoyed and would continue to enjoy at some time or another, but never even considered forming part of my career. You see, whilst I’m British, first and foremost, I’m an African; a first-generation immigrant, like so many others. With their melanin complexions, flavoursome food, and iron-rod parenting styles, my parents carried with them, from Nigeria, firm cultural beliefs.

A huge one, unwavering despite the progressiveness of our times, is that a responsible person must choose from a minute list of professions. A list, I’m sure, many Black, Asian and other minorities are all too familiar with. I imagine they were chiselled onto the grey slab at the beginning of time. These professions all come with several years of study at a top-notch university, a substantial pay packet, and the type of status your parents can all too willingly brag about at family parties or any other event given the opportunity.

So when I informed my mum that I had been offered a job at a popular entertainment company, she narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips in a feigned smile before saying, ‘that’s nice’. Seconds of awkwardness passed before she asked, ‘are you sure you don’t want to work in finance?’ Her question was doused with scepticism and snobbery. I smiled. I didn’t blame her.

I’ve learnt that many people’s perceptions of hospitality are skewed. They see the workers sweating behind the stove, the frenzied cleaning of tables and the serving of food. They hear about the low pay and the low-skilled workers, but they don’t think about the complexity of the operations. The creative magic that makes their meals. The flawless finesse of the chefs churning out perfection under pressure.  There’s a whole world of work that goes on behind the scenes, educated professionals, the cogs that channel their ideas and knowledge to create the customer experience.

I was invited into that world of mystery and mayhem by a woman that saw something in me. Maybe it was my youthful charm, my tenacity to learn, or the fact that she, also a woman of BAME background, saw the chance to invest in someone just like her. Someone that was intelligent and had the potential, but just needed to be seen. She took a chance on me. And that chance has blossomed into the career I have now. I remember looking at her: an Asian employment lawyer, mother and wife, and thinking… I can do this. I can be her. And since then I haven’t looked back. I’ve worked with amazing people in amazing companies and learnt lessons that I will cherish for life.

But one thing I will never forget that stings like lemon on my tongue is the stark lack of diversity within hospitality. The higher you go the more invisible we become, and this is why Be Inclusive Hospitality is so important. It creates a community with shared experiences that connect, support and empower each other. It highlights the amazing things we’re doing within the industry and supports the sharing of wisdom through coaching and mentorship. It also inspires those, still early in their careers, to think big and bold when writing their own hospitality stories.   

My question for you is, ‘What’s your story?’

About ‘What’s your story?’

In the What’s your story series, we hope to share the detailed journeys of our members. From Head Chefs to Business leaders to Entrepreneurs, What’s your story will provide the tale behind the name.

You can learn more about Bim on her member profile.

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