Having joined Bangladesh Bank as an Assistant Director in 1988, Laila Bilkis Ara is now serving as Executive Director for over a year. She comes from Chuadanga district and went to school there, before completing HSC from Begum Badrunnesa Govt. Girls College in Dhaka. She completed both her honors and masters from University of Dhaka. She has worked her way up by serving in the Foreign Exchange Policy Department, Banking Regulation and Policy Department, Agricultural Credit Department, Bangladesh Bank Training Academy and Chittagong Office of Bangladesh Bank. She also participated in various foreign and national training courses, seminars, symposiums on institutional requirement.
In the central bank, the presence of obstacles on the way of female employee’s progression is relatively low. The system here is slightly different from that of other organizations of our country. If someone works sincerely, s/he is always appraised fairly at the time of performance evaluation. When I joined here in 1988, I was posted at the then BCD (now BRPD), owing to my background in Economics.
After working there for three years, I was posted in the Foreign Exchange Policy Department. It is mentionable here that the fact that I am a woman, was never considered in case of placement. Here I worked for four years and also worked on Agriculture Credit Policy for one and a half years. I was also transferred to our Chittagong office and there I was posted in DBI, our inspection department. In Bangladesh Bank, all the departments have a congenial environment for female employees. Also, over time, the method of performance evaluation has been changed and it has now been more performance-based. I always tried to carry out my assigned duties properly, and every time I excelled and thus I have reached my current position. I was also at Bangladesh Bank Training Academy because education is my favorite sector. In between, I worked at MRA on deputation. Though that sector is external to Bangladesh Bank, it provided me with good learning opportunities. When BSCS was formed for recruitment at fourteen organizations, I led its inception.
Even today I see in the newspaper that women are concerned about their security while working late at night, but the lack of security is never felt in Bangladesh Bank. Generally, women do not have to work here till late night, and even if they have unfinished works, they are encouraged to finish it from home or the next morning or even on weekend.
I ranked first among women in my joining batch. However, I am not satisfied with the proportion of female participation in Assistant Director (AD) intake. The percentage of women coming into the Central Bank in AD intake is pretty low, about 15%-20%, compared to the number of females graduating from universities every year.
Yes, FIs are now providing a few facilities to women so that they can concentrate on their career, but the more are required. Women really need day care centers, because normally the responsibility of children falls upon females. Transportation facility too would help in this regard. Bangladesh Bank has given instruction to allow women employees to leave after dusk. Those who have a high salary can avail Uber, but it is not viable for those earning less. Due to infrastructure issues, transportation in the city is a problem. Security is essential. I don’t feel everyone needs to have a vehicle. In Singapore, very few use people private cars. But the hope is that the metro rail construction work is progressing. Many such problems will be solved in three to four years. If we can travel in short time, have security and if women can be relieved of worry for children through day care centers, they can give more output. Women are very sincere, they always try to give their best shot in any task assigned to them.
Bangladesh Bank facilitates low interest rate and collateral free financing for women. There are instances of misuse though, where the husband takes out the loan in the name of the wife. Although Bangladesh Bank is monitoring these activities, the main responsibility lies on FIs. Giving door to door advice would help, because the same product is not appropriate for all regions.FIs can enable the women entrepreneurs with marketing, procurement of raw materials and other non-financial services.This is how FIs can be true partner in development of women entrepreneurs as a whole.FIs can extend the range of advisory services and also conduct monitoring strictly. Loan recovery should be done timely to avoid adding to the NPL, and also to prevent the women entrepreneur from spending money elsewhere as it comes in. “Right Time”, “Right Place” and “Right Person”are key here. Not all women will become entrepreneurs, but we need to work with those who has the potential to become one.
Fairs can be arranged to attract female entrepreneurs. Showcasing of their products and networking opportunity surfaces in these fairs. The government can look into and conduct training for skill development. The government is doing some now, but its proper implementation has to be ensured. Further such possibilities need to be explored. This is because about 50% of our population is women, and our economy will not move forward without developing them and bringing them into the workforce.The government gives importance to the recruitment of women, but they have to move up the ladder through their skill.
I have two sons. The elder one completed BBA from IBA, Jahangirnagar University and MBA from IBA, Dhaka University. Currently he is working at IDCOL as AVP. The younger one is a graduate of Computer Science and Engineering from North South University and is working as a Software Engineer at an IT firm. Even after being a working lady, I managed to make some time for them, however little that may have been. I was lucky to find my spouse extremely supportive in my journey.
In the realm of global corporate leadership, one name resonates loudly across industries and regions: Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo. Hailing from the diversified India, Indra changed the face of PepsiCo when the brand was witnessing dwindling popularity. After she stepped down as the CEO after 24 glaring years in PepsiCo., market analysts are terming the position “very hard to replace” in wake of Indra’s bold and thoughtful leadership style.
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is aptly kept- #BalanceforBetter. In Bangladesh, Ready Made Garments (RMG) has been the frontrunner in empowering females, where 4 million women found their earning source. Over the years, SME sector has also witnessed surge in active women entrepreneurs, who are highly motivated and aspired to take their business to a whole new level. The growing participation of young female entrepreneurs in F-commerce realm also deserves accolades. In corporate level, however, an unbalanced trend is discerned as we move up along with the hierarchy ladder. Female employees start falling out as they move to the mid-level in career and start having their own family responsibilities, resulting in a vacuum in top leadership positions. In many research and survey conducted internationally, it has been reflected that women make difference in the boardroom and in the company culture when they are put at helm of a company. It is high time, local corporates should recognize the fact and start working on the female potentials to the betterment of the company and coming up with suitable initiatives and facilities for them. Perhaps, down the line, Bangladesh may give birth to a number of Indra Nooyi’s who will change the face of the total economic scenario with their prudent leadership skills.Download View