Maryam Pasha imagines a better future
8th November 2019
Interview with Maryam Pasha
Maryam Pasha is currently the Director and Curator of TEDxLondon and has worked with a variety of organisations such as Migrant Rights’ Network and UnLtd. From how to avoid Imposter Syndrome to listening to younger generations she shares her thoughts on how we can build a better future.
What knowledge or experiences have you drawn from to curate some of the events at this year’s FutureFest? If you weren’t programming events like this how would you shape the future?
My experience curating TEDxLondon, TEDxLondonWomen and other public events has shown me that there is a huge appetite for spaces that facilitate meaningful conversations. People want to share ideas that inspire action or change the way we see the world.
I think we can all sometimes feel like the world isn’t going in the direction we hoped it would…what we’re looking for is both good news – about what is going right – and ideas for new solutions from unexpected sources. I use my experience to challenge an audience by showing them new perspectives from new voices – from a young scientist or social entrepreneur to a journalist or drag queen. I also love playing with new formats and we’re currently working on a really innovative format for one of the FutureFest stages that I’m very excited about!
If I wasn’t curating I would still be working in human rights, specifically around the rights of migrants and refugees, which is what I did in a past life. And finally writing my book about Imposter Syndrome!
You gave a talk on Imposter Syndrome at TEDxUCLWomen, how as a society can we ensure the right people are not overlooked for jobs and opportunities in the future?
Imposter Syndrome is tricky because it can make you feel like a fraud, like you don’t deserve your success or that you’re not good enough. But as I’ve looked into this more I realise that these feelings can intersect with a lot of structural and unconscious bias faced by traditionally marginalised groups. Which means that sometimes it is the gremlins in our minds and sometimes there are real life albeit invisible gremlins that are holding us back.
Ensuring that everyone has access to equal opportunities in the future comes down to making diversity a core and uncompromisable part of your hiring or curating process. For example, if you want to have gender balance then don’t give up because enough women didn’t apply, keep looking, be proactive and don’t fill the spot until you find the right person. They might not be easy to find, but I can guarantee that whoever you are looking for exist, if you start looking in different places, taking risks and examining what could be holding people back from coming to you.
We are all aware that we have unconscious biases and we know that many people from marginalised groups and women are not getting to the positions and opportunities they deserve and can do. It’s about being self-aware and actively asking yourself – who is missing in this conversation? Who is missing in this room? Why is this happening and what can we do to change this? I think also not being afraid of change – and knowing that sharing the space with lots of different people and voices may be uncomfortable at first. But then you can see diversity is the only way we can solve the big issues our society faces. In reality, anyone can experience Imposter Syndrome, but it can be exacerbated by ongoing inequalities – so it’s about creating environments that are not toxic and being explicit on why you want to bring diverse people into all types of teams and institutions.
At the moment the future looks a bit dystopian and the rosy Star Trek like future I thought was in store for us feels like a distant memory.”
How can we give a voice to future generations and get others to listen?
I think young people already have a voice, we don’t need to give them one. That said, we do need to listen to young people and understand their ideas and opinions may be different from what we expected.
A good start is asking the younger generation to be involved in decisions about their future and act on what they say. A lot of young people are concerned about having their voices exploited in order to “tick a box” for decision makers rather than be taken seriously.
Involving young people is essential to futureproof your work. Can it become common practice to ask – how will our work now affect those in 5 years, 10 years, 100 years?
Why is survival the theme for FutureFest 2020? What does it mean to you?
A speaker I worked with earlier this year said “the world today feels more contested, more in flux than at any point since 1945… and if we’re going make it through in one piece we’re going to need everyone to play their part.” (Peter Apps at TEDxLondon 2019)
At the moment the future looks a bit dystopian and the rosy Star Trek like future I thought was in store for us feels like a distant memory. What I think we’ve all realised is that we can’t take progress for granted and that if we’re not only going to survive but thrive in the future we need ideas, inspiration and a community to like-minded people to work together to get us there. I want FutureFest 2020 to empower people and to give them ideas and courage to actually take action – locally and globally – and know they can have an impact.
FutureFest is a space where we can explore what kind of future we want and start to see what steps we need to take to create that.”
How can we mobilise people in the future so we can thrive?
FutureFest is a space where we can explore what kind of future we want and start to see what steps we need to take to create that. I’m optimistic, because I think most people do really care, but they just don’t know what to do in the face of such huge and intractable issues. I feel like that sometimes. But having a community around us that can offer inspiration and support – that is the first step to mobilising.
Why should people come to FutureFest?
If you care about the future. If you’re worried about what might happen in 20 years. Or if you’re hopeful. Then, come to FutureFest to join a conversation with some of the world’s most interesting thinkers who will be creating solutions, sharing ideas and asking new questions that can help us think about what’s on the horizon in a new way. Maybe you’ll find some comrades for your journey into a time that seems more uncertain and risky than it did for many past generations.
Quick Fire 5
Where is your happy place?
New York City
Which book would you recommend to others?
Non-fiction: Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen
Fiction: In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
What is the best advice you have been given?
‘You already know what to do.’ Seth Godin
What has been the hardest lesson you have learnt?
Things don’t happen for a reason.
What can we do on a daily basis to shape our future for the better?
Make better choices and not give up if we fail for a day, a week or a month! For example, eat less meat and dairy, fly/drive less and be kind to yourself and others more.
Reset the clock on doomsday: come to Futurefest to map a better future.