Women power: a path to financial equality in Malaysia | business | Hindustan Times
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Women power: a path to financial equality in Malaysia

Fozia Amanulla has grown accustomed to the pressures of negotiating multimillion-dollar deals during her career in Islamic finance. Some things, though, she has never got used to.

business Updated: Sep 27, 2010 21:13 IST
Liz Gooch

Fozia Amanulla has grown accustomed to the pressures of negotiating multimillion-dollar deals during her career in Islamic finance. Some things, though, she has never got used to. For instance, how certain men have declined to shake her hand, ignored her when she has spoken or refused to look at her across a table.

At a meeting with a client in Saudi Arabia, where men and women are commonly segregated in public life, she was the only woman in the building — a fact reinforced by the absence of any toilets for women. “There’s no such thing as the ‘tea lady’ there. It’s the ‘tea man,”’ she said in an interview in her bank’s Kuala Lumpur boardroom.

Fozia, one of the first women to lead an Islamic bank in Malaysia, has had no shortage of reminders that her industry is a male-dominated one. But while some women in more conservative corners of the Islamic world are still fighting for the right to work outside the home in the booming Islamic finance sector, the number of female faces is multiplying.

And industry observers say it is multicultural Malaysia where women have made the greatest inroads.

The roll call of female high achievers cuts across almost all aspects of the sector — from bank chief executives and scholars of Shariah, or Islamic law, to regulators like Zeti Akhtar Aziz, the central bank governor, who is widely credited with playing a leading role in transforming Kuala Lumpur into a hub for Islamic banking.

Women are rising up in the industry’s ranks in other countries as well, including Britain, which has also signalled its intention to become an Islamic finance hub. NYT