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     Volume 2 Issue 86 | September 14, 2008|


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The Myth of Glass Ceilings

Rubaba Dowla shares her views with Star Campus

Ridwan Karim

In the increasingly vibrant corporate culture of Bangladesh, two recent trends have revolutionized the entire landscape. Firstly, more and more women are shattering the proverbial glass ceilings all over the country to secure coveted positions in their companies. Secondly, because of the fierce competition in certain industries, companies are realizing the need to be centered on their customers, rather than their products, and to cater to the varied demands of their customers through a greater focus on marketing activities. Both of these phenomena are personified by Rubaba Dowla Matin, Director, Marketing Division, Grameenphone Ltd. - one of the leading ladies in the marketing scene of our country.

“Knowing that you are managing a brand that has the highest brand equity in Bangladesh is a source of great satisfaction,” says Rubaba Dowla. As the director of the marketing division, her job involves creating and nurturing brands as they pass through the different stages of the brand life-cycle, constantly interacting with current customers, knowing the customers inside out and employing creative methods to segment the market based on individual needs. In short, her work comprises of the diverse and complex array of functions that marketing as a whole has to offer.

When asked about the invisible glass ceiling that women in the corporate world have to confront, Rubaba Dowla dismissed it as nothing more than a figment of imagination. She believes that both men and women face certain barriers as they progress along their careers, and that both of them face the challenge of converting these barriers into opportunities. A woman, who is a fresh BBA graduate entering the corporate arena, should not view her prospects on the basis of her gender, but should rather view herself as someone who strives to perform at her fullest potential through gaining experience and knowledge. However, trying to fix the dilemma of balancing ones job-life with the demands of ones family, a problem frequently encountered by women in our country, is something that Rubaba Dowla deems to be virtually impossible. She firmly believes that being successful in ones career entails certain sacrifices in ones family life. In such circumstances, women need to decide on their priorities before they enter the corporate scene, and stick to their decision with unwavering resolve.

Although she denies the existence of an invisible glass ceiling in the corporate arena, she admits that in certain sectors there is a prevalent stereotype of women being better suited for the service sector, and not the technical sector which deals with core strategies. As a result, some women feel more pressure to prove their abilities in these sectors than their male counterparts. But she is happy to note that such attitudes and mindsets have been undergoing massive changes in recent years.

In a corporate environment where boundaries between different departments are gradually disappearing, Rubaba Dowla appreciates the necessity of taking a holistic approach towards ones work. A manager needs to know where his/her work fits in the overall value chain of the organization. For example a marketing manager needs to be aware of the regulatory considerations, financial constraints and technical implications when proposing a new marketing plan. The contributions made by every employee of a firm should be like pieces of jigsaw that form a coherent picture when brought together.

So what does the future hold for the telecom industry? The players in this industry have become unnecessarily engaged in price wars, opined Rubaba Dowla. But she feels that the lack of proper infrastructure in Bangladesh itself provides opportunities for this industry to grow further. The key to sustainability of the telecom industry lies in its richness of customer insights. Citing the example of how Grameen multiplied internet connectivity in this country by many folds with the introduction of EDGE, she says that providing innovative and relevant services by using vast and comprehensive customer databases that telecom operators have in their disposal is the future of this industry. However, maintaining the quality of the services offered will provide the distinctive competitive advantage to certain operators.

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