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WIL Fest 2024

Women in Leadership hosted the Akij Tableware Presents WILFest 2024, Powered by RFL Houseware, in Association with SQUARE Food & Beverage Ltd. & The Daily Star at Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden on March 9, 2024. The 5th edition of WILFest included the 7th Women Leadership Summit, the 8th Inspiring Women Award, and Berger Paints Presents WILArt 2024 Supported by Shwapno. This year’s WILFest also celebrated the 10th anniversary of Women in Leadership.

This year’s theme of the WILFest was “Pursuit of Women’s Economic Independence.” WILFest 2024 dived deep and explored the multifaceted ways to seek the different possibilities for women to achieve economic independence. Only after women of all walks have achieved a path to economic independence, will they be able to ensure and establish their empowerment in different work sectors and their own lives. This edition of WIL talked about this timely theme, narrated the journey of female professionals, and, most importantly, recognized them with their deserving respect.

The exclusive summit brought together Corporate and Development sector top executives, Government Employees, Academicians, Artists & Activists, Prominent Thought Leaders, and Policy Makers to share insights, experiences, and thoughts on women’s empowerment and generate learnings.

The summit featured an engaging agenda comprising 02 Keynote Sessions, 04 Panel Discussions, 01 Insight Session, and a special session by WIL’s President Nazia Andaleeb Preema celebrating WIL’s 10 Years Journey.



In the opening speech, Nazia Andaleeb Preema said, “This year’s summit emphasises ownership and visibility as key aspects of Women in Leadership (WIL). By focusing on self-empowerment and achieving our economic independence, we can push for greater equality and reduce the wage gap.”

She added, “We must not idolize women on screens, but instead look within ourselves to identify and work on our weaknesses. This will set an example for others and help us grow, evolve, and transform into the person of our dreams. The motto, ‘We don’t wait for anyone to introduce us; we introduce ourselves,’ underlines the significance of self-assertion and visibility in every sphere of life.”

Preema concluded her speech by saying, “Women should not waste time thinking about obstacles such as glass ceilings, but instead focus on overcoming them. We need to assert our presence confidently in various leadership roles and be visible in every sphere of life. The transformation in women’s lives is remarkably significant, and it’s time to embrace it fully.”



Prof. Tulsi Jayakumar, Executive Director of the Centre for Family Business & Entrepreneurship at the S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, India, led the summit’s keynote session titled “Women on Top: Breaking the Glass Ceiling.” Prof. Jayakumar’s insights into the nuanced challenges faced by women in leadership set a powerful tone for the event.

Prof. Jayakumar began by discussing the societal constraints that have long been placed on women, emphasizing that the concept of a “glass ceiling” varies depending on an individual’s perspective. She referenced the Irish constitution, which acknowledges that a woman’s place is wherever she chooses it to be: at home, in the office, or at school. This perspective challenges traditional gender roles and supports the idea of empowering women in all aspects of life.

The keynote speaker highlighted the three levels of barriers women face in leadership: micro, meso, and macro. At the micro level, she pointed out self-imposed barriers such as the “motherhood penalty” and the challenge of balancing work and home life. At the meso level, Prof. Jayakumar discussed the “glass cliff” phenomenon, where women are often placed in precarious leadership positions. This can expose them to greater risks of failure and perpetuate first-generation bias. On the macro level, she addressed the broader societal impact of patriarchy and traditional gender roles, emphasizing the need to dismantle toxic masculinity and redefine societal expectations of women in leadership roles.

Prof. Jayakumar also explored the subtle yet pervasive nature of second-generation bias, which manifests in discriminatory practices embedded within organizations that favor men. She underscored the importance of organizations actively addressing these biases to foster a more inclusive environment for women leaders. The keynote session also delved into the unique challenges women face in family businesses, where traditional values often prevail. Despite these obstacles, family businesses may offer more opportunities for women in administrative roles.

In conclusion, Prof. Jayakumar emphasized the importance of women supporting each other, developing strong networks, and internalizing their leadership identity. She called on organizations to stop “pinkwashing” and instead focus on creating safe settings where women can voice their concerns. The session concluded with a call to action for women to strive for economic independence and assert themselves confidently in their chosen fields.


Dr. Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Development Studies at the University of Dhaka, delivered the second keynote session. His insightful presentation focused on the disparity between women’s academic achievements and their representation in the job market.

Dr. Titumir began by acknowledging that female students often excel academically, frequently topping university rankings in Bangladesh. However, he noted the persistence of a gap in the professional arena that prevents these achievements from translating into leadership positions. Investigating the root causes of this disparity and developing effective solutions is essential to ensure women can advance in their careers.

He emphasized the importance of challenging societal notions that portray women as fragile and passive. Instead, women should be empowered to pursue leadership roles actively and confidently. Addressing and overcoming these traditional views can help shift the narrative from women as objects to subjects, transforming their role in society. Dr. Titumir highlighted the need to break down barriers associated with marriage and its perceived impact on women’s professional lives. He stressed the importance of viewing marriage as a supportive institution rather than a hindrance and working towards improvements in this area for societal advancement.

Moving beyond positive discrimination, Dr. Titumir advocated for a universal journey toward gender equality. He encouraged action-oriented approaches rather than relying on mere descriptive titles for women in positions of power. He also touched upon the significance of a strong connection between nature and women, emphasizing that supporting women can contribute to saving the planet. This co-existence demonstrates the need for transformative change, which requires proactive initiatives and a commitment to making progress.

In conclusion, Dr. Titumir urged the audience to take meaningful actions and work together to overcome challenges, ensuring that women have equal opportunities to thrive in both their academic and professional lives.



The first-panel discussion was moderated by Munaf Mojib Chowdhury, Partner Director at Aleph, and included panelists Mahzabin Ferdous, Co-Founder and MD of CThreeSixty and Co-Founder of The Marvel- Be You; Md. Tajdin Hassan, Chief Business Officer at The Daily Star; and Tasnuva Ahmed, CEO and Managing Director of Cloud Convoy Ltd.

The discussion focused on the digital age’s impact on personal branding and identity, with each panelist offering insights into their experiences and approaches to leveraging digital platforms for branding.

Mahzabin Ferdous shared her journey from starting her career in advertising in 2007 to transitioning into brand management and later digital branding. Her experience as a digital marketing point of contact for Samsung allowed her to recognize the importance of connecting her personality with the brands she represents. Mahzabin emphasized the need to verify the authenticity of content before making it viral and the importance of maintaining credibility across personal and professional branding. She encouraged attendees to trigger their senses and control what they post on social media.

Md. Tajdin Hassan highlighted the significance of prioritizing work over personal branding. He stressed the importance of focusing on the quality and impact of one’s work, allowing it to speak for itself. While acknowledging the potential of social media for personal branding, Md. Tajdin emphasized the necessity of balancing office responsibilities with managing personal branding activities.

Tasnuva Ahmed offered her perspective on exploring various industries over the past 19 years, guided by her belief in building strong interpersonal relationships. Tasnuva stressed the importance of staying authentic to one’s values when approaching personal branding. She discussed her work with Colors FM, emphasizing the radio channel’s support for women’s representation. Tasnuva also mentioned the challenges of reaching gender equality, noting that it could take around 120 years to close the gap. She highlighted the benefits of LinkedIn for connecting with professionals and utilizing the platform effectively for personal branding.

The panel discussion concluded with a call for a balanced approach to digital branding that respects both personal authenticity and professional integrity.


The second panel discussion was moderated by Professor Imran Rahman, Vice Chancellor of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. The panelists included Zara Jabeen Mahbub, MP, Member of the Standing Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Prof. Tulsi Jayakumar, Executive Director of the Centre for Family Business & Entrepreneurship at S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, India; Monzula Morshed, Chief Human Resource Officer and Administration Officer at Banglalink Digital Communications Ltd.; and Afroz Jalil, Impact Coach and Strategic Lead and Partner at Nammcon Consultancy Ltd., and former Country Manager at Roche Bangladesh.

The panel focused on the potential of women leaders in achieving Smart Bangladesh, exploring how their unique perspectives and skills can drive the country’s development.

Zara Jabeen Mahbub, MP shared her experience of the progress made towards Digital Bangladesh. She emphasized how women’s employment increased by 4% in the last year, highlighting the potential for further growth. Mahbub stressed the need for financial emancipation and the importance of breaking gender roles to bring more women into leadership positions.

Prof. Tulsi Jayakumar underscored the importance of sustainability, stewardship, and empathy in achieving Smart Bangladesh. She suggested that growth needs to be managed responsibly and that academia plays a crucial role in nurturing future leaders. Jayakumar also emphasized the need for inclusivity and a focus on long-term impact.

Monzula Morshed pointed out the challenges faced by rural women, particularly in accessing digital services due to literacy and inclusion issues. She called for bridging the digital divide through awareness and emphasized the pivotal role of women’s leadership in promoting collaboration and inclusion.

Afroz Jalil spoke about the significant contribution of women in nurturing leaders, as they represent 50% of the population. Jalil highlighted the importance of balancing purpose and fear for success and emphasized the need for transformational leadership styles to create psychologically safe organizations.

In conclusion, the panel reiterated the importance of fostering a supportive environment that empowers women leaders to drive Smart Bangladesh’s vision forward. Through collaboration, inclusivity, and authenticity, women leaders can make a significant impact on the country’s future.


The panel discussion was moderated by Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, Leadership Consultant and Founder & Managing Partner of BuildCon Consultancies Ltd. The panelists included Zahida Fizza Kabir, CEO of Sajida Foundation; Uzma Chowdhury, CPA, Finance Director of Pran-RFL Group; M. Zulfiquar Hussain, CEO & Lead Consultant of grow n excel; and Humaira Azam, Managing Director & CEO of Trust Bank Limited.

The panel discussion centered around the theme of women’s participation and advancement in the corporate world, focusing on the hurdles and barriers that need to be addressed to drive progress from the top.

Zahida Fizza Kabir emphasized the importance of women infiltrating unconventional roles with the transformation of technology. This evolution allows women to gain new experiences and overcome traditional barriers.

Uzma Chowdhury, CPA stressed the significance of addressing challenges faced by women in unconventional roles. While society often stereotypes women into certain roles, Uzma highlighted the need to rise above societal perceptions and pursue one’s aspirations. She spoke about the need for top-down approaches to inclusivity, so women can be empowered to rise to managerial positions.

M. Zulfiquar Hussain noted that while women’s employment has improved, the percentage of women in leadership positions has not risen proportionally. He called for a focus on both skill and will to help women break through corporate barriers and address gender wage gaps.

Humaira Azam emphasized the importance of overcoming mental barriers in the corporate world. By challenging one’s limits and believing in one’s abilities, women can break through patriarchal complexities and reach their full potential.

Ashraf Bin Taj discussed safety concerns for women in the workforce, especially in roles requiring fieldwork. He emphasized the need for society and companies to ensure the safety and well-being of female employees. He also pointed out that women’s success is not solely due to familial support but is driven by their abilities and opportunities.

Overall, the panelists agreed on the need for a comprehensive approach that combines organizational change with cultural shifts. They emphasized that addressing gender disparities requires a focus on safety, inclusivity, and equal opportunities for women at all levels of the corporate ladder.



The panel discussion was moderated by Nazim Farhan Choudhury, Managing Director of Adcomm Ltd. The panelists included Dimitra Nikolopoulou, a Performance Artist from Greece; Hosne Ara Loma, Country Head of People & Organisation at Novartis Bangladesh; Barrister Rashna Imam, Managing Partner at Akhtar Imam & Associates; and Dr. Jhumu Khan, Founder of Laser Medical.

They explored various ways of redefining future women’s roles in society.

Dimitra Nikolopoulou acknowledged the advancements women have made in education and professional fields. Historically, women lacked fundamental rights such as political participation and financial independence. While acknowledging the progress made, she emphasized the need to maintain momentum toward further equality in these areas.

Hosne Ara Loma stressed the role of family as the foundation of societal change. She noted that gender norms must be challenged from a young age. In agrarian societies, women contribute significantly yet lack ownership of land. She emphasized promoting soft skills, adaptability, and confidence to build an egalitarian society. Although many women enter the workforce, their progression to leadership positions is hindered by various challenges.

Barrister Rashna Imam highlighted the importance of understanding women’s rights in Bangladesh. Discrimination persists in areas such as inheritance, where daughters receive only half the share of sons. Additionally, mothers face challenges in gaining guardianship of their children. Rashna called for legal reforms and mass awareness to bridge the gender gap and dismantle patriarchy.

The panelists agreed on the importance of continued progress toward gender equality through family education, legal reforms, and societal awareness. Challenging stereotypes and creating equal opportunities are crucial steps to redefine future women’s roles in society.


An insight session titled “Creating a Female Friendly Organization – Lessons From British American Tobacco” was led by Saad Jashim, Area Head of Talent, Culture & Inclusion – APMEA Central at British American Tobacco (BAT), Bangladesh. The session focused on sustainable approaches to building a diverse and inclusive organization.

Saad emphasized the importance of allowing one’s work to speak for their personal life, noting that this approach benefits introverts who may struggle to express themselves verbally. He noted that achieving worthwhile goals takes time and persistence, and change does not happen overnight. BAT is one of the first organizations to be recognized as female-friendly. Currently, 35% of its management team consists of women. BAT is making efforts to include more women in various roles, including field and factory positions, not just in office settings.

Saad discussed the creation of Supernova, a program that offers a one-year fellowship to women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, preparing them for work in multinational companies. Despite initial stagnation from 2015 to 2018, BAT experienced a resurgence and growth, although challenges such as brain drain and talent migration persisted.

Saad emphasized the importance of surgical interventions by industry leaders to bridge the gender gap and build self-sustaining support groups within organizations. He also discussed the need for numeric targets to drive momentum in creating diverse organizations and the significance of immersing employees in different communities to foster empathy and understanding. BAT has achieved a 30% female representation in 2023, a significant increase from 13% in 2015. Since 2001, BAT has actively pursued female talent and worked to create a more inclusive environment for women in all areas of the organization.

Initiatives such as the Z Series and videos aimed at addressing inappropriate behavior and derogatory remarks extend BAT’s efforts beyond the organization. BAT prioritizes its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategy, implementing progressive policies, building strong networks, and fostering gender inclusion.

Programs like “Be The Change” send employees to Khustia to work directly with farmers at the grassroots level, helping them connect with their roots and return from training more resilient and confident. This approach to diversity and inclusion demonstrates BAT’s commitment to creating a truly female-friendly organization.


Celebrating a decade of empowering women and inspiring future leaders, Women in Leadership (WIL) marked its 10th anniversary. Nazia Andaleeb Preema, a visionary visual artist and founder of WIL, reflected on the journey that has helped countless women reinvent themselves professionally within the corporate world.

As a visual artist, Preema constantly strives to redefine herself through various mediums. She applies the same passion to the mission of WIL, aiming to connect her experiences and lessons with a broader audience who share similar ambitions. The vision of WIL is built upon four pillars: the Bangladesh Women Professional Network (BWPN), which fosters connections and collaboration among professional women; the Women in Leadership Summit (WILS), a platform for career and leadership development that supports women in pursuing their goals and ambitions; WIL Publications, which shares the stories and achievements of inspirational women as a source of knowledge and motivation; and the Inspiring Women Awards, an annual recognition celebrating women who have made significant contributions in their respective fields.

Together, these pillars form a holistic platform that nurtures and supports women’s development across various sectors. At the heart of WIL lies the belief that when women look beyond their traditional roles as sisters, mothers, and daughters, they can truly achieve their full potential. The leadership journey requires not just personal growth, but also the willingness to lift others as they rise.

Over the past 10 years, WIL has provided a space for women to connect, learn, and grow. The continuous journey of knowledge has been a guiding principle, emphasising the importance of mentorship and guidance in shaping future leaders. Looking ahead to the next decade, WIL envisions a world where more women thrive in every sector, leading change and inspiring others. The seeds of this transformation have already been planted, and there is great anticipation for their future impact.

The milestone is a time for celebration and reflection, honoring the achievements of the past and looking forward to a bright future for women in leadership.

Inspiring Women Award 2024

The highly acclaimed and prestigious Women in Leadership (WIL) has honoured the most inspiring female professionals in the country at the 8th edition of the Inspiring Women Award. The grand award ceremony took place at Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden on March 9, 2024. A total of 26 female professionals, including Leaders of Tomorrow (aspiring students), have received the accolade in 11 categories.  13 Winners and 13 Honourable Mentions were declared during the gala.

This year, the esteemed accolade received an overwhelming number of nominations from across the country. More than 250 entries were received from 100+ organizations and institutions under 11 categories. Three jury panels of the country’s top category experts and renowned professionals selected the winners and awarded them in two levels – Honorable Mentions and Winners.

During the opening speech, Nazia Andaleeb Preema, President, Women In Leadership – WIL said, “The Inspiring Women Award is very important for any professional woman to be recognized. Through this recognition, they are now more visible to others to see their potential and enormous possibilities. The WIL Inspiring Women Award not only rewards the deserving but also creates a sustainable growth policy and supportive parameters for women’s empowerment within organizations.”

For a decade now, WIL has been encouraging professional women to pursue leadership in their careers. The Inspiring Women Award was first given in the year 2014 and since then, the underlying message of Inspiring Women’s Award is to officially recognize women’s efforts in the growth of the country; to empower women professionals and create role models in society (at both individual and the organizational levels).



Bangladesh Brand Forum organized the Akij Tableware Presents WILFest 2024, Powered by RFL Houseware, in association with SQUARE Food & Beverage Ltd. & The Daily Star; Strategic Partner: grow n excel; Bangladesh Creative Forum; Technology Partner: Aamra Technologies Limited; Media Partner: Ekattor Tv; Samakal; PR Partner: Backpage PR; Artistic Partner: Preema Arte Foundation. WILFest 2024 is an initiative of Women In Leadership (WIL).

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