Empowering approaches to build leadership for immigrant and refugee women

posted on March 8, 2021

March 2, 2021

By Sara Asalya, Women of Influence

I have been reflecting a lot lately about my experiences in Canadian workplaces when I was a newcomer to Canada. Back then, I was not aware of my rights. I wanted to provide for my family, and I was told by my colleagues to never complain or speak up, otherwise I would be fired.

The more I know about worker’s rights and women’s struggles in accessing, remaining, and ascending in the workplace, the more I realize that what I experienced was employer exploitation, abuse of power, microaggression, racism, and micromanagement at its best. Being in a toxic workplace environment has impacted my self-esteem, confidence, and the ability to believe in myself, or to even think that I am fit to be in leadership roles — let alone how these experiences have impacted my mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.

As a racialized visible Muslim and immigrant woman, I was made to feel that I don’t qualify to be a leader. I was made to feel that the system was never designed for me or for the people who looked like me. I was made to feel that no one will ever get my back or even champion me.

We are meant to feel different, that we don’t fit, we don’t belong, and we don’t have the skills or knowledge needed to really assume leadership roles. Our credentials are devalued, and we are often experiencing deskilling and underemployment.

Read more