Smashing the glass ceiling: Najma Omar

Claire Boysen, features editor

“There might have been a Muslim president. There might have been a black president. There might have been a girl president. But I’m the first combination of all three.”

She sits in the front of the room, smiling and greeting everyone as they file in. Today, they are signing thank you notes for the faculty members who helped with the talent show they put on last week. At first glance, she may seem like an ordinary Student Council (STUCO) leader whose main goal is to better our school. While that is true, she is also so much more. She is smart. She is black. She is kind. She is Muslim. She is inspirational. She is female. She is Najma.

According to Najma Omar, senior and STUCO President, being a female leader can be difficult in any situation. She believes what you do or say can be pinned against you because of who you are.

“[If] you make a decision and it’s too harsh even girls will [say], ‘Oh she’s overcompensating,’” Omar said. “If your decision is lenient [people will say] ‘Well she’s a girl [and] you can’t expect her to put her foot down when she needs to. That’s why you need a man.’ If you got your position and you’re really friendly, it looks like you flirted your way to the top. Everything you do could be interpreted against you. And that’s really sad.”

Since STUCO is female-dominated, it does not accurately represent how American government actually is. While at KHS the student government may more equally represent the general population in terms of sex, the federal government does not.

“If you see some positions in government there [are] a lot of males in power, and I think that’s not the best model,” Tim Knight, senior STUCO member, said. “Our government should represent our population which is more female than male. I wish our government could be more like STUCO [and] have more female representation. I think that’s what equality should be.”

Omar not only realizes she is representing black and Muslim students in her position, but women as well. Because of this, she feels like she needs to act a certain way to represent to her ethnicity, especially when she was the only black student on STUCO.

“Everything I did had to be perfect because people were watching me and if I did something wrong, I [felt] like people would be like ‘Well what would you expect from a black person?’” Omar said. “It put pressure on me and I already put pressure on myself. It was just really hard.”

While Omar recognizes how females may be undermined in leadership positions, she does not feel belittled as STUCO president. She thinks a main reason why people respect her is because she is a female Muslim.

“Guys don’t holler at me [and] they really don’t bother me period,” Omar said. “People might think, ‘That’s sad because they probably think you’re not attractive.’ No. People just understand the level of respect that comes with being Muslim, especially a Muslim woman, so they leave me alone.”

According to Ali Cleary, freshman STUCO member, Omar is a role model especially in a world where the media portrays females less capable of leadership than males. She believes that having STUCO female-dominated is a good thing in such a male-dominated world.

“I think that Najma is an awesome person [especially with] how she’s running [everything],” Cleary said. “She’s very inspiring because she can [be in charge] without the help of a guy. That proves that women can be independent and do things on our own and be great at it.”

While Omar claims she has not personally faced the repercussions of being a woman and  minority in power, she still feels everyone should be ready to face negative feedback they might receive from other people. But at the same time, she believes it is important to stay true to personal beliefs.

“You can spend your whole life trying to please other people,” Omar said. “But at the end of the day, you’re [going to] be the one who has to deal with every decision you make, every thought that goes through your head, so why not make sure that those thoughts and decisions are catered to what you want them to be. There’s no point stressing about what other people think because they’re not you. Life is way too short to stress over things that have nothing to do with you.”