Sonya Barlow Is Owning Her Story And Helping Others To Do The Same

Sonya Barlow Is Owning Her Story And Helping Others To Do The Same
The ‘S’ in Sonya Barlow’s name stands for ‘self made’. Founder of the ‘Like Minded Female Network, author of ‘Unprepared To Entrepreneur’ and host of the BBC’s ‘The Everyday Hustle’, Barlow’s story is not the usual Pakistani British narrative.

Arriving in the UK as a four year old, she set forth on the path that so many British Asians set upon. Go to school, get a degree, get on the career ladder and life is set. But for Sonya, she soon found she wasn’t really fitting in as was expected.

“I felt isolated and lonely. I don’t just mean alone in terms of my colour or gender, it meant just in terms of my identity how to move up the career ladder, my confidence. I didn’t know who to speak to especially not my managers in terms of how I wanted an external community,” said Barlow.

Having a career is one thing but to merge a cultural identity with a career that does not recognise that means that many women of colour are left behind.

“There was a gap in the market. Companies who wanted women, diversity and inclusivity were actually saying ‘yeah we want you in the workspace but we want you to be a certain way in the workspace’. And I said unfortunately my identity doesn’t allow me to leverage in the work space,” explained Barlow.

Women of colour routinely face this dilemma where they have to fulfil cultural norms while juggle a career that caters to a way of living that may not work with their cultural identities, thereby limiting career development and simultaneously alienating them as they try to grow as individuals.

Identifying and experiencing this pushed Barlow to set up the LMF Network which aims to build the confidence and careers of individual via elements including mentoring, masterclasses and establishing and offering meaningful networks.

“With the LMF Network, we have our consultancy and advisory side where we support businesses to be more diverse and inclusive through end to end project and strategy, reporting, auditing all the way to education and work jobs to implementation. We are a bespoke service where everything is catered 100% to your business model.

And then our community side is where we build the confidence of the individuals in the workplace and mentoring, masterclasses and meaningful connections. So we have this large mentoring program that covers 24 countries because that was virtual and with a 98% success rate it was found that women especially women of colour feel that they can’t enter or progress in the workspace because of lack of community lack of career knowledge and lack of confidence and add on top of that a layer of culture which no one ever talks about.”

For Barlow to get here though was her own journey and experience. “My passion has been fuelled by the inequalities I have seen, ive seen myself not be the ‘norm’ and yet found myself as the ‘other’. My aim was inwards, my aim was me, what do I have to give to the world, how can I add value and solve problems, these are the tips, what I have learned and putting it out. Originally it was always females because I was also understanding my own cultural identity.”

Barlow has a ‘real’ attitude about how she sees her work. She doesn’t fall for gimmicks such as number of followers that are usually seen as an acceptable metric for measuring success. Instead she has her eye very much on something more substantive, the impact of her work and the connection she builds with her consumers and clients.

In 2020, she was named one of the most influential women in tech by ComputerWeekly, Winner of the women in software changemakers for Makers and Google. She was also featured in the Top 50 BAME entrepreneurs (TechRound) and recognised as a Future Shaper 2020 (Marie Claire UK). In 2021, she was a winner of the InspiringFiftyUK 2021 (accelerate her), and Forbes 30 under 30 shortlist runner-up.

“In 2021 my book was published and the BBC approached me for a show called the Hustle for BBC Asian Network. I was a Pakistani woman doing a business show – first Asian to do such a show for the BBC and in 2022 that show was the named the best radio show in the country.

My book is now on reading lists in universities and is available all over the world. I was named as LinkedIn’s Changemaker. I don’t have a bazillion followers so its not about the number that you have, it is the content that you’re pushing out and how you’re helping people build their careers using your own experience.”

In 2022, she was named as part of the Future is Female by Advertising week Europe and listed in the Top 50 women in Tech in Europe.  one of the most influential women in tech (ComputerWeekly) and an Asian Women of Achievement.

Post pandemic, Barlow is acutely aware of the greater need to value the planet and people by encouraging curiosity and how to solve problems through different mediums, again walking off onto the unexplored paths to create better value for all.

Even now, she values conversations that enable people to be comfortable in the niche she has identified and built a market which continues to thrive. Having been recognised as one of the most influential women in tech by ComputerWeekly, she is now focusing on making her work more accessible via her own YouTube talk show and podcast.

“It is my duty to give back to society,” said Barlow.