This week’s featured Woman of Wisdom interview is with Dr. Farzana Chohan, Leadership IN Women Founder, Author, Toastmasters International Region Advisor from Toronto, Ontario, Canada
What/who inspires you?
My inspiration for “Leadership IN Women” comes from;
Life of my mother, women of all generations. My female cousins, who did not have the same opportunities as I did, and the lives of males who don’t get the equal opportunities in life to thrive.
Constellation of Mentors, I had and have, in my professional, leadership and personal life.
Experiencing the Grit, Emotional Intelligence and Empathy of human beings and specially of women to survive and thrive despite of odds stack in front of them.
What’s been the most surprising thing that has happened on your journey to Wisdom?
Journey of life in itself, is the most surprising thing, which has happened to me. Whenever there is a downturn, it leads to an unexpected upturn after that. Lesson learned is to keep moving forward.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
That I can help people in feeling better about themselves. I can offer a positive perspective on their professional competencies and their personal capabilities. That I am able to help women gain self-confidence, while navigating leadership challenges in professional and entrepreneurial life.
What, if anything, would you have done differently in your life?
Who I am is holistic. Where I was born, how I was raised, what I encountered, all of that has morphed me into who I have become as a human and a female. Out of many factors, my natural power of thinking, expressing myself and speaking up was diminished by this universal mindset that “women must not be heard”. In suppressing that power, I lost my confidence in my natural capabilities. I rediscovered myself, after joining the “communication and leadership skill development” organization. The confidence I regained tells me that, if I would have joined Toastmasters International some twenty years ago, that would have accelerated my leadership in larger world! And I sincerely mean it!
What things are most important to you now? Why? How have your dreams and goals changed through your life?
Starting in Architecture and working on health care projects, goal was to be a partner / owner of global architectural practice. It is rewarding, when you look at a completed project and say you were part of designing and building of this working / healing environment from start to finish. The more professional and academic experiences I gained, I noticed and felt the pain and sufferings of fellow humans in this twenty first century world. My dreams and goals are now focused on “making this world a thriving place for all.” I am just one human, have a clear understanding of my parameters, what I want at minimum is to try to make a difference and “Shift the Patriarchal Mindset” of humans towards each other and towards women.
Tell us about any community projects you are involved in and why you support them?
I am a Region Advisor for Toastmasters International. An organization that helps in developing communication and leadership skills. It is difficult to put in words, the impact of Toastmasters work on an individual’s life. When I joined, my plan was to leave after 6 months. What made me stay in the organization were handful of Mentors, who believed in my capabilities. The positive support and the gradual development of confidence, very subtly made me stay and to take up higher leadership roles. This is all volunteer work. I support them, because I honestly think that more people of all ages, colors and backgrounds must benefit from them. It is a unique organization and when members follow the values, they truly help in building a positive and confident human. Second, reason is to help more people like myself to benefit from the impact of this organization.
If you had the power to solve one and only one problem in the world, what would it be and why?
Suffering of human by another human! Even though, we are living at the peak of civilization in terms of wealth and technological advancement, still we have the mindset of putting people into different class system, boxing them in the blink of an eye, treating them differently and not giving a chance to develop. This leads to misery of minds and if we can solve this problem, we will make world a thriving place.
What advice would you give your younger self?
That, Life will be ok, no matter how bad it feels right now.
What do you do for fun/relaxation?
I like helping and meeting with people. I do Photography, go for Yoga and spend Quiet time in self-reflection!
What’s next for you (or what’s left on your “bucket list”)
Travel around the world! Meet as many humans as possible. Have a stamp of all the countries in the world, on my passport. See seven wonders of the world!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Quiet” by Susan Cain. We are living in the world of loudness, social media ratings and provocation. We must read this book to remember the power of silence, as it grows individual thinking capacity and helps in dealing with life.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One Strategy which has been useful in continue to advocate for leadership development and mentoring, is the practice of GRIT.
There are lots of ups and downs in any business. And when your business is your passion, meaning you whole-heartedly believe that the work you are doing is important for you and for larger community, then that helps in moving forward. When Women start a new initiative, they encounter self-doubt, imposter syndrome and lack of support from near and dear ones. The nay-sayers will tell them “why this is a bad idea” or “not feasible to make living”. At that moment, take a mental step-back, remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing and what will be the larger impact of this endeavor. My work of advocacy for “Leadership IN Women”, I am told it is an idea, another feminist concept and many more are on this bandwagon. While I know in my heart that my focus is not on gender differences, it is not women versus men.
As I continue to receive wonderful mentoring and support from men and women. My work is about “Shifting the Mindset” when it comes to leadership of highly qualified women in non-traditional and traditional fields. The “Patriarchal Mindset” which is ingrained in our human brains, regardless of gender. I remind myself that I must continue what I am doing, as that is the way we will start minimizing the leadership challenges which are faced by women universally and specifically by younger generation.
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