Recently, Pakistan saw the return of the advertising world’s most prestigious conference, “AdAsia 2019”, the first of which was held way back in 1989. Among the many sessions that were held, perhaps the most significant was the panel discussion on the need for inclusivity, diversity and women empowerment as well as how women can survive in today’s corporate world.

One of the speakers at the session was the CEO and MD of English Biscuit Manufacturers (EBM), Dr. Zeelaf Munir. With over 20 years of experience in the realms of professional leadership and administrative guidance at various organizations including EBM, Dr. Munir has put in a lot of hard work and effort in ensuring that women at her organization are empowered. This has helped EBM earn the title of a “Unicorn” organization; a company where many of the key leadership roles are held by women.

She described her journey as “having to break multiple glass ceilings.” Talking about the highs and lows of her professional journey, she said, “My journey included breaking multiple glass ceilings; specifically, the glass ceiling of family and societal expectations, socio-cultural pressures as well as the challenges I faced in my professional life while living in a foreign country.”

Currently, there exists an unfortunate bias in the work industry. As of 2018, only 24% of senior roles were held by women. This goes to show how underrated women are when it comes to holding senior positions, simply because of the prevailing perspective that men can do a better job than their female counterparts. 

Dr. Zeelaf Munir addressed this issue of gender gap by talking about her own journey in the industry and how certain biases and obstacles can make a woman’s journey to the top difficult. Given that she has faced such difficulties, Dr. Munir saw the session as an opportunity to also talk about how her organization has been at the forefront of such issues, ensuring that more and more women step forward to grow in their professional and personal lives.

In Pakistan, the cultural mindset surrounding the role of a woman within society has yet to change. For a woman to step outside of the house, there involves a derailment of stereotypes and labels in order to move ahead. Dr. Zeelaf Munir shared that she had always wanted to be self-sufficient so that she could pursue her dreams. By the time she was in medical school in the US, she was already a mother of 3. Yet, she went on to receive a professional degree and carve a name for herself in the medical field.

It is evident that for men, success is celebrated but for women, it is criticized. This was yet another glass ceiling that Dr. Zeelaf Munir had to break in order to set herself free from the shackles of society. She has never let society control her feelings or rule her mind and has always powered herself with her own ambition and determination. Her personal journey is an inspiration for women who aim to grow and carve their own niche in their chosen fields.