Recently, I had an opportunity to read Profit Issue #113 and the cover story ‘The discriminatory hiring practices of Islamic Banks: Is this the shape of things to come?’ by Ariba Shahid and Meiryum Ali caught my attention.
I was intrigued to read the article since I am associated with an Islamic Bank myself. I noticed that that the piece had mentioned experiences of staff at Faysal Bank and Meezan Bank only, while practices being followed at other Islamic Banks were not included. So, I thought it appropriate to share the other side of the story as well.
I am working with Al Baraka Bank Pakistan (ABPL) for the last 8 years which, as many people may know, is the country’s first Islamic bank operational since 1993; part of a banking group also working under the tenets of Shariah with operations in 17 countries and staff strength of over 13,000.
Like other banks, we too have a balanced dress code policy for both male and female staff members which requires employees to wear Islamic clothing consisting of abayas and shalwar kameez with waistcoats.
In all honestly, I feel that having a dress code not only helps to instil discipline, but also promotes equality among colleagues without them having to worry about spending a major portion of their salary on branded clothing due to social pressure. Secondly, an abaya, besides giving a modest and elegant look, helps me feel more confident and carry myself gracefully while interacting with the opposite gender at work.
Being a female professional, one of the key factors that has kept me engaged with Al Baraka is the environment of a second homecoming experience.
Based on my experience, I can confidently share that Al Baraka Pakistan has Islamic values deeply embedded into the corporate culture. This is reflective from the fact that the staff is assessed on merit and provided career progression regardless of any gender discrimination.
I take pride in giving my example as a female who has been recognised and rewarded by the management for two promotions, performance bonuses and job enrichment over the passage of years. I am also entitled to the same benefits as my male colleagues in accordance with the bank’s HR policy.
All in all, I feel valued for my contribution towards the institution as the bank has also provided me with opportunities to upskill my knowledge base and professional development through various local and international level training and certifications.
Currently, females make up 12.7pc of our entire workforce and this number has been increasing gradually every year.
The bank ensures that female staff are provided opportunities that coincide with their skill set and interest, in addition to, giving high priority to the staff’s safety and discouraging the idea of using females as a marketing tool. An example of this would be ABPL not assigning outdoor sales roles to women.
Further, we also have very talented female staff members holding critical positions as heads of various departments, unit heads and branch managers.
To keep female staff members engaged, the bank has provided extended maternity leaves and iddat leaves that enable them to conveniently manage personal obligations and responsibilities with office work.
In fact, the bank also regularly celebrates Women’s Day to acknowledge the presence and contribution of female colleagues while various health-related initiatives driven towards their wellbeing are launched every now and then.
I hope this clarifies that all Islamic banks have different processes and policies and hence, cannot be judged with the same yardstick.