Nadia

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Hi! My name is Nadia. I am 23 years old and work as a manager at a car rental company. I love to do anything and everything (even things I’m bad at) – from hiking, yoga, theater, music, and more. I’m a huge fan of supporting locally first – which is why lately, I have been going to a lot of upcoming plays in Minneapolis.

I am originally from Iraq although I was born in Saudi Arabia. Recently, when I went back, I felt a bit shocked at the culture. I noticed that men expected women to cover up with abayas, even though it was not required in the country, and that irritated me. It seemed like women were treated as if they had one sole purpose in life – to breed children. The communities and culture did not look at women as potential citizens with opportunities to change the world. I felt like they were not utilizing the full potential of the amazing women there. It frustrated me because it seemed like this version of culture was so different from what our religion taught.

My mother tried her best to understand my goals and dreams, even though it was not easy for her. She eventually went through a divorce which was tolling and hard for our family.

One positive influence in my life was most certainly my mother, because it was she who began to realize and support my potential, drive, and ambitions after we moved to America. As can be expected, when we moved,  some of the “traditional” Iraqi culture came with us. Overtime though, it began to chip away, slowly but surely. My mother tried her best to understand my goals and dreams, even though it was not easy for her. She eventually went through a divorce which was tolling and hard for our family. Since then, she has gotten a lot better at allowing me to explore my identity, interests more freely. I thank her everyday for being that support system, despite coming from a culture which frowns upon such things.

Although I never met her, Oprah Winfrey was a huge role model for me growing up in my childhood.  I remember back in the day, I would come home from school and watch her show everyday. We didn’t have cable growing up, so all we were allowed to watch were Arabic TV or certain talk shows. Honestly, SpongeBob in Arabic changed my life, but so did Oprah. She allowed me to explore my American identity and taught me how to balance my Arab American identity. I was awed by how much she went through and how little she let it affect her goals and dreams. She did NOT take no for an answer and that really spoke to me, especially in my future career in sales. I just loved overall how people respected her when she spoke for being who she was – unapologetically.

My hijab story is a bit different, my father was totally against me wearing it. He said that because we are in America, I did not have to wear it. This would have been an easy transition to womanhood, but I went to a private school that made it mandatory to wear hijab in the 6th grade. So, I was conflicted about the hijab at a very young age. So when I decided to officially start wearing it in the 8th grade I used social media to help me look for hijabi role models. One influencer I looked up to was Marwa Atik. I remember seeing her skateboarding and not letting anyone tell her what she couldn’t do. It really inspired me – because here was another Muslim woman rocking the hijab and doing whatever she wanted. I also looked up to Halima, going back to support my locals, she was also from Minnesota. I recently saw her in the Sports Illustrated magazine in a burkini. In a time where Europeans were banning it and against it – here she was! Just rocking the cover of a huge, well-known magazine. I found that to be so bold and normalizing at the same time – I loved it.

Currently, I manage 2 Enterprise chains. I actually started my career at Enterprise (a car rental company) when I was still very young – only 18 years old to be exact. My first role here was a customer sales representative and as it turned out, I was a natural!

My career is also a huge passion for me and I most certainly am blessed to have so many positive female influences throughout it. I have always been interested in sales and found the idea of being a hijabi in sales very cool because it is something you don’t see a lot. Currently, I manage 2 Enterprise chains. I actually started my career at Enterprise (a car rental company) when I was still very young – only 18 years old to be exact. My first role here was a customer sales representative and as it turned out, I was a natural! Since then I have been able to move up to management, and subhanAllah, next month, I am up for another promotion, so yay for that, just keep climbing the corporate ladder.

I would constantly see women bringing big wins for the company (our CEO was a woman for God’s sake!) I’d see a lot of female managers and would feel inspired and knew I could excel to the top as well. Denise, my manager for instance, was the manager of one of the largest areas for the chain in Minnesota and the only female area manager for four years. I always see her going up against these powerful men and I look up to her even now and thinking – wow, look at her go!

I always see her going up against these powerful men and I look up to her even now and thinking – wow, look at her go!

Overall, it made me realize that a little competition between women is healthy (for example, for a promotion). However, it is only healthy if intentions are pure and not from hate. For me, even in my career, I would always think – if I don’t get it, I would rather another woman have it. It’s something I find very important- especially in the sales industry.

One piece of advice I would give other women in this field (or any, for that matter) is the following-  don’t be afraid to ask other women for help because they will be more likely to be there. And in return, of course, don’t hesitate to help your fellow sisters! It is also rewarding in Islam, so why not get that reward too?

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