Are Women Their Own Worst Critics?

imagesDiving into our research and immersing into how to enhance gender diversity in Pakistan through our Engage Women initiative and the Women@Work Study, is like peeling an onion. Every time you think you have one insight, it leads to a deeper layer with even more profound insights. The more I learn, the more I go jumping from and connecting one thought to another.

While surfing the web I came across Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches initiative and was blown away by this social experiment. I don’t know who came up with the idea, but the concept of letting an artist make two sketches of the same woman, one as she sees herself and one how she is seen by a stranger, is utterly genius and mind boggling. The results were fascinating; only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful. The dove website says it all; “women are their own worst beauty critics.”

While I was thinking over on this insight, my monkey brain leaped to Sheryl Sandberg’s, Ted Talk video on Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders (she has recently translated these thoughts in her best selling book: Lean In.) In this, Sandberg explains that amongst others, one of the main reason why women progress less in the corporate world is that they are the own worst critics. According to her, when a man achieves a certain task, he screams it from the roof tops and gives high fives all around, whereas when a woman achieves a similar task, she still wonders what she could have done better.

So maybe women are not only their own worst beauty critics but also their own worst career critics. Maybe a boost of confidence is all they need, or maybe they need to see their achievements through the eyes of another. What do you think; are women getting in their own way by being too critical?

– Paul Keijzer

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Help Us Pull Unilever Over The Line

tug_of_warTwo weeks ago, Engage Women (an initiative of Engage Consulting) launched the Women@Work Study. We invited 20 companies to participate, in hopes to get better understandings and insights into what enables the participation of working women in Pakistan. To date; Pepsi, Engro, GSK, Nestle, Shell, Phillip Morris, Mobilink, Ufone, PTC, Novartis, ICI, Reckitt Benckiser and Telenor have all confirmed their participation. That’s a pretty good result! 6 companies still have to come back to us and only one company has declined…

Strangely, Unilever was the one that decided not to participate. I am surprised as I was always under the impression that gender diversity is really important to them. They were role models and pioneers, with Musharaf Hai being the first female CEO and Chairman of a multinational company in Pakistan. Even now, they have two high potential female leaders in their management team.

I know from their HR Director, Ali Zia, that they have implemented a number of work-life balance initiatives in order to support female participation and career progression within the company. Not only do they promote gender diversity in the boardroom, but are also constantly working to find a gender balance internally. They provide security-guard staffed housing for female engineers that work near their remote facilities, promote flexible working hours to benefit all managers and even have a day care center to help working mothers.

So, I am not sure what their reason is, but maybe with your help I can pull them over the line! If you are interested in understanding Unilever’s position and best practices on enhancing gender diversity in Pakistan then email me at to sign my petition. I will collect all the responses and present them to Ehsan Malik, Unilever’s highly successful Chairman and CEO. I will try my best to convince him of Unilever’s social responsibility in this matter and to share their experience and heritage in driving the participation of women in leadership positions.

– Paul Keijzer

When Was The Last Time You Did Something For The First Time?

7189397708_72402c108a_zI was always a big fan of the old Emirates Airlines ‘Keep Discovering’ campaign. The most memorable ad for me was the one where two African men check into a hotel during winter and were over the moon to see snow for the first time. I love it when I can create the same “first time” sensation for my clients.

This week I spent three days in the north of Pakistan with the top team of a pharmaceutical company. Their aim was to forge personal bonds, allowing them to collaborate better as a team and lead their organization through a number of exciting challenges coming up. From my previous blogs you know that the Leadership Outbreak Journeys are my favorite interventions and this one was no exception.

These journeys combine taking people out of their comfort zone, creating experiences together, having conversations that matter and embracing first time experiences. The Leadership Outbreaks are always such a success because they combine all these 4 elements in an exciting cocktail, transforming the team in the process.

The ‘First Time Experience’ is a key component as it forces people to do things that they haven’t done before and often allow people to confront their fears. There is nothing more powerful for me (as a facilitator) to see people overcoming their fears. This Outbreak was no exception. On the contrary, it was even more exciting as we created experiences that were also new for me; we went paragliding!

Picture taken of my paragliding shadow
Picture taken of my paragliding shadow

One of the activities I did this time was climbing a 60 foot rock (of course fully secured and safe) and subsequently then repelling down the same rock face. One participant was particularly fearful of coming down the rock face, as the top had a bit of an overhang that made it quite difficult for beginners to start. He was unable to overcome his fears, despite coaching and guidance from the instructor that was with him at the top. He finally amassed enough courage when his colleague, who went down before him, told him “Zahid, do you trust me? You can do it, you just have to let go.” Can you imagine the power? Not only of the person overcoming his fears, but also of the bond that was created between these two team members. 

Rock Climbing

Similarly at the end of the three days the most senior team member, who had been awesome in completing all the activities, despite his age, physical conditions and vertigo, said that it was an “unbelievable” experience. He shared that he would never have done any of these activities on his own, but as he was part of the team he completed each task and was rightly so very proud of his achievements.

This drives me. Pushing people’s boundaries, letting them do things they thought were not possible and in the process enjoying the experience to the full. Thanks team for a wonderful outbreak. I know for sure that together you will achieve your dreams! So next time you are faced with a new task, a scary yet thrilling experience – ask yourself the same question; “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

– Paul Keijzer

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Women @ Work

womenLast year I wrote a blog in which I confessed “I Am a Feminist“. Since then, Engage Consulting has launched Engage Women and has approached a number of companies to partner with us in conducting a study to identify what drives female talent in the workplace.

I am now happy to announce that we have found that partner in PepsiCo. International. Pepsi has been one of the trailblazers in Pakistan and together with a few other leading companies has been taking the lead in driving the gender and diversity agenda in the country. According to Pepsi, they have the highest female participation rate in the Pakistani FMCG industry and most likely within the corporate world.

The purpose of the study is to establish how organizations can enhance the female workforce, identify what practices others have introduced that have had an impact, to get a benchmark on the number of females working in organizations and how women rate their own company on efforts to enable female workforce participation. As part of the study, we will also interview a number of female role models that have made it to the top of the corporate world and ask them to share their insights into what made them successful.

I am really excited, as I am not aware of any other study currently being conducted in Pakistan on this topic and as a self-proclaimed feminist this study is something that is close to my heart and which my team and I really want to drive forward. We will use the launch of the Women @ Work Study to introduce a number of other initiatives from our Engage Women platform. We plan to share data, build connections, introduce career advice forums and develop a network for working women in Pakistan.

At the moment we will focus our study specifically on a number of leading companies in Pakistan to establish what works and what doesn’t work for talented women in moving their career forward.

I know of one female CEO of a multinational in Pakistan and she, Musharaf Hai, is an exciting example for many aspiring Pakistani women out there. We need to make sure that more and more women will follow in her example. Join us, participate and help women succeed in the workplace.

I would love you to help. Join our Facebook Page, keep connected through Twitter or reach out to Anushey Matri ( if you are interested in more information, would like to identify female role models to share their experiences, or if you have ideas (and maybe want to help put them in action) to move the female participation agenda forward.

– Paul Keijzer

Are You Being Bullied By Your Boss? Bully Back!

02-bullying420-420x0During our careers we all come across them; bosses that are difficult to deal with or worse, bosses that are simple bullies. They push you into a corner, don’t listen, don’t give you an opportunity and are only driving their own agenda. I don’t have to explain the impact that these bosses have on the workplace. Disastrous!

All our defense mechanisms go up to ‘survive’ a bullying boss and all the conversations between employees center around ‘did you see what he / she did today?!’. Not particularly the signs of a healthy and high performing workplace.

I had my fair share of bullying bosses and overtime I have become more adept in dealing with such people. The turnaround came, when after months of being bullied by the boss of my boss, I was against the ropes and had basically given up. I was unable to do my job and didn’t want to be part of the organization any more as it had such a negative effect on my happiness and performance. That is when I decided to move on and move past his behavior.

A funny thing happens when you make such a decision, your attitude completely changes and what first impacted you negatively suddenly is not important anymore. The same happened with me, I simply didn’t care what his problem was and whenever my bully boss started to deploy his abrasive techniques, they no longer had the intended impact. You know what happened… the bullying boss stopped bullying me. He had realized that his technique didn’t work anymore and I didn’t have to quit the job that I loved.

I had gained a valuable lesson, the best way to deal with a bullying boss is to bully back with maturity. Two things happen: by having a mindset that you will not be affected by actions of others, the impact of their actions will disappear. Secondly, the one thing that a bullying boss respects is a person that stands their ground.

Of course you have to stand your ground and push back in the right way, you don’t want to stoop as low as your bullying boss. Psychology Today published a number of strategies on how to deal with a difficult or bullying boss:

1. Be Pro-active: Anticipate how your boss might react to a certain proposal and have an action plan if he behaves the way you anticipate.

2. Be Prepared: Prepare your different responses beforehand, think about how he might come back and prepare yourself for those as well

3. Be Professional: Never lower yourself to the level of the bullying boss. Keep the moral high ground, follow proper procedures

4. Be Persistent: Keep in it for the long run, your boss and his behavior are not going to change overnight, don’t let your guard down and continue to be prepared at any turn.

If you have tried everything and you continue to be at the receiving end of a bullying boss you do have the opportunity to follow a formal complaint procedure within the organization. A good friend of mine, who after trying different techniques to stop his bullying boss (and having seen two of his colleagues quit), decided to take his problem to the companies ethics committee. He was courageous enough to go through the procedure despite significant pressure from his peers and other line managers to let it go. At the end, the company decided that the bullying boss was not acting in line with the company values and decided to let him go. My friend is still working at the organization and is doing a wonderful job. The bully has moved on, hopefully he has learned from this experience and has changed his approach. Maybe, but not likely though…

Bullies often remain bullies and the best way to deal with them is to have the courage to stand up against them. Do so, without turning into the thing you hate, and watch your workplace experience drastically change.

How many of you have encountered such issues in your organizations?

– Paul Keijzer