July 23, 2018

Written By Izbath Tarik

Every journey has its ups and downs. Every journey is inspired by an end goal, some of those end fruits are sweeter than the others. However, none are sweeter than the ones driven by passion. It feels like a journey that should go on forever. The panel discussion was centered on the agenda of taking ownership of one’s journey. What makes great women stand apart is their resilience to pursue their passion even when there is an avalanche in their constant uphill battle. The panelists where Moutushi Kabir, Director of Communication and Outreach at BRAC and BRAC International; Shamima Akhter, Director of Public Affairs and Communication at Coca-Cola Bangladesh; Beth McDonald, a leadership trainer from Future Consideration and Leadership (Thailand). The panel was moderated by Deneb Latif, Director, Magnum Management Consulting. The dialogue focused on some stimulating questions. How to balance work and family? How to make your children feel loved while pursuing your goals simultaneously? How to create a support system that pulls you back up every time you fall? The art of battling criticism, most importantly, how to create an ideal ecosystem for tomorrow’s women to grown and excel.

Successful people don’t just hustle, they find time for their hobbies and passions too. They pursue their passions. Moutushi Kabir is a prime case of such. She is not just one of the directors of the biggest NGO in the world, but also a fantastic photographer. Support from parents is very important in the upbringing of any child. Whoever has it gets a head start in life. Moutushi was one of those privileged ones. “I don’t believe in women leadership. Because leadership is an act that should not be associated with gender”, said Moutushi.  Her way of viewing life is inspiring indeed. It’s essential for any woman to be surrounded by people who support them, whether it be their parents or husband. Because a little word of belief and motivation can go a long way.

Shamima Akhter is not only a successful corporate, she is a voice for clean healthy eating and organic food. Shamima feels blessed to have friends who have risen to towering heights in their own field of expertise. “It’s not just parents and family. Your friends influence you too. Passion and motivation can come from anywhere. It can come from the unlikeliest of places. You just have to feel it and embrace”, shared Shamima.

Beth McDonald is an engineer by trade but somehow found her passion in leadership training. A torchbearer of Future Consideration and Leadership, McDonald has spent a significant time of her life creating an impact in Asia. She grew up in a distinctive family. Her father wished for a son. Before, I dig deeper into her life, I know most of you must be thinking that she must have had a troubled childhood. Well, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. Her father actually supported her in pursuing whatever he planned on doing with his son, starting from camping to flying. McDonald didn’t know about the limits for her as a woman until she entered the corporate world. In her 20 years at Johnson and Johnson, she fought and broke the gender biased boulders thrown towards her. She was the only female in the R&D department. One can only imagine how it felt.

In most societal norms, women are expected to be more compromising and accommodating. When asked how they designed their own support system and pursued their passion, here are excerpts of what they shared:

“I believe the sacrifice of women is glorified”, Moutushi voiced. She is stubborn. But that’s her strength. Because, whatever you gain by chasing your dreams is surely more precious than the fruits of sacrifice.

McDonald didn’t have a peer group to support her but she had figures that would cast a shadow on her. One of them was her grandmother and the other was her advisor at her school. They played an impactful role in molding her into where she is today. As Beth shared, ignorance is a strength at times when you are surrounded by negativity. You have to swallow the positivity while turning a deaf air to the negative buzz around you.

Along with working in a multinational corporation (Coca-Cola), Shamima has been pursuing her different passions like cycling too. Society has been overcritical to her at times. But she knew herself well. She realized that pursuing her passions shaped her into a better person for her husband, her kids and her workplace.

All the panelists faced significant opposition from friends, family and society. They had different methods of tackling them. The hardest part was making people of different mentality and different generation understand their point of view.

Moutushi asserted, “The world falls in love with a stubborn soul”. Everyone will not agree with your viewpoint. But it does not necessarily mean they don’t love you. So you have to accept the dissimilarities and move on with life. Because disagreement is natural.

Shamima shared about her daughter who complained to her regarding her lifestyle; why she was not picked up at school by her mother and so on. Shamima believes that the secret lies in letting your kith and kin inside your life. Once they know and understand you better they will learn to adapt to it. She sometimes even takes her family members on business trips or to her office to let them in her world.

McDonald has her own unique approach like her previous panel speakers. Her secret sauce is ‘celebration’. She found a sweet spot to balance her work and family life. She celebrates every moment she spends with her husband, in laws and every member of the family. Through celebration she kept her near and dear ones close to her while pursuing her goals.

Creating the right kind of ecosystem for future generations is their duty as leaders of today’s generation. Even though they had different angles of viewpoint on the matter, everyone had the same end goal: An environment that encourages women to follow their dream.

Moutushi remarked that maybe it is easy for her to say that she doesn’t believe in women’s day, that we are all created equal because she came from a privileged background. But she voiced her concerns. She believes that we have to lead by examples and set forth a better future for our predecessors. Only they can take inspiration and push forward in life. She ended her speech by stating, “It’s okay to be stubborn. It’s okay to follow your dreams.”

Shamima had a different take on topic. She shared how we view leaders in the corporate environment as perfect and ideal. But we mustn’t forget that they are human too and no human is perfect. What sets them apart is their vision and pursuit of it. It motivates the people around them to pursue their dreams too.

Mcdonald firmly believes knowledge and wisdom can be found in all ages. She places herself as a student in front of the young generation. As a result, their confidence is boosted while making them driven individuals.

Passion is not just a word. It’s a feeling. A divine feeling. If it really is passion, the stubbornness will sprout along with it. Because no one wants to let go of their passion. A journey blazing with passion is a journey shining like the clear bright sun.

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