'Breaking glass ceilings': Muslim career mentorship program launched in Edmonton

·2 min read

A national mentorship program recently launched in Edmonton is pairing young Muslims with experienced Muslim professionals to foster strong networks and a sense of belonging.

Initially launched in Toronto, the Muslim Awards for Excellence has also expanded to Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver. The Edmonton version launched late last year.

So far, it's matched more than 320 mentors with young Muslims in areas ranging from engineering to business, fashion and journalism.

The Muslim Awards for Excellence
The Muslim Awards for Excellence

"We launched MAX Mentors in 2017 with a vision of a Canada where young Muslim professionals are breaking glass ceilings and achieving excellence," said Sarah Khan, who leads the program across Canada.

The program offers a space for young Muslims to discuss tough topics, like how to deal with discrimination and systemic racism in the workplace.

"We really wanted to make this organization so we could show what our community really is, show what our identity really is and write our own narrative," said Muhammad Khan, a medical student who co-leads the program in Edmonton.

"We really want to bring this program out so people can get mentorship from people who have had similar experiences to them, which makes a mentorship so much more valuable … we really want to make it an equitable playing field for Muslims growing up in Canada."

The Muslim Awards for Excellence
The Muslim Awards for Excellence

The program receives many applications from immigrants and recent refugees who have degrees from other locations but struggle to adjust and find work.

"It's really hard when you're new to a country, to be able to access the same social capital that other people who have grown up here have access to," said Sarah Khan.

"We are really trying to build a stronger Muslim network where you feel comfortable reaching out to others and saying, 'Hey, I need your support here, I need your help.'"

Along with the mentorship, successful applicants have access to career development workshops offering skills such as resumé writing and interview tips, along with events — currently digital due to the pandemic — that highlight Muslim professionals in various industries.

'What that does is it inspires young Muslims to be like, 'I can also get there. I can also achieve these different things,'" Khan said.

Applications are now open for this year's program.