October 2, 2018

Friend or foe, ally or enemy, companion or opponent, the relationship of these pairs of words is the same. In this world, in all sectors, in the battle between genders, are males and females friends or foes? To call forth the answer to this intriguing question yet another discussion took place in the WIL (Women in Leadership) Fest.

To discuss on this topic this time were panelists – Nazim Farhan Choudhury, Managing Director, Adcomm Limited; Ashraf Kaiser, Founder and Managing Director, Benchmark Limited; Tanvir Haider, CEO, Kazi Food Industries Limited; and Zeeshan Kinghsuk Huq, Co-Founder and CEO, Zero Gravity Ventures Ltd. The panel was moderated by Nazia Andaleeb Preema, Visual Artist, President, Women in Leadership.

Nazia Andaleeb Preema begins the discussion by acknowledging that for women to develop and flourish sometimes assistance is required from men around them. She puts forward the issue of communication that affects the relationship between males and females. She explains that women are reluctant to be friends with the men around them because a lot of them fail to connect with their male colleagues believing that men are very disconnected to their thoughts and aspirations. Steering the conversation to the interaction of men and women, she asked panelists about their personal experiences in dealing with female colleagues.

Tanvir Haider believes that both men and women are unique in their own characteristics. He explains his experience with female colleagues in his workplace by appreciating the fact that our country has come forward a long path by creating an enabling environment for women in the workplace. Though the number of working women has increased, it is still is not the type of representation they want. He acknowledges the importance of the presence of women in leadership. He says that if he is given the choice of an equally qualified male to an equally qualified female, he would choose the latter as he believes in affirmative action to be taken in these circumstances.

Ashraf Kaiser agrees with Tanvir Haider that the environment should be enabling. He points out there is an unfavorable environment where men and women are not treated as employees with equal capabilities. Sometimes, when the responsibilities are not distributed equally, women feel incompetent or are made to feel incompetent. He elaborates that organizations should direct managers to give equal responsibilities to employees regardless of gender. Women obviously have restrictions and responsibilities but it is these same women who are seen working straight-away when a task is given compared to their counterparts. He portrays through his description that the amount of nurture a woman puts into her work is astounding, like running the extra mile to finish each task.

Unfortunately, this kind of supportive environment is not present everywhere. Mr. Ashraf explains that this is because of the mind-sets and social taboos we have grown up with. He says that we all need to become the change-makers ourselves to solve this problem from the roots.

Nazim Farhan Choudhury, puts forward the notion that we should not think that equality is the equality in every aspect. Equality is of equal abilities and not of equal standing. In the workplace, to ensure this equality, the organization should come forward and take necessary steps. He explains that we should be mindful of a number of things. Elaborating on that topic, he says that managers need to be mindful of the issues women face in the workplace, environment and society. For example, if a woman takes a maternal leave, the company should ensure that she is not put in a disadvantageous position afterwards. Again, if a woman has to work late at night, the authority has to ensure transport for her safety. This is because even if the agency is secure, the environment is not. He further gives an example that women are not restricted by their families only, society is there as well.

Ashraf Kaiser firmly believes and states that the role of men, be it at the workplace or family, should be as a friend to help address these problems and help solve them. He also states that it is the demand of the hour to address these problem creating social taboos in a creative and engaging manner.

Nazia Andaleeb Preema then points out that the main reason that these gender problems exist is because women are not taking enough measures to come forward to talk about their issues with the men around them. Thus leaving these issues undiscussed and unsolved. The first step should be for women to come forward. Until they do it, men will appear far from women and the problems will persist.

Talking from a different perspective, Zeeshan Kinghsuk Huq initiates a crucial question as to who is the real enemy of women. He says, “Are men truly the enemy?” He asks if men are truly the obstructers or women themselves are their own obstructers too. He further asks if the real obstructer is the mindset that society has created in women by conditioning from childhood. He believes that because of social conditioning, women adhere to the rules that cage them in. These rules have created a glass ceiling for women. A part of this glass ceiling exists within ourselves. To break free from all of this, he says that we need to break the part of the glass ceiling that exists within ourselves at first. Mr. Kinghsuk also enlightens the discussion by highlighting that gender issues are faced by men as well. He stresses that the norms of the society that create these issues should be changed and that starts with changing of mindset. He believes that men and women should not only be friends but partners. This partnership need not be a romantic relationship. So, through being partners, men and women should fight to solve these gender issues affecting everyone.

Mr. Nazim Farhan then brings out one of the real problems, that, all these issues are discussed and left at the conversational level. To actually come to a solution one must dig deep, find the cause and solve it.

Nazia Andaleeb Preema then summarizes and says that for the role of men to be determined it is women who should come forward and communicate. Women should come befriend the men around them and discuss gender issues that affect both of them to not just find a solution but also to implement it. She emphasizes that unless women take the first step, they cannot know whether men are friends or foes.

After the whole discussion, it is evident that the role of men should not be just as friends but as partners. Men and women should work together to tackle the social taboos that create gender issues for both of them. In that way, both men and women can ensure a better workplace for everyone.

Written By Nafisa Nawal Khan

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