We continue this week with the Pond’s Miracle Movement, featuring Naz Khan, the CFO at Engro Corporation Limited and the CEO ]of Engro Eximp Agri products. She was previously the CEO of KASB Funds Limited and has worked in capital markets for over 18 years, having held key positions of Executive Director, Head of Money Market and Fixed Income and the Co-Head of Investment Banking Division. At Engro, Naz is a part of the Management Executive Committee for the larger Engro group and also sits on the Boards of its various subsidiaries.
Naz Khan chooses 10 women who are very similar to herself, self-made, determined and exceptionally passionate about leading a meaningful life. Six of these women hold extremely influential positions in various corporate entities, balancing their homes, families and ambitions. We also have a flourishing home based baker, an entrepreneur who has set up a handicrafts store specialising in high quality souvenirs as well as the brainchild behind Neco’s cafe, a pioneer in her own right. Last of all, we have a revolutionary wellness coach, who has changed the attitude that Pakistani’s have towards their bodies, mind and spirit.
She is an educationist
She is the country head for CIMA
She is passionate
Talking to Javaria Malik is in itself an inspiring experience. She is a single mom who began her career in education just over ten years ago and is now the Country Head for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in Pakistan. She is also a mentor for Unilever’s Advancing Women Empowerment project. She is upfront about the challenges young women face when starting their careers in Pakistan. “One particular challenge that I want to mention is ‘unconscious bias’. I have faced it in my career from the onset and I know it is not a conscious choice by any organization. However, just because a professional is a young female there is an unsaid understanding that she cannot take up challenging and senior roles.”
Javaria proposes that the HR departments of companies need to develop and implement transparent talent processes that ensure that talent decisions are taken on merit and not on any biases or stereotypes. “Only then will women reach their true potential and contribute effectively to society,” she says. While the systems will eventually come to ensure merit, it is critical for women to acknowledge and understand their weaknesses so they can work proactively to improve upon them.
Javaria believes that independence is essential for everyone in today’s day and age, both in terms of financial independence and emotional independence. “There is no bigger satisfaction in life than knowing that you are in a position to pay your own bills,” asserts Javaria. “Emotional independence is important because while it is good to have a social support system, one needs to be in a position to take important life decisions themselves without any influence. You need to know that all consequences of your decisions, good or bad, are your own to face.”
On work life balance Javaria quotes Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, who she looks up to as an inspiration. “Sheryl says that there is work and there is life and there is no balance. I agree with her school of thought. It is extremely tough to juggle between being a mom and maintaining a high power position at work but there are some things that you need to do consciously. Once my son asked me whether he is more important to me or my phone. Ever since that day I make it a point to unplug technology and be with him completely when I’m home.”
A woman will always face tough decisions Javaria exclaims. In her case she got offered international roles a few times but she turned them down solely to not unsettle her son’s life. She believes she would have been in an even better position today if she had taken them but there are no regrets when you make difficult choices for the family.
Javaria talks about her mother at the end and how nothing could have been possible without the support of her mother. “Especially after my father passed away it has been her who has enabled me to continue. I am sometimes out of the house for twelve thirteen hours and she is the one who looks after my son.” For Javaria, her miracle moment was the birth of her son. She states that she feels pride in herself for managing all the roles in her life to the best of her ability. Being a mother, daughter, sister, friend, and co-worker, she believes she manages all relationships well. And according to her, all of this is possible because she is a woman. “Women are much stronger than men because they can smile when the chips are down. I thank God every day that he made me a woman,” Javaria says with a lot of passion. And with that statement she leaves no doubt for anyone that she is, indeed, a miracle woman.
Maliha Mimi Bangash
She is an investment manager
She is a mother
She is fearless
“When I was young I was a dreamer, I had hopes and aims in life. I didn’t know what the next day would bring but God helped me and when you work hard for anything, God brings miracles in your life.” Maliha completed her first Master’s degree before getting married. After getting married, mid-career, she found out she had received a scholarship at The University of Chicago. She had always been interested in investment and finance, so when opportunity presented itself, she seized it and flew to the US in pursuit of her dreams. Now came the other challenge; Maliha was expecting a child and didn’t want to work so much during this time. She considered getting her degree differed but her mother and grandmother, advised her against it. Opportunities like this don’t come by over and over again. Unwilling to let her grades suffer, she worked very hard and her hard work bore fruit when soon she had 2 very meaningful experiences of her life; the birth of her son and graduating as an honor’s student. Maliha’s son is now 14 and she herself is running an investment management company at group head level. Her ever smiling demeanor is soul soothing and reflects her peace with herself.
“I think there have been countless difficulties but I see it from a different perspective. If you want to do anything, the journey of life itself, is filled with challenges, we have to face and overcome them. If you are afraid of opposition how will you transcend it? I’ve thought of them as blessings.”Maliha had to manage her studies, a home and a baby. She started working part time when her son was very young. “I learnt to stay determined and let things happen themself.”
Maliha has always had a lot of emotional support. Every time she faced any problems, she would call her friend Shah Bano. According to Maliha, she is very wise and spiritually enlightened. She would tell Maliha to control the situation with maturity and patience. “For me, it strengthened my faith and built my character. If you see from the perspective of a professional, these are actually the traits of leaders. The challenges taught me leadership.”
Maliha attributes her success to her mother who has always been there as a pillar for her unconditionally, throughout the good and the bad. “My mother is the most important lady in my life and I aspire to be more like her. I didn’t have so much faith in myself as much as she had faith in me. She encouraged me and picked me up when I was weak. She is responsible for turning my dreams into reality by believing in them. She is my biggest miracle in life.” Maliha’s grandmother is her other pillar. Being an exceptional woman and poet, she told Maliha,
Mita de apni hasti ko agar kuch martaba chahay
Daana khaaq mein mil kar gul e gulzar banta hai
This means that when one sets out to achieve something, it must be done diligently. Immerse yourself in your work, be humble, control your ego and only then you’ll be able to reach the heights of success. “This has been my experience,” says Maliha, “that the more humility you have, the bigger you are as a person and the more you learn.”
Maliha advises young girls to have a positive attitude towards life. “If you do something with your heart and soul in it, God grants you success. Women get married, have children; these are just the natural processes of life. They must remember that career is flexible and at the end of the day, it all works out. The key is to not lose hope,” she reaffirms. The ups and downs of life have taught Maliha Bangash to be resilient and fearless and if women are as ready to learn from life as she is, nothing will come in the way of their dreams.
She is a wellness coach
She’s a well-wisher
When one meets lifestyle and wellness coach, Mantahaa Maqsood, a positive vibe of self-assurance can be felt. “I am where I need to be. I have a vocation that fulfils my deepest desires and I couldn’t thank God enough for this,” Mantahaa reaffirms. She has a sense of calmness about her, which reflects the peace of her soul.
Being a people’s person, Mantahaa never found her corporate jobs self-fulfilling. She wanted to make a difference in society. “Transforming lives used to give me a kick. Every time I went to the gym, women would ask me to teach an exercise rep, which would make a difference for them. Soon I started putting my savings into this profession,” Mantahaa explains how she started her journey.
Mantahaa’s unconventional profession often has people confused about her being a fitness trainer or a psychologist. “We aim to transform people’s lifestyles and for us to do that we have to work from their mind down to their heels. We know our client inside out through various tests and check-ups and we become our client’s BFFs.” Mantahaa claims that her lifestyle and wellness program aims to create a ‘tribe’ for the modern woman, where she has a whole team of women to push her towards goals. She’s had a particularly gratifying moment when she helped a breast cancer patient, who was struggling to accept the changes in her body post-surgery, regain her confidence with the help of lifestyle and wellness coaching.
When commenting on her challenges, Mantahaa compares life to an ECG monitor, saying that “when there are no ups and downs on those lines then it means you’re dead! What is life without ups and downs?” Like many women in the country, she finds the overarching misogynist mindset of our society to be a huge challenge. It had been difficult for her to prove her mettle as a physically and emotionally strong woman in a largely male-dominated field when she first came to Pakistan 3-4 years ago. She also found adjusting to a new country and married life quite emotionally challenging, while the lack of regulation in the fitness industry and duplication of her ideas and plans has been psychologically frustrating for her. Yet, she perceives these challenges positively because it was these challenges that taught her a lot.
According to Mantahaa, not just independence but interdependence is also an absolute must for women. She believes that in today’s day and age of uncertainty of finances or even relationships, an independent woman can help her family in adverse circumstances. She further adds, “If you’re emotionally independent, you can help others rise too.” She is also critical of the gender inequality faced by women everywhere. Her abhorrence towards gender inequality is so strong that she terms it asmam disease. “The word disease is two words: ‘dis’ and ‘ease’, not being at ease. Gender inequality is a social disease, while other issues faced by females, such as breast cancer, is a physical disease and domestic violence is an emotional disease,” she explains. To fight off these biases, Mantahaa urges women to showcase their inner and outer strength with a fighter spirit. “We (women) have to get up and fight. You have to roll up your sleeves and leave all issues at home before you walk out the door,” she asserts, advising other women to “think like a man and feel like a woman.”
Continuing with her stance on encouraging women to assert their worth in society, Mantahaa is adamant that there should be zero tolerance for domestic violence by any woman. “You must see a psychologist and solve issues from the root. If you don’t, you’re affecting your body, your home environment and even your children with this emotional baggage,” stresses Mantahaa. She believes that a mother has to feel emotionally, physically and monetarily fulfilled to be able to set the right example of being a wife or a mother. “Your children will be happy when they see you happy. Self-love should be every woman’s priority!”
For this Miracle Woman, who describes herself as a “well-wisher”, getting people off terminal medications is her Miracle Moment. “Curing and giving a new life to those suffering from cancer, seeing 70-year olds, who had given up on life, running miles and miles in parks and transforming lives every day are my miracle moments.” Indeed, only people like her, who feel positivity within their souls, can be the source of smiles for all those around her. And this is exactly what makes her special.
Mehreen Aziz Khan
She is a social worker
She is sensitive
She is an enabler
She is the associate director for business development, communication and talent management at Acumen, Pakistan – an NGO which invests in social impact – Mehreen Aziz has covered leaps and bounds in advancing philanthropy from the traditional approach generally seen in the society. “We empower the poorest of the poor and help them build a life for themselves, which has dignity, rather than dependency from choice, not charity,” explains Mehreen. She is empathetic, sensitive and self-aware which her Miracle Journey demonstrates.
Mehreen believes that while one is usually able to find resources and ways of tackling external challenges, it is the internal struggles women in our society face so commonly that are the more insidious ones. She explicitly points out that because traditional roles ascribed to women are of managing the household and appearing presentable at all times, that is what makes the work-life balance a tough call for working women in Pakistan, while the men continue to enjoy the liberty of focusing solely on their work at the expense of neglecting family obligations. “Yes, those internal struggles have been the most difficult. Unfortunately, there are still biases in society because of which women in workplace still have a hurdle to overcome. Things are changing very rapidly in Pakistan for the better, but it’s still largely a male dominated culture and that’s where the struggle is a bit harder for women in the workplace,” Mehreen sheds light on the dilemma of working women in Pakistan.
The most difficult life decision for Mehreen had been to choose between her career and looking after her ailing father who, sadly, passed away last year. She chose to tend to her father and is satisfied with the choice she made. “You’ll always get another job, other opportunities but you’ll only have one set of parents.”
Mehreen claims independence is an emotional rather than a monetary state. “If you’re not emotionally independent, then you’ll always be dependent. It won’t matter how much money you have in the bank. If you depend on another person for self-worth and esteem, then nothing is going to fill that hole,” she clarifies. She advises young girls that work is a part of one’s life and it shouldn’t take precedence over one’s health and relationships. “If you’re not healthy, nothing else will have meaning.” Mehreen reminiscences a story written by a nurse who spent a number of years caring for people who were dying, with the message of staying happy and forming lasting relationships. “If you’re a happy person, your energy will be different and that’s what you bring to work.”
Mehreen denounces the traditional theory of ‘work-life balance’, claiming that “life has to come first and work is the subset of that.” And in order to do that, she believes, one has to choose what they love to do, a mantra she’s a living example of. “My mission and passion for Acumen’s work is to create change in society and for me it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like giving my life meaning beyond my limited existence,” says an exuberant Mehreen, who also vouches for breathing exercises, a good night’s sleep and no-smoking as tricks for staying calm and refreshed throughout the day.
If there was something Mehreen could change, she’d like to go back and challenge her athletic streak a bit more. “I would’ve spent less time studying and more time outside. I think academic achievement is great, but we need to encourage young girls to be physically active.”
Mehreen’s absolute Miracle Moment was when she was chosen as the face of Pakistan for BBC World, when she anchored ‘Question Time, Pakistan’ and ‘Hard Talk, Pakistan’. “It was the first time BBC World had dedicated programming to Pakistan and I felt enormously privileged, honoured and proud to be highlighting across fifty-five countries how open, progressive and discerning a society Pakistanis were becoming.”
Mehreen leaves us with a note on the dearness of a mother-daughter relationship. “It’s so valuable, nothing can ever replace that in your life. If your mother is alive and well, then it’s the biggest wealth you have – the biggest treasure.”
She is a restaurateur
She is a mother
She is enthusiastic
One of the pioneers of the restaurant business in Pakistan, Nilofer Saeed is currently running N’eco’s cafe and natural food store in Karachi. “We started Copper Kettle 20 years ago. Soon after that fast food chains from abroad came and the food revolution began in Pakistan. Over a period of time people’s needs and requirements have been changing; from fast food to fine food to natural food and I have evolved with them.”
Nilofer expresses how times have changed for a working woman in Pakistan. “20 years ago being a woman and coming out in this field was really easy because at that time in Pakistan men of all classes respected a woman if she came out to work whether they were uneducated or educated. If I had a flat tyre, 10 people would stop and change the tyre. Pakistan was the best place for a woman to run a business because I had the best of both the east and west. Unfortunately, it’s no longer that. Men are very disrespectful towards women now. They think you are not good enough to be equal. We had such a beautiful culture to respect and protect our women and yet give them all the opportunities. This is where I feel, the young girls of today are really having it tough.”
Like all other working mothers, Nilofer recalls some of her moments of weakness. “A woman’s job never finishes. She is a mother, a sister, a daughter in law, a wife, and a grandmother. Men go to work, they come home, they hardly contribute to the house except financially. A woman has to go home and she has to make sure the food is cooked, clothes are ironed, and the children have gone for tuition. Actually there are many moments that you have lost out in doing these certain things. There are times you get overwhelmed. 4 months after copper kettle opened I locked myself in the office and wept and wept and wept and wondered what made me do this when I was living a peaceful life being a teacher!” However, with the support of her husband, she realised one cannot do justice to everybody unless the whole household contributes. If a woman has to manage all the responsibilities single-handedly, the children and the home do get neglected, but if the husband pitches in, everything does eventually fall into place.
“I do have a regret that when my children had their O Level results, I couldn’t go to get the results because my mother passed away, so the same day so I had to go to Lahore. That was a moment of weakness that still bothers me,” says Nilofer with a hint of guilt in her eyes. A woman is indeed, split into so many roles.
Despite having her share of difficulties when she started out, Nilofer firmly believes that all women must strive to be financially independent. “When you are a working woman, you have the liberation of being able to do it your way. Otherwise, you have to toe the line of the person you are dependent on, be it your husband, father or brother,” she stresses. “It is necessary for your own sanity and the happiness of the males of your family.” However, in doing so, a woman must make an effort to achieve her physical and mental wellbeing. Nourishing herself will allow her to produce a healthy home environment. “Even in a plane, they say first take the oxygen yourself and then help others.”
Nilofer has carved herself a niche in the restaurant industry in Pakistan with a lot a of dedication and hard work. Her work has always meant a lot to her but her family holds a special place in her heart. She identifies her Miracle Moment to be the time when she saw her first grandchild. Nilofer says with a laugh that “My mother used to call me her dumbest child. I want to tell her that your dumbest child hasn’t done too badly!” As a part of The Citizen’s Foundation, her advice to younger women is to be brave, be confident and go out there to help the people of Pakistan. Miracle Woman, Nilofer Shahid, is sheer inspiration and surely leads by example.
She is a social worker
She is an entrepreneur
She is adaptive
Kashf Foundation is a name known and respected across Pakistan for the groundbreaking work done in the field of microfinance targeted especially towards women. Sadaffe Abid, first as the COO and then CEO, was the driving force behind converting Kashf from a pilot project operating from two rooms to now employing two thousand staff and disbursing US dollars, serving more than three hundred thousand women clients.
Currently Sadaffe runs an enterprise by the name of Circle. The aim of Circle is to resolve social issues in Pakistan by the use of technology. Circle aims to give leadership opportunities to women and the youth to come up with innovative ideas that provide technology based solutions. They are currently running a campaign by the name of ‘Elevate’ that brings together big companies, non-profits, and social enterprises to pledge to bring more women to the forefront and provide more visibility to women.
Sadaffe feels that women tend to doubt themselves much more than men. “I had an interesting observation when I got married that my husband would approach situations with a level of confidence that I knew was clearly lacking in me. I have noticed, and there is global research to support the fact, that women tend to underestimate themselves. Not only do we need to provide that confidence to women, it is up to us build strong support networks. We are good at social support networks like friends and families but allies at work are also important.”
Sadaffe comments on how women play several different roles in society and perform them well, but when it comes to giving time to themselves they are found lacking. “As women we need to start by investing in ourselves. If you are happy and fulfilled, if you are taking care of yourself physically and emotionally, you will be able to bring more joy to people around you.” For Sadaffe, that care comes in the form of music, travel and talking to friends. Of course it doesn’t hurt that her work doesn’t feel like work to her and she gets a lot of joy just from being able to do what she does every day. She continues by saying that women need to take more risks. “If I could go back ten years I would stretch myself more, and put myself in situations that are uncomfortable. Those are the times when you grow and move forward.”
On gender equality, Sadaffe has much to say to Pakistani organizations. “We have more than 50 percent women in population but those numbers are not represented in the workforce. There is ample research to suggest that it makes a good business case to employ more women in jobs. According to research done by Mckinsey, you improve significantly on your financial returns if there is more diversity in the workforce.” This is a topic which is obviously very close to Sadaffe’s heart. She goes on to say how companies need to develop ecosystems that enable women to thrive. Small things like daycares, flexible hours, women networks will go a long way in providing the right platform for women to grow.
She recalls her Miracle Moment as the time when she and her team launched ‘Elevate: The youth fellowship’. “To be in a room with more than one hundred young people, many still in their teens, bringing their ideas and creativity for social innovation was a real miracle moment. Pakistan’s only way forward is to invest in these young people.”
Lastly, Sadaffe talks about her mother who has been a teacher, a principal and a Bridge champion. She talks with a lot of pride about how her mother was able to cope up with all the roles to perfection along with building a great family and a solid social support network. But for anyone who talks to Sadaffe it is evident that she too is currently on a path where future generations will look back to her many achievements with great pride.
She is a product designer
She is a business owner
She is positive
Considering the kind of negative news that Pakistan finds itself in almost on a daily basis, many of us complain about it and even more of us plan for possible exits from the country. Not Sadiqa Husain. She decided to take positive action and do something that conveys the positive image of Pakistan to the world. That is the thought that gave birth to ‘Tali’, a handicrafts store that sells unique souvenirs for foreigners to take back from Pakistan, especially Karachi.
“We travel a lot and everywhere I go I pick up gifts and souvenirs for friends and family. That is something I always thought was lacking in Pakistan. When people come to Pakistan from abroad there are no readily available souvenirs. Apart from Zainab market there are really no places to get memorable items. And even the products available are usually of very poor quality.” About ten years ago Sadiqa decided to bring together craftsmen and artisans who will create high quality souvenirs for foreigners to take back home and have a positive memory from Pakistan in their homes. The initial challenge was to find good people to work for her. There is nothing like a ‘yellow pages’ for these sort of craftsmen so she had to do her own hunting and negotiations. “First I would buy whatever they were selling, incorporate the design and make something new. I was able to gain their trust that way,” Sadiqa told us. “As first generation Pakistanis it is our responsibility to take ownership of our country, project a positive image, and support local craft. It is so rewarding for me when the craftsmen tell me that they do the most amount of work for me.”
For Sadiqa, every time an artisan working for her sends her a gift as token of appreciation, it is a Miracle Moment. “It’s a huge things for me,” she says. “It makes me feel like they always want to do more for me than I can do for them. I think these are miracles of humanity.”
Sadiqa credits her mother for teaching her that everyone deserves respect. “In our house my mother always made sure that when a new cook or maid was hired they were properly introduced to everyone. It made us realize that everyone’s work is unique and has to be respected.” She goes on to say how women in Pakistan need to be supportive of each other. “Sometimes I feel that women themselves don’t understand how they are undermining their own value. Why do mothers give more importance to sons, or ask sisters to serve brothers? They need to raise everyone to be independent and equally worthy.”
Sadiqa talks about her weak moments as times when she lost close loved ones like her father and father in law. But she believes in not letting life bring anyone down. “Life always moves on and that’s the only way forward. Be positive.” Women across Pakistan can learn from her journey that beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from every kind of negativity.
She is an entrepreneur
She is a mother
She is passionate
Saima Eqan, who identifies her Miracle Moment to be the birth of her first child, is equally passionate about her home-based bakery business, Slice of Life. She says “My children and my business are my creation and I have to take them forward together.” She agrees she could have given her children more time if she was not a working mother but also believes a working mum gives her children many reasons to be proud of her. “My children were extremely excited that I was chosen as one of the Miracle Women for 2016 by Ponds and are very happy that I am here today talking about my journey,” says Saima, now a mother of 3, with a proud smile.
Saima started her career in the field of advertising. However, after the birth of her first born, she decided that being a mother, she will not be able to be true to the demands of her job. It was then when she took to starting a home –based baking business and later on also went to the UK to receive formal training to master the art of bread baking. She felt that if she has to take this forward seriously, then it is imperative to have proper qualification to be able to give this her one hundred percent. Though her business was well received by friends and family and grew steadily based on word of mouth, it was when a friend of hers sent bread baked by her to a restaurant that changed things for her. From then on, the restaurant asked her to supply bread to them on a daily basis and then more restaurants jumped on the bandwagon. Saima finally had to expand and hire labour to support her ever growing baking business. “Making 10-12 breads per day is no big deal. But 20-25 is very difficult if you’re doing it all by yourself! I realised if I want to excel in this, I have to take it forward. That was the day I decided this is what I am going to do in life.”
However, Saima’s journey as an entrepreneur has not been free of struggles. “One major problem is suppliers. It is difficult to find suppliers in Pakistan who can provide the required machinery. Another issue is labour – I make great efforts to teach and train them and then they leave at the drop of the hat without prior notice, leaving me high and dry. In addition, getting constant raw material is a major issue. If your flour is not of the same high quality, your bread cannot be of the best quality.” Saima explains. Sometimes, she also gets bogged down by running a business and raising 3 children simultaneously but is lucky to have children who want to see her to grow. National holidays are not off-days for her – they are in fact busier! But, with the support of her family she is able to keep afloat.
Saima believes that financial and emotional independence are interlinked. Earning her own money gives a woman a sense of satisfaction but she also realises that not all women in Pakistan have that option, even if they would like to. Females do not have many opportunities. In addition, she also sees gender inequality as an issue in this country. “Workers don’t take female bosses seriously so I have to keep my distance, though this is not my preferred style. But, if I try to be myself while at work, issues eventually arise and I have to part ways with them. Similarly, suppliers also don’t take women seriously so I try to deal with them over e-mail and avoid talking on the phone,” Saima says.
Miracle Woman Saima Eqan could have chosen to give up being a working woman after being presented with the responsibilities of a wife and a mother, like many women in this country do. But she decided to go out there, make a change, pursue it and carve out a path of success and contentment for herself. Her journey bears testament to the fact that every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.
She is a banker
She is accomplished
She is counter cultural
Sima Kamil is currently the Head of Branch Banking at HBL, which is Pakistan’s largest bank. Her role is considered the most important after the CEO. When looking back at the struggles she had to go through to reach the pinnacle of success she says, “frankly the challenges were not huge as I was prepared to take risks when opportunities came my way. I had the benefit of a first class education and no bar from my family in making career choices which sometimes also required mobility. So, if a role was given to me based anywhere in the world, I would always say yes.” She’s someone who has enjoyed feeling empowered as a woman and making a real change while being at a local bank that is as huge as HBL.
Though Sima does not have any biological children, her husband’s daughter is just like her own. “When she was younger my inability to spend as much time at home was an issue with no easy solution,” explains Sima. Therefore, according to her, there is no such thing as creating a perfect work life balance and it’s a constant and everyday decision. “My aim is to work hard and leave at 6pm whenever I can. I believe time management is critical.” For the very committed and hardworking Sima, the mantra to success for any young girl stepping into the workforce today is to not try to be a man and strive to gain respect as a woman.
Sima believes in achieving financial independence while making sure a woman’s self respect and dignity are maintained. However, emotional independence is neither possible nor desirable. “I think another word for loneliness would be emotional independence.”
Like any other woman, Sima has had her share of weak moments. “Doesn’t everyone feel weak at times?” she questions. “I have been able to overcome such moments sometimes with sheer will and sometimes by prayer. Staying connected with close friends always helps.”
Looking back, if Sima had the chance to do anything differently she would perhaps be less proud and kinder to non performers. She, in addition, does not feel it is very important for a woman to sometimes put herself first. In her opinion, your emphasis on yourself is counterproductive and simply selfish. She feels that her Miracle Moment is “knowing that I can achieve even if I am different and can stay different.” Sima’s words are sheer inspiration and her journey towards success remarkable.
She is an Investment Manager
She is a mother
She is goal-oriented
The grounded and the very affable Zohra Samiuddin is a mother of 3 a year old and the General Manager of Investments at the Westbury Group of Companies. Fortunately, she has plenty of support from home and works for an understanding organization which helps her manage her personal and professional life with panache. For Zohra, “it is all about quality time. You must give your best at everything. I have been lucky to have been a part of an organization that has given me the benefit of flexible working hours because they understand that I am a mother. But you will only get such benefits at work if you give them your 100%. When I am at home with my son, I give him my 100%. Once I put him down for the day, I give time to myself and my husband.” Zohra emphasizes that being a woman is not an excuse to be given privilege at work, in fact it is a bigger burden to prove yourself.
At the time of marriage, Zohra was given the choice to continue working by her husband and she values this freedom of choice. She chose to make a career for herself but was adamant to strike the crucial work-life balance. “I similarly had choice to give up work or continue my career when I became a mother and I decided to continue working. The period of maternity leave for me was difficult and during that break I knew I had to go back to work. Thanks to having support at home, I was back at work in no time. I have never felt that had I chosen to be a stay-at-home mum, things would have been better.” Zohra’s circumstances were not the reasons she chose to be financially independent but she believes that there’s no doubt that having a career does make a woman financially and emotionally strong. Working teaches a woman how to be practical, how to express her point of view and gives her a certain degree of street smartness. Therefore, Zohra believes working is important as it contributes positively to a woman’s personality. “By not working, you are rusting yourself just like a machine that is not in use. If a woman feels she may not have the opportunity to pursue a career, that in no way means she should not get education. Education will allow her to become broad minded and approach life in a pragmatic way,” Zohra proclaims.
Zohra is a firm believer of the fact that if one is good at something, one must do it. There are no such jobs that are not ‘fit’ for a woman to do. “If a woman feels she is good at driving a rickshaw and can make a living out of it, who says she shouldn’t do it? When we go to restaurants, I am sure that 90% of the chefs are men but when it comes to the kitchen at home, men would never help as in our culture, it is a woman’s job to cook for the family.” Therefore, these are just norms created by the society and for Zohra, there is no demarcation between jobs for males and females.
“I have 2 miracle moments,” says Zohra. “One of them is the time when I heard my baby cry for the first time. It was the most beautiful moment of my life. And the second one is when I cleared my foundation level of CA. I was the only one from my batch who cleared the exam. Seeing my name in the list of 100 people who had passed was not only a miracle moment but a trigger for me to step ahead in life too.” It is clear that personal as well as professional successes complete Zohra as a woman. Her Miracle Journey is proof of the fact that when you are honest and give your best to everything you do, you can be a champion at work and at home. Being a working woman does not have to mean sacrificing on important aspects of motherhood or vice versa. When you put your mind to it, the sky is the limit!