Zahra Darvishi: “Working in a corporate environment does not allow you to be more creative and make some change”
Zahra Darvishi, spoke at the Wealth and Society 2018 United Kingdom, about the underrepresented communities such as women and the millennial generation who needs more opportunities both inside and outside the workplace.
Here is the transcript:
Female Speaker: Zahra Darvishi give a presentation followed by a panel discussion on sort of the rising impact through women and millennials. We’re going to have a deeper dive conversation into that, but first, Zahra’s can you give us a presentation. So, let’s welcome her.
Zahra: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. First of all, I want to thank the Asian Banker for having me here today. Yeah, let me introduce myself for those of you who wanted to know who I am and why am here. I came as a woman from a family with five boys. It was very tough to be a little girl playing with dolls. My mom says you have five brothers; you’re the same as them. So, all I did was play football, right?
And my mom always said you have to behave that way that you are on the same level as your brothers. So, that’s the way I grew up. I grew up with a family that my parents work, both of them the same, both teachers. They basically wanted me at home, we had the same rights as the boys and although I was the last child and the youngest and the only daughter and I was in sports, but that was really tough because I had to give into these five brothers.
So, I didn’t speak to that, and the story started because I just found out that being a foreigner, being in this country and don’t speak the language, don’t know the culture how tough it could be. But I think with the time I learned to deal with that, and I’m really integrated into the family I am. And I work, I studied biochemistry …, and I just was missing the people and the interaction.
I started with a big company, an international financial company … in the financial department, in project management and for 20 years I worked there, almost 20 years, to work on leadership how the … leadership. What is diversity? What is philanthropy? And I had the honor to build the whole … And I worked in …, in philanthropy field, I work with lots of charities from the big ones like UN and small organisations.
So, today I don’t speak specifically about my expertise here, but I speak about women and millennials. I would like to mention that I left the company, although I love my job, but I left the company because I think I wanted to be more creative and I wanted to be more impactful and sometimes working in a corporate environment does not allow you to be more creative and making some change.
We are at a disadvantage for lots of people, but for me as a person who is very typical to take the whole thing in my hand and try to the best … So, I do have the content of my presentation is pretty a lot woman as a leader, women as investors and millennial’s as leaders and investors. I’m sure the people coming to the podium discussion know better than me this topic, but I try to give you a little overview, and it’s just starting for other expertise to come up and make the tiny details.
We see this as a test with some of the kids and that kids girls, and boys change the directive, right? The little girls didn’t have these pink skirts, they put the shirts in the jeans on, and the boys take some dresses, pink dresses and they asked for some people to play with them. And the funny thing was, everybody came to their room and saw that kids without knowing if it’s a boy or girl because of the dresses they had, start picking their toys.
Well, it was a boy who comes out with the car and all this tough technical stuff and then it was a child, that girl dress it came to the doll with all this pinky stuff. That shows that human beings train from the beginning to separate boys from girls. Lots of people say why not lots of women, for example, working in IT? Okay, because I think we program our kids that way that technical stuff for the boys and more nicer stuff, pinky stuff are for the girls.
When you go to the store next time, just realize they are blue and pink sections, and there may be some areas that there are some toys that they have placed together. I want just to mention that because I think it’s important how we grow up because the difference between women or what they do in leadership is not coming from today, it’s coming from years before when we are born actually.
So, like the other topic that the previous participant mentioned, philanthropy is not new, it has changed, the name has changed, the action has changed, and those in leadership didn’t change either. When you look at the history like Mary Creed or Claude Burns who – see they are all leaders, they’ve all given that they were making a change in their society.
And another example is Amelia Ehrhardt was the first pilot for example. Okay, how many pilots do we have now? I mean the population of the world increased extremely in the last 50-100 years, but how many pilots do you know? Still not a lot. So, the question is where is the problem or where is the point, I wouldn’t call it a problem, but where is tricky or punching point that we have to push?
Today, you see the leaders, look at the numbers there are only 17 women …, 17. Actually, we should be very embarrassed about that. In Fortune 500 there are only 4.6% female and decreased from last year to this year. Why? I would comment that maybe and we can ask you why, I don’t know you may have some certain argument, but I don’t think that they’re all the same as your argument.
But take a look at positive numbers. 75% of nonprofit employees are women, they are as CEOs, they are active in this field and when you look at volunteering numbers and philanthropy numbers most of the people are women. That shows that women based on the natural characterthat we have are going to say the gentlemen are not caring, gentlemen are not emotional. So then say we have a little bit more emotions and caring and for that reason, we are more active in this field, and we actually want to do more in this field.
The … because you see that – let me give you an example. In Iran I was … and I just realized the room that we had like 70% were women and all these 70% of women went to university. In Iran as a country that some of you said is just the time is still and nothing goes forward, this is going about 60% of the people at … But the problem is when they come out, they don’t get a good job, and they cannot be a leader. Like in Europe, not so extremely, but in Europe, it is still the same or … can say that.
Female Speaker: …
Zahra: Oh, I just – this is here. My mistake. … I take it on my hands. So, and then we come to the point that again, the gender gap or how do you call it? I really was searching about some clear argument why, why we cannot as women go ahead or do our leadership or having – not specifically. I’m not certain that really, I’m very realistic and I don’t believe on pushing women in a position of leadership. But I believe that bringing all the issues, family, caring, marriage, I mean when we were talking about family as well, it’s not just my husband, my marriage, kids. It’s about my mom, my brother, my sister, my –kids of my sister.
It’s a huge thing, and you're caring about all these people. You are caring about a neighbor that’s old. You are caring about some poor kids in Africa, all this stuff and it’s very hard to bring it on a [roof]. And the problem is not us. The problems are many things. How we grow up, how are parents teach us how to behave how we get in the school the education. Our school system is, at least in Switzerland, 60-70 years old. Nothing has changed. The world outside has changed, but the school systems are still the same.
Then we go to university; then we go to work. Corporate doesn’t care. This is my opinion. They are top companies like Google, IBM, and they are always in the top rankings, but most of the companies they don’t care. They’re just having a millennial or women. They are really talking about that, they want to bring more women in the industry, but nothing happens. And that’s my experience because I experience that really on my skin and on my body and with my mind, that nothing happens.
If you want something, it’s blocked. And I really think the way we think and the way that men think, that’s very important, we have to discuss more we have to exchange more about these things. So, you see that bringing job, family, and all the other issues in the mind of a woman, you have to think that women are very complicated. I’m sorry to have to say, but we are very complicated.
We think about 100 things at the same time, and we call it multitasking because as we combine things together and men cannot do that. We need to really see how everybody can make contributions to make it possible because I think, I don’t want to have dinner in a …, but I want to have different meals in a … I want to have a different way of thinking in a …
Because we are taking, we are behaving different, and I think that’s just good, I think that’s just good not bad. There’s a study from … in August 2018 talking about women, how the women are in Britain and in Liechtenstein, I think all of our … in this field … How did women act as investors?
We know that women go to the bank and they ask for a relationship manager or an active manager. My husband always says, oh you know what? I wanna work with a man because I think we are better in this job and I say why, why do you think? Oh, because you don’t see so many women in this field. But the question is why we don’t see so many women in the field. Men also are good, they are very careful, and I think they don’t make so much grief as men say they do. That’s what you hear, and lots of study data say that, that women make it really risky.
But my question is what do you think? Because I really would like to be able to ask you because you are from different areas and different fields and maybe can give also me some function about this. I have to cancel something here, I’m sorry.
All right, the next one is some research from studies, I mean don’t take it personal, women are more careful about … of the family, are really feeling that there is a responsibility that they have to take it more seriously. Women are 40% more likely than men to feel stressed about the family’s home situation. And I can say, at least with me at work, when I left the company, and I was at this stage, a person who paid 50% of everything we have spent in this house. It doesn’t matter it comes from me because that’s what I learned, that’s what I …
When I left the company, and I had to found my own company, that was such an ordeal to keep that limit. And that is something that we keep in mind that we are actually thinking differently, and we cannot change it. The question is how we can overcome together in certain areas.
Generation Y, I have a son 19 years old. Most of the people saying they are lazy, they are just wanting to party, they want to have … on. They want to smoke, they want to enjoy their life, and that’s true. The young generation or the millennials, they are about 35 years old, they want to enjoy life, and I’m happy to say that. I’m really happy because I could not relax. I work, work, work, work. Sometimes I forgot where is the joy of the life, and it’s good that our young people are doing that.
And they are living in a digital world; this is not easy. When I look at you guys, everybody has a handy cellular phone on the table and don’t criticize them because they are born in this generation. We are not digital; we are analog and digital. So, don’t blame them. The question is how we can bring a balance in their lives.
One of my favorite people I met in UN in Geneva is Shea. She’s a role model for many of the people and I think we need more people, there are a lot of young people and millennials, and they are doing a great job. But not all of them are famous as Shea, and I think we need more people that are an inspiration for others.
And I have some dates on here, and there is also there is a study from Harvard that says that millennials don’t trust the government. They’re going to be changemakers, they have ideas, but at the same time they are impatient, they want to just work, and they want to be the CEO two years later, but it’s not possible. We have to teach them to be patient, but they are taking ownership of everything they have. They wanted just to know where I go eat.
Look at all this stuff, I mean my son, when we were in Dubai two weeks ago, said everything we want to eat we ordered Uber Eats because it creates jobs for the guys that bring the food to us in our room. Okay, it could be laziness definitely, but you are lazy to get up and go out but sometimes the way they think, you have to really discuss with them how they think. We cannot judge them.
I wish the millennials today here are saying okay, I’m 25 years and I think that way. In my approach to you guys if you have kids, talk with them, try to understand them and don’t judge them. Because I love to discuss with my son, he is 19 years old, he seems to know everything better than me, but at the same time, he listens to me. If it’s something mom, now there is a problem we should have.
So, and I think when you look at this number, the average age of a first-time manager is 30, that’s good. But look at this one, people getting 10 years later in management and leadership training. This is a gap here too. We have to treat para millennials better for more responsibility.
I think my time is pretty tight. April will mention that probably that millennials are the most – the biggest population in our time now. So, what are we gonna do? They are the future leaders; how can we prepare them for this responsibility. Was it our responsibility to put our environment in a way that they can have a good … and a sense of …?
And the future, I’m a very positive person, the future is very bright. We have a lot of technologies; we can manage a lot. They need to learn investment in this generation, and I think they have the best circumstances to do that and thank you for your patience and thanks for your attention.
Keywords: High-net Work Individuals, Social Responsibility
Guest: Zahra Darvishi