Maaria Mozaffar

Maaria Mozaffar didn’t like what her advocacy and legal work was shining a light on—that often times throughout the political process, marginalized communities and their members can get left behind. Being one who likes to take action, Civil Rights Attorney Maaria Mozaffar decided to make an impact with her day job and her passion projects.

“A large part of my practice is focused on legislative consulting and policy development,” Maaria says. “I consult with organizations and community organizations on how to develop policy that puts them in the driver’s seat and gives them access points to legislators.”

Helping others succeed also inspired Maaria to launch The Skinless Project, an organization founded on the idea that women are more than skin deep and all women should embrace and cultivate their personal power to succeed in their personal and professional lives. (Calling Sasha Fierce!)

In the same vein, Maaria also is a published author of a book on the same topic called, More Than Pretty: How to Live a Life of Substance in an Artificial World. “I advocate for the things I am passionate about. I choose to be fully involved in things I truly believe in,” she says. “I wanted to create a professional life where I was charting the course of my future as much as possible.”

If you are about to take an action, make sure it has a sound purpose.

How did you discover your current job?

I found gaps in my advocacy and legal work and created a platform and law practice to fill in these gaps.

Specifically, I found that in the political process marginalized communities get left behind in two ways:

  • Candidates would not meet with these communities in intimate meaningful ways because candidates themselves are consumed with raising funds for their campaigns. Big donor meetings take priority.
  • Once candidates become legislators, they meet with donors and lobby groups that can continue to fund a legislator for re-election campaigns. Though community organizations were given meetings with legislators, to schedule them is quite difficult. Access is much easier if you have a history of donations, which many marginalized communities do not.
  • Once the legislator is able to sponsor bills and send them to State and Federal representative bodies for a vote to become a law, community organizations come to testify as witnesses for needs of such law. Before that, however, community members have a difficult time proposing real solutions to their legislator due to the issue of access. Thus, community members come to testify to support a bill, but they very rarely are involved in the creation of it.

This is why a large part of my practice is focused on legislative consulting and policy development. I consult with organizations and community organizations on how to develop policy that puts them in the driver’s seat and gives them access points to legislators.

In the course of my work I also found that women who were doing tremendous work were not getting the credit and attention they deserved for their contributions. Many women were afraid to take credit or question authority in these organizational structures. This is why I created The Skinless Project to provide inspiration and role models for women to lead, grow and inspire one another.

How do you organize your day?

I get up at 5 a.m. and start with a morning prayer. I then set my agenda for the day, in addition to answering any pressing emails. Then I get my children ready for school, head straight to the gym and then start my workday. My day is not complete without exercise. If for any reason I am not able to fit it in during the early morning, I make sure to make it up after my children’s bedtime.

I also schedule meetings around my family obligations as much as possible. This commitment to my children forces me to be extremely efficient with the meeting time allotted. If I need to be near a certain location due to these obligations I will take phone or Skype meetings. This schedule also keeps me grounded and helps me to maintain perspective in my professional life. It is very easy to feel stressed when things are not going the way you like. Perspective helps you see the big picture, and family time reminds you there are many dimensions to your life.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

I advocate for the things I am passionate about. I choose to be fully involved in things I truly believe in. I wanted to create a professional life where I was charting the course of my future as much as possible. For this reason, taking the “disrupter” approach in already fixed processes is the best fit for me.

What challenges keep you awake at night?

I wonder: How can I consistently make the biggest impact without sacrificing time? And of course, monetary support. The work I do, specifically with marginalized communities, does not yield great financial reward, yet for the work to continue, it needs to be financially supported. I am consistently looking for opportunities to make the most impact without incurring unnecessary costs.

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

I am committed to not make it a problem. Family time and serious commitment to my children and family keeps me grounded. Whenever there is a conflict between a personal and professional commitment, I choose the personal one. In the professional realm there will always be more projects, deadlines, town halls and speaking opportunities, but being absent from my child’s school play has an impact that can last a lifetime. I don’t strive for perfection, I just try to do the very best I can do.

What are some of the rules you live by?

  • Never take any action out of fear.
  • If you are about to take an action, make sure it has a sound purpose.
  • Do not swap your values for success.
  • Follow your gut.
  • Do not wait for others; take the lead.
  • Don’t be intimidated by experts. We are all learning always.
  • Hustlers win.

What do you feel is the biggest obstacle in success?

Your ego. It tells you that you have arrived. It tells you not to challenge yourself and that you probably already know everything others are telling you. This is a false notion.

To succeed you have to be humble in your intellect and experiences. There are others who have different skillsets and experiences than you, and you can always learn from them.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

My work requires working with different community leaders in order to reach a desired result. You need to be able to think outside the box, understand the different perspectives at the table, and always look for new inspiration from the people you meet.