Zakia Bashir – Continuous Improvement Manager

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Bashir, Zakia

Zakia is Knauf Insulation’s Continuous Improvement Manager at St Helens in the UK.

As women, we should raise our hands, have our voices heard and be confident in our ideas because I believe that women can truly rule the world.
Zakia Bashir

What bias have you seen or experienced in your working career?

As a female engineer of colour, I’ve always felt that I had to prove my capability over and over again. Being a softly spoken individual meant that people doubted my professional abilities and my opinions were not always heard. Speaking to other female colleagues, it seems that we have all found ourselves walking a tightrope between being too feminine to be considered competent or too masculine to be likable. I’ve seen women disliked or considered ‘aggressive’ for being outspoken when this is considered a completely acceptable for my male colleagues. I’ve also found that to be taken seriously in predominantly male organisations you have to put significantly more effort in than your fellow colleagues to be noticed, which often creates competition between female colleagues for the ‘woman’s spot’.

How did you handle bias when it happened to you?

I always believed in my capability and over time I’ve had to learn how to be more vocal and how to assert myself while maintaining my individuality as a person. It has been important for me to believe in my abilities, not thinking about what others think and having the confidence to challenge bias when it occurs.

What have you — or others — done to support your career?

I have been lucky enough to have great female role models throughout my career. My manager in a previous job was an excellent advocate of women in engineering and leadership. She supported me through mentorship and by arranging coaching sessions with a consultant which helped my career flourish significantly. In turn, I have mentored young female engineers and apprentices.

What advice would you give to a female colleague joining Knauf Insulation today?

Knauf Insulation is a great place to work with plenty of opportunities for career progression and development. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and show your potential. As women, we should raise our hands, have our voices heard and be confident in our ideas because I believe that women can truly rule the world.

What needs to be done to support women and tackle bias in the workplace?

There needs to be more gender-neutral recruitment opportunities along with frequent salary reviews to address the gap between genders and races. There is also a need to improve awareness on topics such as unconscious bias and discrimination by promoting a culture where great ideas come from all levels, genders and races and all voices are welcome and respected around the table. 


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