Many women are acquiring high-ranking positions in banking. ICE Business Times converses with female bankers about the prospects and challenges of the industry.
With 56 private banks and a host of non-banking financial institutions, Bangladesh’s banking sector has been adding 2% to the GDP with an annual growth of 10%. The industry currently employs 7491 female bankers, around 13% of the total human resources pool. This disparity is further highlighted in the World Economic Forum’s report, The Global Gender Gap Report, where Bangladesh ranks 68th. However, women are making significant progress with many women acquiring high-ranking positions in banking. ICE Business Times converses with female bankers about the prospects and challenges of the industry.
Women should not only strive to have a job but create more for other women.
Humaira Azam is the Deputy Managing Director of Bank Asia Limited. Starting her career as a management trainee in ANZ Grindlays Bank, Humaira advanced to become the first female member of MANCOM in Standard Charter Bank, Bangladesh. It’s her mother-in-law who inspired her to complete her education and secure a career in the banking profession.
Humaira is very outspoken regarding the lack of professionalism that makes it much harder for women to attain any rank in this sector. Inadequate treatment, lack of support and preconceived gender notions are some of the reasons which hamper the credentials of any woman who tries to enter the field, according to Humaira. She added that women face opposition even before recruitment because of ‘informal corridors’ through which men keep track of the job openings, work politics and company dynamics, and problems. Despite the odds, Humaira wants women to use courage while facing challenges and never to underestimate their capabilities. She urges to act with confidence, perseverance, and determination. She believes that the tool for progress is a quality education to be comprehensive in whatever the respective job demands. She also wants women to become entrepreneurs no matter how small or large their endeavors may be. “Women should not only strive to have a job but create more for other women.”
We need to help each other and work towards building a stronger network of professional women in Bangladesh.
Earning a BBA from North South University and an MBA from The University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Zara Jabeen Mahbub is currently the Head of Communication & Service Quality at BRAC Bank Limited. She has 20 years of management experience in the RMG, IT and Banking industries. When asked to identify factors that helped her in her professional life, she mentioned support from family (especially her husband), strong conviction, confidence, transparency, integrity and communication worked as the critical success factors. “One of the biggest challenges women face today is the inadequate support from family and the lack of appropriate support facilities like childcare and after school services for children.” She reiterated that women must learn to leverage support from family members and bring them closer into the success circle. “When I do well in my professional life, my family members take pride in my success and celebrate it as a collective success. I work for one of the largest banks in the country that accounts for almost 15% of the female population in the banking industry, and it is a privilege to be a part of this woman-friendly organization”. Regarding the challenges in Banking, she mentioned that the challenge is in the mindset, and it is a pity that women mostly have to quit because of familial reasons and lack of support. “We need to help each other and work towards building a stronger network of professional women in Bangladesh. It is time to shatter the glass ceiling!” she added.
‘Live, laugh and love your work,’ is the simplest mantra that can get you through thick and thin.
“From a stereotypical perspective, many will think that positions such as the one I am designated are for men only; but that’s their views and the time has come for them to think otherwise,” states Sherifa in a jubilant mood. She followed her instinct while opting for a career, which was to be in a highly competitive sector. She is ecstatic to see an increasing number of girls obtaining banking jobs with the much-needed conviction. Even for herself, idolizing senior coworkers has given her enough inspiration to stay assertive in her decisions.
It’s is her fervor for the labor that makes her accommodate long hours at work or frequent traveling in pursuit of completing the job in a punctual and proper manner. She is grateful to her father for his million-dollar advice: learn, unlearn, and learn again; to make a difference for the people around you-which helps her embrace work with renewed vigor every day.
In a diverse workplace, making people trust you as another worthy employee for the organization can be difficult. “Especially when they take physical attributes into consideration for a particular position, men have an inequitable advantage. I have always remained true to my identity as a woman from the inside, setting my priorities and goals accordingly, be it at work or in my personal life,” she elaborates.
Regarding the glass ceiling she said that fortunately I have had male bosses who were not sexist at all. They have inspired me to believe in my capabilities and I have also been guided by great leadership. My husband and my in-laws support me tremendously so I can balance the game. Many women face that very lack of trust and patience from their immediate family and co-workers. The key is to have perseverance, keep going even after you fail at a certain task.
For the starters in any profession, Sherifa’s advice is to acquire the skill and remain aptly professional in order to be recognized. Trying to be over-smart or getting carried away in the rat race of today’s corporate world will be distracting and destructive, she posits. “’Live, laugh and love your work,’ is the simplest mantra that can get you through thick and thin.”
I believe leadership is cultivated and not an inherent quality.
“In today’s banking, proper branding is the key to reaching out to your customers. In order to achieve that, a better understanding of each and every product, be it retail banking or corporate banking are of immense importance. I am extremely fortunate to have joined this bandwagon. It is exciting.”
A former Radio Jockey and a Social Sciences graduate from Dhaka University, Rayhan Kawsar has made her mark as an upcoming leader for brand building in the banking industry.
Rayhan is grateful to her parents for the kind of upbringing that taught her equality. This is why she is confident about her qualifications and never hesitates to walk the extra mile to achieve the goal that she has set.
“I believe leadership is cultivated, it is not an inherent quality. Hence, I am trying to hone my skills in this sector to attain a leading position and to play a catalytic role in the future.” Besides her parents, she is also thankful to her husband who serves as a great source of inspiration.
As of women in banking, Rayhan’s view is that since women are more meticulous and punctual, they operate dexterously in managerial positions. She is proud of the female colleagues in the various departments of her bank, who, with their hard work and intense labor, managed to amass the organization’s success in the shortest possible time.