Inclusiveness is essential for a healthy, thriving society where everyone feels valued and respected. My journey as a woman who wears a hijab and migrated to Canada in 2016 highlights the importance of inclusiveness in both personal and professional realms. Despite facing job interview challenges focused on my appearance, I found a company that valued diversity, allowing me to thrive professionally.

    Key lessons from my experience include the importance of awareness and education, inclusive policies, support networks, open communication, and leadership commitment. Organizations should educate staff about different cultures, implement anti-discrimination policies, encourage open dialogue, and have leaders model inclusive behaviour. Small acts of acceptance and understanding can significantly impact creating a more inclusive society where everyone feels valued and empowered.

    Inclusiveness is more than just a buzzword. It’s fundamental to a healthy, thriving society where everyone feels valued and respected. As a woman who wears a hijab and migrated to Canada in 2016, I've experienced firsthand the significance of inclusiveness in both personal and professional realms. My journey has been a blend of challenges and triumphs, which have underscored the importance of creating inclusive environments.


    A New Beginning

    I was filled with hope and excitement when I first arrived in Canada. known for its diversity and acceptance,  I looked forward to becoming a part of this diverse tapestry. However, like many immigrants, I faced a series of hurdles. The most outstanding of these were during job interviews. I remember my first interview vividly. I walked in, armed with my qualifications and experience, but was met with curious glances and hesitant smiles. 

    Despite my initial nervousness, I remained confident, believing that my skills and abilities would speak for themselves. Unfortunately, not all interviewers were able to see past my hijab. Some seemed more interested in my headscarf than my résumé. Questions about my ability to "fit in" or "adapt" were common, subtly hinting that my appearance might be a barrier. This is an issue that is quite common with many other immigrants: the public’s inability to see beyond physical appearance, whether it be my complexion, my weight, or the most prominent, my hijab.


    Finding My Place

    It wasn't easy, but I eventually secured a position at a company that valued diversity and inclusion. My colleagues were from various backgrounds, and the workplace culture was respectful and accepting. This inclusiveness allowed me to flourish professionally. I was judged based on my performance and contributions, not my appearance. This experience reinforced my belief in the importance of inclusiveness in the workplace.


    Reflecting on Inclusiveness

    Inclusiveness is about more than tolerance; it’s about genuine acceptance and understanding. It’s about creating environments where people from all backgrounds can thrive without hiding or downplaying their identities. For organizations, this means actively promoting diversity and ensuring that policies and practices are in place to support all employees.

    Here are some reflections and lessons from my journey:

    1. Awareness and Education - Organizations should educate their staff about different cultures and religions to foster understanding and reduce biases. This can be achieved through diversity training programs and cultural exchange activities.
    2. Inclusive Policies - Companies must implement policies that protect against discrimination and promote inclusivity. This includes flexible dress codes that respect religious attire and accommodate religious practices.
    3. Support Networks - Establishing support networks within the workplace can help individuals feel more included. Mentorship programs and employee resource groups can provide guidance and foster a sense of belonging.
    4. Open Communication - Encouraging open dialogue about inclusivity and diversity can help address concerns and break down stereotypes. Creating a safe discussion space can lead to greater understanding and empathy among employees.
    5. Leadership Commitment -Inclusiveness must be championed from the top. Leaders should model inclusive behaviour and hold their teams accountable for maintaining a respectful and supportive work environment.

    Moving Forward

    Inclusiveness is an ongoing journey. My experiences have shown me the challenges and the rewards of living in a diverse society. I hope to inspire others to embrace inclusiveness in all aspects of their lives with my story. It’s not just about creating opportunities for marginalized groups; it’s about enriching our communities and workplaces with the wealth of perspectives that diversity brings.

    As we strive for a more inclusive society, remember that every small act of acceptance and understanding can make a significant difference. Together, we can create a world where everyone feels valued and empowered to reach their full potential regardless of their background or appearance.


    About the Author:

    HEADSHOT-Asiya Shams-Circle

    Asiya Shams is a seasoned Senior Consultant in the IT sector with over 15 years of experience. Asiya has honed her skills in understanding intricate project requirements, assessing the most viable IT solutions, and guiding organizations through product development and product management. Her profound knowledge in implementing and integrating diverse IT applications, from ERP systems to AI tools, is evident in her ability to navigate complex decision-making processes. Asiya's expertise in balancing technical needs with strategic objectives makes her insights invaluable for organizations starting to adopt AI.


    This post is part of our ongoing EDIB Perspectives series offering insights and reflections on equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) topics from a business perspective, brought to you by leaders and colleagues at Stratford. Through this series, we aim to share experiences, challenges, and successes in fostering an inclusive corporate culture. 

    With a more personal tone, the goal of these posts is to offer diverse perspectives on how individuals at Stratford authentically live and embody the principles of EDIB in their daily lives and work.