I have a confession to make: I am a feminist. I realized this because I strongly believe in creating equal opportunities for women in all aspects of life, especially in areas of education and employment which, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is the definition of feminism.
I don’t know when I became a feminist or what exactly turned me into one. Maybe it is because I have lived in matriarchal societies such as Vietnam where it was rare to find a man who worked, as almost all the work was being done by women. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I can’t believe organizations waste the opportunity that 50% of the country could bring to their team. Maybe it is because in my experience, women have an edge as they feel they simply have to try harder. Or maybe it is to do with my belief that a work environment in which both women and men work is just more fun and creative. Whatever it is, I prefer to work in an environment where both women and men coexist without any prejudices and preconceptions. Such environments drive both sexes to give it their best and to recognize and give opportunities to the person that best delivers and lives the company values, as opposed to encouraging gender discrimination.
I believe we have crossed many bridges with regards to education in Pakistan. 45%of all students enrolled in higher educational institutions are now women. The bridge that we haven’t seen yet, is in the area of employment. Women have to work harder, prove more and still get fewer opportunities. I know that many of you will disagree with this statement and I am sure you can point to more than one example that proves that I am wrong, which is great! However, I, and the women that I speak with, can come up with numerous examples to support the fact that there are many obstacles that prevent women from obtaining equal employment opportunities. Yes, some women are to blame for not influencing their social environment enough and yes women do postpone their career to focus on bringing up their kids. However the simple fact is that for any company to maximize its potential you can’t ignore 50% of the population.
If you still don’t believe me, believe this: A McKinsey study, called ‘Women Matter’ (2007) demonstrated that companies with a higher proportion of women in their top management have a 10% higher return equity and have 48% more profit. (See graph.)
I would like to salute all the women that have been trailblazers. Those that have entered the corporate world, have made it to senior positions against the odds and have battled it out to show that women can not only do a fantastic job but have the results to prove it. To honor all these trailblazers of Pakistan; Engage Consulting is launching a study to determine what makes female corporate leaders successful. We are looking to identify best company practices, to promote gender diversity and highlight how companies can be successful in attracting, developing and retaining female talent to accelerate them to future corporate leaders.
If you are interested in this study and would like to participate or nominate a person or company to participate in our Corporate Women Leaders of Pakistan Study, then please contact Sanober Ahmad – Keijzer at firstname.lastname@example.org and become a part of the movement to support women in the corporate world.
As Sharmeen Obaid – Chinoy, a role model that has made a tremendous impact on Pakistani women said during her 2012 Oscar acceptance speech, “To all the women in Pakistan who are working for change, don’t give up on your dreams”
– Paul Keijzer