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03 March 2020

When I was in secondary school in the ’80s, careers education involved a questionnaire which, if you were female, usually came to the conclusion that you were most suited to a secretarial or child-care role.

If you were lucky, or as in my case unlucky enough to get some one-to-one advice from a careers teacher, the options as a young woman of ethnic minority seemed even more limited. As a woman of Pakistani Muslim background, first generation British-born, it was assumed that I would be forcefully married at the age of 16 and did not ‘qualify’ for careers advice.

I was really keen to expand on my love of graphic design and art. I aspired to be an architect or graphic designer, indeed I even managed to find work experience at a graphic design studio while at school. I was advised that I should probably opt for one of the ‘more suitable’ placements at a bank or building society. I was headstrong, stuck to my guns and really got a lot from my 2 weeks’ work experience at Design House in Camden.

I was determined to follow a career along those lines and got some great advice from people at my placement. The following year, however, I bowed to pressure and ended up at a placement at a building society. Eventually, years later and after marriage, I went into a childcare role.

I did somewhat fall under the pressure of expectation of those around me who decided what a ‘suitable job’ was for a woman and one of my background. I wished I had the support of those who could have guided me when it really would have made a difference.

I am really thankful now, that careers advice at schools and youth organisations has moved on for women and especially for those of ethnic minorities. I may have a career of my choosing. My daughters have had the opportunities and support from the people around them to follow their aspirations and have been able to challenge those who expected them to follow a certain career path because of their gender or background.

I support the young women around me equally – whatever their background; but especially those who may be told that they are ‘not suited’ for a certain career. To guide them to be strong and to challenge those stereotypes and broaden perceptions to improve career prospects for themselves.

How will you support #EachforEqual?


– Shaz, Youth Action Support Officer