Wednesday 6 March 2019


The difference between success and failure is in taking the initiative. The Girl Boss series aims to highlight the achievements of women just like you and me who are doing amazing things. Hopefully their stories will inspire you as much as they inspire me. This week we chat to Rukaya Mansoor, founder of Woman of the World (WoW), a female empowerment initiative, and a qualified chemist at Esse Skincare.

1. Which powerpuff girl do you identify with most? Why?

I've always felt like I relate to Bubbles - she’s kind of soft and silly and if she wasn't a powerful girl, one would think that makes her weak or "too emotional" but despite being the "baby" she has this strength that no one expects. She can both kick ass and be compassionate at the same time. She can be playful and silly and still take down all the monsters with a smile on her face. 

She’s like the childhood definition of "dont judge a book by its cover" and I kinda relate to that I've always been a little misjudged; people tend to think that because I'm soft and sweet it makes me weak, because I'm into makeup or fashion there's no way I could be smart or strong and I like that it shocks people. On most days I'm the silliest person you can find I mess around, act like a child, have MANY blonde moments but at the same time I'm a scientist, I'm wise (i think) I read alot so I know a lot. I can be both things. 

2. Who is your female role model/woman who inspired you and that you look up to?

As cliche as it sounds I have to say my mum. She's one of the strongest and kindest people I know. She’s crazy, fun and serious and silly and basically everything a mother and best friend needs to be and more. She's also such a good person, I'm lucky enough to know her in a personal we-talk-about-everything kind of way and she has handled the hardest times and darkest of people with such compassion and kindness. That’s who I want to be - to everyone. 

The kindness and warmth I get from speaking or being around her I want to be that for others. As much as she pushes me to be better and stronger and happier I want to be that to others. Basically everything I do is either to impress her (not that she’s hard to impress) or to be like her. Being told I'm anything like her is my favorite compliment; even just being told we look alike makes me feel all warm and cuddly. I'm basically just the biggest mommy’s girl :P. She's also known every side of me and she knows the issues I've had trouble with (shyness, social anxiety etc.) and as much as I can push myself to be better I'm also inspired by her to make her proud.

3. Do you identify as a feminist? Why or why not?

I wouldn't necessarily class myself as a feminist. I feel the definition changes way to often; everyone has their own meaning of feminist - some I relate to, some I don't. To say I was would be to accept all the definitions. I'm a lover of people. Male, female, trans-everything. I like seeing people happy and I believe everyone, every gender, race etc. has their fair share of struggles. I relate more to females, I've obviously experienced the gender gap, gender inequality situations, sexist people etc. and I can defend that, I can stand up for what is right and just. But at the same time I'll stand up for men if need be. I'm a believer in equality. I can be or would like to be a support or helping hand for all. Everyone has their battles, each requires a different fight. I'd like to fight all. 

4. Hello scientist! How do you feel about being a woman in STEM?

Empowering. That's the best and only word I have for it. It kinda feels like a super power sometimes, people tend to judge based on looks or gender or what they see and there's just this crazy feeling when you say it out loud and it shocks them. YES I'm a woman YES I'm a SCIENTIST. I especially like it when I speak to younger kids and they're in awe of it, I feel like I'm giving them some kind of hope. It's a really hard field to be in, I always feel like I made the easy choice by going into skin chemistry; but at the end of the day it's what speaks to me most so I'm very happy where I am. 

Being in STEM for everyone I think could be a taxing experience. It's a lot of work. Your brain never rests. Some people thrive in this. I did not. While I love everything about science, I don't think I'm one of those people who can "all science all day". I find balance is so important to maintain some level of sanity. Who says you can't have everything?

As for being a woman in STEM - I think for the most part the only issue I've had were people assuming I mean I'm a makeup artist or salon therapist (not that there's anything wrong with these careers) when I say I work in skin care. They automatically assume I'm in the "female type profession" and that assumption annoys me, I wouldn't mind being either - every career has their own benefits but it's the assumption that I couldn't possibly be involved in any other way than that. 

Personally I've never really experienced much of the gender gap where I work. I guess in some places people are more evolved and these kinds of issues have subsided into nothingness. When I worked in organic chemistry I was told I had too much of a "creative and airy fairy girly" nature to be in science, and at the time it would make me feel really stupid cause some one I was meant to look up to was basically telling me I was never going to make it and maybe he was right, in terms of organic chemistry. Now I make my "personality" work for me. And I'm happier for it. 
I work in a lab where I am the only female and honestly the only time I've ever been spoken over is cause I let them, cause I was too shy or afraid to give my opinion. My boss actually requested I give my opinion even if it proves him wrong cause that's how the company grows, that's how we find solutions to our problems; and now that I've grown in confidence I find it much easier to speak my mind and give my opinion and I think that makes me better at my job. 

5. What advice do you have for girls who enjoy science and maths but still see it as a male career field?

Do it. 
Don't even think. 
Just do it. If you love it and you really want to you'll make it work. I know it sounds really optimistic but it just means you're going have to put in extra. A lot extra compared to your male counterparts and you've got to decide if it's worth it. You're always going to need to back up every bit of information, every claim, every idea whereas males would not. But if you're optimistic about it that just means you are more knowledgeable and capable of backing yourself up which will just make you better at what you do.  Yes it is a male dominated field, most are. It's a male dominated world. That doesn't stop you from living in it. Like wise it shouldn't stop you from studying whatever you want. 

The world is evolving, more and more women are stepping up and making the difference. Just last year alone the Nobel Prize winner for chemistry was a woman. And I bet she worked (well her and her students) her butt off for it. Because we are a minority there are a number of facilities in place for women in stem; bursary opportunities, scholarships, internships etc. More and more companies are realizing how much of an asset having a woman is and its becoming easier to build yourself in STEM. It's 2019. Gender gaps still exist. Gender inequality still exists. But the more woman we have, the easier it is to break those barriers. So just do it!!! 

6. What inspired you to start your female empowerment movement, Women Of The World? What do you hope to achieve with WOW?

WoW actually inspired by Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. The book legitimately changed my life and how I want to live it. WoW for me was a way to break out of my shell. I've always been a little introverted but wanting to be extroverted. I got tired of watching other people growing their lives and themselves and being amazing and I was just stagnant. Always the same. Years have passed and I'm still basically still the same person. Still complaining that nothing has changed. Starting WoW was an attempt to engage with others, to bring women together and share in it what keeps them motivated, what makes them them; with the intention that others, myself included, can gain inspiration from them or learn from them. Most of the time it ends with women acknowledging their worth, inspring other but also inspiring themselves. Knowing I had any part in making someone's day a little easier or helping them feel better about themselves is at this point my favorite feeling so I don't plan on stopping.  I have so many ideas for WoW really, it has the potential to grow and help so many people in so many ways. For now I'd like to expand it to different cities, well hopefully be launching and relaunching in jhb and ct soon!! In addition to just motivating women and building this girl gang community I want to start "skills development workshops" for woman but there will be more on that in the future ! I also hope to extend it into a charity to give back, there are a number I'm interested in and it's just finding what works before I make any commitments. 
Being as this is essentially building a "community" I continually find myself surrounded by a strong women who have these amazing ideas and personal projects and we're all involved in different collaborations to improve women empowerment, especially in Durban so there will be a number of collaborations to look forward to in the future. There's no set goal for WoW I just hope it keeps growing and helping everyone. 

7. A big part of WOW is networking and having a community of like minded females. Why do you believe having a female support system is so important?

I'm lucky enough that I have two sisters who are my rocks in life (even my younger sister can be quite insightful ) my mum is my absolute best friend and my best friend has been a part of my life for so long she's basically my sister. This has been my support system for years. Through everything I've been through they have been right there to pick me up, cheer me on, make me laugh and remind me of who I am. When I moved out on my own a year and a half ago it was a really difficult adjustment for me and I felt so alone but I always had them... Across the country, they were still the support system I needed. 

Being a part of WoW I'm watching a similar support system grow. I get to watch friendships be made and girls find in each other qualities they can relate to. Everyone respects everyone's opinions and values. There are no judgements only support and a whole lot of laughter. 

I had an event once, and one of the regular girls texted me just before explaining that she was having the worst week and the only thing getting her through it was how excited she was for the event. It's that feeling. A girl squad of awesomeness. 

Some women don't realize how important that is. It's the difference between having a really bad day but laughing it out with some one who understands you. No judgements; no fakeness. They're the key to overcoming feelings of loneliness and depression. 

To me self-care is extremely important; it is so important to take care of yourself; know your worth and keep pushing yourself. But you can't do it all the time. No one is 100%, 100% of the time. And that's why you need a support system. So you never walk alone. So you don't go looking for it in the wrong places when you're feeling low. So you have someone to remind you who you are or just put a smile on your face. A solid structure to lean on when you're low. 

Having a support system you can vent and open up to is invaluable. People you don't need to have to hide any hint of emotion with. This is such a huge key to mental and emotional well being. 

Loneliness is a killer. We've all felt it, no one talks about it. This is why a support system is so important. This was/is one of the key goals of WoW. I felt alone for so long (even with my cross country support system) and once I came out of it I try to make sure no one else feels that way. 

8. Stating your own venture/organisation takes a lot of perseverance and self control. How do you stay motivated when you feel like giving up?

Okay so it is Woman of the World (WoW) and everyone is supposed to share their "struggles" and normalize everyday struggles. So I'm going to be real and say that I don't! There are days I'm EXTREMELY demotivated. I sit on my couch in my comfiest pjs and waste my life away. I totally regret it the next day. But it's just how it is. 
I find that I'm extremely spontaneous, I have a lot of ideas, and I'm more a talker than a doer (and I'm such a chicken) so when I come up with a new event or idea I immediately post it, or tell my mum or tell my friends and then... It's kind of too late to back out so I force myself to go through with it. 

For the normal days, when it's late at night and all I wanna do is I sleep but I know I have commitments and plans to organize; blogs to post etc. I remind myself why I'm doing it. I know what it's like to feel insecure, feel alone like no one cares, I know how someone's words can speak to you, how someone else's effort affects you so I keep at it. I've had a number of posts people DM after and tell me that it made their day, or that it resonates with them and put them in a better place, so many people agree or relate to me and it's such a great feeling knowing that I'm making a difference by doing such small things so I push myself for that feeling. 

It's so great to watch WoW grow and so many people have reached out and want to collaborate and be apart of it, so I'm no longer doing it just for me, it's no longer just my little project baby... It's sort of everyone's, we're all kind of a team now. So many of the Wowfamily girls who have attended always offer to help and be a part of it. So its more a group effort at this point! 

9. Tell us a bit more about yourself.

Okay so technically I am qualified Chemist ; currently though I work in research and development at Esse Skincare (which is amazing and quite possibly the best job I could imagine). I'm hoping to start a small something of my own in the near future but we'll see how that goes. 

I've lived basically everywhere; I tend to move around a lot. But Cape Town has become home, I have my family and my best friends there so it's more the people. I've never really been good at the making friends, I usually find my 1 or two friends and stick to them. This is improving. Needless to say I used to be EXTREMELY introverted; I sometimes still am, it depends on the situation. I looooove hiking and being outdoors and running resets my brain. So basically loving all the nature things. I love to travel but my budget does not so I'm working on that . I love reading anything and everything. My all time fave is Charlie and the Chocolate factory (cause chocolates ) but I'm currently into self help and self growth books. I think I'm really spontaneous and fun, deep down I'm always going to be a kid so dancing in the rain, jumping into waterfalls and dance parties in my lounge are a must. Speaking of jumping I am an extreme adrenalin junkie I will jump, leap, dive off and into anything!! 

I'm a collecter of experiences so I'm willing to try almost anything. I like movies that make me cry (I like feelings) erm I'm a scorpio. 

10. If you could give your 13 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

This is such a hard one / there is so much advice I could give my 13 year old self but then she wouldnt learn the lessons needed to be where i am :O!
I guess I'd tell my preteen nonadulting self: It doesnt last forever. Nothing does. From 13 to 26 with whatever pain, heartbreak, insecurity or struggle you're going to feel like your world is crumbling. Whether you're lying in bed crying yourself to sleep or feeling useless or insecure just know that it passes. Time and time after every struggle you're going to grow and become better and you're going to forget whatever it was you were crying about. You're going get over the insecurities, you're not going to be shy forever. You are going to grow. It really doesn't last forever. So cry your eyes out. In about a month you'll be over it and crying over something else (you'll get over that too). Just know that it gets so much better're going to love the person you become after all of it. 

I'm not sure if this counts as advice but I would really like for my younger self to know that when it feels like the world is ending and she has nothing... She'll get over it and be better because of it. Also p.s eventually you're going to stop looking like a boy... so just hold on.

11. Lastly, where can we find you? 

Currently I'm on Instagram and I have a Facebook page women_of_the_world_wow
And soon to be a blog but that's not published yet (We can't wait for it, Rukaya!)

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