Empowered Women Empower Women: Shiza Shahid at the University of Redlands

Empowered Women Empower Women: Shiza Shahid at the University of Redlands

“What you do now, what you experience now, whatever ideas you allow yourself to be open to, what people you meet over these next few years will determine so, so much about what you do and what you don’t do,” said Shiza Shahid, a technologist, entrepreneur, and impact leader. 


On October 15th the Associated Students of the University of Redlands (ASUR) brought Shiza Shahid to campus for the newest installment in the Fall Convocation and Lectures Series. 


Shahid is the co-founder of Our Place, an eco friendly kitchenware company, NOW Ventures, an investment company and the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization that helps fight for girls’ education. Because of her work she has been included in both “Forbes 30 Under 30” and “TIME 30 Under 30.” 


Shahid grew up in Islamabad—the capital of Pakistan—and received a good education thanks to her parents and the desire they had for their kids to have a better life than they did. From a very young age her parents instilled in her the firm belief that education is very important. 


“But I was also growing up in a country with many social challenges. Pakistan is ranked the second worst place to be born a woman, it has the second highest number of children out of school in the entire world, and I was growing up in the post 9-11,” Shahid said.


Shahid received a full scholarship to attend Stanford University. During her sophomore year she was made aware of an issue that faced the Swat Valley in Pakistan: an all-out ban on female education was issued by Taliban militants who had taken over the area. That summer she decided to return home to help the girls of the Swat Valley. 


Shahid created a secret summer camp that 26 girls attended. The one goal that she had in mind for this camp was that it would give the girls all the tools they would need to be able to share their stories. Among the 26 girls that attended that summer camp was Malala Yousafzai, Shahid’s fellow cofounder of the Malala Fund and the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize. 


After that summer the Pakistani government intervened in the Swat Valley and the girls were allowed to return to school. Shahid also returned to Stanford that fall and went on to graduate two years later. Upon graduation she was offered a job with one of the best business consulting firms in the world—McKinsey & Company.  


A year after accepting the job offer Shahid was informed that Yousafzai had been shot in the head on her way back from school. Yousafzai went on to make a miraculous full recovery and to be a changemaker in the world. These events led Shahid to make the hard decision to leave McKinsey and move to New York where she started the Malala Fund.


“We must never doubt our ability to achieve anything, become anything, overcome anything, and inspire everything,” Shahid said. 


Through the Malala Fund Shahid wanted to raise awareness for better female education in countries where it isn’t funded nor supported. She and Yousafzai traveled to many third world countries in the Middle East to get the ball rolling on their project. 


Youzafzai played a key role in a lot of decisions that Shahid made but after Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize, Shahid knew that she still wanted to pursue her own story and accomplish new things that she had first thought about while at Stanford. Her story involved solving social challenges in an effective way through markets and technology. The decision to venture forward led up to the foundation of her other companies NOW Ventures and Our Place. 


Shahid wanted her audience’s takeaway at the U of R to be that no one has to decide what they want to do with their life at this very moment. Whatever path is taken to get there will be unique to every person.  


“I hope that you are wildly ambitious and uncompromising in how you spend your life,” Shahid said. 


That is her wish not only to those who attended her lecture but to everyone she meets.