This October we’ve been recognising Black History Month – an opportunity for us to share, celebrate and understand the contribution that black people have made in the UK and around the world.

In the second story in our Black History Month series, we meet Odette McFarlane, Director, Home Port Operations. Odette tells us more about her own experience as a black woman, the obstacles she’s overcome, and why recognising Black History Month is so important. Here’s her story:

What was your career experience as a black woman?

“Career wise, it’s not always been easy, especially working in environments where I’m the minority. I started my career in Investment Banking in the City of London which was the domain of almost exclusively white men. Being black and being a woman sometimes felt like a ‘double whammy’! However, this gave me the opportunity to learn how to thrive in spaces where it wasn’t obvious that I could belong, helped me to develop skills to hold my own in many different situations/scenarios and break down barriers.”


What obstacles do you think you’ve had to overcome as a black woman that people may not be aware of?

“A couple of the biggest obstacles that I’ve had to overcome are other people’s bias and stereotypes of black women; being aggressive and not as well qualified as others. I’m proud to work at Carnival UK as an organisation that encourages us all to bring our ‘whole’ authentic selves to work and not apologise for doing so.”

What is your story?

“From the 50s and 60s my family came to the UK from Jamaica, like many, invited to fill a labour and skills shortage in search of opportunity. They were met with outrageous racism on arrival, but through their hard work and determination, forged a life here in the UK. My achievements are a testimony to their resilience and efforts to be respected, recognised and treated equally.”

Anything you want people at CUK to know about why Black History Month is important:

“Black History is everyone’s history!  Highlighting this through Black History Month is vitally important.”

“All contributions to the development of the UK must be recognised and acknowledged and should be taught in school as readily as WWI and WWII – which of course saw many soldiers from the Commonwealth nations serving alongside English soldiers, my Great Uncle, who served in the Royal Air Force was one of them. However, its only in recent years that these service men and woman have been commemorated. Black History Month is an opportunity to learn, recognise and celebrate these individuals and their contributions.”


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