Gender equality is something that today’s young generation should emphasize the most to achieve. Achieving gender equality is a continuous process and to establish that every action they make, every opinion they share should reflect the essence of gender equality because they will determine the next leaders and will be the influencers in policymaking.
To nurture this notion, a group of inquisitive young professionals from Bangladesh Brand Forum interviewed Nazia Andaleeb Preema, President of Women in Leadership, and one of the finest visual artists of recent times who herself has been preaching and practicing leadership in both her personal and professional arena. Preema has addressed the queries expressing her ideas of leadership, women in leadership roles, gender equality and equal female participation in career fields.
How can the concept “Each for Equal” influence leadership roles among women?
Everyone should prioritize gender equality in leadership. Gender inclusivity is about accepting and celebrating the inherent strengths of each other, and realizing that the strength of a diverse team is enormous! “Each for Equal” is about creating diverse teams of LEADERSHIP to work on the issue of diversity. Gender equality is not a women’s issue—it’s a business issue because a company and culture must reflect the society and its stakeholders. We need to work together to build a more equitable world that values the unique contributions of each person, whilst fostering strong and confident women leaders who will pave the way for many generations to come. We need to work on a deeper level of understanding. If I practice equality and diversity – it will reflect in the society. We need to realize that gender equality is not a myth, it’s a necessity. Equality of rights and responsibility is the start towards creating awareness inside each of us.
How do we measure women’s empowerment framework?
Using strategy and proper data, we can ensure the empowerment framework. There are invisible and visible elements of identity empowerment. The visible elements are easy to identify through research, data analysis, documentation, and other scientific processes. The invisible notions of empowerment can be measured through our consciousness, behavior, mindset and mostly working on our EQ level, which is a soft tool of our being.
In your extensive roles in leadership, what are the key learnings you want to pass on to the aspiring leaders?
Regardless of whether we’re women or men, we need to be free from all the boundaries which block the notion of being diverse. Diversity of thinking, opinion, tolerance, commitment, belief, and many more integrated elements are interconnected to leadership. We need to work on creating a diverse community to practice the process of equality and equity. My suggestions are:
- Know how to build trust and empower those you work with
- Share knowledge and have an affinity to learn new things
- Inspire your team to do better and go beyond their limits
- Take responsibility and have gratitude for the context of the matter
- Have a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
- Empower and Develop Others
- Be a great Influencer, having a strong, clear, and non-biased attitude of encouragement or criticism
How do you envision women pursuing a leadership role in the next 10 years?
Strategically we can create a holistic method to reach female professionals who have high potential. In corporates and other professional fields, this is very significant as they are already aligned with the SDG goal. We need appropriate policies to be made and implemented in gender diversity and inclusivity. Now at WIL, we are envisioning the leadership process through collaboration. Collaboration is a highly effective method to achieve any goal together. To date we are a nation that has done everything on her own. We have to go for a connecting-the-dots method and we pledge to engage all the dots to achieve the goal of sustainable leadership. Only then we will be able to get the result we are thriving for.
Does having an established career define women’s empowerment? What is your broad perspective on this?
To some extent, I would say, yes. A defined path would declare empowerment. Because otherwise it will be very abstract to own. Having said that, it is also important to realize that women got to realize their rights only recently. Higher education and career development would offer them the actual empowerment. If she is economically independent, everything changes from there. The outlook, expectation, right, equality, equity everything starts from being able to earn.
Why do we see so few women in C-suite levels in most businesses and how can we change this?
It’s unfortunate for businesses that we’re still having this discussion in 2020. We can hope that the Millennial generation, which carries itself with a whiff of entitlement, can smash through the old barriers and move more women into positions of authority.
Perhaps, a sense of isolation and not being visible enough makes it difficult overall. We need to battle unconscious biases every day. But, more common than obvious, is that sexual harassment is being dismissed, ignored or not taken seriously.
It is a burning query of the decade. Because we have failed to build a society of equality, thus it is bound to be like that. We need a cultural shift. This will be a major shift in process and belief. A country like ours has a lot of potentials, but to fully realize the potential, we need to build a diverse national workforce that has the freedom of choice for equal education and opportunity. For most women education is still a luxury, especially higher education. The cultural revolution in this regard is highly necessary. It is not just mere awareness; it should be a national goal and pursued by all. If we are ready to change our fundamental mindset, equality can become a rule of the nation. In my opinion, only then it is possible. Unfortunately, organically it’s quite impossible but creating the right corporate policy and strategy might push the agenda to a large extent.
We have heard of the common sexist misconceptions prevalent in our society, but what are some subtle misconceptions that often dodge the radars of even the well-acquainted?
- Women are not professional enough, let’s start from there. The other common misconception I hear often is – women cannot handle the pressure. Some other major ones are:
- Women can’t support other women.
- Women are not focused on.
- Men will not encourage women to thrive and be their partners for their profession.
- Men work more than a woman in general.
- Women cannot handle difficult situations.
- Women cannot cope with men in diverse professions like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
- Women are unable to process critical decisions and they are not good at strategy, policy, business.
These are just a few. But I find it quite extraordinary that so many misconceptions still exist even amongst well-meaning individuals and institutions. It requires a very conscious and continuous effort to address them over time.
Zayed Iqbal Abir
What and how WIL had overcome challenges in its way to create awareness about gender equality in the workplace?
WIL is creating a process that is rigorous and strategically aligned to build a strong network of professional women. As WIL is the only such platform in Bangladesh – as a platform it faced challenges in driving the core message of gender diversity deep within organizations and particularly, faced obstacles when advocating women leadership within corporates and institutions. As corporates are looking at gender diversity, GE, and women leadership in their exploratory phase – it’s only a part of the core strategy for very few institutions today. Until they incorporate it into their core strategy, the challenge will remain.
WIL is working towards the loopholes and – through the founding of BPWN (Bangladesh Professional Women Network) – is continuously building the connection between top-level management and mid-career women professionals. The critical task is to create the process and transform the organizational policy to achieve GE.
What is it that you want to embody, as a leader?
As a leader, I want to embody a sense of ‘giving back’ to my community and society. Leadership qualities are triggered by a deeper sense of empathy, responsibility, and encouragement. The spirit of hope and being able to inspire our next generation to be aware of their right to be equal (for men and women both) is a necessity for our future. Men also need to learn to be equal because the idea of patriarchy and themselves have become a winning crown. A leader has to go beyond the pseudo-cultural dimension and embody the new power of equal existence and growth.
How do people develop a sense of empowerment? And what is the role of the leaders?
Empowerment is the ability to do something about your needs, wants, opinions, beliefs, and feelings. We can look at Empowerment from a different lens
- Economic Empowerment. how people work to create wealth.
- Political Empowerment. All the things we do to organize ourselves and to make decisions.
- Cultural Empowerment, Societal Empowerment, National Empowerment
To empower means “to enable or permit”—to give power to an individual or group of people. Empowerment allows the leader to share power with his or her constituents, which in turn allows them to share responsibility for decision making and implementation. Empowerment encourages the personal development of volunteers as well as the development of other relational aspects such as trust, credibility, and accountability. A leader’s role is to Inspire Trust, Create Vision, Execute Strategy, Coach Potential.
Kazi Ashfaqur Rahman
Do you think empowerment is just a paradox or does it emphasize the movement towards equality? And if it is helping the cause what is your take on that?
If asked to choose would you say domestic violence is more about gender inequality or is it about power and control? The need for power and control triggers gender inequality. Power relations between men and women are completely uneven, and if we cannot overcome it, violence cannot be stopped. This is still a male-dominated society. It is dangerous to be dominated. If a society or community is not equal, the power dynamics will never change. This domination happens from the superiority complex. From the family, men learn this power dynamic as they have been indulged by the parents and society. In our society, there is still a seat for the father or brother or husband at the dining table, the best food is still served or secured by the male member, money for education is always kept for the boys – so the power and control is there in such a strong way. This violence can be stopped through law and enforcement. All are interconnected. So, we need to fix all together to have an equal society for men and women.