Supporting South Asian Women Going Against the Status Quo

July 13, 2021

Saloni Khushal (she/her/hers) is a digital strategist and policy professional. After graduating with a B.A. in International Relations and Business, Saloni worked on congressional campaigns and as a creator on the Biden Coalition TikTok team. She’s now a policy associate. Saloni is a changemaker, dedicated to raising social, cultural, political awareness, and works on Brown Gal Glow, a project made to challenge stereotypes and empower women of color.

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Growing up, I was faced with the pressure of becoming a doctor, engineer, or just about an expert in any STEM career. That’s all I knew. It was traditional, practical, and expected. Family and friends asked many times what kind of doctor I wanted to be as I prepared to leave for college.

Most Indian kids end up becoming doctors. That was the stereotype, and I am a South Asian daughter of immigrants and a first-gen in America, so as an eager college freshman who had a growing interest in the medical field, I thought I knew the path that was set for me in the minds of others.

However, after a semester of pre-medicine classes, I quickly learned my path was different. I changed my major to international relations with a business administration minor. The questioning started instantly from my parents, family, and friends. This field of study is so uncommon in the South Asian community. Nobody knew how to react.

It was a risky move, but I knew it was right for me. Intersecting my passion for social justice and politics with digital media is how I want to use the power of media to advance social causes.

The negative pushback from family and members of the South Asian community was hard to hear. Topics like financial stability and career longevity were the constant family discussion, but I knew pursuing a career that didn’t align with my interests was not going to be productive and fulfilling.

Luckily, a family friend, Krisha Patel, was going through a similar experience, so we were able to bond over these moments. Starting college on the pre-medicine track and realizing that public relations aligned more with her interests, she shared thoughts with me on what it felt like to feel defeated by so many outside opinions trying to shape one’s career trajectory. We knew another path was for us, even if that meant questioning from others.

Krisha shares that she couldn’t help but notice the lack of South Asian people pursuing careers in entertainment and media. We grew up with the narrative that these spaces were not meant for us, therefore we should focus our energy on “realistic” careers. We agree that creative spaces in digital media and entertainment are crucial for minorities to feel adequately represented in society. People of color need to be seen, heard, and loved.

We wanted to create an avenue for South Asian women like ourselves to be celebrated and supported. Thus, on May 29, 2020, Brown Gal Glow was born. This Instagram page fosters a community of acceptance, and it aims to inform and educate the public on social justice topics while spotlighting South Asians that are breaking barriers. It’s a passion project and a labor of love that is constantly developing.

This small idea is a hope that South Asian women can feel accepted and supported in whatever field they choose to pursue, no matter the repercussions. We’re committed to redefining what success looks like in our community and make space for other opportunities. No matter what you do, there is room for us — we just need a little inspiration and support.

Be bold and be brave.

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