Shomaila Loan Maker
A mother of 2 teenage boys, Shomaila Loan Maker is currently working as the Chief Legal Counsel at Habib Bank Limited. At this point in her life, she claims to be very content. Picking the birth of her children to be her Miracle Moment, she feels if given the chance to do anything differently in life, she wouldn’t. From every experience, good or bad, Shomaila tries to learn and constantly improve herself.
Shomaila identifies 2 main challenges that she has had to face over the course of her life. The first one came about when she lost her father at the age of 20 while she was still studying at a university abroad. She had to come back to take over the family business of hand knotted carpets. “They had bets I wouldn’t last more than 3 months and I am glad they lost that bet. I lasted a good 15 years. I did my duty and after that we wrapped up the business,” says Shomaila, looking back. Once the business was wrapped up, she faced yet another challenge – the challenge to reinvent herself. “It was time to reinvent myself. That was another challenge at that age because I had two young kids. I went back to law school to complete my degree and returned to Pakistan as a qualified lawyer to find myself a job. A lot of people didn’t take me seriously as they thought I was from an affluent background, a begum, looking for a job. No matter how well I did or how many prizes I got, it made no difference to people. I even worked for free for a while to prove my metal and then started right at the bottom from a meagre salary. However, I always considered rejection as a step to climb up and its always been a step to success,” explains Shomaila.
With the support of her husband, Shomaila was finally able to reinvent herself but did not find it easy at the work place. She does claim to witness underlying gender bias in the field of law as there are very few women in senior positions at law firms in Pakistan. She also admits that women do, in fact, find it very hard to maintain careers as tough as being lawyers. Working for long hours is difficult for them as they have left their children behind at home who they have to care for no matter what. They have to keep in mind the societal pressures and expectations. Therefore, the environment in which women in Pakistan operate is not the most amenable. Shomaila feels you have to have good working ethics, you have to deliver on time, and prove that you are indispensible for your employer. Then only will they be willing to work for you. “With my previous employer, I worked on the weekends. I had to be available always and I simultaneously had to be available for my children too,” she says. Of course, she is multi-tasked but there are, after all, only 24 hours in a day. Then how did she manage? “Normally, I’d give up on my social life and honestly, I was happy to do that.”
Back in the early 80s, it was not common for women in Pakistan to go abroad for higher education but Shomaila did and she has her mother to thank for that. The one thing her mother taught her 5 children was to stand on their feet and be financially independent. Indeed, her mother lay the foundation on which Shomaila was able to build so much more – she grew up to be a strong woman who knows not just how to take care of her family but also of herself and show the world that when a woman sets her goals, the first step towards turning the invisible to visible has already been taken.