Fouzia is the UK’s Consul-General to Toronto and the first British Muslim woman to head a diplomatic post in the British diplomatic service. She was met throughout the day by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adam Tickell, the Heads of the Schools of History and Cultures, and English, Drama and Creative Studies, and members of the University’s Birmingham Global Team.
Fouzia gave a talk to over 50 students about her experiences growing up locally in Stourbridge as the granddaughter of migrants, as one of only nine Asian girls in her school year, and the first person in her family to attend university. She also shared her reflections on her career journey in the diplomatic service where she started as an intern at the British High Commission in India before taking up subsequent positions at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Canada, where she currently works.
She discussed her early career experiences when she felt that “no one looked like me in the room and no one looked like me on the walls." She reiterated the importance of how diplomats are global influencers and changemakers; and how real change starts with responsibility in whatever field you choose to pursue.
Follow your passion. Take ownership. Recognise your power. Most importantly, be responsible to yourself and to the communities and societies around you – you set the standard.Alumna Fouzia Younis MBE - University of Birmingham Alumna.
She talked about how a lot has changed with more women in top roles and a more diverse FCDO board though there was still room for more progress which the FCDO was prioritising – the Foreign Office wanted to reflect the Britain of today at the global stage.
Fouzia demystified her role as the British Consul-General, explaining her remit as the UK’s representative in Ontario, promoting British national interests in the province across a wide portfolio of activities from trade and jobs, discussions on climate policy and clean energy, collaboration on science and innovation, and creating more bridges for people to connect. She outlined those causes in her role that she finds especially motivating: her posting in Pakistan, during the devastating floods of 2022, hit home the worldwide risks of climate vulnerability; and she spoke about the critical impact artificial intelligence will make on global workforces and labour markets as well as our need to use it responsibly to safeguard against misinformation.
Students took the opportunity to ask Fouzia questions about her career and role including about climate change initiatives, regulatory frameworks, implementation of government policy she may personally disagree with, promoting LGBTQI rights in-country, and the skills the FCDO seeks.
Following her talk, Fouzia led a Lunch with a Leader session. This is a more intimate programme that gives small groups of students the opportunity to sit down and chat with some of the University of Birmingham’s most successful alumni who have gone on to lead, influence and shape a range of different organisations.
A big thank you to Fouzia for being so generous with her time and sharing her insights and expertise with our students across the day.