Opportunities and Knowledge Abound at Ms. JD Leadership Conference; Ayesha Haq Shares Thought on her Experience
Ms. JD is nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is “dedicated to the success of women in law school and the legal profession.” Last fall, the organization hosted its inaugural National Women’s Law Students Organization (NWLSO) Leadership Academy at Harvard Law School, inviting a small group of law students with outstanding achievements to come and learn about the challenges and opportunities facing women in the legal community.
Second-year law student Ayesha Haq was one of the 45 individuals (selected from over 200 applicants) from across the country to attend the event.
On March 4, 2017 she gave a TEDx talk, “Unpacking the Meaning of Oppression” that examined the identities of Muslim women and the pervasive cultural narratives that surround these identities. See the full talk: UCTEDX
Haq is an active leader in the student body: she serves as president of UC’s chapter of the American Constitution Society; she founded and serves as president of the Muslim Lawyers’ Association; she acts as Diversity Chair for UC Law Women. She is also a Fellow with the Ohio Innocence Project.
The NWLSO required applicants to explain how they seek to affect the condition of women within their particular community. Haq’s application highlighted similar concerns to those given in her recent TEDx talk, expressing how she “wanted to change the narrative of understanding Muslim women.” She recalls first coming to the College of Law, and initially feeling worried that she was the only JD student wearing a hijab. As she began dialogue with other students, however, she gained confidence and founded the school’s chapter of the Muslim Lawyer’s Association, where she leads students with concerns similar to her own.
The NWLSO was impressed with Haq’s application, and, thus, she began her journey.
At the Leadership Academy Haq took advantage of many opportunities to learn about how to address challenges women face in the legal field. She learned about the urgent need for women to negotiate better salaries in order to address the issue of gender pay-gaps. Haq also learned from experts with a range of expertise. For instance, she participated in a seminar hosted by Diane Darling, a fulltime networking specialist, who guided the students in learning how to use body language to exude confidence and control professional situations.
Haq learned that men tend to “make themselves larger” in rooms, while women tend to contract. Women in professional settings benefit from breaking the habit of contracting, as taking about more space allows them to nonverbally display their confidence and expertise.
Haq remains committed as ever to social justice and the narratives of Muslims. Her views on these issues are highly nuanced as she observes historical tensions between liberalism and religion. She notes that in a nation like France, secularism is a potent force, making Muslim integration a difficult matter. Still, she focuses primarily on the condition of Muslim American women, as her own experience lends her authority on the subject, and she can relate to others.