5 minutes with… Farhanah Iqbal

Who are the people that make inclusion an everyday reality? This feature gives you the chance to find out more about the team behind Inclusive Employers - our values, stories, motivations, and inspirations.

This month we here from Farhanah Iqbal, one of our Senior Inclusion and Diversity Consultants.

1) Can you tell us how you came to be in your role?

Understanding the human experience has always been deeply rooted in how I navigate life; how we see ourselves and each other, how we build society, and the renaissance that comes with each lifetime.

I have worked in the mental health sector for most of my career. This gave me incredibly formative moments through a spectrum of emotions; humility, compassion, pain, frustration, joy, pride, and everything in between. Reaching senior leadership positions and being involved in service design, I became acutely aware of the disparity in people’s access to healthcare, education and employment. I was also always acutely aware of my own “otherness” in these spaces.

Alongside my very full-on job managing multiple services and teams, I was placed as the county wide lead on equality, diversity and inclusion. This included local as well as national interventions. Doing this opened my eyes to the world of Inclusion and Diversity as a dedicated field, so I took the unpredictable step into the unknown of pursuing it solely.

I gained experience across sectors, including criminal justice and higher education, as well as in a personal voluntary capacity. I realised just how crucial and transferable that range of expertise could be to support people and organisations. When the opportunity for Senior Consultant at Inclusive Employers came up, it was the perfectly serendipitous fit.

2) Can you share an ‘inclusion moment’ with us – a time when you have felt included either at work or in your personal life?

When people check with me how to pronounce my name, without making it seem like my name is the problem. The simple gesture of someone “just checking” how to pronounce it out of respect, or if they’re pronouncing it correctly, goes so far in correcting years of awkward pauses in calling registers, mocking and careless mispronunciation. There is so much power in checking in.

3) What do you love most about your role?

The meaningful connections. So much of our waking hours are spent in our job roles, it can often feel a shame to constantly be “working for the weekend”.

I’m thankful to have a role that works towards harmonising the human experience. Being naturally quite a private yet deeply spiritual person, working with people with such a wide range of backgrounds and practices who share so much of themselves is so enriching.

It’s a beautiful thing to have levity and the minutiae of the day-to-day grounded in the bigger picture goal of working towards a more equitable society.

4) What is a typical day like for you?

There is no typical day! Consultancy can take so many varied forms; for me it’s being open, curious and creative in responding to client’s organisational needs. Outside of that, I will be researching and designing, delivering workshops and training, innovating new projects, and catching up with clients and colleagues.

5) What’s been you most memorable moment in your inclusion career?

My life, personally and professionally, has taught me that we shouldn’t underestimate the power we have to affirm the humanity and dignity of the people around us. We owe this to ourselves first in order for us to be a vessel for those around us.  

A particular moment that stands out and has shaped my outlook is connecting with the idea of honouring one’s boundaries. Saying “no” to what no longer serves us or isn’t aligned with our values creates room to say “yes” to the things that do. So that ultimately, we can be invested in meeting people in the totality of their humanity.

To meet more people that make inclusion an everyday reality, see our full series of “5 minutes with…”