Community Spotlight: Naznin Virji Babul

This International Women’s Day 2021, we decided to connect with inspiring women championing inclusion at UBC to hear their reflections on this day and perspectives on a more equitable and inclusive future.

Associate Professor,
Senior Advisor to the Provost on Women and Gender-Diverse Faculty
Medicine | Physical Therapy | Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health


What does IWD mean to you?
One of this year’s theme’s for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021 is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. I am extremely proud and honoured to be given the opportunity to serve as Senior Advisor to the Provost on Women and Gender-Diverse faculty during the COVID-19 year and as we approach the post COVID-19 world.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus brought about unprecedented challenges for all UBC faculty. We now recognize that early career researchers – particularly women (cisgender and transgender) and women of colour and especially those who have caregiving responsibilities, have been disproportionately impacted by the effect of the pandemic. Through this role, I believe I was able to play a small part in being in a position to listen to the needs of the UBC community and more importantly, to respond with innovative initiatives that are in line with the broader University wide initiatives.


What is your vision as senior advisor and what do you hope to implement in the future to better the current situation?
My overall vision for this COVID-19 year is:
(1) to give voice (using both quantitative data and stories from diverse women) to the deep and long-lasting effects of the disruption that the pandemic has created on all aspects of academic and personal lives, on women and
(2) to create novel initiatives to begin the process of re-building community and create structural and functional changes at UBC.
There are two initiatives in particular that I would love to highlight:
The first is a program that was created as a direct response to the effects of the pandemic on women. The program is called: Maximizing Impact: Navigating Uncertainty and Complexity in the time of COVID. Over 30 diverse, early career researchers (ECR) and faculty from across the university have joined this program which provides networking opportunities, lunchtime talks by senior faculty across campus and 1:1 leadership coaching. I have been blown away by the responses from the senior faculty and the emeriti faculty who have stepped up to volunteer their time to support and mentor the junior faculty. The leadership coaching team has been fantastic in matching the cohort with the coaches and the response from the coaches who have also stepped up to volunteer their time and expertise to work with the junior faculty has been unbelievable! My own experience of coaching (with my coach Dee Dee Sung) has been absolutely indispensable in helping me to sharpen my focus, actualize my vision and by learning to use my own voice to speak clearly and passionately about issues and creating new ways of thinking about bringing about change.
The second project is called Envisioning Equality: Using UBC’s public realm as a canvas to celebrate women and gender-diverse faculty and staff at UBC.
Women faculty and staff members at UBC have been making significant contributions to the institution for over a century. To celebrate the contributions that women and gender-diverse faculty and staff have made locally, nationally, and internationally, this outdoor art project will harness the transformative power of art in outdoor spaces to highlight these incredible members of the UBC community and catalyze new perspectives about their roles and contributions. I have a fantastic team that is providing guidance, direction and creativity. We are working with UBC administration and leadership who are supporting this project financially and with since commitment.
This is an example of how we hope to create structural change to highlight the impact of women on campus.


What is the one thing/norm/idea you want to challenge this IWD?
I don’t think there is one thing that I can name that I would like to challenge. Shifting mindsets and creating culture change is slow and layered with multiple complexities. We need to work from the grassroots to the top, top-down and consider all the complexities in between.


One self care/destress tip that worked for you during these challenging times.
I make sure to exercise regularly by running or bicycling and when I have time I love to sculpt in clay. I created this piece (picture below) just at the start of the pandemic called “The Last Kiss”. I have been working on refining this piece during the pandemic.

(The Last Kiss)


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