How It All Began

The concept behind the creation of the networking group was to provide an inclusive free to access platform for professional Muslim women to support, learn, and develop within a network of other like-minded Muslim women from diverse industries.

Pass the Mic Sis was established in May 2017 in response to the need for a Professional Muslim women’s networking event series, that was inclusive and accessible for all, without cost of memberships and commitment to attend every session (although it’s lovely to see sisters attend regularly!). Here is Founder, Sadiqa Jabbar’s reflection on how we were formed.

The seeds of the Pass the Mic Sis roots were planted at the end of 2016 during a company Business Development CPD day. During the session there was a call to action for fee earning staff to step up their game to assist with bringing in business leads. I don’t belong to a network of people who would necessarily provide the type of work the company undertakes, so the thought was ‘how on earth would I be able to bring business leads?’ To add to this I had recently taken my final qualification exam a few days earlier, so there was no gently easing into the role of an architect from an assistant. Talk about a ‘rabbit caught in headlights’ moment!

With this in mind the concept of networking to expand my contacts came to fruit. To contextualise this, I am a genuine network-phobe especially within the industry. When attending lectures talks and exhibitions, once the main event is over, I will literally run out as soon as the networking ‘drinks’ portion of the evening begins.

The problem here was two-fold. Firstly the networking anxiety heralds from deep-rooted issues of identity, being a relatively short, ethnic minority woman, who is visibly Muslim. Considering the current social-political environment, being genuinely accepted and valued by industry peers is highly important to me. We can no longer avoid the issue by brushing it aside in guise of being politically correct or declaring we live in times of secular equality, which immediately indirectly erases one’s right to belong to multiple forms of community groups. Highly debatable, although frankly mates, it’s the reality.

Secondly, this outward dilemma of perceptions, acceptance and inclusion at industry events, doesn’t mix so well with the internal anxiety of not being a natural small-talk generator amongst a room full of strangers. Coming from a straight talker, small talk gets a bit monotonous and boring, imagine saying the same thing over and over again. I am more for a single meaningful conversation than many small-talk chats. The question is how does one make it fun and meaningful at the same time?

With all these issues running through my head, I unintentionally pressured myself into thinking that I had to fit in with the industry norm of how and when one should network and for what purpose. Over the coming months I considered my options and realised that instead of trying to become something or someone I am not, I should identify with who I am and use networking as a tool that works for me, not the other way round. I had to think outside the box and be more creative in my approach.

So with these new energised self-motivating thoughts, I began with my comfort zone, women, and more so Muslim women. I looked online for networking groups for Muslim women. Through the search I found the SMART Women group on the social site Meetup, which catered to working Muslim women. Through social activities, I began for the first time in a long time, if not ever, meeting other Muslim women from a diverse range of professional sectors. Wow, I thought.

It was great to begin with as I was networking in a social capacity and as most can testify, potential clients can be found in the must unpredictable situations. It was an eye-opener, as I have never really worked with other Muslims let alone Muslim women during my architectural career to date. It felt good to meet like-minded Muslimahs with some shared experiences. However with the company’s call to action still in the back of my head, I felt that needed to take this a step further.

So I posed a question to the ladies within the WhatsApp group if anyone would be up for business-oriented meets to talk through work and career related issues within a professional setting rather than coffee shops (where it was difficult to conduct a conversation). With quite a few sisters interested a group was formed, a venue generously offered, and date arranged for our first networking event on Bank Holiday Monday 1st May 2017. Alhumdulillah.

The concept behind the creation of the networking group was to provide an inclusive free to access platform for professional Muslim women to support, learn, and develop within a network of other like-minded Muslim women from diverse industries. Many of us don’t work with other Muslims let alone Muslim women so having this support network has proven to be a breath of fresh air for many of us, Alhumdulillah. We hope that sisters will find the network to collaborate and generate opportunities or redirect to specialist support if and when required, in shaa Allah.

FB_IMG_1528246125820

During the course of our first year we were able to reach sisters from a wide range of professional fields; doctors, psychologists, solicitors, architects, IT professionals, charity workers, teachers to scientists to name a few. Some sisters are single and either living with family or have moved to London for work/studies, while others are married with and without children. We feel we have a good mix of cultural backgrounds to create a richer more holistic fusion of perspectives during our discussion segments. Naturally newfound friendships were formed and a sense of a familial community created.

Interests vary and over time we had some sisters become regular attendees, some topics tended to be more naturally popular while others became intimate focus groups with more in depth conversations had. The choices of topics were based initially on the Founder’s interests, although we adapted and provided sessions over time requested by sisters through feedback received.

On our first birthday, we launched our online presence with digital branding created by #Cre8tivePixels. This has enabled us to reach a wider audience and establish ourselves within the Professional Muslim Women community.

Our most popular sessions tended to be those where sisters were able to learn about a new topic and engage in conversation-style discussion segments. We realised that these sessions were important platforms for Muslims sisters to gather and talk. It is important to provide platforms and facilitate, Muslim women to talk freely within a network of sisters who understand the sensibilities of being a female Muslim. It is just as important to be able to do so in a safe, empowering and uplifting environment that will not compromise our Islamic principles.

During our second year thanks to the brilliant networking by our Events & Membership Manager Attia Ali, we were able to obtain a venue to host all our events. We are humbly thankful to #RegentsPlace for enabling this to happen. As any event planner may concur, the venue is one of the most critical elements to nail! Alhumdulillah.

Approaching our third year, we recently launched our fortnightly book club beginning with Muhammad (saw): 11 Leadership Qualities that Changed the World by late brother #NabeelAlAzami (may Allah grant him a place in Jannat-ul-Firdous. Ameen). It is a fantastic book and quite apt for the period in which we began reading this. We begin 2020 with #YasminMojahed’s inspirational Reclaim Your Heart.

Our aim for the coming years is to reach a wider range of Professional Muslim Women at various levels of experience across all sectors by using social media to publicise future events. We are hoping to attract more guest speakers to add value to the events and topics we organise with follow up sessions from the previous year. In shaa Allah!

Networking for Building and Maintaining Professional Relationships

This successful session focused on the challenges faced by Muslim women when it comes to networking at respective industry gatherings. From social customs to male dominated industries, most sisters in attendance agreed that as Muslim women the challenges we face are three-fold; firstly as women, secondly our diverse cultural backgrounds, and thirdly our Muslim identity.

Date: Saturday 4th November 2017

Time 3-5pm

Location: Vauxhall

This successful session focused on the challenges faced by Muslim women when it comes to networking at respective industry gatherings. From social customs to male dominated industries, most sisters in attendance agreed that as Muslim women the challenges we face are three-fold; firstly as women, secondly our diverse cultural backgrounds, and thirdly our Muslim identity.

This leads to having to overcome internal pressures and barriers placed by both ourselves and society leading to issues with mental health, lack of confidence, conviction and communication skills. Imagine juggling all or some of these while trying to navigate a room full of people with whom one shares little or no common ground.

We were honoured to have Siobhan Fitzpatrick as our first guest speaker, who made it all the way from Ireland especially to meet us and relay some of her experience and expertise in networking. She wrote an interesting article Allergic to Networking? which was perfect to start discussions.

Siobhan was very warm and gracious in how she listened and involved everyone in the session and gave some useful feedback which many of the sisters, including myself, tried out. The sisters who attended appreciated the presence of and external guest speaker, and expert in her field to give us her time and advice.

 

Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work

The session highlighted how much of a taboo mental health is within the Muslim community and society at large. To the extent that most affected will not reveal their condition to employers and recruiters for fear of losing their livelihoods and/or not being selected for potential opportunities.

Date: Saturday 30th September 2017

Time: 3-5pm

Location: Vauxhall

Our most popular event so far has been the Mental Health and Wellbeing session where we had a panel of sisters talking about their experiences of going through depression and various forms of mental health issues and how they dealt with it in two different ways; one sister actively sought medical help to treat her problems while the other found alternative means and self-help methods.

The session highlighted how much of a taboo mental health is within the Muslim community and society at large. To the extent that most affected will not reveal their condition to employers and recruiters for fear of losing their livelihoods and/or not being selected for potential opportunities.

The discussions that followed evoked emotions and sense of unity amongst the sisters who attended was heart-warming. The feeling of trust and openness of all proved why Pass the Mic Sis is an important platform to enable such conversations to happen in a safe and trusted group of sisters.

We will be following up this session in the coming months to take our discussions further to focus directly on how stress and mental health issues affect Muslim women in the workplace. Keep your eyes peeled for dates.

Introduction to Social Media for Professional Networking and Business Development

This session was packed with lots of information for sisters to take away. We looked at the concept of social media from its root within the marketing strategy of the business plan, the various platforms available for use within a professional context, finding out who the target market is and catering the content posted to their interests and needs, whilst maintaining the integrity and ethos of one’s own business/individual goals.

Date: Saturday 5th August 2017

Time: 3-5pm

Location: Canary Wharf

This session was packed with lots of information for sisters to take away. We looked at the concept of social media from its root within the marketing strategy of the business plan, the various platforms available for use within a professional context, finding out who the target market is and catering the content posted to their interests and needs, whilst maintaining the integrity and ethos of one’s own business/individual goals.

We explored the optimal times to post within each selected platform; we covered the most popular ones notably, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. Online tools worth looking into to help monitor and manage posts across these platforms include Buffer, Hootsuite and Trello. The ultimate goal for social media is to create business leads and direct traffic to one’s website, and thus improve it’s search engine optimisation (SEO).

As with every successful strategy one needs to research, plan, practice, and evaluate; what worked, what could have been better and something to think about next time. Then continue the cycle by doing further research or going back to plan again. The idea is that social media isn’t static, it needs to constantly be reviewed and adapted to retain, maintain and grow a loyal online following.

The aim of the session was to show the sisters in attendance that social media can be used professionally for business or career development purposes if utilised effectively in a strategic and well thought out way. We succeeded in convincing one sister to create a LinkedIn account as a great way to search for and be found for potential new roles. As the one presenting this information to the sisters, I followed this through at work to help further develop the social media strategy for the practice I work with during the day!

Inspirational Role Models 2: Influential Muslim Women

The ladies who attended valued the presentation of female Muslim role models and it evoked a great discussion on the experiences of sisters in the workplace based on their Muslim identities. The session felt important and the networking group valued for bringing together Muslim women to provide support and network within a comfortable group of sisters who genuinely understood.

Date: Saturday 8th July 2017

Time: 3-5pm

Location: Farringdon

This was a popular session during which we explored four different inspirational Muslim women. Our two historic examples included Khadijah (raa) and the Queen of Sheba. Both in their own way show how Muslim women can be leaders, business women, articulate, respected, all while maintaining their morals and empathy towards others.

The late Zaha Hadid and Ibtihaj Muhammad comprised our contemporary influential Muslim women. They both did groundbreaking work in their respective fields and as role models for future architects and sportswomen from the Muslim community.

This session was particularly important due to the nature of the way Muslim women are misrepresented by a wide variety of stakeholders from all sectors of society. It is time we stood up and raised our own voices as Muslim women. As Susan Carland rightly wrote in her piece for the Guardian online last year, “If you want to know about Muslim women’s rights, ask Muslim women”!

The ladies who attended valued the presentation of female Muslim role models and it evoked a great discussion on the experiences of sisters in the workplace based on their Muslim identities. The session felt important and the networking group valued for bringing together Muslim women to provide support and network within a comfortable group of sisters who genuinely understood.

Inspirational Role Models 1: Who inspires us and why?

The intimate nature of the group size enabled the session to turn into a focus group to identify potential topics to discuss at future events, the most appropriate time (i.e. after lunch to avoid rumbling stomachs!) and the format.

Date: Saturday 13th May 2017

Time: 12-2pm

Location: Farringdon

The theme of our second session was Inspirational Role Models: Who inspires us and why? The idea was to ensure that we are aware of the variety of fields and industries in which Muslim women have entered and are excelling in. It was a good opportunity to find out who our role models currently are and if we as Muslim women look up to other Muslim women as role models or if there are others in our lives whom we naturally adopt.

The intimate nature of the group size enabled the session to turn into a focus group to identify potential topics to discuss at future events, the most appropriate time (i.e. after lunch to avoid rumbling stomachs!) and the format.

It was a good point to test an introduction presentation laying the mission statement and vision for Pass the Mic Sis and the origins from where it all began. As a fledgling event series it was important to find out what the sisters would like to achieve and gain from attending the sessions to ensure a level of professionalism is maintained.

 

#PasstheMicsSis #PtMSis #inspirationalrolemodels #professionalmuslimwomen #owningourownvoices #unityinsisterhood #businessoriented #eventseries #networking #supportnetwork #support #network #learn #develop #career #business #entrepreneur #professionaldevelopment #personaldevelopment #businessdevelopment #careerdevelopment #workingwomen #workingmuslimwomen

Networking for Professional Muslim Women

The point of the session was to introduce ourselves to and meet other like-minded (or not) Professional Muslim Women and to provide a platform for support and networking. Many of us did not work with other Muslims, let alone Muslim women.

Date: Bank Holiday Monday 1st May 2017

Time: 12-2pm

Location: Canary Wharf

Our first event was a preliminary session to establish a group of sisters, identify the needs and introduce ourselves in regards our professional backgrounds and experiences.It was held within the offices of one of the attendees in Canary Wharf, 12-2pm.

One of the core concepts for formulating the group to ensure every attendee was given a voice through a timed elevator pitch in a pecha kucha (continuous non-stop) format. Each sister was given 3-minutes to say who she is, what she does and why she attended the session. The working name of the group at the time, formed via WhatsApp, was ‘Elevator Pitch Networking‘.

The point of the session was to introduce ourselves to and meet other like-minded (or not) Professional Muslim Women and to provide a platform for support and networking. Many of us did not work with other Muslims, let alone Muslim women.

The need arose from the very few networking groups in London for Professional Muslim Women. Many industry events tend to be held in the evenings, involve alcohol and social events not necessarily inline with our Islamic principles. Many of us found it very difficult to navigate ourselves during industry networking events due to cultural and social aspects of such meetups.

The session was successful as altogether 10 ladies turned up within the office of one of the attendees which amplified the professional nature of the networking event. What it conveyed was the variety of the fields within which Muslim women work. It helped identify the best time to meet and the idea of continuing discussions over lunch was much appreciated.

#PasstheMicsSis #PtMSis #professionalmuslimwomen #owningourownvoices #unityinsisterhood #businessoriented #eventseries #networking #supportnetwork #support #network #learn #develop #career #business #entrepreneur #professionaldevelopment #personaldevelopment #businessdevelopment #careerdevelopment #workingwomen #workingmuslimwomen