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Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

MSA Hosts “Women in Leadership” Panel with Success Seekers

Pictured left to right (Khalil, Farooqi, Clark, Qurashi, Mudessir)

Having a role model is one of the most beneficial things a person can have to catapult themselves to success. To provide that for students at Niles West, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) hosted a women’s leadership panel on Tuesday, April 30, in collaboration with Success Seekers, a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower ambitious girls to be leaders – founded by Ayra Mudessir.

The panel included four women in leadership from various fields who spoke about their personal and professional journeys. Among them were Tabassum Qurashi, a Niles West alum and product manager at Porsche; Amber Farooqi, a business coach and consultant and author; Tiana Clark an Air Force veteran and professor at the Northwestern University Kellogg School and Samone Khalil, a Northwestern University graduate.

The panelists answered questions asked anonymously by attendees, shedding light on everything from career secrets and struggles they faced due to their identities.

Khalil, who decided to major in integrated marketing at Northwestern, discussed how she didn’t fit the career path that society had set for her.

“My mom’s a doctor, my dad’s in business, my grandfather’s a doctor, so there’s a lot of pressure to fit into the mold of medicine.  I was actually Poli-Sci [and] Pre-Law freshman year of college and I realized that I don’t need to be society’s mold and I don’t need to fit in. I think it’s hard too, being a Muslim Brown woman who has immigrant parents and trying to find your path,” Khalil said.

Farooqi also discussed how her age was both an obstacle and an advantage to her career.  When she was 16 or 17 years old, she started a successful fitness coaching business and wanted to transition to business coaching when she was 20.  However, she wasn’t taken seriously because of her age. Farooqi decided to turn this into an advantage, arguing that because she was part of Generation Z, she was more well-versed in creating a strong personal brand and social media presence.  This was an asset to business owners who were older and needed to use social media effectively.

For Mudessir, starting her nonprofit was very personal for her and her community. As a Muslim woman, she wants to provide for Muslim girls what they commonly lack: a role model who looks like them.

“We recently wanted to expand to have panels and events at local high schools just to continue our mission of building community and get more girls involved because I feel like there’s a huge lack of support for ambitious girls, especially in our Muslim community,” Mudessir said.

Mudessir contacted an MSA board member with the idea and MSA sponsor Ainee Fatima agreed to host the panel. Fatima’s sister, Qurashi, was a panelist.

“We wanted to really make something that was focusing on young Muslim women and women in leadership so they could talk about how to harness their skills in the hopes that all girls would feel inspired.  My sister [Tabassum Qurashi] is a panelist and alum of Niles West so that really made it local and I feel like it’s like they’re able to be like ‘Oh, I can do that,'” Fatima said.

The panelists wanted to pass down their advice to inspire and empower Muslim girls through mentorship.

“I just really care about mentorship. So many mentors helped me, and I just want to pay it forward. That’s the culture at Kellogg. All the second-years help the students so that’s something that I’m doing at Niles West. And I also feel like as a Niles West student, I never really was exposed to women in active leadership positions so the fact that you got access to people like this, it just makes me so happy,” Qurashi said.

Junior Nabiah Sheikh, an attendee, found the panel impressive and inspiring.

“Immediately, my jaw was dropped. At first, I didn’t think this was necessarily going to be something that was important, not necessarily important, but something I didn’t know if I should spend time on it. But seeing all these amazing people I was so inspired just being here, just being able to listen to everyone’s advice, it was an amazing experience,” Sheikh said.

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