In today’s world, we can no longer stay anchored to the backward notions and images of leadership being a man’s quality and right. Leadership has no gender, and to build an equitable world, leadership also needs to be gender-equal. Sheryl Sandberg resonates this idea emphasizing the need to keep women in the workforce and ensuring that they are a part of the dialogue in her TED Talk ‘Why do we have too few women leaders?’.
Leadership is an art of motivating individuals towards achieving a shared goal. Nazia Andaleeb Preema, President, Women in Leadership (WIL), stated in a conversation that “Leadership is ‘connecting dots’ in life – be it personal or professional’. A leader inspires others to take action while making others improve so that the agenda can progress even in their absence.
WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP THROUGH THE LENS OF BANGLADESH
Women have inherent leadership skills which at times they fail to realize themselves. A study by Harvard Business Review dispels the myths about women leadership as well, showing that women on average were rated as better leaders than men, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. To be a great leader, they only need to possess the spirit to make a difference. Whilst Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in the last 20 years in improving the lives of women, Bangladesh still ranks far lower in terms of proportion of women in leadership positions compared to men.
During her years of activism and working with Women in Leadership, Nazia Andaleeb Preema has also noted similar findings working on WIL’s flagship accolade program, the Inspiring Women Award (IWA). She mentioned in a discussion during this year’s WIL Fest that we see very few women in C-Suite levels and emphasized that women need to be more visible in leadership positions to accelerate growth. It is in this space, that Women in Leadership (WIL) has been working in Bangladesh to create a sustainable impact.
WIL – A PLATFORM TO NURTURE
Women in Leadership (WIL) commenced its journey in 2014 in pursuit to inspire female professionals from different fields to reach the peak of their potential through leadership and to celebrate women’s success. The barriers put forth by society and the lack of progressive policies in organizations and government make it increasingly difficult for women to shine in their careers and maintain the balancing act with other responsibilities. To combat this, Women in Leadership brings together various stakeholders to spur conversations, highlight issues, drive change, word towards SDGs of gender equality, and recognize the stories of successful women.
WIL is a platform with multidimensional initiatives designed and dedicated for the women of Bangladesh in the form of learning, grooming, training, recognition, entertainment, storytelling, and more. So that women realize their true potential and utilize their skills in the best possible way to be visible in society. The underlying message of Inspiring Women’s Award is to officially recognize women’s efforts in the corporate scenario; to empower women professionals and create role models in society (at both the individual and the organizational levels); to pave the way for future awards.
The initiatives of WIL connect one to another. It connects BWPN (Bangladesh Women Professional Network), IWA (Inspiring Women Award), Women leadership Summit (WLS) and WIL publication under one platform to discuss and share the issue, one is for implementation, another is to understand leadership and its value. The publication reflects on the outcome from within our society how it perceives women and the leadership possibilities around the culture.
CELEBRATING THE WOMEN OF BANGLADESH
The phenomenal WIL Fest 2021 was held from 23-24 March, bringing in the flagship initiatives of WIL, the 5th Women Leadership Summit and the 6th Inspiring Women Award gala. The event – held virtually for the first time in a grand scale – donned the theme ‘Celebrating the Women of Bangladesh: Voice, Vision, Vivid’. When women speak, their voice leads. When women visualize, their vision overcomes all adversities. When women challenge the status quo, their power becomes vivid. On the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh, the contribution of women has been exemplary, and as women are empowered further, the next 50 years of Bangladesh will leapfrog the nation to become a global role model.
The 5th Women Leadership Summit brought together global and local thought leaders championing women empowerment, gender equality, breaking glass ceilings and gender disparities, and spurring conversation for change. The summit was followed by the much-anticipated 6th Inspiring Women Award which aimed to recognize and award the leading women of Bangladesh in various frontiers, and progressive organizations championing for equality within.
this year WIL received an overwhelming number of nominations from the organizations. A total of 350+ entries were received from 125+ organizations under 21 categories. Three highly experienced jury panels have recognized winners from each category. A total 22 Winners, 1 First Runner up, 1 Second Runner up, and 18 Honourable mentions were recognized in 21 categories.
DISCOVERING THE INSPIRING WOMEN
Being fair is being accurate. Accuracy (as much as possible) is an important and critical discourse of identifying those who truly deserve to be leaders. Because to be a leader one must have the ability to learn constantly. For leaders, thriving against all odds is essential as well as crucial. The jury selection and maintaining the standard of the non-bias attitude would determine the judgement. Therefore, for the Inspiring Women Award, the jury process needs to be rigorous, fair and accurate. In the words of Nazia Andaleeb Preema, “We must remember that we have to be responsible enough to identify a role model, a “WIL” inspiring woman.” She further highlights that WIL’s Inspiring Woman is “a status that would challenge and provoke women professionals of Bangladesh to own their ability, to be visible with their full potential and to be aware of their right.” When they are recognized and rewarded justly, they would own their pride of achievements. Thus, their voice would be heard and their presence would be vivid reflecting the vision of women’s true, solid, and unlimited potential. The jurors have a very serious role to identify WIL, Inspiring Women Award.
The process of unravelling the inspiring women leaders and professionals begins with the call for nominations. Organizations nominate the women they believe are deserving of recognition and the candidates are then assessed through rigorous jury sessions. This year, the Jury Process consisted of 3 shortlisting jury sessions followed by 3 grand jury sessions. The grand jury comprised of the leading minds and industry experts from different sectors of the country to evaluate the entries. The grand jurors selected the final winners and honorable mentions under the various categories. Candidates were rigorously evaluated based on their job performance, upholding of responsibilities, exemplary leadership skills, and proactively going beyond their responsibilities to display their talent.
After critical evaluation, the grand jurors finally selected 42 awardees in 21 categories. The biggest outcome of this festival is that WIL recognized amazing 42 women who have led and will continue to lead Bangladesh through their visionary prowess.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Women are enigmatic, women are powerful. As women come out of the box and take charge of their own journey through pursuing creativity, and diversity, the world will shift towards a newer, bolder chapter. The past year had showcased their bold leadership abilities as they guided societies and nations past adversities. Their voice, visibility, and vision is what had inspired WIL to celebrate women for who they really are. The past year had also been a time for reflection, and the platform has empowered itself to scale greater heights in the years to come. Women in Leadership will continue its ambition to ‘trigger’ the society of Bangladesh to bring about change for good.
By BBF Correspondent