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How Samsung’s Dinaz Jiwani Paved a Way For Her Family With One Bold Choice

After becoming the first woman in her family to pursue higher education in America, Jiwani shares how her journey inspired her to pay it forward to future generations.
| |Illustration by Jake Meyers; Photography Courtesy of Dinaz Jiwani
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Paying it Back: Jiwani often uses her story in her work, encouraging immigrants to always dream big. Photography Courtesy of Dinaz Jiwani
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How Samsung’s Dinaz Jiwani Paved a Way For Her Family With One Bold Choice

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Dinaz Jiwani immigrated to the United States from a small town in India after graduating from Savitribai Phule Pune University in 2004 with a straightforward goal: She wanted to be the first woman in her family to pursue higher education in America.

However, had it not been for her father’s willingness to go beyond the conventional way of thinking in a conservative Muslim household—and many pressures around him questioning why he would allow his daughter to do so—her master’s degree in mass communications from Boston University might not have been possible. Her career with Samsung Electronics America as the senior manager of DEI programs and strategy might not have been possible, either.

After her father’s initial hesitation and having to overcome many societal pressures, Jiwani’s graduation ceremony years later served as a moment of vindication for both father and daughter.

To be able to have young women in our household even explore the idea of dreaming and understanding that there is a path for them that is different than just being a homemaker or a caregiver gives me a huge sense of accomplishment.

Dinaz Jiwani

Jiwani made the move to Boston by herself leaving behind her joint family household where she grew up with six to seven aunts, uncles, and grandparents that fostered a tight-knit environment. She lived in Boston for seven years before returning to India. Using her experiences, specifically with her father, she now applies lessons learned in her role with Samsung leading DEI initiatives.

Here, she shares memories from her journey and how they apply today:

“As I opened the admission letter and went to break the news to my dad, it took a second for him to comprehend what exactly I was revealing,” Jiwani says. “At my graduation, I distinctly remember that my dad was happiest. Because regardless of how high he raised the bar for me, he saw that I delivered on it, and I did so without compromising on any of our values. You must understand that for him to send out the first girl he had, he also had to overcome many societal issues that said, ‘Why would you want to invest so much in your girl’s education? What if she gets married and there is no return on your investment? What if she compromises on core values?’ I admired that he challenged his own thinking and the status quo. My graduation was his personal win to say, ‘My decisions were right.’ He passed away five years ago, so it’s always emotional knowing he took a leap of faith with me. It was truly a remarkable step in the right direction for the family.

“It really didn’t hit me what exactly I was getting into because there was just so much that needed to happen between wrapping up my life back home, and embarking on a whole new journey. It really hit me when I actually sat on the plane. And really thinking that I was finally on to this journey. It was exciting, for sure. I just had my eyes on the end game in terms of what this was going to mean for me, but as you can imagine the reality is different when you land in a world that has been nothing like what you’re used to. I’m a person who takes a lot of accountability, especially knowing that so many hopes and aspirations and dreams were riding on my version. Sometimes academic hitches meant that I was absolutely heartbroken because I started really questioning my legitimacy of being here and pursuing what I wanted and I had moments of self doubt. But I kept that grit and faith at the forefront, which carried me through.

“I consider myself really fortunate to be able to extend my personal ‘why’ to be able to make an impact in workplaces. And I firmly believe that the runway is broad and long, and not an endpoint to this journey. Ultimately, all the DEI efforts are geared toward respecting differences. And as long as we can do that, and make sure that all of those perspectives are welcomed and barriers are removed, I think we can really innately have people flourish to their best version to be themselves. The demographic of the United States and workplaces have changed significantly. While there is always room to improve, and do more, what I really wanted to emphasize is that there are still people that are invested in this work. There are still leaders who see the value and there are still people who innately believe that we are here to drive collective good.”

Today, Jiwani’s main objective is to help embrace and usher in the next generations of leaders, regardless of their background or cultural differences, something she learned while growing up in her Indian community. However, she also acknowledges that she would not have the opportunity to be in that role of passing it forward had it not been for her father making a stand and empowering her to do so nearly 20 years ago.

“There were multiple ways in which my dad could have left his legacy behind,” Jiwani says. “He was a very successful businessman, very accomplished in what he did for his living. He passed away five years back. So for me, it’s always a very emotional moment, knowing that he took the leap of faith with me and he challenged the status quo in the way that led me to live this life. Had he said no, there was no way for me to discover what I could be doing for my life, let alone the broader family impact. I consider that to be my biggest win. To be able to have young women in our household even explore the idea of dreaming and understanding that there is a path for them that is different than just being a homemaker or a caregiver gives me a huge sense of accomplishment.”

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Layten Praytor

Layten Praytor

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