Realizing Female Potential | Through Day-Long Summit

Realizing Female Potential | Through Day-Long Summit

April 20, 2017

This year for International Women’s Day 2017, #BeBoldForChange was the theme that was portrayed globally to encourage women across the globe to step up in order to take bold actions. Each one of us – with women, men and non-binary people joining forces – can be a leader within our own spheres of influence by taking bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity. Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash the limitless potential offered to economies the world over.

To celebrate womanhood, and to remark all those efforts that each and every woman is giving to the society, this women’s day Bangladesh Brand Forum organized Le Méridien Dhaka Women Leadership Summit 2017, Powered by IPDC Finance Ltd. at Le Méridien Dhaka. The theme of this year was: “Realizing Female Potential”.

The summit is supported by Le Méridien Dhaka as the Title Sponsor, IPDC Finance Ltd. as Powered by, The Daily Star as In Association With, Advance Development Technologies Ltd. as Lifestyle Partner, ACI PURE Spices as Event Partner, FICCI & MCCI as Partner; Colours FM & Marketing Society of Bangladesh (MSB) as Strategic Partner, HR Next as Leadership Development Partner, GTV as TV Partner, Masthead PR as PR Partner, and Webable Digital as Social Media Partner.



Sanzida Chowdhury Swarna was the master of ceremony, who is also a freelancing anchor since 2013. The summit was filled with some of the most renowned women leaders from various sectors of work. The summit began with the Welcome speech by Mr. Ashwani Nayar, General Manager, Le Méridien Dhaka. In the speech, he also mentioned that they were the first hotel to recruit women in hotel hospitality. The summit was graced by the sponsor speech delivered by Mominul Islam, CEO of IPDC Finance Ltd. who welcomed the audience for adorning the summit with their presence.

Following that, Shariful Islam from Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF) welcomed the mastermind of the event, Nazia Andaleeb Preema, President of WIL & Director of WIL. Her message to the audience began with a quote from her experiences during her early times. “There were 93 men, and I was the only woman on the room when I was attending a web designing competition back in the 90’s. I scored the 1st position, and I know since then that nothing is impossible for a woman.”



After her speech the opening keynote session began with Dr. Dipu Moni, MP Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. She started the session by sharing her wonderful thoughts, and by focusing on some big issues that we, as a society ignore. She mentioned, “Every day is women’s day. They contribute every day in every way. A woman is the person who brings life to another human and it’s the toughest job for the mankind for which God chose them. Hence, we may say that none is stronger than a woman in such sensitive terms. In our country we have women in every sector, DC, OC, Army, Law, and even in politics where women are contributing in various ways. Yes, we progressed in many ways but still very few women are seen in the leadership, and out of them, only 20% are in the parliament. We have to overcome that and I know we will. We all are humans and we have to break the wall of a man’s world.”



The immediate keynote session was hosted by another elegant role model Rubana Huq, Managing Director of Mohammadi Group. She began by tossing an interesting question to the audience, “What is the date of International man’s day?”. Surprisingly, out approximately 300 in the audience, only 3 people answered the question. This was an indication that we are yet to learn about equality. She continued saying that her company comprises of 12000 employees out of which 8000 are women. “The time I feel sad for them is when they spent their entire working life span working in the sewing machines. What will they do when they stop working? This worries me a lot. There will be a social misfire when they lose their jobs, and this may cause economic misfits. She continued stating, “If you want to inspire you have to be inspired. Women have to be vocal. If they are not vocal, they can’t take the stand. More than 3 million are women workers in garments out of 4 million. But they still don’t have an active participation in different unions of the garments.” She ended her keynote inspiring the young female professionals to start off from where the previous leaders left.



After the first key note, a short tea that was later followed by a panel discussion on “Changing the women Dialogue – a Holistic Perspective”. In this panel the moderator was Daneeb Zeenath Latif, and the panelists were Waseqa Ayesha Khan, Nirupoma Subramaniam, Luna Shamsuddoha, and Dr. Rownak Jahan. These four wonderful women shared every experience they go through, their thoughts, and they also focused on the dialogues of the panel.



After the end of the panel discussion, the very encouraging Barrister Tania Amir took over the stage. The role model encouraged every woman to follow her heart and be what they want to be. She said,” The proportion of women in our vast population is large in Bangladesh, and these are the women who possess immense strength within them. We are the creation who deserve to be celebrated within themselves and we proudly celebrate others as well. I would invite human beings;  men and women to look inside your hearts and soul to what extent we are sincere do we believe in equality  to what extent we believe in a society which is going to be equitable or are we going to use machinery to systematically deprive a class of citizens who are not minorities. Who happen to be 50% of citizens of the country? That is the question.”



After the mesmerizingly inspiring talk, the second key note session was hosted. The topic was “Unconscious Bias and how it Impacts Growth of Women Leaders” and the speaker was Nirupama Subramanian, Leadership Development Consultant, Coach, Author and Mentor, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. She showed us how we are biased unconsciously in so many sensitive issues and take it to be very natural. According to her studies, circumstance like these go beyond the matter of gender and were instilled within individuals from a very young age. Tying up her session, she talked about few solutions those are now used to overcome the biasness globally.

A break for the lunch provided by Le Méridien, Dhaka followed by the break for prayers were called.

Soon after the break, a video message from Ranjhu Jha Alex, General Manager, JW Marriott Kolkata abd Multi Property Vice President East. She shared her thoughts on how every woman is a super women in their own right, and juggle between careers, relationships, families and home, and yet, they do it all. She believes this was enough of a reason for women to begin valuing themselves in order to make others value them.



The second panel discussion began under the moderator Nazia Andaleeb Preema and on this panel the panelists were Sara Zaker, Lubna Marium, Nasreen Zamir, Shobha De, and Piplu R. Khan. They all are the creative leaders who hold our generation in creativity, presenting our country on international level on creative sides. The topic was “Creative Forces to Change the Status Quo” They shared their thoughts and how they think about creative genres and women in it. In this matter Sara Zaker mentioned that creative platforms have always been believed to be playing a key role in changing the status quo and breaking barriers in our society. In this panel, Shobha De discussed about her experiences as a female author and how she had been made to stand on the weaker edge due to her gender in the earlier stages of her career. She also added that it was this challenge that made her persistence to pursue the path to be an author, and portray the messages through her books. Amidst these powerful female leaders, we also had the honor to welcome Piplu R Khan who is the Founder and Managing Director of Applebox films. He presented a short AV clip where he portrayed how fearlessly women believe to walk down certain paths and the ways media can portray that message to the society.

‘Be Bold For A Change’ was the moto for this women’s day regarding which some motivational video clips were also shown. And then there was a short question and answer period for panelist and audience.



The Managing Director of Coca Cola, Sri Lanka (Private) Limited, Sonu Grover presented the third keynote session later that evening. According to her experiences, one of the biggest learning of life comes from the biggest failures and the risk a person took in the right time. “You have to continuously renew yourself. You have to be relevant with the time, as time is changing and getting diversified all the way along”, said Sonu Grover, “To succeed you need to have intentional imbalance. There is no substitute of hard work, take risks. And take an initiative”



The summit the entered a keynote & brainstorming session with Rumana Rahman, Head of HR, British American Tobacco, Bangladesh. She took the session on Realizing Female Professionals Potential + Engaging Bangladesh Women Professional Network (BWPN) for the Goal. She began her session with the question, ‘Why women matter?’ To this question, she pinned her studies in 3 points:

< Universities have 51 percent female students graduating every year so, if that percentage isn’t put to work force, no success peak can be reached.

< Companies have a growing advantage with women in their workforce and in authority: As women are already known for the capabilities in making major decisions for every significant matter in the family, when brands cannot utilize this capability of women within the system in right position and numbers they will not be able to make those choices that builds a brand. She used the example of the Lego games. Earlier their brand strategy rotated around the male children, however, when they included women in their decision making board, they discovered the feminine side of it and its benefit which was the increase in consumer decisions and insights.

< According to certain studies by McKinsey and Company, with women in senior management, companies perform better.

During her session, she specifically discussed regarding the barriers that most women come face to face with regardless of their ambition. One of the points that included the low self-confidence many women have when asked about reaching the top and in order to build and portray this missing confidence- Attitude, communication and body languages are 3 factors that female professionals need to work.

She shared a video clip of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, who discussed a few reasons as of why women do not make it to the top and the processes how they can overcome that. With a lot real life experiences and issues discussed she brought an end to her session by inspiring the audience to think big and beyond limits.



The summit called an evening with the last keynote session delivered by the renowned Indian Columnist Shobha De. She shared her extraordinary experiences along with some heartbreaking stories with the audience followed by a quick interactive round. She mentioned how hard it was for women in this region to live their lives and with dignity. Women face problems for their own selves and lose their right to speak up and stand up against what they believe is true. They create issues and problems regarding themselves by doing that.

Additionally, she also inspired stating, “We need to listen to voices of women around the world and learn amazing things from them, but it is not the holy grail our realities tell us a different story our narratives are different, our role models our mentors are not the people who have experienced life the way we have experienced it, it’s not the ideal we all have been struggling.”



After all these sessions the summit ended up with the distribution of souvenirs, which was the quarterly publication and an edition on behalf of Women In Leadership. Alongside this, a new torch of promise for the leadership of women all around Bangladesh was placed on the special occasion of Women’s day, 2017.


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