You may remember Farzana Nayani from 2018’s Muppies Annual Conference in Toronto, where she was a keynote speaker. Born in Vancouver to a multi-ethnic family, Farzana’s upbringing helped her develop a universal sense of humanity and a wide-ranging understanding of culture. It’s no surprise, then, that she’s built a career as a diversity expert.
Farzana began her professional journey as a teacher, at which point she noticed all the ways in which cultural differences affected her students’ learning. This inspired her to go back to school herself. She enrolled in a master’s program in intercultural learning at the University of Hawaii, where she was struck by the variety of cultural awareness activities going on all around her.
When she finished her MA, she moved to Los Angeles to work in nonprofit economic and leadership development for Asian ethnic communities, advocating for access and financial literacy.
As Farzana balanced being a working mom and the desire for greater flexibility that that brings, she realized that she could create programs around her own story, using her personal journey as a catalyst for learning about diversity. It was important for Farzana to share her experiences, already in demand by a growing number of clients, so starting her own company centered around personal experiences was a no brainer.
Having her own business has freed Farzana to make decisions and lead her own way. As a business owner, Farzana doesn’t have to participate in dynamics that put her in a situation where her potential isn’t valued, something that she works with her clients to also avoid.
Farzana helps clients with strategy, staff training, and leadership, all while incorporating principals around equity and inclusion. As a consultant to corporations, colleges and universities, nonprofits, and school districts, she works with individuals and institutions to figure out how to create more inclusive environments. Clients see the need for improvements around diversity and inclusion within their own organizations and often see employees who are excluded. Some clients want to start conversations around inclusion, but just don’t know how. Other clients worry about how they will sustain the positive environment they’ve worked to create. That’s where Farzana comes in.
As of late, Farzana has become particularly interested in supporting women of color. In fact, she has been actively more intentional in including the needs of mothers in her new office, making it kid-friendly and providing a nursing room and wellness room which can also be used as a prayer space. She says that her own identity has caused her to focus on a healthy physical atmosphere as something that is important versus as something that is an afterthought. She wants her working environment to be in alignment with the work that she does. Individuals are often forced to code switch from family space to work space to spiritual space. With Farzana’s new offices, these spaces come together in a purposeful way.
In addition to running her own consulting business, Farzana also works one-on-one with individuals who aspire to a particular goal or who are stuck in a personal or professional capacity and want a shift in their lives. She uses methods such as visualization and framing of perspective to help people see answers for themselves. She breaks open people’s potential and helps them move forward, in ways similar to those in which she helps her corporate clients unlock the potential of their employees. The impact of unlocking those potentials, the ripple effect of it all, is particularly strong because wherever an individual goes, they’re within an organization, within a family, and their successes echo outwards.
“In society, we’re in a state of needing healing. All of my work has a component of leading towards collective healing. There are many pathways into that. It can be our commitment to action, how we demonstrate our faith or our striving for success.”
If one can truly honor their vision and dreams for the future and can keep those goals in mind in between working and daily routine, the potential for shifting our world grows. Farzana encourages everyone to keep that in mind. With that comes health, abundance, ease, and alignment. It’s important to take the time to pause and reflect. Just having a moment to oneself everyday where to set an intention for calmness, prayer, gratitude, or peace does wonders. She says that it doesn’t have to be classic prayer or yoga, just whatever intention means to you. It just needs to be a few minutes. This, she calls affirmation with purpose.
Farzana has written a book called Raising Multiracial Children. The book is a guide with resources and tools about how parents can help their multiracial kids navigate their world. As a former educator, advocate for children, and mother of multiracial children herself, Farzana is particularly attuned to what children may encounter as they grow up, go into higher education, and eventually enter into careers. The book is out in April, but you can pre-order now.