Lived experiences help Sanam #Breakthebias
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Lived experiences help Sanam #Breakthebias

Category Our People



The ability to make her own career and lifestyle choices is not a freedom Sanam Rasool takes lightly, in fact, she’s acutely aware that the path for her could have been significantly different.

Having spent her formative years in Pakistan, where she says women often have no voice, and certainly few career options, the International Women’s Day theme of #breakthebias is particularly meaningful.

“My mother is from New Zealand and my father is Pakistani, and I’m forever grateful to my mother for identifying early that Pakistan wouldn’t be a place for a young girl to grow up.”

Having already defied the rules by marrying an ‘outsider’ she praised her father too, for having the courage to leave his homeland and family, and start again in a new country and culture, New Zealand.

“For the women of Pakistan it’s a case of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ – my cousins and relatives seem very content marrying young and filling the role of homemaker with no consideration for any alternatives, because the reality is that there can be no other option for them.”

“There is a whole demographic of untapped potential of bright young creatives and intellectuals - not even my most highly educated school friends pursued a career.”

As well as breaking a bias against women, Sanam is also a fierce advocate for calling out ethnic discrimination. “My ethnicities are both Māori and Pakistani, and with such a diverse background I have often struggled with discrimination and prejudice.”

“Today, I break the bias by sharing often how proud I am of my ethnic heritage, and how women of diverse backgrounds can achieve personal and professional success.”

One of Sanam’s greatest role models was her New Zealand grandmother, a widow at just thirty with six children to care and provide for.

Despite her challenges, she managed to return to school and gain a degree. “A saying she was well known for was ‘never become a statistic, and always push yourself to do better and be stronger.’

“She really set the tone for who I am today,” Sanam reflects.

And in a genuine fusion of cultural diversity, Sanam’s husband is from Afghanistan, another culture with a strict set of rules around women.

With Sydney now home, Sanam is also immersed in Afghani culture, with her husband’s family all living nearby.

“I really try to champion the fact women can do it all within his community, and while women are still largely denied the opportunity to work, I can see the tide turning- Afghani mothers here in Australia can see the opportunities there are for their daughters.”

It’s this drive that has helped facilitate Sanam’s ongoing career progression at Rabobank.

Starting out as a Call Centre Officer in 2018, she quickly climbed the ranks, stepping into leadership roles within the team.

“This is where I really developed my passion for policies and procedures, working in the frontline – I knew I wanted to be involved in ensuring staff had quality material to refer to when completing tasks, which would ultimately service our clients.”

This personal initiative and drive to better the business earned her a position as the Process Documentation Specialist for Operations Australia.

And she’s just as committed to her own personal growth and development, having participated in Rabobank’s IGNITE – Women Leading with Impact program.

The IGNITE program is a strategic leadership program designed to promote visibility, build confidence and resilience and provide an opportunity for our female talent to develop business acumen and leadership skills.

Over the past five years the program has included cohorts of high potential female Rabobank talent, nominated from within the bank, with the aim of influencing their personal development, professional career journeys and helping facilitate new heights within the organisation.

Sanam believed her participation in the program had been a fruitful experience, helping her better navigate challenges, gender biases and develop the skills to help empower and influence other women.

“There’s definitely been a positive shift in my confidence where I’ve been able to overcome my public speaking fears with tools learnt from the program. I’m really conscious of continuing to develop, and now frequently put into practice my improved presentation skills.”

The ability to be her authentic self is another freedom Sanam celebrates, and coupled with a healthy sense of fun, she believes humour is one of her most powerful strengths, at work and at home.

“Sharing laughs with others has allowed me to build connections easily and gain trust. Enthusiasm can be contagious, and creating bonds for me is critical to my ongoing success.”

Gratitude is also a strong driver of Sanam’s success, genuine happiness, and zest for life.

“As a woman being able to work, express an opinion, make decisions in an inclusive environment, and work with people who share the same mission inspires me to get out of bed and go to work every morning.”


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