Women in our society often face extra challenges when it comes to pursuing an ambition or building a successful career. At times, it is the simple social structure that does not allow a woman to work. Other times, it is the social misunderstanding that looks down towards a woman and her ability to deal with complex challenges.
‘She cannot do it’ or ‘this is not for you as you are a woman’ - these are some of the common things that a woman often hear from her family and at her workplace. Undermining ability of a woman just because of her gender is a quite common thing in our society.
At times, the environment and culture simply get hostile towards women making it difficult for her to carry out her responsibility as if to prove the point that women are less capable than men.
However, material changes are happening. Society is increasingly realizing the importance of allowing women to work and participate in economic and other activities. On the other hand, despite the challenges many women are thriving at their workplace.
Zara Jabeen Mahbub, a Senior Vice President and the Head of Communications and Service Quality at BRAC Bank, suggests that while the situation has improved a lot, it is still a tall order for many women to thrive at her workplace.
In a recent interview with Future Startup, she shares a set of simple yet effective tips from her years of experience for women who are pursuing their ambition. You can read the full interview here.
1. Ignore and be resilient
“It is about resilience and getting used to many different difficult experiences” says Zara. “Generally, I just keep at it and go ahead and do my job and try not to allow the negative opinions of others affect my work.” Dealing with negative energy is a motivation-draining experience which a woman has to deal with at work.
The most effective rule of thumb is: ignore it.
“There is no formula about how to navigate such a situation. Sometimes I get mad when people say “Oh, you are a woman, you will not understand it!”. On the contrary, I should be able to understand it because I’m a woman. Sometimes, it is very difficult to stay calm. But then and again, that is how it is and we have to deal with it.”
2. Be ready for ups and downs of life and remember that every challenge has a silver lining
After graduated from Haas School of Business, one of the top 10 business schools in the world, it was easy for her to get a 6-digit salary and what not. But life takes different routes every now and then.
“I finished my MBA in May 2008, in two and a half years although it was a three-year program. Right after my graduation, the financial crisis happened in the US and economy started to go down. The US job market tanked,” says Zara. Life is fundamentally uncertain. Our responsibility is to don’t give up when it gets tough. “It was a tough time for MBAs. That said, when one door closes, many more open up. I returned to Bangladesh and if you ask me, would I move back to the USA today? Absolutely not. Bangladesh is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and things are happening and the future is here.”
Zara continues, “in my professional life I went through many ups and downs but every time I went through a challenging situation it taught me something or the other that eventually helped move forward. Life takes interesting turns. It sometimes surprises us, but our job is to keep the steady pace, stay on course and never back down.”
Life takes interesting turns. It sometimes surprises us, but our job is to keep the steady pace, stay on course and never back down.
3. Failing is not essentially a bad thing. Be an optimist
“One thing that helps me is that I have hit rock bottom so many times in life that I know that In Sha Allah things will be better no matter what. I think this is the silver lining of any difficult experience; it makes you stronger and prepares you for the next one. Our tough days are our training period,” says Zara Mahbub.
This is such an important point regardless of gender. We often feel in the face of a challenge that we are only one to face such a challenge and we feel really unfortunate for it. In the hindsight, life is a series of difficult situations and the more we get exposed to challenges, we become more adept at dealing with it.
“I am an optimist. I believe in big miracles and I believe that everything happens for the best. I go back to myself and the higher power. I pray. I do the things that I like. I go back to my family and I go back to my friends because they are the ones who carry me through all the difficult times” she says.
4. Create your success circle
This is one of the most important ideas that Zara shares with us. Since it is hard for women to get support for their work, the best strategy to deal with it is to create a support circle.
“I try to share my success and give due credit to the people who have supported me and contributed to my success. I call this creating a success circle” says Zara.
For a working woman, the most critical thing for career success is support from her family as well as at the workplace which is often of such a short supply.
“A success Circle helps you to create a coalition with the people who contribute towards your success. The way I see it is that if you have a strong support circle – which I have been very lucky to have, Alhamdulillah -you are all set to go and do what you got to do,” she says.
“I think sharing success with others as well as being there for other people in your circle when they need your help makes things simpler. Give support to each other so that you can grow as a community.”
5. Be strong
This is the ultimate tip - be unbreakable. There will be challenges and obstacles. There will be many unpleasant experiences. Your job is to overcome all that and come out as a winner. Winning takes many things and the most importantly you need to be strong as a woman.
“Be strong and never allow anyone to dictate who you are. It is extremely difficult to be strong but you have to do it. Do the things that give you peace of mind and carry you through the difficult times”, says Zara Mahbub.