Mrs. Sumaira Rehman A LECTURER at the Superior University Lahore of Pakistan has jointly won the Best Paper Award at the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) conference, in Puerto Rico.
Mrs. Sumaira Rehman is an Assistant professor at Superior University Lahore has become the first academic to win the ICSB best paper award twice in its 58 year history.
Sumaira Rehman’s winning paper on Women Entrepreneurship, titled ‘Her Family, Household and Entrepreneurial Venture: Using a Life Course Perspective to Make Sense of the Work–Life Choices of Pakistani Women Entrepreneurs’, was co-written with Dr Azam Roomi who is a marketing lecturer in University of Bredforsshire UK.
Q: Please tell us briefly about your professional background?
I did my masters in marketing and then M.Phill in Business Administration from The Superior College Lahore. Then, I completed M.A (Human Resource Management) from Middlesex university UK and then M.Sc in Research Methods for Business and Management from the same institute. Currently I am completing P.hD with Specialization in Women Entrepreneurship. I am teaching as an Asst professor in The Superior University Campus Lahore and also a Consultant at Ch Muhammad Akram Center for Entrepreneurship Development and at the Cambridge Center for Human Resource Development.
Q: How you came up with idea of writing about Women’s Entrepreneurship?
Although government policies are made to increase the number of women in entrepreneurship, women have to struggle with the combined needs of work and family as a result of patriarchal forces embedded in Pakistani society. We still do not have clear understanding of the experiences these women go through as they try to negotiate the increasing demands of both spheres of their life (work and family) and entrepreneurial reality in Pakistani culture. Therefore, the primary aim of the study was to explore how women entrepreneurs experience entrepreneurial career, work–family interfaces and structural barriers associated with women entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Drawing on a life course perspective, this study has further examined how women entrepreneurs deploy agency in shaping their role transitions and career trajectories in the light of the structures of the Pakistani context. This study has been the life histories/biographies of women entrepreneurs to examine the impact of socio-cultural and family factors on women entrepreneurship and how these factors affect their entrepreneurial experiences over the life course. Being a Pakistani and Women I have always believed in empowering Women. When I was living abroad a wish came to my mind to create opportunities for women in my country also. We at Superior give much importance to women education and we are adamant to add value to their lives. So, I started research on women entrepreneurs and now I can confidently say that Women business profiles have changed and now they are thinking more than just household work.
Q: Tell us about your paper on Woman’s Entrepreneurship?
The purpose of My research was to explore the perception of structural barriers (socio-cultural and family) to women entrepreneurship and how socio-cultural and family experiences influence and shape their transitions and trajectories over the life course. Moreover, I was interested in examining the critical events and turning points that motivates women for role/career transitions and also to explore how women exercise agency to become entrepreneurs in the light of structures in Pakistani context and lastly to explore how work and family experiences likely to affect their entrepreneurial potential
I researched on Pakistani women entrepreneurs and I have presented a softer image of Pakistan to the World. It is assumed that Pakistan is a country having so many grey areas but I with my paper have broken this cliché’ and made the world realize that Pakistani women are creating miracles in this So called Men’s world.
Q: Have you been part of any business venture yourself?
Well, I have been a part of Superior Group of College since its inception and I was the head of business development. After my masters in Research Methods I initiated the Ch Muhammad Akram Center for Entrepreneurship Development which aims at encouraging individuals to be the masters of their own fate. The Center helps in all levels from starting a business to establishing it. I believe that with this venture I am playing my part in the developing SELF-RELIANT Pakistan.
Q: What challenges women encounter while working in Pakistan’s corporate environment and how they can overcome them?
It is quite difficult to create your own fate in this competitive corporate environment. Men think that Women are immature and do not know how to handle the tough situations in the business. Moreover, Women have less support from their families and cannot take decisions about their professional career. They are thought to be emotional that they cannot cope up with the stress levels and are not believed to be good leaders. Implicit in the notion of Izzat (Honour), women are socialized to only domestic roles (Being good wife, good daughter in law, and good mother) and are discouraged to work outside. Reflecting on the socio-cultural norms of Pakistani society one woman made typical comment “Husband is like God”. This is the traditional cultural norm prevailing in Pakistani society, which establishes a strong male dominance and women’s subordination. These can be overcome by giving women the confidence and guidance. If we will provide opportunities, only then they can learn and succeed.
Q: They say that ambitious girls cannot become good wives or manage their home? Your opinion
Ambitions are like the Oxygen for every Dreamer. To realize your dreams you have to plan and then leave the rest to the Allah Almighty. Normally it is very difficult here to work and manage but the essence of life is to do the impossible. I am sure that women/girls are doing their best but with the support of their families especially of their husbands they can turn the tables for them.
Q: Husbands usually don’t allow their wives to work because of the mentality of the corporate people and also because they believe that it’s a challenge for a working woman to take care of both office work and family/house hold matters. Your opinion and suggestion to husbands ?
If I look into my life, I am really thankful to Allah for giving me a supportive family and a loving husband who is my real MENTOR, friend and a Guide. Without his help I would have never achieved what I dreamt. The corporate world thinks that a woman is alone in the journey and has to bear a lot of challenges but when your family stands beside you the women becomes more confident and tries to live up to her expectations.
Q: Some say that mostly women can’t become good leaders because they are not emotionally balanced as men. Your opinion ?
I don’t think so as this country has been ruled by an iron lady Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto (The Ex Prime Minister) who led the nation with extreme confidence and true spirit. Now a days, There are so many examples of women leading very successful businesses and are very enthusiastic and vibrant entrepreneurs. They can flourish more given the support and cooperation they need from their families and society.
Q: Do you think Pakistan’s working environment is changing?
Yes, the environment is changing. The girls are now more focused in their education and this has changed the corporate culture also. With the help of media, internet and global opportunities the women are able to work now in offices, from home, for large businesses as well as in smaller ones.
Q: Are you planning to write on any other topic in future?
The Ch Muhammad Akram Center for Entrepreneurship Development aims at encouraging people to initiate their careers successfully. I am writing on different related to entrepreneurship and I hope that my journey towards Women emancipation will be successful which will ultimately lead to a Superior Pakistan.