What is your professional title, purpose or passion?
I am a lawyer, specialising in discrimination and sexual harassment. This year, I launched a free telephone advice line for the legal charity Rights of Women, to give free and confidential legal advice to women in England and Wales who have been sexually harassed at work.
My purpose every day is to empower women to fight back with the legal knowledge and the expertise they need to have achieve equality in the workplace.
What did you want to do when you were a child and what changed?
I always wanted to help people. I just never knew exactly how. I struggled a lot at school, so I never saw myself going into a very academic profession like law. I have fought tooth and nail to get here. What’s changed is that I believe in myself more than I used to. Unfortunately, because school didn’t go perfectly I wrote myself off and I shouldn’t have done that. I don’t do that anymore. Life is not a linear A to B plan. It up and down zig zags.
What's the best career advice you've ever been given?
Ignore all career advice and just do whatever the hell you want and whatever feels right.
What is the best thing about your current working environment?
I can be myself, which I’ve struggled with before in other jobs. I don’t have to try and pretend to be anything I’m not. I can speak from the heart and use my skills and knowledge to try and help someone. It is the best thing I’ve ever done. Sometimes what I hear from the work is difficult to comprehend and accept, like sexual assault and rape, but it always gives me fuel for the fire.
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
I want to be giving a speech to a room of young women and telling them how bad sexual harassment used to be in 2019 and how much things have changed for the better!
I get very annoyed when people see harassment as an evitable part of life for women, it is not. I hope young women believe that and are shocked at what was deemed so normal in the past.
What drives you?
I’ve come to realise that having a chip on your shoulder isn’t always a bad thing. It has been a cathartic experience to let go of the insecurities of when I was younger, step by step in a journey. I’ve proved to myself I am much more than I ever gave myself credit for. I am actually always still trying to prove that to myself. It keeps me driven because I look back and I think, ‘hey, I did that and survived, what else can I do?’ Then I just keep going.
Any final comments?
Stay clear of toxic people.
Get really good at saying ‘no’.
Always be reading a book.
There is always something you could be doing better, but it’s sometimes it’s OK to just do nothing and chill out, it’s important too.
What does a normal day look like for you?
All my days are different, but I am often persuading law firms to help me to do more for the women I work with, who are often been bullied out of their jobs for refusing sexual advances by more senior, usually male colleagues.
My work involves sharing women’s experiences of abuse in the workplace and helping people understand just how widespread and hidden the problem is. I am currently doing work to understand the role that non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) play in covering up abuse and protect perpetrators from harassing women on a serial scale.
What have you achieved that you feel most proud of?
Setting up this advice line at Rights of Women has been the greatest honour of my life.
Women tell me some of the most harrowing and life changing events of their lives. If I can help them in one tiny bit than I am proud to be able to do that.
Tell us about a a woman who inspires you
Malala Yousafzai because she makes me proud of my Pakistani heritage and her message is simple and easy to understand. She is wise well beyond her years.
Emma Watson, who helped me launch the advice line with TIME’S UP UK because she is so generous with her time and uses her platform to gives those who don’t have one, a voice.
Both of them have enormous grace and are highly intelligent.
What was your biggest failure?
The work I do is inspired by the discrimination I’ve experienced in my own life. I used to think that those things happening to me were failures in me, because I was deficient somehow.
It kept me closed-off because I suppose I had tried in the past and not succeeded before. I didn’t want to try again. I keep myself and my heart more open and try not let previous bad experiences put me off things. The past is the past. You have to learn to let it go. I wouldn’t be who I am if those difficult experiences hadn’t of happened to me. Nothing is ever a failure, just a lesson.
What do you like most about yourself?
I get shit done. And I never take myself too seriously.
How can we make the world more inclusive and accepting?
If we all endeavoured to dedicate a tiny portion of the year to do some volunteering, get outside our bubbles and understand how other people live, we’d be a much more empathetic and compassionate society.
What skills have been key to your journey so far?
Organisation. I am NOT naturally an organised person. I am generally chaotic and over worked.
But being disorganised makes me feel stressed and that makes me unproductive. So, I’ve had to force myself to be more organised, at work but my whole life too. I’ve learnt that once you’re on top of your shit, you can turn to the rest of the world much more easily.