Leaders

Asma Jan Muhammad: Trailblazing Cfo Leading The Way For Women In Finance

Asma Jan Muhammad: Trailblazing Cfo Leading The Way For Women In Finance

Asma Jan Muhammad
CFO

In n a world where gender disparities persist, some trailblazing women are breaking barriers and paving the way for their fellow women to thrive in every field. Asma Jan Muhammad is one such remarkable individual who has emerged as a beacon of inspiration in the realm of finance. With her exceptional skills, extensive expertise, and unwavering determination, Asma has emerged as a force to be reckoned within the financial industry. Her remarkable journey is a testament to her commitment to excellence, her passion for empowering women, and her relentless pursuit of success. Asma's story serves as an inspiration to aspiring professionals, showcasing the possibilities that can be achieved through perseverance, dedication, and a steadfast belief in oneself.

Beyond her professional achievements, Asma is passionate about uplifting and empowering women. As an author and speaker, she shares her experiences and lessons to inspire women to overcome obstacles and strive for success. Her work extends beyond the realm of finance as she actively advocates for women's rights and empowerment through volunteer work and advocacy in professional organizations.

What are some important facets of your life and professional journey?

In my life and professional journey, I have always dedicated myself to learning and staying up-to-date with industry developments and new technological skills in the dynamic field of finance. Striving for excellence, I consistently offer high-quality work that exceeds expectations. With a proactive problem-solving approach, I take the initiative and recognize and solve issues. My focus is on cost optimization, process improvement, and cash flow management. Ethics and integrity are the pillars of my career, as I believe in honest, transparent, and fair business practices. By actively seeking collaboration, diverse perspectives, and advantageous relationships, I enhance my professional experiences and create an inclusive workplace that promotes equality and diversity.

Despite the challenges faced by women in my profession, I have shattered the glass ceiling and made a significant impact, defying doubts about financial returns. I have achieved financial independence, allowing me to determine my own path. Alongside my drive for continued success, I maintain humility and humanity. My journey in finance has been fulfilling, rewarding, and life-changing, reflecting the ideals, experiences, and principles that have shaped my career and contributions.

Take us through your early life and educational background.

In the face of gender discrimination and societal limitations, I defied expectations of early marriage and prioritized my education and independence. Despite financial difficulties following my father's passing, I excelled academically and worked as a tutor to support my education.

Now, I hold an esteemed MBA degree from the Swiss Business School in Switzerland. Additionally, I have achieved dual chartered accountancy certifications from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales (ICAEW) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP).

Despite the unequal opportunities prevalent in the professional world, I made the bold choice of pursuing a career in chartered accountancy. My motivation was fuelled by a desire to excel not only for myself and my family but also for women as a whole. Continuing to enhance my expertise, I am currently pursuing courses on artificial intelligence and business strategy at MIT.

What is your prior industry experience, and key business lessons you've learned?

I have worked across various industries, including Audit, FMCG, Oil & Gas, Retail, Industrial manufacturing, Asset Management, Aviation, and Outsourcing Services. This diverse experience has sharpened my analytical skills and provided valuable insights for business success. Key lessons include maintaining financial discipline, effective cash-flow management, strategic planning, risk management, and optimal capital allocation.

As a CFO, I understand the importance of building strong relationships with stakeholders, monitoring market trends, and embracing technology for process transformation and increased efficiency. Going beyond the numbers, I prioritize integrity and ethical conduct, recognizing the crucial role of accountants and finance professionals in objectively evaluating business conditions and contributing to success.

Furthermore, fostering a merit-based culture, investing in talent, and providing leadership opportunities are essential for nurturing a motivated workforce and driving continued business success.

What inspired you to focus on inspiring women through your writing and speaking engagements?

As an author and speaker, I am passionate about inspiring and empowering women. I began my journey as an author during the pandemic, participating in collaborative projects and eventually publishing my own book, "Reflections." Through my writing, I share personal experiences and lessons to uplift and motivate women.

As a speaker, I collaborate with organizations like the Graduate Women International (GWI) Pakistan and SAARC chapter, Pakistan Association Dubai U.A.E., and Berkeley Middle East, sharing my expertise in financial management through webinars, seminars, and conferences. I use these platforms to raise awareness about women's issues, promote gender equality, and support empowerment initiatives, especially in third-world countries.

Through my work as an author and speaker, I aim to make a positive impact and create a better world for women. I believe in the transformative power of stories and conversations, witnessing their profound effect on individuals, communities, and society. By sharing stories of resilience and self-discovery, I seek to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and ignite a collective sense of empowerment.

How do you promote women-related causes?

I fearlessly challenged societal norms, refusing to accept the unfair treatment and generational curses that women face. Realizing the importance of giving back to society once I achieved fulfilment in my own dreams, I became dedicated to inspiring independent souls and helping them pursue their aspirations, just as I wished someone had done for me. Through volunteer work with professional organizations and advocating for women's causes in my writings and public speaking engagements, I aim to create a positive impact.

As a passionate supporter of women's causes, I actively speak out for women's rights, particularly in education and economic empowerment. I strive to raise awareness of the challenges they face. Additionally, I advocate for gender equality and provide guidance to women-owned businesses on financial management. Recognizing the value of engaging men as allies, I mentor and support both men and women, fostering their understanding of the benefits of a more equitable world through a collaborative approach.

What has been your most challenging life phase and how did you overcome it? Can you share your mantra for success? Also, tell us about your top three professional milestones, awards, and honors.

Despite growing up in a challenging environment burdened with societal restrictions, I never gave up on my dreams. Overcoming barriers and proving the worth of investing in my education became my unwavering goal. I succeeded in obtaining a higher-quality education and achieving employability in finance, despite numerous hardships. Balancing my career and family further challenged me, but I managed it successfully. Today, I navigate life with integrity, self-sufficiency, and economic independence, shaping my own destiny and empowering others.

In my financial career spanning over two decades, I have achieved remarkable milestones and received recognition in accountancy. As a business-savvy finance leader with two chartered accountancy certifications, I excel in leadership, team building, counselling, and mentoring. My colleagues regard me as reliable, honest, and appreciate my persistence in meeting deadlines under time pressure.

I have been honored with numerous awards and honors, including being recognized as 'The Most Professional Woman Accountancy' by the Woman Entrepreneurship Forum Dubai in 2022. In 2019, I was bestowed with the prestigious title of 'Chartered Accountant Woman of the Year' by the President of Pakistan, gaining news coverage for my outstanding contributions. Berkeley Middle East Dubai also honored me as 'The Most Professional Woman Accountancy' in 2019. During my academic journey, I earned gold medals in the Chartered Accountancy Foundation exams in 2000 and secured a merit position during my high school education in 1995.

Throughout my journey, my mantra for success has been Winston Churchill's words: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it's the courage to continue that counts!" I believe that effort is crucial, and directing our efforts toward the right path makes all the difference.

How do you see women's representation in finance evolving in the future? How can more women be encouraged to enter the field?

The field of finance has traditionally been male-dominated, but gender diversity is becoming more important at all organizational levels including the Board room. Days ahead, I envision several positive developments in terms of women's representation in finance. More women are entering finance due to cultural shifts and increased regulatory requirements towards diversity, equal pay, and work-life balance policies. In the post-pandemic era, there has been a marked increase in women entrepreneurs, giving women more freedom, flexibility, and impact.

However, we have miles to go to achieve education and financial literacy for women as a basic right. Mentorship programs, grants, and workshops can help women develop understanding and skills. Showing successful role models and representative women in finance may inspire others. Companies must create leadership development programs for women in collaboration and partnerships that promote gender diversity, share best practices, and set industry-wide goals that can increase women's financial representation.

Asma Jan Muhammad, CFO, Asma Jan Muhammed

Asma's story resonates with aspiring professionals, showcasing the transformative power of ambition, hard work, and resilience