Careers expert looking to help other women from minority backgrounds

A career counsellor who has worked at Saudi Aramco is hoping to inspire other women from a similar background to succeed in business.

Career counsellor: Rehana Ladha, who is originally from Dewsbury, spent four years at Saudi Aramco. Pictures: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Rehana Ladha, originally from Dewsbury, recently returned from Saudi Arabia and is now looking for a fresh challenge.

Ms Ladha used to work on raising aspirations amongst Muslim women in the UK prior to heading out to the Middle East.

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She said: “If we look at the key Government reports, Muslim women are finding it much harder to find a job than the national average.”

Ms Ladha added that Muslim women faced multiple issues that were holding them back ranging from a lack of confidence to language barriers.

The career counsellor, who has spent the last four years in the Middle East, also suggests that name blind recruitment may be a solution addressing the imbalance to a certain extent.

Families also have a part to play in encouraging women to pursue their career ambitions, says Ms Ladha.

“A large part of it is they are seen as a homemaker,” she said. “The encouragement is not there from a young to say go and pursue your dreams, go and study.”

Ms Ladha, who grew up at an Islamic boarding school, says the greatest challenge for her was not having the right mentors.

“Everybody amongst my friends and family network didn’t have any connections and didn’t know anybody,” she said.

However, this did make her more resilient when it came to navigating unknown cultural environments such as when she made the move to Saudi Arabia.

“I had a lot of challenges settling in, adapting and just understanding the whole culture,” she says.

Ms Ladha helped Saudi Aramco set up its own career counselling service from scratch. Ms Ladha says her four years there were really enjoyable.

“It was a really supportive environment,” she said. “There were very kind and helpful people. At the same time, I had to be very independent.”

The entrepreneur got into career counselling as she always “had a passion for teaching, helping and learning”.

Ms Ladha recently returned to the UK for a career break as she had “been working for a very long time”. She is already plotting the next steps of her own career.

“I hope to be in a senior strategic role, where I’m making a big difference,” she said. “It would be to work on something to do with careers, employability and entrepreneurship or combining all three.”

Her advice to other women from a similar background is to seek out mentors from the very beginning.

She said: “Look for role models. Who do you aspire to be like? Is there anybody who you like, whose career you can map?

“Find these role models on LinkedIn, watch talks that inspire you and then take out bits to learn from these talks. What have you learned? What can you implement the things that you have learnt.”

Ms Ladha is herself open to mentoring women from ethnic minority backgrounds.

“Being a female Muslim, I’ve had to do double at work,” she says.

In addition to having to deal with pressure at work, she has also had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities on behalf of friends and family.