Nadia Nizamuddin

Nadia Nizamuddin
Photographed by Amani Azlin
Interviewed and Edited by Chew Siew Keat


For Nelissa Hilman's International Women's Day campaign, we chose to highlight a bunch of women, some are friends, all are champions of their industry and strong women alike. With her feet planted firmly in two contrasting industries, Nadia Nizamuddin is our favourite  oil and gas engineer slash artist. She is also a single mother and an unabashedly outspoken individual.

How do u think you’re breaking the bias in your industry? 

I'm an engineer in an oil and gas company and there is already so much bias there. I remember when I first started for certain projects they would request for a male engineer because they feared that a female engineer would get pregnant and that would set the project back months. When you work in that field, pregnant ladies can't go into plants and there is a perception that women don't want to go on shore especially when they become moms because it's not like a vacation. You’re sharing your space with men and everything else is just you and men. That is what I'm trying to unintentionally break,. I see it as a break from my kids, some time to myself and I do love my kids but I also like my work and that was why it was actually a welcoming thing for me to join projects.        

There is an expectation for women to be with their children more than men to be with the children 

Its the same thing even when you’re working from home. Hardly would the male complain about their children because the male would lock themselves up in the meeting room and let the wife handle everything. Kids need their fathers too. Of course they need their moms more but there needs to be an equal dependency between moms and dads. It takes a village to raise children. I'm glad I had great support from their dad as he's a hands-on dad and I had help from my parents and my in-laws. There is a role thats set that mom should stay at home and its ok for the dads to leave their kids and just work. 

How do you think motherhood has defined you?

I struggle with that. I see a lot of women losing who they are after getting married. They feel its selfish to continue living as they would before and right off the bat I would say I’m a selfish mom. There shouldnt be such a term but because I always put my joy or at least equal to my kids first.I was very adamant to not lose myself and all of my interests. At the same time I’m very partial to strong working moms but my respect goes to women who are stay at home moms.I’ve always appreciated these women and theres equal strength for working mom and theres strength in losing yourself or your career for your family and its a honorable graceful sacrifice.

How are you challenging the normal stereotypes of being a mother, an artist and an engineer?

Passion and determination. I looked at magazines and I see all these successful women in their own industries and I have long since channeled that positive jealousy since I was a kid into something good instead of hating and raging against that person. I remember seeing a quote where whenever you feel jealous over a womans success that means you want it so works towards it. I couldn’t do it without family support. My sisters and my parents and my kids dad have always been supporting my triathletic tournaments, and my art shows and I always make sure that I always deliver at my work and juggle quietly and keep it separate. 

How do you juggle every aspect of your career while being a single parent?

For a period of time I wasn’t doing really well and dependent on help and I guess one thing I really wanted is to see my kids turn out good. I don't want them to be defined by me or whatever happened to me and I want to normalize things for them and that’s what I wake up to to keep it together. There is a stigma as well for single parents and that a single mother needs a man to rescue her. I’m not embarrassed about my status as a single mother but i would say that i think me challenging it is me normalising it. I kind of have a tell tale sign when I see other mothers and i can tell if other mothers are struggling. I try to talk to them and be honest to them as well about my own mental health struggles.

What do you think needs to be changed about your industry, the oil and gas and art?

I think maybe theres a huge problem with gender inequality. We are still facing stereotypes in any industry actually. I think there should be more compassion towards working mothers in the oil and gas industry, I think instead of angry towards the idea of women needing to be on maternity leave or leaving to pick up kids, work with them and let them work when they can and thats a change i would really like to see. In the art industry im very interested in knowing why there are so few women artists and understand why women artists aren’t being represented enough. There were more women in classes in art courses but there are more male who are now showing in art galleries. 

What is the one quote that drives you throughout the day?

Never explain, never complain.

Duma Flats painted by Nadia in 2021


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