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Celebrating International Women's Day
with Rukhsar Jahangir

We had the pleasure of catching up with Rukhsar Jahangir, who previously worked with us at Cavalry, to find out more about some of her great achievements, including completing her law degree, studying to be a barrister, and setting up The Legal Lynk, a support network for women in law, as well as find out why she believes International Women's Day is so important...

Why is it important to celebrate International Women’s Day? 

I think it is really important to celebrate International Women’s Day. Women have come a long way throughout history, making impactful changes across a range of sectors. Especially on this day, it is not about diminishing men, but uplifting women and inspiring those who lack recognition. More awareness and celebration helps to motivate women across the world. Every little change helps. I believe it is important for all sectors and companies, big or small, to celebrate this day. It will help females of all ages, showing women’s capabilities and potential. It’s about more than celebrating achievements but envisioning the future. Progress requires men’s support too – it must be a team effort. 

It also makes a difference to communicate and share stories. Speaking from my own experience I had individuals reach out to me saying they didn’t think it was possible, as a hijabi, who’s South Asian, to succeed in law. I have met some barriers along the way, but when I saw awareness on days like International Women’s Day posts or South Asian Heritage Month celebrations, these fuelled and inspired me, because I didn’t feel I was battling the stigmas or stereotypes that were still present in the community alone. I thought, I can do it. You absolutely can succeed, and I want to inspire others in similar situations to pursue their goals. 

Why is equity so important?

I believe in equity. Equity does not simply just mean fairness, as I believe everyone has different barriers, hence, by only proposing fairness it would not be inclusive. A good example of this is, if I said to a group of people “Reach to the top shelf and I will provide you all with the same size block”  there might be someone that’s 6 foot and can reach, but there might be someone that’s in a wheelchair or half the height, so not everyone will be able to reach the top shelf despite being fairly provided with the same tool. This is why I believe equity is so important – we need to recognise that people have different barriers, in lots of different ways. It is difficult to envision, personalise and individualise every single situation, but just the recognition of it is crucial.

I first started working when I was 18 in healthcare and I was always the youngest in the room, so I often felt undermined. I felt I couldn’t say someone was doing something wrong, even when it was, because they would say, “I’ve been doing this job 30 years and you’re telling me how things should be done!”. But when I worked at Cavalry, it was completely different – I was given the same opportunities, regardless of my age and background. And that was a big stepping stone for me because it gave me confidence. I was always scared to apply to jobs or apply to certain things because I feared the rejection, as well as my abilities, but with Cavalry I never felt this. I often was asked for my opinion and the team would regularly check on methey made me feel how important I was to them, despite being a business the company was much more than simply numbers. It was genuine care for the staff. This is very important, because this goes beyond equality and equity, it shows that it all starts within the workplace and empowering individuals. It’s vital to have a positive support network at work, because no one at home can really understand what work is like.

y time at Cavalry showed me that you can be a caring employer, who believes in every individual, and enabled me to build my confidence.

What is your proudest achievement? 

My proudest achievement must be setting up The Legal Lynk CIC (community interest company) because that is something beyond my own personal gain. Completing my degree and other experiences have been personal achievements for me, however being able to set up an organisation, with another amazing like-minded woman, and able to create a brilliant space is something I’m very proud of. Through The Legal Lynk we aim to create opportunities and foster a supportive community for women in law, especially those from a minority background. Our organisation is more than just a company, we want to be a catalyst for change in the legal networking landscape focusing on the Yorkshire region. It has been rewarding to look back at all the women and families that have messaged me with positive messages and seeing women get a boost in their confidence. I come from a household of four brothers, and I didn’t have sisters, so to be able to feel like I’ve got this ‘little sisterhood’, all these different women from all walks of life, all sorts of ages, and to be able to truly support each other in a competitive field is wonderful. 

When I worked in the healthcare sector, it was all about being person-centred, while in law it’s very different – it’s very competitive, and everyone’s trying to get into the same spots, but we need some timeout from that, and be around others that understand each other’s challenges and barriers, and that’s what The Legal Lynk is all about. 

Making my parents proud is really important to me, as my dad came from Pakistan, and his dad passed away when he was really young, so my dad had to take on the role of being both one of the older brothers and supporting his family, I recognise the strength that took along with moving to a different country with a different language. I am also really proud to show my dad everything I am giving back to the community, because that’s a core value my parents have taught us and core in our culture – to give back to our community. 

Which woman or women have inspired you most?

I can genuinely say it’s been my mum – she has been my driving force – and even on my bad days she’s the one person I look to. I don’t think she truly knows how inspirational she has been to me – she broke down a lot of barriers for me that she had to face and has always been in my fighting corner when I wanted to pursue things. She always said, “You do what you want, what makes you happy and what you will enjoy. I will be at your side and support you in any way I can”. This is exactly what my Mum has done.

My mum was very young when she got married and was unable to pursue her career aspirations and education. She has been through many struggles in her life, but she built a strong and safe foundation for me and my four brothers growing up. My mums unwavering support and determination have shaped my values and aspirations. Her resilience in the face of adversity inspires me daily to challenge societal norms and prioritise my well-being. She has taught me that compromise should never come at the expense of my happiness or dignity. As I navigate my own path, I carry her lessons with me, grateful for her love and guidance.

My mum’s graduation was the biggest achievement I have ever experienced – she recently completed a degree in Special Educational Needs; Disability and Inclusion. We both graduated together, but her completing this while working full time all while being an amazing mother to the five of us. She has recently secured a new role too! I am so proud of what she’s achieved and it’s great to see her start her new career. 

What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women?

There are lots of different challenges you may face – I think one of the biggest challenges is confidently sticking to your values and wellbeing throughout. There is huge pressure to excel in your career and gain the biggest titles and opportunities. It is important to be motivated and determined but you also need to do whatever makes you happy and take opportunities that feel right. You don’t need to take work experience just to look good on your CV, because you won’t gain anything from it, it won’t be beneficial.

When I was at university, everyone said to me you have done loads of healthcare jobs, but nothing in law, so you won’t make it, and I panicked. I said to my mum I am a failure, I should have studied medicine, as I first intended to, and shouldn’t have done law. But when I thought more about it, I realised I wouldn’t have enjoyed working as an assistant in a law firm, I wouldn’t have had the time, and I wouldn’t be happy doing it. I worked under pressure in the ambulance service and realised that there are many transferable skills you can use across lots of different jobs and, most importantly, I was doing what I enjoyed. I am a big believer in saying do what you enjoy because you will get the most out of it, these are the experiences that you’ll be able to passionately talk about and they’ll help you grow as a person.

I am really looking forward to becoming a barrister, but if that comes at the consequence of happiness, then I would have to reconsider. Of course, there’ll be some things that we don’t enjoy so much – the Bar Training Course (BTC) is hard for me at the moment, but I know it’ll all be worthwhile by the end of it, and that will make me very happy.

So, just be happy and be proud of what you’re choosing for you, because that’s all that really matters. 

How do we encourage more women to become leaders?

For women to become leaders it’s about understanding equity and offering flexibility. I’ve been reading about why women leaders are in the minority, and it’s because once someone actually does get to a senior position, they often haven’t got adjustments to handle the pressures because some companies don’t offer any flexibility. There was an inquest that just concluded recently about a female partner in a law firm who committed suicide because she was doing 18-hour days, the pressure was just too much, and she was having a mental health crisis. It’s so important to understand each individual is different and provide support and flexibility, especially in corporate business, when you are in a partner role or leadership role. Too much focus is put on results and not providing any care around the individual.

I believe it’s really important for women to be given the confidence to talk about things, know there’s a way out if needed, because I think a lot of women are scared and they don’t want to lose their job. Also, a lot of women have the skills and ability to become leaders, but they’d rather not try, because they don’t know what the true reality of the role is.

I think for women to become leaders it is all about changing attitudes from the top first, encouraging women to go for it, and understanding what is important to succeed. If a company is really passionate about getting women in leadership, they’ll make it happen. And it’s really important not just to have women in leadership, it’s having the right women and the right people. Providing flexibility, support, and understanding individual needs are all vital steps in empowering women to assume leadership positions. Cultivating a workplace culture that values and supports women’s leadership roles is pivotal in unlocking their full potential. Recognising and promoting male leaders who champion gender equality plays a crucial role in fostering an inclusive and equitable future. Rory, the CEO at Cavalry, serves as a prime example of such leadership. His unwavering support for women within the company, coupled with his advocacy for gender equality, has significantly contributed to creating a workplace where women feel empowered to lead. By recognising and promoting leaders like Rory, we not only champion gender equality but also pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse society.