Transcribed By Afraim Karim

When a woman fails to give shape to her own passion, it does not only kill her own passion, but also harms her lifetime self-confidence, and the confidence of the entire female group losing hope on passion once again. Even in circumstances where the world is falling apart for a woman, her courage, passion and determination on her dreams is what can make her move miles and miles to the road of success. However, sometimes women face struggles whenever there are other stakeholders who get to have an autonomy over the decision of the female. These other stakeholders oftentimes involves her husband, father or mother, relations which is more or less vital to every woman. Such scenarios create the phenomena known as the glass ceiling for women in the professional world. In one of the WIL Discussions held earlier in March during WIL Fest (Women in Leadership Festival), prominent professionals discussed the phenomenon in details and tried to figure out if this glass ceiling really exists. Panelists were Samrine Bokhari, Head of Research & Analysis, Grameenphone Ltd.; Shaila Rahman, General Manager, Head of Core and Service Projects, Deployment and Projects, Technology Division Grameenphone Ltd.; and Zareef Tamanna Matin, Country Manager, CIMA Bangladesh. The panel was moderated by Shariful Islam, Founder and Managing Director, Bangladesh Brand Forum.

Samrine Bokhari believes that it entirely depends on the individual who is working if she really wants to believe in the notion of glass ceiling or not.  She believes that an individual’s mind is a very powerful tool and the mind will always work in the way we want it to. If the woman is determined and strong headed to achieve what she wants, her mind will always find a way to do it, without caring about any hierarchal structure or set up.

On the contrary, and Zareef Tamanna Matin believes that glass ceiling does exist. During the career progression of a female, there comes a point where females are undermined and disallowed to rise in further position of power. However, as long as the women who face such discrimination fight back with determination and strong will, such glass ceilings can always be broken, she added.

Shaila Rahman highlights that the terminology glass ceiling itself creates a fear within the community making it seem like it is something impossible to break out of. Whereas in reality it should not be as difficult to do so. It is mostly because the propaganda has been preached so convincingly for decades that most women start believing in the sheer power of this ceiling and immediately start losing will power despite their huge ambitions. This can be treated as the other subtle creation of the chauvinist society where the women are kept under constant fear of making no career progression. Thus, in order to initiate any change it is very important to break out of the dialogues of glass ceiling and dwell further into what a woman is capable of doing with her own determination and will power.        

Later in the discussion, Shariful Islam raises the traditional aspects of our country and how even if globally glass ceiling can be well fought, in our country it is a major threat to most girls who pursue their dreams and ambitions. Shaila Rahman further elaborates on the aspect by mentioning that the situation in Bangladesh is alarming. It arises when females lose autonomy over their own decision and are bounded by families in the name of culture and tradition, which is usually the case. Furthermore, the institutional structure of the nation also fails to act as a guideline to ambition. Whenever an individual is trying to pursue what they want through the institutions of Bangladesh, they are barely shown a pathway, which makes a huge chunk of potential women lose their path of success and never come back. In order to overcome such barriers there has to be extensive effort. And the process of overcoming barriers cannot only be treated as a mission but has to be treated as method of self-development and gaining ones’ own identity, Shaila Rahman added. 

Another issue that comes up when dealing with such barrier breaking, is the low participation rate from females all around Bangladesh. For the last few decades, there have been numerous movements to motivate women, to accomplish the goal of female empowerment. However, when there is actual participation required, the number of female participants remains exceptionally low. This low participation raises concerns about the capability of all the females around the country and higher privilege to the blame givers to disallow females to climb up the ladder of social status. As a result of which, there is vicious perpetual cycle created that always makes women less powerful, which leads to the discouragement of the next generation, which further leads to a massive loss of resources in the female composition of change makers or innovators, keeping females stuck where they are.

According to all the panelists in the discussion, what a woman must always remember is that there will always be extraordinary challenges, such that it will push them to the edge of their patience. In such times of challenges and difficulties, no second or third party will come forward for those females, extending their hands in support. So they must always be ready to fight their own battle, alone. So the women primarily need to prove them to themselves. Only when they prove themselves capable personally, they can prove the other employers or families that a woman is as capable as a man and sometimes even more. Even when the woman is playing the role of a friend, family, mother or sister she must not forget the battle. When playing any such roles, they must ensure that they create a positive and encouraging environment for the females around them so that other females are equally encouraged and a community of encouragement and positivity is created around every other female in this country.

Women in Leadership (WIL) has been facilitating such discussions for years, precisely encouraging women to come out and break all the possible barriers that hold them back from their personal growth and development. Once females learn to develop themselves, glass ceiling will only remain as an alien phenomena.

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