The 11-year-old Saleema Kauser would be surprised to see her adult self at home in the corridors of the Alliance Manchester Business School. Throughout her childhood in the 1980s, growing up in a traditional household and community where many women did not go out to work, she didn't encounter many role models that might lead her to think of herself as an academic.
Today, Dr Saleema Kauser, Lecturer and researcher in Organisational Strategy and Business Ethics, works hard to redress that balance: “I hope that I am helping young women to feel valued, have a sense of belonging and increasing their self-worth. I hope that I inspire women from South Asian communities to reimagine and change their lives. I hope that young female students see me as supportive and a strong leader for women – these are things that I care about.”
“I hope that I can inspire women from South Asian communities to reimagine and change their lives.”
Examining inequality during a pandemic
Saleema’s research focuses on gender and feminist ethics, particularly within a non-western context. Recently she has been involved with a British Academy Analysis project looking into the inequalities facing Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups of women in the NHS who have been impacted by COVID-19.
“The pandemic highlighted to everyone the unquestionable inequalities that face men and women working on the frontlines across the globe,” explains Saleema. ”I got to know from my family, friends and wider community, the confusion and fear of the virus among Asian families.”
“We know from past experiences of pandemics that women will be most affected, particularly among ethnic minority groups. I wanted to understand how women from these communities were disproportionately being affected under the current conditions of COVID-19. I just felt ethically obligated to do something.”
“I think it will build the courage that they need to stand up and say ‘I deserve better than this’.”
Inspiring women through coaching
‘Doing something’ is what seems to come naturally to Saleema. Her commitment to empowering women and acting as a role model manifests through her work with a local pro bono coaching initiative, Queen Bee Coaching, which works to support women from a diverse range of backgrounds to become exceptional leaders within Greater Manchester.
She is also a board member for the Pankhurst Trust and Manchester Women’s Aid, which supports women and girls facing domestic violence and abuse.
“As a member of the Board of Directors it distresses me to see the number of women from South Asian backgrounds who experience domestic violence and abuse. It has made me realise that we need to bring to light these issues in academia; the more that young women hear stories of women who have faced and are facing domestic abuse, the more young women will actually see real people talking about their problems. I think it will build the courage that they need to stand up and say ‘I deserve better than this’."
Saleema’s primary reflection on her position as a role model is that she considers it a privilege: “I have the daily satisfaction of knowing that what I do helps people to get an education, especially women, many of whom I hope are going to be the future leaders.”
Saleema’s example will hopefully inspire those that she mentors to pay this forward as they progress in their careers. As Saleema puts it, “I hope it helps to make the world just a little bit better.”