Amina’s story: I have experienced inequality at work and I want to change it

Career story

My educational background consists of completing the degrees of a Bachelor of Social Services and a kindergarten teacher. In my studies, I have focused on management and development of the health and social care sector, and I have also studied coaching. I started working in the eighth grade by delivering ads. When I turned eighteen, I moved on to mail sorting, where I worked for years. From there, I moved towards my own field, that is, the social sector. In addition, I have been doing voluntary work throughout the time, which has also given rise to my business activities.

During my higher education studies, I began to visit different courses as a guest and speaker, which provided me with experience and an idea. But it took years before I dared to jump into the unknown. Working in different areas of the social sector finally encouraged me to become an entrepreneur and produce services that are missing from the field.

The health and social care sector and the world of work in general are undergoing a transformation and require new types of competence. Services are often rigid and old-fashioned. They do not serve the increasingly diversified society, which may exclude people. I have also noticed that, recently, there has been a debate about the shortage of labour. There is a desire to gain more labour force from abroad, even though there are many people in Finland who fail to enter employment.

I experienced inequality in the world of work, and I want to change it. Through my work, I want to influence the one-sided image that society has of foreign-language speakers. All my services are related to the promotion of well-being. They strive to contribute to the social change that is needed if we want more people to participate in maintaining our welfare state. A person is an entity, and the sense of being a part of society is essential.

Awareness and research on the effects of racism and discrimination on well-being are constantly increasing. With the increasing awareness, concrete measures should also be taken. Great plans and speeches are not enough. The objectives should be reflected on the daily activities of organisations, and the work should not rest on the shoulders of individuals. The benefits of plurality and diversity are still not properly understood. The desire to take these things forward has helped me create new kinds of services.

My greatest success in the world of work is that I have been able to create something completely new

I started doing voluntary work with different communities when I was very young. Many professionals have approached me and asked for support and perspectives on different cases. Over the years, many people have encouraged me to produce these services. Professionals often say they need training to support their encounters with people, and there is a lot of demand particularly for increasing religious and cultural awareness. Many health and social care professionals do tremendous work and would do it even better if they received tools for meeting people. There is often the fear of the unknown, which is why a sensitive topic may not be raised. This is harmful, as in such cases, the client may be left alone with their issue. A sensitive approach and a continuous review of one’s own activities help when working in direct contact with people.

While working in a variety of positions, I noticed that there are still very few people from different backgrounds in managerial positions. The management of diversity also requires increasing awareness. I support organisations in these changes.

My greatest success in the world of work is that I have been able to create something completely new which I feel very passionately about. I thoroughly enjoy experimenting, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to realise myself and grow both personally and professionally. I have the courage to start pursuing my dreams while helping others in the midst of the pandemic. My success is associated with exceeding myself and my goals.

Ever since I was a child, I have been told that I could never become anything. However, I have not let this prevent me from fulfilling my potential. In the early days, it was more like a motivator. It made me think ‘I’ll show you!’ I have learned to turn challenges into motivational factors. When something feels difficult and impossible, I look back at everything I have already managed to overcome.

Although I would like my background not to matter, it does. I think that I have already succeeded in creating something new, although I feel that there have been very few opportunities. It has not been easy to create something from nothing without any role models. I can also be the kind of supervisor I have always dreamed of having. I am proud of our wonderful employees, who are motivated and who are doing tremendous work on children’s leisure activities. I want to lead through trust, coaching and appreciation. As a supervisor, I also strive to find solutions in the work community by discussing them together.

A member of an ethnic minority has to make an enormous effort

The world of work is still very homogeneous, especially at the managerial and expert level. I have encountered belittling, discrimination and racism. It is not something new or something that takes place only at work. Instead, it is present in all areas of my life. Microaggression does not leave me alone. Discrimination at work is even worse, as you spend most of your waking hours there.

Members of ethnic minorities have to make an enormous effort and continue to prove that they have earned their place. It takes up energy and resources. I constantly feel that I am under scrutiny – particularly at the moment as I work as an expert and entrepreneur. We have to put in maximum effort at work. Even that is not always enough. I have seen how a workplace and its atmosphere can make you sick. Unfortunately, bullying occurs often and it has been almost invisible.

My headscarf and age may be seen as problematic, and, as a result, people question my competence and focus on my background. The first meeting with companies and organisations is often rather strange. I am not sure what kind of person the other party is expecting, but at least it is not me. This is obvious from the way the other party interacts with me. It is really embarrassing and may lead to unrelated questions.

Since I have experienced discrimination and racism throughout my life, it has caused an enormous imposter syndrome that I struggled with for a long time. Sometimes it still lifts its head and, although I know I am competent, it has paralysed me many times. I am not a typical manager, and jobseekers may often be confused. I am lucky in that I can have a say in who I work with. If my presence is embarrassing for someone else, they are not in the right place.

It is important to stick to your dreams and believe in them

Working life is a journey and a process that requires patience. You cannot rush things. Every step is important and you need to learn to enjoy the journey. If you want to move forward and are interested in management, you have to first learn the basics properly. In addition to this, you have to be able to manage yourself. In many cases, people have a romanticised view of leadership. It is, after all, an enormous responsibility and not suited for everyone.

It is important to stick to your dreams and believe in them. They will take you far. It is also essential to do something concrete to achieve your dreams. You have to tackle the challenges and try to find solutions to them. Mentors and coaches are of enormous importance, and everyone should have them. Every work experience is valuable. Enjoy the journey. Help others, and you will find that people help you in return. You should not be afraid of mistakes. They are part of the process. Taking small steps outside your comfort zone generates growth.

If something is too easy, it should be examined critically. Nothing worth pursuing comes for free. Achieving these goals requires discipline and hard work. You have to give up something in order to gain something else in return.

Money and salary are great, but they alone are not enough. You should find the motivation inside of you, and there should be a greater reason for doing the work than its material aspects. You have to be passionate and wait for an opportunity to work with something that is important to you.

People may use your background against you, or it can be an enormous resource. You are much more than your looks. It is also important to work on emotions that stop you from leading a life that looks like your own. In addition, the environment is of great importance.

Various work assignments have taught a great deal

When I was a kid, my dream job was to be an archaeologist, and when I was younger, I dreamed about helping others. I have had the opportunity to do both. I do not engage in archaeology as such, but through travel I have been able to familiarise myself with different historical sites. It is one of the biggest dreams I have ever had.

When I was younger, I wondered where to get help or who to ask for advice when there was no one to identify with. Now I can help other younger and older foreign-language speakers. I feel you! Many native Finns also ask for advice and support. People want to be heard and seen. I would be happy to do this anywhere in the world!

I have enjoyed every job, whether as a kindergarten teacher or a social advisor in adult social work or reception work, or in projects.

Network cooperation has been, and still is, my favourite part of all these jobs. I enjoy it tremendously when different people come together for a common cause. Discussions and learning through them are valuable. It is great to have an opportunity to work with amazing professionals. Various work assignments have taught me a great deal. Everyone of them has also been useful. 

I love and enjoy working with families, and that gives me a great deal. Working in outpatient care especially in child protection is challenging and requires long-term commitment. It also requires continuous self-processing. You have to have your own life in order. I also like coaching, mentoring and social media work (my Instagram account is QjDiasporassa and TikTok Qurbahajoogto). I also thoroughly enjoyed my studies at the university of applied sciences at the time. They have been very useful and I have put my learning into practice.

You can learn skills, but you cannot learn humanity

I usually do many different tasks on a daily basis, including management, influence work, training, preparation of training, planning, strategy, customer work and network cooperation, and I like them all. Diverse tasks are the thing for me! In addition, a few days a week, I work as a volunteer at the Sillat association, where we are launching a new project called Mother, take care of yourself.

It is important to do work that you enjoy and that gives you a lot. I want to think outside the box and see the people behind the problems. I want to meet them with respect and I try to support them and find solutions to their challenges. Planning is important, necessary and good, but so are concrete steps. Sometimes rapid experiments also produce results.

In the world of work, I have learned about myself and the surrounding society and how I can influence my own activities. Things are interconnected. If an individual is healthy and takes care of their well-being, it is reflected on their work. Everyone is responsible for their own actions and it is good to do things that you can influence.

The world of work may sometimes be brutal. It is important to learn to look for support so that you are not left alone. Change can sometimes be slow, but it does happen! Above all, I have learned to know myself, my strengths and development areas, and how to lead. In addition to this, I have worked on my ability to step outside my comfort zone. Development does not happen overnight. In 20 years, I have learned skills that are also helpful in other areas of life. There are many similarities between the world of work and parenthood. In both areas, I use the know-how accumulated through both.

You can learn skills, but you cannot learn humanity. Ever since I started working 20 years ago, I have paid particular attention to one thing: management. I have written down the characteristics I personally do not want to have. This is how I have been able to learn and grow into a leader. It is all about trust and caring.

A healthy lifestyle is important to me

As an entrepreneur, I work long days and often have very little leisure time. However, I try to find a balance. I am still working on this. I spend a lot of time with my family and friends. I am a mother and I enjoy it enormously. I do a lot of things together with both our child and the whole family. I love books, reading, journalling, and volunteering. In addition, I enjoy spending time in nature. I also direct women’s Mamanet activities. I do coaching in Somali in social media. Currently I have customers around the world. I also enjoy culture and look forward to the time when travelling is possible again. I enjoy getting to know new places, and I love to show our child the world.

Before the pandemic, I enjoyed organising all kinds of events. I look forward to being able to get together again with good food, culture and people. I carry out different projects and continuously develop ideas on how I could support the well-being of different people. Supporting the well-being of mothers and children in particular is close to my heart.

A healthy lifestyle is important to me and I take care of my spiritual, mental, social and physical well-being. I try to sleep well, eat healthy food and exercise, and I pray and stop to think about my own values.

I try to organise and support various campaigns that help vulnerable children and families both here in Finland and globally, such as supporting children with special needs and their families in Somalia. We run these campaigns in cooperation with great partners that are based around the world. In recent years, the campaigns have taken place around Ramadan (the month of fasting). We make use of social media in our work. One of the channels is Clubhouse, which brings together those who help and those who need help. The campaign team organises the work, conducts background research and seeks and contacts reliable local actors and donors. I feel so good every time we get approached by a person in need of help, or a new volunteer sends a message that they want to join the activities. I gain a lot from it!

Amina Mohamed