Three corporate high achievers Talk about breaking The glass ceiling — while factoring i n gender stereotypes. happy i nternational women’s day!
hen Hillary Clinton announced her presidential campaign in 2007, certain sections of the media and public went into a tizzy at the prospect of the first woman POTUS. Well, she lost out in the primaries, so that was the end of that. But eight years later, when she went neck- to- neck with Donald Trump in the final run- up to the 2016 elections, she failed to shatter the hardest of glass ceilings yet again. For many, it became a question of whether she ever stood a chance, and sparked several renewed debates about women on top — even though we have British PM Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chilean Prez Michelle Bachelet and the rest of the girl gang in power elsewhere in the world.
The debate was sparked at the wknd. offices too. We agreed we’ve come a long way from the days when breadwinning was a ‘ man’s prerogative’. But are gender stereotypes at work truly a thing of the past? With International Women’s Day around the corner, we decided to explore the “roadmap- tosuccess formula” from the corporate contexts of three successful women.
According to a global study surveying over 9,000 people and published by Unilever last month, 60 per cent of women reported that stereotypes impact their career, personal life or both. Kristine Lasam, founder of digital marketing agency Pink Entropy, says she’d be lying if she said her initial years in Dubai — after she moved here from Manila 12 years ago to help support an ailing father — did not warrant her working harder than her male counterparts. Hired as an account executive for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge, she was “doing the job of a manager at an account executive title and pay” and in a testosterone- charged environment. It didn’t help that she was from the Philippines (“my people are usually stuck in non- operational roles”) or that she
There is no shortcut to hard work. You have to instil discipline in yourself, and dial up your curiosity. I had to fight to get support — budgets for my unit, promotions for my team — things I saw were relatively easy for my male counterparts” — Kristine
GO- GETTERS: ( above) Kristine Lasam hopes to provide a platform for victims of objectification some day; ( right) Taghreed Oraibi believes “how good you are” determines whether you get to the top White House meeting was pounced upon and turned into much tabloid fodder, with headlines declaring her “madly in love” with the Canadian premier. In case the misogynistic undertone of the ‘ love- struck Ivanka’ meme was unclear, here it is: apparently, women can’t pay attention at the workplace — a conclusion drawn, ironically, from a candid shot of her seemingly doing just what every other male in the room was ( presumably) doing at the time too: paying attention.
A lot has also been said about how attractiveness makes it easy for women to work their way ( we’re using the politer terminology here) to the top. But Kristine — whose initial stint in the city involved being responsible for fleet sales and “knocking on doors that were opened largely by men” — says this is a double- edged sword. “I will not dwell on the slights that I received in the last 12 years as a woman. But it’s important to acknowledge that to this day, some woman, somewhere, is crying in her car on the side of the road, because a man crossed a line and made her feel objectified.” The entrepreneur hopes to, someday, provide a more structured, accessible venue for women to be able to seek the counsel of those “who can tell her that the objectification had nothing to do with her, and everything to do with the lack of respect the other party displayed, because he didn’t know any better”.
If you too subscribe to the belief that every woman will, at some point in her career, be exposed to workplace biases in some form, join the club. But, also, prepare to be set right. For while it’s true that the region is rife with workplace cultures that have yet to break down traditional POVS — and the typecasting that comes with them — there are also several that are leading the way in actively trying to get the gender diversity formula right.
In the last 10 years in the communications industry, senior account director at BPG Cohn & Wolfe Taghreed Oraibi has been promoted eight times. There was no fast- tracking her way up the corporate ladder — only “ambition, delivering on promises, and strong ethics”. The Egyptian expat started as a media relations executive ( back in the day when they “still used to fax press releases to journalists”); today, she heads up a nine- member team and reports directly to the business director. But in all these years, she says, she’s never experienced discrimination in any form. On the contrary, the cultures of both organisations she’s worked for in the past “did not differentiate between men and women”, when it came to offering opportunities for growth. “The only thing that counted was how good you are,” she asserts.