As Chairperson of Pakistan’s foremost securities company, AKD Securities, and working in a male-dominated environment. What was the most challenging part?
Hina Dhedhi Junaid: Firstly, I’d like to say that the environment at AKD Securities Limited is very welcoming regardless of gender. It is quite an open atmosphere where equal opportunities are provided based on talent and dedication alone. Gender or other idiosyncrasies play little to no part. That being said, you’re right that the financial sector, particularly Capital Markets, is (or has been in the past) highly male-dominated.
Breaking the glass ceiling has been tedious; however, the environment now is very different than in the early 90s. Whether it be in the Brokerage Industry, the Asset Management Industry, or Commercial Banks, we have seen more and more women scale the heights of success and reach the highest echelon of office. All these women have worked hard to achieve their positions and are respected across the spectrum.
In your opinion, does a glass ceiling exist for women in your sector?
Hina Dhedhi Junaid: Historically, Pakistan’s cultural norms, accompanied by rigidity in Pakistani financial institutions’ management culture, kept the “glass ceiling” low and hard to breakthrough. As I said earlier, this is no longer the case, and rightfully so. Senior management, long-term investors, and corporate sponsors have been swayed by empowered, educated, and cultured professional norms.
Women in leadership roles throughout the domestic corporate landscape signal the softening of traditional barriers. Continued improvement of these organizations’ performance encourages others to adapt. Pakistan’s youth bulge allows for a hastening of this process of change. Young women are now the most educated, healthy and demand their rights more than ever before in our country’s history.
Read more: MARCH 8 INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
As a woman leader in your organization, how have you made it easier for women to work there?
Hina Dhedhi Junaid: That’s an interesting question. I think just the promotion of diversity has swayed the working environment for women. They are considered equal colleagues of the male staff, and this respect and team spirit has resulted in automatic changes to the environment in which women can thrive. At the same time, we remain mindful of responsibilities women may face, mainly being mothers.
Therefore, we encourage flexible working hours for our female staff. The HR also makes an all-out effort to ensure that our female team’s specific requirements are catered to. Promoting heightened awareness, we also have specific guidelines on any potential harassment of female colleagues and have protocols to ensure that such infringements do not happen.
Do you think that the hiring policy of employees should be based on the best person for the job’ or gender equality should be considered on a priority basis?
Hina Dhedhi Junaid: Recently, a trend I have witnessed in many organizations-even progressive MNC’s- are roles created particularly for women, which leaves them at a unique disadvantage. When leaving the organization, they find their skill sets are either undervalued or not in demand; hence, limiting their scope to switch sectors. This is an important reason why mid and senior management positions in the country’s finance sector are not diverse and mainly come from similar backgrounds.
Compatibility through multiple sectors is a must, where we encourage our leaders to learn consistently and develop a broad range of skills. Remaining tethered to traditional, straight-forward or manual tasks is not going to provide long-term career development. Moreover, building an understanding of your future career trajectory, a set of goals to achieve, and how to get there is essential.
The aim should be to be ready for the role, not for the company/firm to hire the person and then amend the role to fit that mould. The former gives unbounded possibilities, the latter only a limited runway for progress. While we encourage diversity and an inclusive environment, it is my belief that it is the best talent alone that should be nurtured, irrespective of gender.
As a nation – what major strategic policies do you think we need to undertake to ensure the economic empowerment of women?
Hina Dhedhi Junaid: My take on this has always been to create opportunities for women as an enormous feedback loop, filtered through a risk/reward proposition, adequate monitoring, and consistent discussions with stakeholders. This is the world we live in now, where the divide is no longer between better business practices and governance or having more women in the workplace. We know more women in leadership can be quantified in companies into improved governance, operational benefits, inclusiveness, and profitability.
With these strong foundations and credible research-based conclusions, stakeholders need to take charge. Whether it’s the creditors, investors, or sponsors of companies, internationally accepted standards are increasingly applied at home; these include impact investing and ESG frameworks and having frank conversations with management and honesty throughout the organization
What advice would you give a new female recruit in your industry?
Hina Dhedhi Junaid: Focus on what makes you unique and what value proposition can you offer the firm. If you have an answer to that, you will thrive. Remember, hard work shines through. The path to success is never a bed of roses, regardless of gender. Yes, as a female, know when to put your foot down and never stop believing in your abilities or let anyone put you down. Females have played a pivotal role in leadership, from the early history of mankind, including our Islamic history. From Hazrat Ayesha to Fatima Jinnah, history has taught us in abundance over what heights women can achieve.
What qualities make a great leader? Does someone inspire you in particular?
Hina Dhedhi Junaid: I believe a leader is one who inspires rather than one who instructs. Leadership is never an assumed position; instead, it’s the ability to instill a passion and a purpose in others. You have to be around your people, treat them as colleagues and partners rather than as subordinates, and listen to their feedback. Then and only then can you command respect.
What challenges do you face daily while managing work & private life?
Hina Dhedhi Junaid: The financial industry can be taxing, and I have to balance my daily routine between work and household. I have four young boys, so you can imagine the constant hoopla that is our home. At the same time, my little ones are my strength, and they keep me motivated to perform better and better so they can be proud of their mother. I do my utmost to strike a balance between work and personal life. And that is what we try to instill among our employees as well – a work-life balance – despite being in the financial services industry, which is notorious for its long working hours.
Who was the one person that played a key role in your life as a mentor?
Hina Dhedhi Junaid: As a personal and professional model, my role model remains my father and our Group Chairman, Mr. Aqeel Karim Dhedhi. His pioneering approach in realizing underpriced assets, new sectors, and building the bridge between consistent service delivery and long-term commitment to our clients is something that he has instilled within the culture of Group.
This is the crux of why our brand continues to pervade through the domestic financial intermediary space. Leaving a degree of independence to each business head is a requisite for managing in such an environment which can only be achieved by having competent people in place, who have the confidence of the Board, and motivation to continuously challenge themselves and their people.
At the same time, he has taught me to remain humble, which I believe is his biggest strength and why he commands a universal admiration by people from all walks of life. I hope I can replicate his laser focus at a professional level and compassion at a personal level.