Leadership Mannerism: In conversation with NAZIA ANDALEEB PREEMA President, WIL (Women in Leadership)

Leadership Mannerism: In conversation with NAZIA ANDALEEB PREEMA President, WIL (Women in Leadership)

May 25, 2017

Nazia Andaleeb PREEMA, one of the most prolific and prominent contemporary visual artists of Bangladesh, has been dealing with the issues of women through innovative approach, distinct technique and lyrical overtones. Preema kept extending the notion of art: she is an artist, a singer, a performer, a curator, a writer, an editor, an entrepreneur, an activist, a motivational speaker, celebrated TV host, a leader and so on. Presently her canvases and video installations indicate pleasure and celebration of freedom, sexual intensity, existence and identity. Her pioneering approach to new media allows her to reach new and diverse audience all over the world and to expand the influence of contemporary art. Always controversial, bold and fearless Preema is now widely recognized and became an influential cultural and creative figure. She is the Owner of her art and design studio Preema’s Atelier, President of WIL (Women in Leadership), Director, Bangladesh Brand Forum and Founder of the newly launched Bangladesh Creative Forum.

She has participated in a number of competitive art residency programs, workshops and has been awarded major international grants to pursue her works throughout her career since 1999. Along with 20 solo (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, USA, UK, Turkey, Morocco, Uzbekistan) expositions, she has also enriched her career by participating in 7 Asian Art Biennale, 4 Tashkent Biennale, Istanbul Biennale, Venice International Art Expo (2010, 2012, 2014) along with prestigious art fairs (Art Basel Miami, Tuyup Art Fair/ Istanbul, Dubai Art Festival, Dhaka Art Summit, Delhi International Art Festival).

In 2017, she has received ‘Pride of Bangladesh’ Award from Pride Limited, while BASIS recognized her contribution as one of the celebrated ‘Women at Work’. She also received prestigious Anannya Award as recognition of being the outstanding visual artist of Bangladesh for 2014. She has also received honorable mention award in fine art category by Jatiyo Mahila Parishod (2009), Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin Award in Painting by Bangladesh, Charushilpa Parishad (2007/2008), Web Design and Develop Award (1st) by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET 2006), Royal Overseas League Scholarship UK (2003 and 2008) and many more.

BBF: What is the module that WIL follows?

NAP: Women in Leadership (WIL) is an initiative which encourage professional women to pursue leadership in their career. WIL is an integrated process. It follows a module/ process which integrate one to another. It connects BWPN (Bangladesh Women Professional Network), IWA (Inspiring Women Award), Women in Leadership Summit and WIL publication. One platform to discuss and share the issue, one is for implementation, another platform to understand leadership and its value, while the publication reflects on the outcome from within our society how it perceives women and the leadership possibilities around this culture. So we definitely keep the room for improvise around its core module but there is this very strategic process where I think empowerment and leadership for women can be addressed.

BBF: What should be the definition of a Leader in your opinion? How women can develop these qualities?

NAP: Individuals who listen well, collaborate effectively, and seek diverse opinions and contributions often make better decisions overall. It’s about Charisma! Furthermore, quiet leaders understand and embrace the value of introspection, reflection and deep learning. These leaders are deeply thoughtful and tend to see “the big picture” and patterns within systems that others do not recognize. The key for “quieter” women is to learn how to speak up when it’s important, to learn how to frame personal views persuasively, to cultivate a personal narrative that “brands” leadership in an authentic way, and to develop the confidence to act.
Young women need a new vision for leadership and they need to be connected with women leaders who they can relate to with ease. But young women also need to learn how to identify leaders in positions of power or influence who can help them, and reach out strategically for sponsorship and mentorship. Finding those people is a skill set that all women leaders must develop with serious intention. With that support, leadership possibilities open up dramatically.

BBF: There are still relatively few women at the leadership levels of most companies. Do you think not enough women are chosen – or too many women choose not to be leaders for family reasons?

NAP: At most companies getting more women in leadership positions is a complex issue. There are societal and organizational/structural barriers to a woman’s rise to leadership, and there are individual and lifestyle factors that come into play as she makes career decisions. There is no single solution for women as a whole, but individual women can adopt a mindset that increases opportunities to lead in any setting. And every woman can approach her life in phases and stages – making it possible to return to formal positions of leadership in the work force by cultivating networks, and focusing on learning and development continuously. My view is that women should always practice and embrace leadership values – in family life and personal relationships, in civic engagement and professional endeavors. Leadership is a way of being and you can always choose leadership as your passion.

BBF: Based on what factors do you select and invite the speakers for the summit?

NAP: Well, you see, from WIL we choose and improvise our methods as we go along with our journey, keeping in mind the requirement of our target group; that is professional Women. To encourage we need inspiring stories, real stories. While choosing speakers we thought of those who actually made it happen for them and the society.

BBF: How do you incorporate the learnings from each summit to the upcoming ones?

NAP: Everything is about learning. I see WIL as a process towards inspiring professional women who aspires to be leaders. Leadership is important because we need to create role models for women to lead the path. We have a natural tendency towards following leaders. Each year we follow the process and from that WIL improvised accordingly looking at better or next level development.

BBF: How do you believe that bringing international speakers may increase the value of the summit? (Regarding the fact that their working scenario might be different than that of Bangladesh).

NAP: WIL doesn’t only invite women from other countries; the initiative engage more women/speakers from Bangladesh as well. However, I believe it’s important to share stories from other countries because it’s almost the same struggle for professional women, regardless of their nationalities. So when we hear stories from other parts of the world we connect and again disconnect. But we understand the issue worldwide and that’s also a learning, sharing and to understand from every point of view.

BBF: A significant number of female professionals are involved in the government sector, but is it helping the female professionals beyond the sector?

NAP: I think for Bangladesh it’s really a proud time when we are witnessing that the number of females in leadership positions in Government level. From our Prime Minister to Members of Parliament there are more women in leadership than ever before. It’s a great inspiration and example. If you keenly observe it’s been done in a way to set example. In my opinion in all other sectors we need to follow their footsteps. We need to have a method of giving women important roles to play. It could be stand alone or could be through a process but women should be in the forefront to lead.

BBF: In this digital era, is empowering women digitally helping them? If yes, how?

NAP: Whether it’s digital or not, women should be empowered. At least they need to try to be independent through education, knowledge and imagination. Women need to understand that to get their voices out there they need to start their journey from their own homes. In any case it’s very important for women to be a part of professional, social and political decision making process. In digital era, we are more global than ever before; so there surely is an urgency to become empowered through true employment and leadership. Without leadership women would not understand the urgency or necessity of this issue; and to address this issue of empowerment for which leadership is the core.

BBF: Is there any specific cause for holding a particular panel of professionals from the Creative sector in your last summit?

NAP: Of course creativity is a very significant attribute. Creativity is present everywhere. From business to art, we cannot excel without creativity. And women showcase this strength tremendously. Women are particularly very creative. There is this connection between women and creativity. A society needs to understand the power of creativity as well as women. At times we tend to ignore most important parts of the core element – Creativity and Women – without acknowledging these two we cannot really excel. These significant parts are the integral loops of chain that could built a complete work atmosphere.

BBF: Based on the dynamic conditions of our society, how is WIL (via the summit/award/ BWPN) contributing to empower women?

NAP: It’s a process; so one cannot predict. WIL is there to support and provide platform to nurture the values of women’s direct engagement in decision making process. It’s highly important and crucial to identify the problems and act on them. Our social dynamic for women is not at all gender friendly. But with a lot of engagement we can ensure a fundamental change in the basic framing of how we look at women in our society. It cannot be a standalone effort through an initiative only, but needs to be realized through every sector and everyone along with the woman herself.

BBF: WIL recognizes and awards female leaders from various sectors and categories every year. What is the motto behind this step?

NAP: Reward and recognizing one’s contribution is itself inspiring. It’s important to set examples to encourage others. Hence, an award is also a demonstration that the effort has been seen and therefore, it is impactful enough to make a change through breaking up the stereotypical mindset that society has regarding women leadership. It’s important to truly measure women’s potential in the workplace in order to understand and value their ability. Inspiring Women’s Award (IWA) is not just another award; it’s an award of leadership, dignity, and being really a woman who is inspiring society through her leadership contribution.

BBF: Does WIL plan to promote men equally in the near future?

NAP: We should definitely not promote, rather involve them in the process. It’s very crucial to involve them to understand why women need leadership. Without men being consciously involved in the process, empowerment for women will never be possible. It’s impossible if men don’t realize the meaning of empowering women through leadership.

BBF: One last remark as President of WIL?

NAP: Women should be aware of their own self. It’s only her who should realize her own potential. If women want to be seriuosly professional they need to go out of the box. They need to understand the urgency of education, knowledge and creativity for empowerment. Society need to value women’s right and therefore women is leadership. It should not be a concept, it should be REALITY.

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