Friday, July 18, 2014

LADIESFUND Speed networking comes to Karachi


Published in Daily Times / 18 July 2014

The myth of the subjugated woman made one person laugh mirthlessly. ‘…subjugated, really…where then did all these ladies come from? And why, o why is the foreign press not covering this side of Pakistan.’ It was a valid observation. The senior journalist, one of the few men invited to cover the event, appeared overwhelmed by the sight of so much enlightened moderation milling around the British High Commission that January afternoon.

The first LADIESFUND® speed networking luncheon (Karachi), which is the result of a partnership between Dawood Global Foundation and British Deputy High Commission had recently added some Harvard style networking to the menu. The intimidating sounding concept was simply a chance for enterprising women from all over to come together, explore avenues of possible collaboration, update the client list, strengthen corporate connections, and be amazed by sheer number of talent gathered under one shady tree (it was an out-door event).

The highly sought after invites suggested that the ladies come armed with business cards, and prepared introductions. There were L shaped tables, a gong set on a 5 minute timer, a dress code and rules of engagement that directed guests to talk to the person in front and not that lady on the side, however interesting she may be. Many had already ‘slow networked’ while window shopping at the stalls, and later by the glorious buffet – the temptation to converse with the neighbours interfered with the prepared script. That, and the blazing sun streaming down dampened the ardour even though it was the middle of January. But the networking would go on unabated, even if it didn’t conform to the stated SOP’s.

The grounds of Acton House and Runnymede were a haven for little start ups seeking capital, noble causes in need of patronage, and new initiatives in search of visibility. Here the attendees could marvel at the great strides Pakistani women have made despite the hurdles conjured up by the mere mention of gender empowerment.

150 powerhouse women had been thrown into the same orbit. It was an inspiring mix that included Kehkashan Awan, who played the lovably ditzy friend from the play ‘Dhoop Kinaray’ (1980’s) and now plays a successful HR Director for EFS (Education Fund for Sind). Shah Khan (CEO KHANZ designs) passionate about promoting local artisans, and proudly wielding the ‘Made in Pakistan’ banner. And a former Scotland Yard staff member, who had a magazine, and a beauty business.

People kept circling back to the stalls that had been set up at the entrance; some offered a taste of local tradition like Munawara Sultan’s beautiful collection of Ajrak and pottery from Nawabshah. Others like ‘Alle’nora Annie Signature Salon’ promised to create that perfectly coiffed hair – on the house. One could sample ‘Isabel Landry’ product range, survey the pretty giveaways, or indulge that inner philanthropist at the ‘Educate a Girl’ corner. All proceeds reportedly would be diverted towards women’s advancement.

As the acting British Deputy High Commissioner Gillian Atkinson acknowledged these tectonic shifts that bode well for Pakistan’s future, Tara Uzra Dawood (LADIESFUND ® President) and Nazneen Tariq Khan (Fundraising Chair, owner Heavenly Regalia) brought out their ‘Invest in yourself’ playbook and helped the guests navigate the strange, new terrain.

LADIESFUND® continues to expand its reach. A few months later, the 6th LADIESFUND® Women’s Award honored a mix of trailblazers, humanitarians and valiant heroes on the frontlines. They also held a ‘Women of Influence’ power lunch at Okra, which replicated the ‘networking’ part of the equation without the ‘speed’. LADIESFUND® Speed Networking Luncheon intends to come to Islamabad later this year.

Image taken from Ladiesfund Facebook page.

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