Our next mentor for the Pond’s Miracle Women is Aatiqa S. Lateef, currently CEO of TAF Foundation, the Byco Groups affiliated philanthropic initiative. Lateef also serves as an Independent Director on the board of Khushhali Bank. Prior to her role at TAFF, she was the Group Chief of Staff at Byco Industries Incorporated where she was responsible for strategic initiatives to support the group’s vertically integrated businesses and objectives – Lateef also served as the Byco Groups Corporate Spokesperson. In addition to strategically positioning market entities for entry onto global platforms, Ms. Lateef has been recognized for her ability to lend a unique perspective in growth market economies. Ms. Lateef’s philanthropic work revolves around economic and social mobility initiatives where she is a vocal advocate for women’s empowerment. She has chosen five different types of bankers, a business development consultant, an IT specialist, a lawyer, a chartered financial analyst, a lawyer and a veterinary surgeon that has broken many barriers.
 Dr. Isma Gheewala
Dr-Isma-Gheewala

She is a Veterinarian

She is a mother

She is ambitious

“Although my father was very passionate about animals, he didn’t talk to me for a year because I decided to be a veterinary doctor,” says Isma  Gheewala, a veterinary surgeon, currently running Animal Care centre in Karachi. When Isma started out on this path, there were a mere 6 girls in her class among 100 boys. She was told that this was one of the lowest professions in the country related to the field of medicine. However, because of her father, she always loved animals and felt that while there were so many doctors to take care of human beings, while hardly any to treat animals. “Since then, it has been my goal to bring up this profession to the same level of respect as it has in the West. I’d say we have been 70% successful but unfortunately, because of the lack of certain facilities, 30% still remains. There are no facilities available in Pakistan to get a CT scan or an MRI conducted for animals. However, knowledge wise and even instrumentation wise, we are quite there.”

Isma faces quite a few challenges being a Veterinary Surgeon in Pakistan. Although her father did not approve of her choice of career initially, her mother was always supportive. Isma explains the ways she faces gender discrimination on a daily basis. When a pet falls sick, rather than the owner, it is usually a cook or a driver that brings the animal to the clinic and they consider the female gender to be lower than theirs. “They seem to think that I don’t know a thing!” Isma muses. “It has taken me years of hard work to prove that I do have the knowledge and have finally earned the respect that I set out to achieve for myself.” It’s devastating for Isma when an animal is ill and passes away. “It is a nightmare for me. Initially, when such a situation would occur, I would start crying and call up my professor to say that this is not my cup of tea. Over time, I have learnt how to handle such cases but, indeed, such moments are a time of weakness for me. That is unfortunately a bitter pill that you have to take sometimes,” explains Isma.

It is imperative for all women to be financially independent, believes Isma. “My parents were separated when I was in my late teens. My mother, at that time, due to the separation, went through hard financial times. She always wanted us to stand on our feet. You must earn your own living because you can’t predict the future. She is very proud of me today and whatever I have achieved. My husband is a businessman and we have been married for 17 years, I have never asked him his earnings or how much money he brings home. I have never asked him for anything in my life. What I earn myself I spend half on my living, quarter on myself and save the rest. That has been my criteria all along and it has worked for me.” At the same time, it is also important to maintain work-life balance. Isma feels lucky that her husband has been very understanding and that she found a very good nanny for her son. “My son is 12 and refers to the nanny as ‘mama’ and to me as ‘mummy’. We have an equal play in his life. Since the day she came I told her to treat him like her son. We both take the burden equally of looking after him.”

It is not a surprise that for the very passionate and ambitious Isma, her Miracle Moments come just about every day when an animal comes to the clinic in pain or an ailment and leaves the clinic happy and healthy. “That is sheer joy and that is what keeps me going,” says Isma. With such veterinary surgeons leading the way in Pakistan, the standards of animal welfare are sure to rise sooner than later. Isma is an inspiration for all women who lack support in pursuing the profession of their choice and she shows by example, how, with patience and hard work, success and respect are bound to knock at your door.

Maheen Rehman
Maheen-Rahman

She is a banker

She is a mother

She is focused

“Mum first, wife second, always going to be working in some role or the other because, for me, it just adds a tremendous amount of richness in my life. To separate my roles as a professional and a mother would be very difficult. They go hand in hand. Without either one I would be completely incomplete.” Been married for 17 years and being a mother of 3 has not stopped Maheen from pursuing her passion. In 2009, she became CEO at IGI funds. Currently, she is the Head of Asset Management at Bank Alfalah.

According to Maheen, every woman who chooses to work after getting married and becoming a mother faces constant struggle. “When I had my first child, I took two years off, with second, I took 3 months off and with my third I took 3 weeks off. Nobody forced me but by the third one I was just so used to being in that cycle that I wanted to run back. Weakness comes when your children are young and physically there’s a lot of demand from you. I think the breaking point is when you start wondering whether or not it’s really worth it,” she explains.

Maheen’s friends and family, especially her mother, have been incredibly supportive. From baby-sitting to picking and dropping, they had her back at all times. This support led her to believe that pursuing her career and raising a family can be done simultaneously. It was a challenging period, however, “work is work. You have to do whatever is required like taking a trip or working long hours. It’s a need of the organization, industry and unless you do a good job, how will you get ahead? It’s a balance you have to maintain”. Maintaining this balance is easier in Pakistan than abroad, she feels. Here, the more senior you are, the more you are in control of your time schedule. Maheen’s bosses and mentors have also been very understanding. Likewise, she has never given anyone a chance to complain. However, she does feel that flexible hours and day cares for a specific period while the children are very young would be helpful for mothers who are trying to juggle the entire logistics of child rearing along with working and the need for such elements decreases as the children get older. If companies understood that, it would work not just in the favour of female employees but also for the employers. She also believes that when a woman is financially independent, she will automatically be better off emotionally and will have more self-esteem. Emotional independence is harder, it’s difficult to say if anyone actually ever achieves it. “Emotions make you connect with people, and those connections enrich your life,” says Maheen.

“Do I attend a meeting or pick up children from school or fly to Lahore to meet a client?” These are the sort of decisions Miracle Woman, Maheen has to make every day. Children or work – choosing one does not mean the other is being neglected. “Perhaps at that point in time, what they need me for is less important than a commitment at work,” says Maheen. When she get homes after work, she is phone free for an hour. Her kids have imposed this rule on her. This way she can switch off her work mode, unwind and spend time with them, especially during weekends. During the day, she takes a break to pick at least one child from school. “How do you manage?” people ask Maheen all the time. She advices, “Be focused on where you want to go, if you enjoy where you are, then don’t quit. I’ve seen a lot of young girls run away at the first sign of a husband, mother in law, child. If that’s where they want to be in life, then great. If they want to be in the work place then find a way to be there and keep at it.” Of course, to learn some tips on multitasking, Maheen would be the best teacher!

Recently, Maheen’s daughter came up to her and asked her, “Why don’t other mothers work?” She told Maheen how she likes that her mother works and she likes to hear about her work. Her daughter’s appreciation and respect for her being a professional is Maheen’s Miracle Moment. Here she was, thinking she was a terrible mother, but it turns out her children appreciate what all she’s doing. She’s a great role model for her children and for all those working women out there who feel being a working mother will most definitely make them a bad mother. Maheen Rahman’s journey teaches us that don’t let ambition take the back seat, embrace them. When you are determined, striking the crucial work-life balance is possible. Women must not let anyone tell them otherwise.

Amber Paracha

Amber-Paracha

She is a banker

She’s versatile

She is a perfectionist

With almost two decades of experience to her credit in the banking industry, Amber Paracha has evolved into a strong, confident woman with much to pat herself on the back for. She comes from a family of professionals and started her journey with the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, from where she graduated with a Masters in Business Administration in Finance. She landed her first job at ABN Amro Bank, which was one of the best banks back in 1997, as a management trainee in Credit Risk and that’s where she began climbing the ladder of success. “The culture there focused on training and development and the mentoring I received led me to pursue a career in banking,” says Amber. She is currently heading the Credit Risk Management function at Pak Brunei Investment Company Limited.

Overcoming the challenges thrown at you at the workplace is part and parcel of the path to success. “You have to prove your metal and the fruits come your way with time,” explains Amber. When she entered the work force 19 years ago, the work habitat was much different from today. “The perception about women was that they are working only to find a suitable partner for marriage and once they find one and have children, they will quit. So, opportunities that yielded higher pay and challenging roles ended up getting passed on to men,” she says. “There was a constant juggle of late sittings because in our culture it’s a lot about you only go home when the boss is leaving, not when the work is done.” Therefore, proving herself and ensuring she was taken as a serious professional was a challenge for Amber. She also warns that in a male dominated field like banking, if women are good at their work and are succeeding, sometimes men resort to character assassination because they don’t know what else to pick on. For that, women must develop thick skin, stay focused and ignore the noise.

However, Amber adds that now she sees a lot of women enter the workforce. She advises young women to not give up on their dreams and not pay heed to people who discourage them. They must look around at all the women who are doing it and are successfully juggling family and work. “Just go for it,” she says, “there doesn’t have to be a choice, one for the other. You can manage both simultaneously. If you are a good time manager, everything falls into the right place.”

Standing up on your own feet gives a working woman a great deal of strength but life creates a fair share of weak moments for everyone. “There was a time when we had to ask people to leave ABN Amro Bank. The organization was downsizing. But to tell some that from today onwards, you will no longer be employed by us knowing how many dependants the person has on him is very difficult. When the same thing happened to me some time later, I realised what they must have gone through,” Amber recalls. But, being a working woman has given amber financial and emotional independence. “You need to be self-sufficient not just for yourself but also to improve the quality of life for your family. There are so many fields in which women are more competent, intelligent and far ahead of men and they should know their capabilities.” Working has allowed her to be more self-aware, to be less emotional and to be a more stable person. That, however, must not mean that taking care of yourself should take a backseat. To stay mentally and physically healthy, Amber ensures she works out at the gym regularly. “I have a different set of friends there and seeing them at the gym takes away the stress of the entire day.” Plus it’s always great to have a different set of social groups to wind off with from a hard day at work.

Amber identifies her Miracle moment to be the time when she was handpicked by her organisation to be sent as the youngest female from Pakistan to Singapore for a 3-month secondment. “I got a very good recommendation which led to other future international assignments,” relates Amber with pride. The transition from being a young, inexperienced management trainee right out of college to assuming a senior key management role has been full of challenges for Amber but being on this path has given her various opportunities and a great sense of achievement as well. Where there are minor lows, there are also highs, as Amber’s journey shows, and with hard work and determination, a woman can ensure there are more roses in the garden than thorns.

Laila Jamil
Laila-Jamil

She is a Business Development Consultant

She is a social worker, entrepreneur and agriculturist

She is happy

By profession, Laila Jamil is the Business Development Consultant for the British Council. But she is, in reality, much more than that. She has worked in the social sector for SIUT, she is a swimmer and cyclist, and most interestingly she is now an agriculturist as well. Life brought her at the crossroads of a tough decision quite early. After finishing her education in the US she was in the process of getting a work visa and starting a job that is the dream of any graduate. But she got the news that her grandfather was critically ill and possibly on his deathbed. She quickly decided that her grandfather, someone who had been a pillar of support for her during her childhood, will get precedence, so she dropped everything and flew back to Karachi.

The ability to take such decisions is what seems to have powered Laila in her life. She looks for the positive in everything. In SIUT, the work environment was a very challenging one for a woman but Laila focused not on the difficulties but on the opportunity that it provided to meet and learn from a large cross section of people. Every time she faces a difficult moment or feels herself going weak she takes a step back for a breather, looks for the positives in the situation and then jumps right back in to solve the problem.

Independence, for Laila, is a choice. Independence doesn’t only mean working or being out of the house. True independence is when a woman is free to make her choices. “For many women it is important to work, but equally there are women who find their financial security from their families and choose to be homemakers. There should be no obligation.”

Which is why she appeals to young women to be fully confident of what they want to do. “Once you are sure you want to do something you like, you have to be determined. It should not matter then that other people are trying to discourage you or stop you. Also, it is essential to take care of yourself.” Laila finds balance in her life by swimming, cycling, and most recently farming. Whether it’s work, a hobby, or family life, Laila believes in giving a hundred percent.

Laila also speaks about Breast Cancer because she has experienced it in her friends and family. Her grandmother, aunt, and best friend’s mother are some of the breast cancer survivors that Laila knows personally. She believes that the work organizations are doing to create awareness about this particular type of cancer is very important.

“If I had discovered my love for agriculture sooner I may just have done a degree in agriculture,” Laila says with a smile. It is this love for adventure and seeking out the opportunity in every situation that makes Laila a Miracle Woman.

Lubna Tiwana
Lubna-Tiwana

She is a banker

She is a mother

She is resolute

Lubna Tiwana left her 3 year old daughter to pursue higher education from abroad for a period of 2 years. Indeed, this was a difficult decision to make but in her weakness lay her strength. “I left my little one for a cause and under no circumstances was I going to compromise on my grades. Resultantly, I was able to secure a distinction in one of the most demanding and challenging degree programs in CAS Business School City University London, MSC in investment and risk management.” She has numerous other certifications in the field of credit and risk management, including a Masters degree in Public Administration from Quaid e Azam University.  Having years of experience in conventional and Islamic banking, she’s now the Chief Risk Officer and Performance Manager at Khushhali Microfinance Bank.

Since her childhood, Lubna was focused and determined. While the other children used to play, she would devote all her time to her studies. Anything below 3rd position was unacceptable for her. Her mother used to tell her that girls need to outshine and be financially independent. This resonated with Lubna, and remained to be her motto even after she joined the corporate world. “Women have to work twice as hard to demonstrate exceptional performance,” she says, and with this hard work and effort, she was able to climb the corporate ladder while maintaining her role as a wife and a mother.  So much so that she never hired a tutor for her daughter. “I taught her myself till she completed her MS in Finance with exceptional grades.” And for this, Lubna has her family to thank. “Without family support, it’s not possible for you to handle the dual role of a mother as well as a working woman. My husband has played an instrumental role in whatever I am today. My family always takes pride in my success and they appreciate my role as a mother and wife as well as a working woman.”

Other than working in her office space, Lubna pursues many other activities. “I’m also a trainer, presenter and speaker at various national and international forums. That includes National Institute of Banking and Finance and Social Performance Task Force Series. The latter two are basically international organizations dealing with the development of standards and tools for microfinance sector globally.” When Lubna would go as a speaker or attend a meeting representing her organization, it seemed to her that the men underestimated her capabilities. Once she would start speaking, however, they would realize that even women can be intelligent and that a woman is as capable of doing wonders in the corporate sector and she can be as good as her male counterparts. Efficient time management seems to be the secret behind her success. “I try to not waste time on activities or people who do not add value for example gossiping, web browsing, visiting social media sites or long distance personal telephone calls during office hours. I feel sometimes we get sucked into these habits and we waste our prime time, making ourselves less efficient and less productive.” Even her team is aware of everything expected of them, with clear objectives and consecutive dates, they manage to save time. However, she is not about all work and no play. In her free time she likes to spend quality time with her family, watch movies, go for outings, enjoy dinners and shopping.

Lubna believes that financial and emotional independence allow women to find happiness on their own. It boosts their confidence and gives them the freedom to pursue their unfulfilled desires and dreams. In addition to giving daughters this freedom, Lubna advises mother to not discriminate between their sons and daughters and give equal opportunities to their children irrespective of their sex.

Lubna is one that has never regretted any of her decisions. She has been strong and goal oriented. Every time she moves closer to her dreams, it gives her immense happiness. Her Miracle Moment was when British Council selected her for a premium award, for being the most outstanding candidate from all over Pakistan for Chevening Scholarship Program. A special ceremony was organized, where the British High Commissioner provided her with the award letter. Indeed, that would be a very proud moment for any woman who aspires to be something and Lubna Tiwana is an inspiration for sure. If more women are given the opportunities to dream big and tread on the path to success, Pakistan will be a different place altogether sooner than later.

Mehreen Ahmed

Mehreen-Ahmed

She is a banker

She is focused

She is well-grounded

A specialist of consumer financing and retail banking, Mehreen Ahmad holds an MBA degree from the Institute of Business Administration and has been a part of the banking industry of Karachi for over 20 years. Currently she is the Group Head of Retail South & New Initiatives at Bank Alfalah.

Mehreen is grateful that she did not have to face the challenges faced by an average Pakistani working woman. She was the only daughter, hence, the center of attention of her parents. “There was never any discrimination at home since I was the only child.” She considers herself very lucky as progression and opportunities constantly kept flowing at work helped her advance in her career. “There were periods when I felt I was stagnating and the boss was biased but I think it was important to keep my head down and focus on whatever role I was in. The key is to look at the bigger picture.”  With sound advice from senior bankers, she kept climbing the ladder of success. “I am an optimist. That is how I define myself. I believe if you are hard working and are competent, no one can stop your growth.”

While Mehreen would not propagate emotional independence, she believes financial independence for women is important. “I am not saying you become completely liberated. The idea is to have that as your plan B. It gives security to your inner self and is good for your partner too,” Mehreen stresses. Her advice to a young woman entering the workforce is to go out there with a lot of confidence, without worrying about gender inequality as an issue. “What is important is your skill set, your ambition, and how you approach life. When you step into the workplace with a positive mind set, success will follow automatically.”

As far as ageing is concerned, Mehreen admits that “I was bad with all these things until last year but then my life changed a bit. I went to a leadership development program in France where we had world class trainers coaching us. One of them said that if you are not physically and mentally healthy, you cannot be a good leader. That thought resonated with me. Since I have come back, I put in a special effort to adding more greens to my diet, trying to stick to a light dinner and going to the gym regularly. My new lifestyle does great things for my mind.” She also adds that to feel young, one must think young, spend more time with younger people and keep evolving. Spending time with members of her team who are in their early 30s helps Mehreen be a better manager and gives her the opportunity to keep reinventing herself. “If there is urge to learn, to adapt, to try out new things, you will stay young.”

Mehreen believes that she does not have a single, but a series of miracle moments. When people look up to her in the industry for her professional skills, it makes her feel proud. Her Miracle Journey shows that there is no substitute for hard work and when you are focused, nothing can come between you and your goals.  With women like her leading the way, young professional women in Pakistan have much to look forward to.

Sadia Khan
Sadia-khan

She is an IT specialist

She is a mother

She is an executor

Affable and warm, Sadia Khan, the Chief Operations Officer at Autosoft Dynamics says “I’ve been all over the place, lived across 3 continents and been in Pakistan for 14 years now.” Over the course of these 14 years, Sadia met her husband and had 3 children while also creating a great career path for herself. Being a mother as well as a career woman, she sometimes does find herself bogged down by the pressure but with her positive attitude she is able to combat all difficulties that come her way. Her mother in law once told her, “When it falls on your head, everything becomes possible.” This struck a chord with Sadia and has become her mantra ever since.

Sadia believes no challenge is unsurmountable. “I haven’t faced a great deal of challenges per say but what I am is an executor by definition, so when I get thrown a task I make that happen.” She was born in a well to do family where she was taught that there was nothing she couldn’t do in life. Growing up, she was surrounded by strong, prominent and empowered women who served as role models for her. When she began working 14 years ago, there were barely any women in senior positions in Pakistan. She knows where hr strengths lie and contrary to popular belief, she found doors to open much more easily for women than their male counterparts. Thankfully, her good working ethics have always allowed her to command, rather than demand, respect.

Sadia is a proponent of women’s empowerment and believes that organizations must take strong measures to create an environment conducive to women. “I may not be working purely for financial needs but the average woman is working to ease the monetary pressures of her household situation so it critical that those who are in senior positions make every effort help them succeed,” she says. She recently met two fantastic young girls at her home who were sent to her by ‘Ghar Par’, a home salon service that has just started in Lahore. “They had fascinating stories of how they’re lifting their household structure from where it was. One of them was getting a motorcycle and solving her transport issue. These are the women coming up with new innovative ways to work in their environment. These are the kind of women who inspire me,” she says. For all the women out there, she advices, “there’s nothing you can’t do, don’t let anyone tell you there is. My 6 year old used it against me the other day that mum, you may be able to do everything but you can never become Allah miaan or a frog,” she relates with a laugh. “Therefore, for all things other than these two, the sky is the limit, aim high and you should be able to achieve whatever you want to do.”

Sometimes, Sadia stands at crossroads between motherhood and work. “My first child had his first class play, it was so important for us and we were very excited as a family to go and see his performance. However, the day before the final performance, I got a call and I had to travel for work for a meeting. I tried moving mountains but they said no, you have to be there in the morning. I remember dropping him off and hiding my tears. Both sets of grandparents and his dad were there. That was my introduction to mommy guilt,” she says with a smile. “After that I’ve realised there are going to be certain milestones that I or my husband won’t be able to be there for but together as one unit you have to be there for everything.”

Over time, Sadia has managed to strike a balance. She makes sure any time she’s with her kids is quality time and believes quantity becomes less important if you’re giving good quality time. “I often ask myself, am I doing it right, just like any other working mother would. When they come to me at the end of a hard day and say I am great just the way I am, that’s what gives me substantial pride,” she says. Her own mother was a doctor but she quit her job and spent all her time raising her children. “She was a great mother and I think there’s so much more she could’ve done when we were young but she chose to give it up.” And keeping that note close to her heart, Sadia steps out of her house everyday to make a difference in the world. She does it for her own self-fulfilment but like a woman with a magic wand, makes sure her kids still get the best of her. She multitasks, that too, really well, which is why she is a Pond’s Miracle Woman.

Saima Kamila Khan
Saima-Kamila-Khan

She is a lawyer

She is a mother

She is optimism

Saima Kamil Khan is an embodiment of what a woman can achieve when she is fully comfortable with her womanhood. “I am not a feminist,” says Saima. “Both genders have something special to them. I don’t think that men and women are equal. There are things where women take the lead and things where men are better.” She believes that only when a woman is comfortable with that thought will she be able to reach the pinnacle of excellence. “Women are blessed,” she says. “We can multitask, we can be multidimensional and we can juggle situations which will leave men baffled.”

Saima feels that there is always a constant struggle for balance. Whether it’s the balance between family and work, balance between the several roles a woman performs at home, or the balance between assignments at work. As the Company Secretary and Head of Corporate Communication for ICI, Saima lives that balancing act every day. Her job is a tough one which demands her to be on call 24/7 and endure the ability to solve multiple complex problems at the same time. But after conversing with her, it is clear that she is up to the task. Saima does however believe that mindsets need to be challenged. It is astounding that even in today’s world people will trust a male lawyer more than a female lawyer irrespective of track record and experience.

Saima thinks we have constructed lifestyles that demand that financial independence should be a must. We have converted our wants into our needs which means that for relationships to work out, both the man and the woman need to be financially independent or they will not be able to satisfy their internal wants of pleasure. Saima doesn’t shy away from confronting the norms. She accepts that while ageing is an enriching experience in terms of wisdom, the physical affects can and should be challenged. “A woman should look beautiful. Which is why I take a lot of care of myself. My dadi raised me and she always used to take care of herself. I have gotten it from her perhaps!” From eating healthy to using beauty products, Saima ensures that her inner and outer wellbeing are calibrated at all times.

Saima urges young girls to believe in themselves and find mentors who can guide them through life. “While you will always learn life by trial and error and grow as a person in the process, it is important to have a mentor so you can learn from the experience of others as well. I understand now, after ten years of having a mentor, how important it was for my growth.”

With the level of comfort Saima has with her herself, the contentment she exudes and the optimistic approach she has towards life, it is clear why she is a Ponds Miracle Woman.

Shar Bano
Shar-Bano

She is a banker

She is a mother

She is flexible

“Young women of today need to decide carefully between a hobby and a career. Doing a job just for the sake of getting out of the house will never enable you to become a successful career woman.” Shar Bano, Executive Vice President at UBL, exemplifies what a woman can achieve if she is clear about her roles in her own head. She excels at the various roles she performs; being a mother to two sons, a mentor to young women at work, a homemaker, and a wife. “I believe being a rebel is not an answer,” says Shar Bano, “The perfect woman is one who is able to strike a balance between all her responsibilities – keeping her parents happy, leading a successful marital life and at the same time being a good boss.”

To reach the pinnacle of success, this young woman faced various challenges – from lacking mentors in her family to financing her education herself. She explains how in her traditional Pashtoon family girls marry early and she married at the condition that she will be allowed to pursue her education. She graduated with an MBA degree after she got married and managed her studies and the responsibilities of a married woman with strength. Shar Bano talks about the similarities in the transitions a woman faces at home and at work. She compares the transition from being a carefree girl to a young married woman to the transition of steadily climbing up the corporate ladder and how every step brings more responsibilities. “Initially, mastering the art of facing so many changes in my personal as well as professional life was difficult. I even had to find time to get some sleep in those days. But now, it is easier. I m at a point where I somewhat understand life and myself.” When she started running her home she realized that she can be a good manager. “I could always get the cook to make good food even though I couldn’t cook myself,” she says with a laugh. The reason she works in a bank is that she knew she would be successful in an environment where she had to coach people to deliver targets. In her opinion if a girl is not comfortable in an office environment then it’s better to look for other options rather than wasting time at the wrong place.

She talks about her work with a lot of passion and that may have been adopted from her mother. “Girls didn’t get an education in the family that I came from. My mother never went to school but she vowed to ensure her daughters graduate. My mother’s passion for my education became a trigger for me and became my passion as well.” Sharbano reminisces about a moment that she believes to be her miracle moment. “My mother promised to get me a gold chain if I completed fourteen years of education and graduated. Today I have a lot of other chains, what God has given me is immense but none can ever be more special than the one she gave to me,” Shar Bano says with tears in her eyes.

Shar Bano believes in complete equality for genders. Anytime you restrict something for a specific gender you are killing merit. “Even if you say that there’s a job you’ll only hire women for, you are compromising on merit. Once you have merit then equality will follow by itself.”

“If you are beautiful from the inside then it will show on the outside as well,” says Sharbano. She uses Ponds Age Miracle cream every night to ensure that her skin keeps looking young and beautiful but it is clearly her inner beauty and confidence that shines through and truly makes her a Miracle Woman. Her journey bears testament to the fact that difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.

Mashooma Zehra Majeed
Mashmooma-Zehra-Majeed

She is a Chartered Financial Analyst

She is a photographer

She is realistic

Mashmooma comes across as a woman who never thought her place in the world was in question. Her success, ambitions, and diverse interests are a testament to what anyone, let alone a woman, can achieve if one puts their mind to it.

A Chartered Financial Analyst by qualification, head of the Mutual Funds Association by profession, and a photographer by passion, Mashmooma characterizes the successes of the modern woman. “Initially when I started there were a lot of male egos to deal with. Apart from the fact that I was a very young CFA, I was also a woman in a predominant male industry. I think I hurt a lot of egos by being a young female CFA,” she says with a smile. “There were a total of about fifty CFAs at that time and most of them had taken ages to pass all the exams.”

But she was able to make herself stand out very quickly. “If you know what you are doing, then people take you seriously,” she says. She was lucky to have good bosses who never let her gender come in the way of decisions, but she does feel that there is a major lack of mentorship in Pakistan. “In our country you have to take the initiative yourself. The culture of mentoring and grooming young talent is seriously missing,” according to Mashmooma. She believes that the trend of career planning and guidance needs to start at the school level.

Mashmooma has experienced several miracle moments in her life. Two that stand out are completing the CFA assessments at a very young age and completing the nanga parbat basecamp excursion despite having no trekking experience. She believes that experiences like these have transformed her into a person with much better temperament. From being a young hot headed girl she is now a mature, level mannered, and balanced individual.

According to Mashmooma a good work life balance is essential to maintain one’s energy levels. “I disconnect from work in the evenings and on weekends. Those times are about family, friends and hobbies,” says Mashmooma. She also stresses how she practices yoga, eats a lot of fruit, and drinks ample amounts of water to ensure that signs of ageing are kept at bay.

She ends by saying that the rapid entry of women in the workforce across all fields delights her. Her message to young women is that “the work environment has transformed for the better over the last few years. But it is important that girls don’t come into the work force with an attitude to pass time. Stay consistent, be realistic, and have a razor sharp focus on your delivery and you will find that there are no special preferences kept aside for men.” Mashmooma brings a sense of practicality and realism to the achievement of dreams and ambitions, and she certainly stands as a beacon of light for young women out there who want to pursue their dreams.

Almas Haider
Author

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