Studies show that successful businesses extend staunch support to all practices that encourage diversity and inclusivity across the board.
However, there still remains a wide gap in the number of women who take up leadership roles in organisations across the world. A similar case exists within Pakistan. In a bid to encourage a thought-provoking conversation on the need for a more diverse workplace, a women-led session was held at AdAsia 2019 in Lahore, where issues and challenges related to the idea of 'Women in Power' were discussed.
The session celebrated diversity, inclusivity and everything that would help women contribute towards the fight against gender bias in society.
Key speakers included Dr Zeelaf Munir, MD and CEO English Biscuit Manufacturer, Seema Jaffer, CEO and Creative Director at Bond Advertising and Frieha Altaf, CEO Catwalk PR and Event Management. The session was moderated by Atifa, Silk - Brand Director of Campaign Asia - Pacific.
While the discussion did indeed raise pointers on how women can identify and combat biases at the workplace, one of the most interesting things about the session was that all panelists were able to bring to the table vast experiences of support being extended to the cause of women empowerment, as well as their own tireless efforts to move ahead on the Pakistani corporate route while facing various challenges.
Here's a quick look at some key points and arguments made by the three speakers:
“My journey included breaking multiple glass ceilings; the glass ceiling of family and societal expectations, socio-cultural pressures and the challenges I faced in my professional life in a foreign country. By the time I was attending medical school, I was the mother of three kids! Yet, I wanted to carve out a way for myself, stand on my own feet, and not only pursue my education but also build my own career. Fortunately, I was able to conquer them all with the help and support of my husband.”
Speaking of her decision to return to her roots and taking the helm of the company, Zeelaf said, "I was very anxious. Even though, I had many years of experience, I was still from a different field. In addition, I had been to the most competitive of universities and professional organisations, hence, my outlook towards creating strategies and problem solving were entirely different. I would always want the solutions to be coming from my team, rather than just from me. I also wanted the environment to be open to learning. I wanted an environment that was both collaborative as well as participative. A part of the model I set out for that year (and which is in place even today) was to preserve our legacy and lead change.”
Dr Munir pointed out that multiple efforts needed to be made to ensure an increase in women employment and retention along with leadership routes that are free of hurdles.
While speaking about the importance of economic growth and prosperity for the Pakistani corporate sector, Dr Munir said that the growth of our economy is directly linked with how inclusive our corporate structures are.
Commenting on how her organisation employs systems to ensure more and more women step forward to grow within their professional spaces, Dr Zeelaf Munir highlighted that it is the value of diversity that her organisation continues to prioritise over others.
EBM allows women to choose their own schedules, take career breaks and set their own work hours as an attempt to derail all stereotypical barriers for women in Pakistan.
"You have to remove the existing barriers for women. Maybe they want a different schedule. Maybe they want to take some time off and come back after. And that’s okay with us because we recognise the value in diversity and the perspective they bring. We are nowhere close to where we need to be but we're getting there.”
Research suggests diversity and inclusion often end up becoming catalysts for business innovation and greater profits as diverse pools of employee personalities ensure wider varieties of skill sets.
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