Get to know Shazma Ahmed – Senior Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, Shape Talent

What’s been a defining moment for you as a woman in your career?

When I first started my career, the ‘way to get ahead’ was essentially to be more like a man. Both the Bar and financial services industry are where the most successful are highly likely to be men, white and socioeconomically privileged. It took me longer than I would have liked to realise the power in my own authentic style as a woman and sadly, even longer to realise my power as a woman of colour. When I ‘stepped into’ what was already there all along, that was a game-changer! I know my lived experience and heritage as well as my skills and experience are my superpower. Since then, I feel like I have made my highest level of contribution and found my work to be more fulfilling than ever.

What’s your view on the current state of gender equity?

There is a lot of work to do. I think society has been slower in achieving gender equity because until relatively recently there seemed to be an overall perception that gender equity is a ‘woman’s issue’ when in fact it’s a humanity issue. There also seems to be an emergence of ‘competition’ amongst the genders which isn’t quite right. The evidence of inequalities for women and how long we have to go in achieving gender parity cannot be ignored. However, seeing the strides in the business world is heartening; organisations are made up of people, so through our work when we have those interactions with people, what we are doing in some small way is creating the paradigm shift. Its hugely rewarding!

What have you read recently?

I love reading and usually read a few books at a time, I just re-read ‘Against White Feminism’ by Rafia Zakaria. It is a powerful and provocative piece of work on the exclusion of non-white voices and experiences in the mainstream feminist movement. As a western woman with strong eastern heritage, simply existing feels like a constant balancing of two sets of values and narratives. Of course, there is  much overlap so finding a voice for those ‘minority’ yet global majority views in this book is wonderful! Highly recommend!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Honestly, when I find spare time, I tend to leave it spare, although the temptation to fill up space is ever present, so when I have spare time, I am usually curled up on my sofa reading. And when I have extra spare time, you can find me getting friends and family together, sharing laughter over a hearty home-cooked meal!