Progress towards gender equality varies in momentum around the world, and many nations still lack the social infrastructure and understanding for women to hold leadership roles. Despite facing backlash from their societies when choosing a pursue professional careers, many women have still managed to emerge as business leaders in countries with some of the widest gender gaps.
In a Global Chamber event last week, female business leaders from Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Peru, Georgia, and the United States shared their experiences in dealing with gender inequality in their strives for success.
You can watch the discussion HERE.
Achieving Career Success
In an engrained patriarchy, Pakistani women are often not free to make independent choices, and that means obtaining loans to start ventures or continuing education are decisions left to the male figureheads of their households. The women who had support from their families in pursuing professional careers consider themselves extremely lucky, like Samrah Azam who is the CEO of VIGO Business Consulting and Executive Director, Global Chamber® Islamabad. Even with the support of her family, cultural complications still exist for Samrah to make business negotiations by herself.
In Peru, very low percentages of women are entrepreneurs (4%) or hold high corporate positions (6%), with less than 20% having any leadership role within their companies. While stereotype pressure is without doubt a hindrance for women to emerge as business leaders, another barrier exists within women themselves who too often yield their accomplishments or exhibit imposter syndrome. Cinthia Valera, CEO of the Family Business Association in Peru, experienced the psychological setback herself when faced with common biases against women. However, she believes that if women are aware of not only the system but also of their abilities and confidence, a lot can be changed about those low percentages because gender diversity really adds value to companies.
Leading by Example
Problems that women face are parallel and similar around the world, especially those in education, financial opportunities, pay equality, childcare access, and opportunities for balancing work and life, and in the end everyone wants the same thing—equal opportunities and the ability to make choices.
"One statement that we need to be continuously making is that women’s rights and gender equality are not newly emerged sciences but provisions of basic human rights."
As suggested by Shafag Menraliyev, Chief of Rector's Office for ADA University, the first step to building societies where women can make choices surpassing the boundaries of their stereotypes is to lead by example. Your environment starts changing when you practice what you preach, and you are setting a new and better standard for future generations of women. Also, social media has become an influential battleground of public opinion, and never before has it been easier to lend support to and unite women.
Young women are frequently exposed to cultural biases that suggest that women are inferior to men. In a personal story, Tamara Kalaniya, the Chief Financial and Operating Officer at the Middle East Institute, heard a remark from her daughter who thought her dad was smarter than her mom simply because of gender. That inspired Tamara to work even harder to professionally support and promote the women around her and also create an environment of female empowerment for her daughter.
"Mom, you know, you are my role model and when I grow up, I’m gonna wear the pants in the family."
The landscape for gender equality has seen significant change in the last 20 years, and the momentum on female empowerment is slowly transforming business leadership around the world.
Samrah Azam - CEO of Vigo Business Consulting and Global Chamber® Islamabad Executive Director. Samrah is an international business consultant . She provides HR Consultancy, Business Cleansing Solutions and designs innovative training modules for education and different corporate sectors. A Corporate Trainer/ Motivational Speaker and CEO of Vigo Business Consulting Private Limited which is a global Management Consulting company and growing towards becoming the World's leading adviser on Business Strategy, Process Management, Thought Leadership, Conference management. Working as an Executive Director at Global Chamber®, with combined technical and commercial insight to craft strategy, uncover growth opportunities and expand market share; helping companies and communities grow locally and globally and a global management specialist.
Shafag Mehraliyev - Chief of Rector’s Office for ADA University. In this capacity she handles a wide range of matters of institutional importance and is responsible for branding and communication strategy of the university. She teaches Communication courses in the full academic programs and trains foreign service officers in Public Diplomacy and Cultural Identity as the Executive Education instructor. Shafag Mehraliyeva is the author and host of the nationally broadcasted “AvropadASAN” (You are in Europe!) radio program that serves as the only media platform in the country dedicated to the Azerbaijani-European relations on FM wave. Prior to that she was the Director for Marketing and Communications at ADA University. Ms. Mehraliyeva joined ADA in October, 2012, bringing with her an extensive experience of twelve year assignment in the United States, where she worked as a US correspondent for “AzerTAj” state telegraph agency and US news desk producer for “Lider TV”. Based in Washington, DC, she covered US-Eurasia relations, and was actively involved in cultural advocacy and community building efforts. Ms.Mehraliyeva has been decorated with the medal of "Tereqqi" ("Progress") by the President of Azerbaijan and holds other awards, including “Powering change: Women in Innovation and Creativity" from Azerbaijan’s State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs. She is also a recipient of “Karabakh Spririt” award from the US-based “Karabakh Foundation”, where she served as an adviser and spearheaded the Foundation’s “Azerbaijani Radio Hour” broadcasted on one of the capital area’s radio stations. Prior to her assignment in the United States, Shafag Mehraliyeva was a news anchor for Azerbaijan's national broadcasting channel Space TV and became her country’s first reporter to contribute to CNN World Report. She holds a bachelor degree in English and Arabic Studies from "Khazar" University in Baku and Masters in International Policy and Practice from George Washington University in Washington. D.C
Tamara Kalandiya - Chief Financial and Operating Officer at the Middle East Institute (MEI). MEI is a non-profit think tank and educational organization in Washington, D.C. In addition to her finance role, she also manages the Institute’s academic services, including classes in regional languages such as Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Hebrew, and online course offerings on contemporary Middle East policy issues. Mrs. Kalandiya holds a degree in economics and is a certified public accountant. Prior to joining MEI in 2011, she served as a regional director of finance and administration at International Medical Corps. Originally from the country of Georgia, she founded the Academy of Georgian Heritage in D.C. in 2013 to provide educational and cultural services for Georgian-American youth.
Cinthia Varela - CEO at the Family Business Association in Peru (AEF). Cinthia is CEO at the Family Business Association in Peru and Professor at Universidad del Pacifico. She is also chairman of Human Resources Committee at OWIT Peru, Member of CADE Universitario Committee and Secretary at Beta Gamma Sigma Peru Alumni Chapter. MBA, Centrum Católica Business School (cum laude). She holds an International Master In Leadership, EADA Business School (Spain). Business Management Degree, Universidad del Pacífico. Cinthia is co-editor of the academic book “El gobierno corporativo en el Perú: reflexiones académicas para su aplicación” (Research Center, Universidad del Pacifico, 2009). She has more than 10 years of experience in entrepreneurship, human resources and management areas in retail, services and consultancy sector. Cinthia is currently enrolled in a Family Business Executive Education Program from the IE Business School.
Angela Tierney (Moderator) - Founder of the Association for Community Empowerment (ACE). Through her work in communities around the world, both in rural and urban areas, Angela saw the need for an Association for Community Empowerment. Using her experience and expertise in social impact and education, she decided to pioneer in creative and culturally sensitive use of technology for learning with a focus in youth, women empowerment, business and workforce development for all ages around the world in communities large and small. ACE’s founding in 2018 also coincided with the growing global connectivity and international investment in the education sector.