Meet Sahar Khyabani. She is a first-generation Afghan Canadian born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is a marketing professional with over three years of experience and has worked in the tech industry, as well as volunteered her time with various local nonprofits and charities including Women Deliver. We sat down with Sahar to learn more about her career, her experience as a Muslim woman, and celebrate her involvement with VMW.
1 She doesn’t carry a purse
Since the 17th century purses and handbags have been used but our Digital Marketing Strategist doesn’t need one! “Everything I need is on my phone!” She believes everyone should adopt technology and live a minimalistic lifestyle!
2 Forget princesses Sahar is a lion at heart!
When asked if she had a favourite Disney princess Sahar had a unique answer where her favourite is "None of them. I never had a Disney princess that I could relate to. But my Disney princess was Simba from The Lion King. It’s actually my nickname! My mom still calls me Simba to this day.”
3 She encourages and empowers more women to be apart of the tech industry
“I’m a marketing freelancer at the moment.” Sahar tells “I love the ability to make my own hours and love the clients I work with.” Right now, most of Sahar’s work consists of writing for SEO. This means she plans, creates and optimizes content with the primary goal of ranking higher in search engines “I like to say I write to outsmart Google but really I use a few tips and tricks so that my clients end up at the top when you search their services.”
Prior to this, she worked in the tech industry promoting the growth of the BC tech ecosystem. Since joining the tech industry, she has encouraged other women of colour and non-techies to also pursue a career in technology. “Not everyone has to be a software engineer or a coder to work in tech. You can be a marketer or HR professional and still work in the tech industry. It certainly isn’t for everyone but if you are someone who loves a fast-paced environment where no two days look the same, tech is your space.”
4 She’s a vital part of VMW’s relaunch
Not only is she a bada** empowering marketing professional, at VMW she is the Digital Marketing Strategist. She created the overall marketing strategy at VMW and she also helped develop VMW programs, membership, and external/internal communications. “It’s something I’m really proud of and I’m excited to see where VMW will be in a year or two.”
5 She loves seeing support for women’s professional development
In 2018, she attended the annual VMW awards gala. “I really enjoyed it because for the first time I heard multiple Muslim men talking about Muslim women as individuals and not what they can offer them as a wife or the mother of their children. It was empowering for me to see that we have Muslim male allies in the community and I encourage more men to continue to empower and encourage us to pursue our passions.”
6 Trailblazing is in her blood
Not only does Sahar trailblaze herself hoping to have a positive impact on others saying “If I’m able to mentor, coach, or offer support to emerging professionals that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Her older sister Mursal was the first person in her family to go to university and obtain a bachelor’s degree. She blazed a trail for Sahar and her younger sister Sammy to pursue an education and career when women are expected to find a husband and raise a family. Mursal works in Business Development and Employer Relations at UBC Sauder School of Business and Sammy is a Registered Nurse specializing in maternity at BC Women’s Hospital. Sahar believes she is “really lucky to have two ambitious and driven young women in [her] life.”
7 She values sisterhood in every sense of the word
Not only does she value the sisterhood found in VMW stating that she feels she “belong[s]. It’s inclusive and a safe place for all Muslim women to just be who they are and believe at their own level of religiosity with the main focus being our careers.” But the unit of support in her life are her own sisters. “The three of us know our story and life experience like no one else does. My sisters are my biggest cheerleaders and I’m so grateful to have two strong women who are rooting for me at all times. I would be nothing without their support. The best part about VMW is that it offers me a community version of that support.”
8 Being a Muslim Woman hasn’t held her back in her professional career
When asked of whether or not being a Muslim woman has hindered her professional career Sahar had a thought-provoking answer “I feel like it’s the other way around. I feel like my career has inhibited me from being a good Muslim which is tough to share but I feel some might relate. Being raised as a Muslim in the West, it can be difficult to bring up conversations that I require cultural or religious accommodation. I struggle with asking to attend Friday prayers, communicating that Eid might be on a certain day but that it depends on the sighting of the moon, and not having access to a designated wudu/prayer/interfaith room. I worry about being met with microaggressions about the fact that I am not a hijabi so that I must not be as religious.
As a woman of colour, I already have to face many obstacles just to get my foot into the door and I fear causing further issues for myself in the workplace. I know I have freedom of religion but Islamophobia is alive and well.”
9 She believes that we should all listen to our own voice
“Listen to your own voice. Our parents encourage us to pursue safe career options because they have come from a space of instability because of war or other unsafe living conditions. This is their way of protecting us financially. But they came to Canada to give us the opportunity to make decisions they did not have the freedom to. People will give you their opinions but it’s important to pursue something you’re passionate about because then you’ll give it your 100% and success will follow.”
Final Count Down Questions:
4 Words your friends use to describe you:
Empathetic, Loyal, Hilarious, Witty.
3 Words which sum up what VMW means to you:
Sisterhood, Belonging, Evolving.
2 Humans who have been your rock
My sisters, Mursal and Sammy Khyabani.
1 Woman who has empowered you
My mom. My mother raised me and my sisters to pursue our education and grow our careers. To stand on our own two feet without a man. She never wanted us to be dependent on anyone for anything.
But I experienced a lot of failure in my life and was really hard on myself for it. I can just hear her voice in Dari saying “Sahar, you think a small ant is going to give up because the odds are stacked against it? No. Get up.” Afghan mothers are a force. She certainly does not tolerate any nonsense. You can’t really argue with a woman who escaped Afghanistan on foot with the threat of being caught by the Soviets now can you? But it’s because of her sacrifice and encouragement that I am able to have the freedom to build a life for myself where I am in complete control of where I am going.