I was in second grade and 8 years old in this picture. I’d come to Canada, from India, when I was three and I was quiet.
In the 70’s it wasn’t unusual to deal with overt racism, be called a ‘paki’ and not really feel like you belonged. Things weren’t great at home either, with my mother dealing with an abusive husband whom she divorced a few short years later. Let’s just say I didn’t speak up because I was afraid to talk about what was going on so I went to school, put on a brave face and simply kept my head down trying not to encourage too much attention. I tried hard to simply assimilate and fit in (and sometimes disappear) where possible and school, my good grades and that positive reinforcement were my solace.
It was after things became more stable at home (despite financial challenges) that I started coming out of my shell. I found things I loved, like music, that got me involved. I realized that when I volunteered and started running high school clubs that I was a leader that could bring teams together to accomplish great things.
That combination of a love of learning, putting my hand up to volunteer for causes I believed in, and leading teams with passion and empathy led to a fulfilling career. First as an Internal Communication expert with big companies like Compaq Canada, HP Canada and Loblaw Companies Limited and later as a business-owner of Inner Strength Communication Inc., an internal communication agency based in Toronto.
I now work with clients across North America and am asked to speak about Internal Communication, Employee Engagement and Change Management with global audiences. In 2017, I was recognized globally for life-time achievement and contribution to my profession by IABC. I guess I found my voice.
Another pleasant surprise was a new business A Leader Like Me founded in 2020 with Advita Patel (she/her) to help women of colour build confidence. Our conferences contribute to the wider conversation on diversity, inclusion and belonging. So many members and allies can relate to that feeling of not belonging that I had growing up.
My mantra is “to build strength from the inside out.” I think that’s the advice I would give to any little girl. Know that you are good enough just the way you are. Your goal is to figure out what you love and what your strengths are and find the work and life that simply give you joy. We spend far too much time at work to hate what we do every day. Spend your life surrounding yourself with the people and organizations that lift you up.
To mark International Day of the Girl 2021, Inspiring Girls International has launched a new global campaign called #thislittlegirlisme to make women role models easily available to girls on social media!
Share your post between 13th September – 11th October 2021 in the lead up to the International Day of the Girl 2021 to shine a light on female role models and encourage girls to follow a range of inspiring women. It only takes 5 minutes! #allmecrew