Yorkville University’s new Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion knows firsthand what it’s like to hit a glass ceiling simply because of the way she looks.
Growing up and attending law school in Ottawa, Thamina Jaferi did everything she thought she needed to do to succeed – she got good grades, she was ambitious and she worked hard to pursue her goals.
“As a woman of colour, as someone who is visibly Muslim, I had a tough time getting my foot in the door of the legal profession…I faced a lot of rejection. I had someone straight up tell me it was because of my hijab,” she said.
“It was something that deeply affected the core of who I am. It was a very painful time…but out of that came this desire.”
Jaferi recognized that if she was having this type of experience, others were also facing systemic barriers because of their faith, sexual orientation, or gender – and she vowed to do something about it.
“I want to do something for my career where I am removing those types of barriers, not just for myself, but other people as well,” said Jaferi, now an experienced diversity and inclusion professional.
In her new role as Yorkville’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Jaferi will be able to draw on her law background in human rights and equity to help develop, implement and administer various diversity programs, education and training to advance and support a diverse and inclusive workplace, as well as inclusive service provision in the higher education sector.
Jaferi joined Yorkville University from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), where she developed the inaugural Diversity and Human Rights Executive Steering Committee, among other accomplishments.
She said was drawn to Yorkville University, in part, because working in an academic environment has been a goal. She loves being immersed in a learning environment and exchanging ideas.
“When I got to hear about Yorkville University, what I was drawn to is that I will be working to make the lives of students better and making their experience better, as well as for faculty and staff.”
Apart from policy, Jaferi said she is particularly interested in working with Yorkville University on social media, multi-media activities, the internet presence, and clearly why diversity and inclusion are important at Yorkville University.
“I am so passionate about diversity, inclusion and human rights, and it is something that doesn’t stop for me from 9 to 5,” Jaferi said.
“It is something that is a part of my life, in my personal life, in my interactions with others. It is something that I am constantly learning about and trying to improve even for myself.
“We all have biases, and learning to unlearn whatever it is we have been socially conditioned with is something that makes life meaningful.”