Our thinking

From Hidden Gems to Bold Inclusion: The Power of Small Gestures

As we mark International Women's Day under the theme of 'inspiring inclusion,' I pause to contemplate my personal journey as a woman of Muslim heritage in engineering.

Ever been the only woman in a room that seemed to overlook the whole 'inclusion' thing? Yeah, been there, done that! Let's just say I didn't last long before I had to wave goodbye! To me, inclusion means levelling the playing field so that every individual, regardless of their background or identity, has an equal shot at climbing the corporate ladder – envision it as the Olympics of office life. It requires being ready to challenge stereotypes, biases, and discrimination whenever they surface. It entails creating a secure environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their experiences and voicing their concerns.

Office Team Jasmin Qistina Owen Flynn
Office Team Inspire Inclusion

It's important to acknowledge how far we’ve come when it comes down to fostering women’s inclusion in the office and my personal experience of stumbling upon sanitary products in the office bathroom felt like discovering a hidden gem! While it may seem minor, it's a clear sign that someone is actively working to minimize discomfort in the workplace. I'm confident I speak for women everywhere when I say these gestures make us feel valued and welcomed. After all, it's the little things that truly matter.

Although I consider myself fortunate to have experienced a more inclusive workplace environment in my current role, there is still quite a long way for us to go, especially considering all the other forms of diversity.

Reflecting on a pivotal moment during my early days at Engenuiti a colleague's simple yet profound gesture left a lasting impact on me. With genuine respect for my Muslim identity, she initiated a conversation about the presence of alcohol in the office, acknowledging the nuances of my beliefs. This small act of understanding resonated deeply, especially as a young professional navigating the working world. It reaffirmed my sense of belonging and value within the workplace, highlighting the importance of embracing all forms of diversity.

Now, let's talk about religious celebrations. Christmas? Yeah, it's the star of the show, no doubt. But let's not forget about Ramadan, Eid, Diwali, and all the other shindigs out there! We've got a whole buffet of cultural events, and sharing the spotlight makes the office feel like one big, happy family. So, here's to inclusivity – because whether you're decking the halls or fasting through the day, we're all in this together.

And on that note, as we brace ourselves for the month of Ramadan, a time of spiritual reflection and fasting for Muslims worldwide, I can't help but chuckle at the recurring question that pops up like clockwork: "Not even water?", a question that highlights genuine curiosity but also signals a dire need for a crash course in Ramadan 101.

Office Team Social CAT Games
Office Team Social CAT Bale Qistina Jamie Jasmin

The simple answer is yes – during Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink, including water, from dawn until sunset. It's not just a feat of physical endurance but a spiritual marathon aimed at honing self-discipline, empathy, and gratitude. And let me tell you, it's no walk in the park, especially when the fasting hours stretch on for approximately 16 hours a day (and a whopping 19 hours at one point in the summer). Talk about a true test of willpower!

But I've got to say, having more women in the office totally changes the working environment so I know a 16-hour fast won't feel like 16 hours this time around. Admittedly, I’ve grown to cherish my occasional lunchtime strolls and cosy corner conversations with some of the women in the office, where we've spent more than our fair share of time discussing Taylor Swift and bonding over our shared love for her music.

If there's one key takeaway from my experiences, it's the importance of recognising the nuanced dynamics in today's workplaces. Being the only woman in a room that lacked true inclusion taught me profound lessons in resilience and the importance of representation. I understand the sting of being disregarded or dismissed, and the lack of support in such settings not only dampened my spirits but also undercuts the potential I believe I have. This shows that there is still quite a long way to go, and as we navigate through a fast-changing world, we need to remain committed to celebrating diversity, and amplifying the voices of the minority in a workplace. It's through our collective efforts, both large and small, that we can foster an environment where differences are not only acknowledged but embraced.

By Qistina Zainal