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Looking beyond the headscarf

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Diversity and Inclusion, International Women's Day

I have recently joined the Capability Team as the Learning and Development Lead. My career in the Civil Service began in HMCTS back in 1994 where I worked in Recruitment. As one of the only few women to wear a hijab I definitely stood out. I was still getting used to the idea of navigating through the workplace so I really wasn’t looking to stand out because of my appearance. 

I am from an Indian background and am a proud Muslim woman. My parents were very open-minded when I was growing up and let me know I was free to be me and most importantly make my own choices. When I was 18 I made a personal decision to wear a headscarf to retain my modesty. At the time I was naive and did not realise how some people can be judgemental if you look different from the ‘norm’.I was not ashamed or scared of people knowing I was a Muslim woman but when it came to work I just wanted to be treated like everyone else. The one thing I wanted people to know is “never judge a book by its cover”.

After many years in Civil Service, the tides changed as the diversity guidelines were introduced. This was a real shock for some as certain language and behaviours were not tolerated anymore. This helped to instill a culture of self-awareness and understanding. Often, prejudice is based on ignorance so the obvious solution was to educate and open up a dialogue. The benefits of diversity in an organisation have long been recognised; a diverse mix of people bring different perspectives and a greater mix of life experience and skills.

In October 2019, I celebrated my 25 years of service! Looking back I can see how far we have come as an organisation. Through my personal journey, I too have come a long way. I have become a mentor for the department, a social mobility champion and a member of our Diversity and Inclusion network.

In Digital & Technology, we have a diverse gender representation at all grades and within leadership positions. We have also cultivated an environment where colleagues of all faiths are able to bring their whole selves to work without fear of prejudice or discrimination. 

Yes, I am a Muslim and yes I am a woman but most importantly I am Farhana.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Mohammed posted on

    Thank you Farhana, this is great piece.


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