Fizza Ijaz is a purpose-driven marketing professional with 12+ years of cross-category and geographical experience across London, Middle East, North America and Pakistan – building global brands including Dove, Maggi, Nescafe, Glow & Lovely, Ponds, and Vaseline.
But that’s not all. She is also the co-founder of workingmoms.pk, a part-time blogger and a full-time mommy. We instantly fell in love with her down-to-earth nature and intellectual opinions.
Describe yourself in three words
Fizza: Passionate, adventurous, creative
Something you wish you knew 5 years ago
Fizza: It’s worth going after your dreams and if you don’t respect your dreams no one else will
Why did you choose Marketing, and what are the main trends you think we need to focus on in this current market scenario
Fizza: I didn’t choose marketing, I chose to understand the consumer, her pain points, and motivation – marketing just became a tool to serve the consumer.
I strongly believe in any era a marketer’s job is to stay on top of consumer pulse- that should be a guiding factor for any communication action, media intervention, or innovation.
To name a few trends to watch out for in the current era, these would be rising polarization in our society, post covid behavior shifts, changing parenting styles and digitalization. But keep in mind that the rural consumer trends are very different from the urban and equally important – that is where marketers need to hunt deeper insights.
Tell us more about your platform Working Moms
Fizza: When I had my first child I consciously took a career break and struggled with the idea of wanting to become a good mom and pursuing my professional dreams. After 18 months I crawled back into my career and found the joy of confidently balancing motherhood and career with a support system and a disciplined routine. When I was psychologically struggling during my career break I didn’t find enough support and guidance around me. I didn’t know of many working moms. So I went ahead and started this first-of-its-kind support group that focused on a niche audience i.e. Pakistani working moms. We are now a sisterhood of 2000 mom-professionals who are always ready to support, mentor and give a hand of guidance to moms who might be considering returning to careers, or professional women who might be entering motherhood for the first time. It is our safe and non-judgmental space and I run this community in partnership with Ghazala Shoaib, HR head of Seimens Pakistan. As we are both busy working moms of two girls, the community is quite practical and not focused on growing numbers – instead we focus on being able to help and assist those who need that support that I felt was missing in my personal journey. Alot of the mentoring happens behind public social media via 1:1 sessions
The biggest hurdle you had to face in your professional journey
Fizza: The cultural expectations and judgments outside the workplace
Which person has influenced you most in life
Fizza: Many actually – firstly My father and grandfather for my sense of humanity and work ethic. My grandmother who from her generation was of the few to pursue a master’s degree and worked a lifetime with NGO’s and social groups, and many outstanding women in my family including my maternal and paternal aunts who have pursued PHD’s and professional careers for my basic belief that a woman is incomplete without education and financial independence.
There is one more thing that has influenced my thought process as a working mom and that is a piece of audio recording from my late mother’s interview (Radio Pakistan from the late 80s), where she said “a human being has 24 hours in a day, if they choose to utilize them in the right manner there is a lot one can achieve”.
How do you wind down when you’re not working
Fizza: I really enjoy pajama parties with my daughters on weekend nights. Weekend mornings are all about family time and elaborate breakfasts. I find cleaning my home very therapeutic and I have a side passion for music so I take a weekly music lesson to unwind.
What do you think is one of the hardest things women face today, whether in the workplace or in what measures we need to take to make it easier for women to find comfort at work
Fizza: I think women face a real limitation as they approach leadership positions. Their personal and professional trajectory is at odds as Indira Nooyi rightly put it in her famous interview.
The pressure at work increases at the same time as pressure of your child’s education and emotional needs approaching middle school or high school increases.
I really think employers need to wake up to this reality and think about work-life amalgamation more than work-life balance. By amalgamation I mean workplaces need to be seen as agile co-working spaces where professionals can work and their children irrespective of age can also co-exist. Imagine an office space to be more like a center with conference rooms, daycares, gyms, library and educational/ recreational space for middle age children who are too old for daycare but too young to be left alone at home.
A woman cannot be a confident and mentally present leader if she is constantly worried about the safety and emotional wellbeing of her children.
For centuries men have mastered the art of giving a 100% to their work as they left all domestic worries on their wives’ shoulders when they stepped out. Women are at a natural disadvantage here and this we need to fix as a society that requires collective action by employers, husbands, and fathers and by parents in law.
Keeping in mind how the world has been affected due to Covid 19, do you think digitalization should be completely embraced by our corporate sector, how you see the future of remote working
Fizza: I find this forced work from home in covid to be a dream come true for certain privileged strata of professionals (male and female both) who always knew that they could deliver on their work irrespective of location and only had to stick around 9-6 for face-saving.
However, a large majority of our men and women living in humble conditions with large families in small homes do not have space or resources to carry out work from home. They prefer to get out of the domestic pressures to work at the office without distractions.
Employers can really benefit from hybrid work spaced which allows for flexibility of the mode of working as long as targets are being achieved.
It requires a psychological shift which in Pakistan has not happened even after the pandemic shift. As companies are opening up they are unable to imagine a hybrid system and we swing between extremes on agile working instead of finding a middle ground.
There is value in terms of cost, environmental impact, and mental wellbeing if we can strike that sweet balance of agile working; employers should not give up on trying to make this work. Employees on the other hand should hold work ethics extremely high to make remote working sustainable.
What is your message for all the potential boss women out there?
Fizza: Firstly, let’s acknowledge that in Pakistan girls are not raised to become leaders. Girls, in the majority of homes, even the very educated ones, are raised to be submissive, obedient, acceptable, and agreeable and trained to avoid conflict. Boys on the other hand are constantly learning leadership skills by being encouraged to make their own decisions, being given more room to fail and learn, being more involved in sports and being exposed to more public interaction at an earlier age.
This cultural gap in upbringing makes it extremely difficult for women to wear the leadership hat overnight as she becomes a boss in a male dominant workplace.
Knowing that we are at a disadvantage here, there are two things we can do:
- Consciously overcome our need to align ourselves with the majority view. Speak your mind and be damn good at what you do – so that when you are chosen as the “boss woman”, no one has the courage to attribute your promotion to the gender card.
- Start raising our daughters very differently and teach them to have their own mind and viewpoint in life