Women's Voice: My successful journey in a male-dominated industry
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Women’s Voice: My successful journey in a male-dominated industry

Women’s Voice: My successful journey in a male-dominated industry

We have not yet reached gender parity – women today are still under-leveraged and undervalued in the workforce, says Invesco’s Zainab Kufaishi

Empowering women and ensuring access to equal opportunities is critical to achieving a nation’s economic goals.

Equal participation of women in the workforce isn’t only the right thing to do, but it makes good business sense.

For our regional and global economies to grow sustainably, we must collectively work together to garner the talents and full potential of half our population. This of course, is in addition to the diversity of thought that we all benefit from by having an inclusive and thriving workforce.

But we have not yet reached gender parity – women today are still under-leveraged and undervalued in the workforce.

There are many reasons for this, from unconscious bias and conditioning, to how the workplace is structured, including the perception of genders relative to different professional occupations.

I chose to join a traditionally competitive and male-dominated industry, investment management, because I’ve always had a deep passion for it. Although starting off as a fresh, young female graduate was not easy, hard work, tenacity, and emotional intelligence paid off – and throughout my 18-year career, I have been promoted to several front office roles, including my current role as Invesco’s head of Middle East and Africa.

I have been fortunate enough to encounter several fantastic female and male mentors who encouraged me to challenge my own perceptions, insecurities and “imposter syndrome”, which enabled me to reach my ambitions so that I could eventually define my “why”. This has made me a stronger leader, and today I manage a diverse and cross-cultural team, in terms of nationality and gender.

As a working mother with a young child and a myriad of other caring responsibilities, finding work-life balance is always a challenge, but as long as you have the right support network around you, including a supportive partner, this can be achieved.

I aspire to be a role model for my daughter and hope to give her a real-life example of what hard work, ambition, humility, and curiosity can achieve, so that one day she can also reach her full potential.

This past year has been exceptionally challenging, as the Covid-19 pandemic affected us all in one way or another. The ‘new normal’ made me more grateful and taught me the benefits that a complete reset can have.

The good news is that it is possible to empower women in the workplace, but it is simply not enough to wait for a shift in mindset to happen. Therefore, as women, we must speak up and demand to be recognised rather than just waiting on the side-lines. And most importantly, we need bold, powerful and influential role models that truly believe in equality, because in the end, we are all responsible in ensuring that merit is rewarded.

Zainab Kufaishi is the head of Middle East and Africa at Invesco

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