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South Asian women breaking barriers: Saje Brar

Monica Sethi Darpan, 21 Mar, 2023
  • South Asian women breaking barriers: Saje Brar

"For me, it is about shattering glass ceilings at every level, in every industry and all aspects of life - to push past those barriers created by society, in the workplace and every other area."-Saje Brar, Director of Operations at Surrey Eagles & Governor of BCHL

At just 22, Saje Brar became the first woman of colour to be elected governor of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), representing Surrey Eagles. As someone Yale University selected to play for its soccer team and pursue her undergraduate studies, Saje now leverages that experience to help athletes across BCHL get into universities of their choice. “At 15, I was committed to going to Yale though some other schools offered me scholarships up to $280,000 to play for their soccer teams. I felt extremely privileged, and it was a very proud moment for my family and me,” she recalls.

At Yale University, she was the first South Asian to play on the Yale Woman Soccer Team. As NCAA Division 1 soccer player, she was among the top soccer players across colleges in the USA and won twice the Ivy League Rookie of the Week award in her first year.

In 2022, Saje graduated from Yale, majoring in Political Science and completing her four years as an athlete. She returned to Vancouver, Canada and started working as a Director, Operations with the Surrey Eagles, an ice hockey team her family purchased. Ever since, she has been working with her family and handling the logistical side of things, from finding the sponsors and league topics to marketing it appropriately. Recently, Surrey Eagles had a Punjabi night with custom-made jerseys and Punjabi music for an entire game. A similar celebration occurred during the Chinese New Year game as the team again celebrated with custom jerseys and Chinese music from start to finish. “Many youngsters are attracted to sports and marketing, and Surrey Eagles is full of fresh blood and ideas. As Director of Operations, I’m continuously thinking of newer, more inclusive ways of marketing the team,” she shares. 

Saje plays soccer recreationally with the Women’s Premier League in BC. She trains during the week and plays every weekend. 

In the future, she intends to go to the University of British Columbia to study Canadian law. Her advice to other girls she inspires is always to have a rough five-year plan for their future, something she learnt from her father. She also shares her favourite quote, something her father, who also happens to be her mentor, says to her all the time: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” implying that if you’re not willing to put yourself out there, no one will notice or give you anything – words that have kept her in good stead, so far.

Q&A

What does being a woman mean to you?

For me, it is about shattering glass ceilings at every level, in every industry and all aspects of life - to push past those barriers created by society, in the workplace and every other area.

What has been your most significant achievement?

Being able to walk across the graduation stage at Yale University, knowing I am the first South Asian Woman to play on Yales' Women's Soccer team, has been my most outstanding personal achievement. Also, I am proud of earning my BA with a major in Political Science from one of the most established institutions in the world. Finally, getting elected as BCHL governor at 22 feels great. Not only being a woman but a woman of colour to do so has been incredibly fulfilling. 

 
 
 
 
 
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What or who inspires you to do better each day?

My dad Ron Brar is my biggest inspiration, role model, and teacher. He has supported me throughout my athletic, academic, and personal life. I respect him. I appreciate everything he has achieved and accomplished, and I strive to learn as much as possible from him daily. 

What is your advice to women who wish to follow your path?

My advice to women would be never to fear being the first to do something. What I mean by this is that although someone before you has not broken down that barrier or even paved the way, do not hesitate to be the first to do it. There are a lot of rooms that still need to be filled by powerful women, and although it can seem daunting, I hope to inspire others to be the first.

What is your success mantra? 

My success mantra is a quote my dad always says to my siblings and me: 'Squeaky Wheel Always Gets the Grease.'

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