I met Mumtaz a few months ago and was immediately impressed. It was a privilege to interview her for this profile and my pleasure to report that she will be one of our regular contributors in future issues of the 3rdimagazine, developing her professional and personal perspective for women within today’s UK Asian community.
She describes her early self as being the “sensible, academic, hardworking non-rebellious eldest daughter of four siblings” and because of her parent’s understanding of the value of a good education she was encouraged to study law at University. She received support from her parents and studied hard, successfully passing her exams & went on to qualify as a solicitor.
“There was an element of expectation but not too much specific guidance from my parents. Typically Asian girls that wanted to pursue a professional career were encouraged to become lawyers or doctors. I did just this but whilst I was generally aware of my academic capabilities I was also aware that I was not reaching my full potential. I kind of ‘went through the system’.”
It is testament to her character and commitment that she not only qualified to become a practicing solicitor but also enjoyed brief sortees into acting and modelling. Shortly afterwards she encountered a common dilemma facing many professional women – that of professional success v family and children. This also highlighted a strong cultural conflict but for Mumtaz, the family element proved to be the stronger calling and she decided to take a career break.
“Having children and becoming a mum ticked every box for me”, she expands, “I am so happy being a Mum and the fulfilment and contentment that this gives me has strongly influenced the way that I work. I realised as soon as I became a mum that being a Mum satisfies that part of me that wants to help and to nurture, and I can and do use my personal ethics in my professional life. The area of Law that I eventually focussed on, (after trying corporate law, family law, criminal law and other areas of the legal profession) is civil law. This area of law allows me to adopt and follow through on my personal ethics of helping people to achieve a win-win. I am very much a ‘win/win’ solicitor and my holistic approach ensures that even where my clients are facing challenging scenarios with which they must contend, my conciliatory approach as their solicitor ensures that they feel as though they have benefitted even if on paper they may not necessarily have “won”. Wherever possible, it is this holistic approach to my life and work which permeates everything I do, think and say. It’s a way of life for me.”
After taking a career-break following the birth of her two children in quick succession, Mumtaz secured a Board Directorship with a Manchester based Regeneration Initiative, working alongside with Manchester City Council, the Home Office and Paul Boateng MP (amongst others) on projects addressing the issues faced by black and ethnic minority communities to encourage stronger integration into mainstream community activities in areas such as business, health, education and crime-prevention measures.
On completion of this role, she went back into the legal world and worked as a solicitor for a small South London firm which rapidly grew into one of the largest legal conglomerates in the UK. She was rapidly promoted to senior manager level, with her career progression culminating in her being asked to participate in a major project involving the successful collaboration between her law firm and an internationally renowned Insurance Company.
“I was very lucky because despite working in a high- pressure environment as a single-mum with two small children, my firm that showed me fantastic support and flexibility. It was quite possibly the best experience a professional single mum could have; very stressful and demanding but I loved it. I had a great boss who not only recognised my potential but who really supported my work/life balance as a working single-parent.”
Mumtaz moved from Croydon to the North West as a working mum with 2 young children and frequently had to decline corporate offers for her to join their organisations. “The packages where there but the flexibility was not” and so she decided to run her own legal practice.
In 2010 after making the decision to close her legal practise after 4 successful years, Mumtaz met a lady that she had been keen to connect with; a woman that ran a radio station. “I feel very strongly that God was guiding me and that meeting with the owner of the station was no coincidence” The connection proved immensely valuable as just a few weeks later Mumtaz was asked to present a “Health and Healing” Show on Redshift Radio, which she does twice weekly and introduces and discusses many aspects of health & spirituality and well being in her unique, inquiring and professional manner.
Having appeared a couple of times on Mumtaz’s show I can speak with personal experience of this.
I asked Mumtaz what is her inspiration & her great motivation?
“My children. To be the best parent that I can be. We bring children into this World and we have a responsibility to them.” I note that she says “to them” and not “for them”; the standard social response to parenthood these days. ‘A responsiblilty to them’ – I like that. She continues;
“I also want to be the best Mumtaz that I can be. I believe that being here, on this World at this moment, is a blessing. We are all channels for Gods light; that is our purpose. When you realise that, everything takes on a different meaning. When you have faith in yourself and in your convictions and believe that everything happens for a reason, things just flow. Every person is a channel delivering a message. I see it this way, there are over 7 billion people on the planet, but we cannot possibly meet all 7 billion of them, and therefore I believe that everyone we meet has a message for us. We are meant to meet them; there is a reason for it, and we need to be aware of this, pay attention & be awake to the messages that are being delivered to us every day.”
I asked if there was a specific issue facing Asian women today.
“I can only speak for myself but I would say, ‘be proud to stand up and be counted’. This is what works for me and is not necessarily an approach that will work for everyone, but I have always tried to assimilate my Asian culture into my personal, parental and professional progress. This is me standing in my own Truth. I strongly believe that we should all speak, think and behave our own Truth.”
“I would like to encourage all Asian women to do this; to integrate into the host wider community whilst simultaneously maintaining the inherited cultural standards and principles. Sometimes it seems to me that 2nd and 3rd generation Asian women and girls have forgotten and sadly, sometimes consciously discarded their cultural connections and roots. This can create a loss of dignity in these young girls and women”
“I understand the need to belong and to build an identity and to carve a niche in a new culture; but in trying to belong to the wider community, it seems as though some have jettisoned their connection with their core community. I fully support and wholeheartedly encourage inclusivity and integration; all I’m saying is don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. I appreciate that many of the practises and lifestyle choices of our mothers and grandmothers may not suit the lifestyle of the 21st Century Asian woman living in the UK , but don’t let it all go. Maintaining that connection with and respecting our cultural roots and heritage is the key to feeling that we belong, and that’s one of the key human needs. My view is that if we remember where we came from with a sense of pride and respect, then the task of moving forward in a world that is essentially alien to our mothers and grandmothers, can be accommodated and embraced with a profound & unshakeable sense of innate confidence and self-assurance. ”
In line with her passionate views on helping people Mumtaz is also a mentor for 15 & 16 year old girls, as part of an initiative to highlight the many varied career and lifestyle options that are available to young teens who may not have this information easily available to them.
She has also spoken before an invited audience of the need to support victims of domestic aggression and fully supports any projects that seek to eradicate this.
As part of Manchester’s celebration for the 100 year anniversary of International Women’s Day in 2011 Mumtaz was selected as one of 50 women in Manchester “Most Likely to Make an Impact”
I asked if she had any specific advice at this moment?
“In the final analysis it is all about personal choice and this is mine: Respect your roots, acknowledge your roots and stay connected to your roots. Your sense of belonging and your search for that place in your heart where you belong will be found where your roots are so do not detach from them.”
And it was around this theme that I asked for a role model?
“Me! I am my own role model. I did look around and could not find one so I found me and created my own ‘niche’, where I respect myself, I respect others and I do the best I can with the knowledge and information that’s available to me at any given time.”
It was a pleasure to talk with Mumtaz and I am delighted to welcome her into the 3rdi community. I know that she will provide us with inspirational and informative pieces with her unique approach to the issues facing UK’s Asian women. I very much look forward to her future columns.
Interview by Business Editor, Phil Birch