What is a manel? Allow the Karachi Literature Festival to explain. On February 21, someone took a screenshot of the KLF’s description of their panel discussion on “Financial Inclusions and Women Empowerment” and uploaded it on Twitter.
The panel list read like a who’s who of the Pakistan’s finance scene: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Reza Baqir; Planning Minister Asad Umar; former SBP Governor Dr Ishrat Hussain; and Habib Bank President Muhammad Aurangzeb.
Amazingly, despite being a talk about women, the panel included no women.
Please let us take a moment to appreciate the irony here. Despite being an event about being inclusive towards women, the panel managed to somehow be exclusive of women. The KLF’s thinking was: why do you need women to talk about women?
Twitter’s outrage paid off. As a form of mitigation and damage control, the organizers quickly looked for women to bring on board for the panel, and brought in one woman, Ayesha Aziz, the CEO and Managing Director of Pak Brunei Investment Co Ltd.
There was no way that we were not going to attend this ‘manel + 1’, held at the Karachi Beach Luxury Hotel on March 1. We are the only two young female financial and economic journalists writing in English in Karachi, as far as we can tell. We have had men explain to us what interest rates are, despite us both being economics majors from IBA and Yale respectively; and yes we do know how to calculate CAGR. (compound annualised growth rate). Our bread and butter is finance reporting, despite men’s incredulity; and these are our thoughts.
Why would anyone agree to this?
At the talk, we first asked the pan-elists why they agreed to be a part of a manel, and then a manel + 1, in the first place, and why they did not object to a lack of female representation on the panel.
The response was mixed. Asad Umer was quick to point out that all panelists had felt there was a need for more women. Initially, he did not know who else would be sitting with him, nor did he ask. That makes enough sense, you get a call to be on a panel, you feel you have the experience for it and you say yes As he said, that since the topic was pertinent to him, he was in attendance.
“The reason you don’t see women on this panel, is because in your mind it is not important,” he said, referring to unconscious biases. “It is not possible that there were not at least three women in Pakistan who could have spoken on this”.
Dr Ishrat also reminded the audience that the panel was all-male to begin with, and it was only after the men called on to speak engage in a dialogue about it that a woman was added.
Ayesha Aziz, the late addition that the KLF was magnanimous enough to include, however, took a completely different view. “You are flogging the wrong horse,” she said, stressing that in their own capacities, the men on the panel had tried within their own organizations to bring about change.
“If you just want to see women sitting here, just grousing, then perhaps that’s being a little sexist as well,” she said emphatically, to applause.
The problem with the manel
Look, first a disclaimer. This is not the first time we have interacted with a manel. As reporters who frequently cover events and talks in the financial sector, we have seen the dearth of women at events. Not a lot of women are deemed experts in their fields, and subjects such as finance and technology skew male.
We would also like to add the apparently necessary disclaimer that we are not negating the efforts the male panelists are making within their own organizations. We appreciate the work they are putting in to formulate and implement inclusive work policies, working towards female independence, as Aziz reminded us.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Transitioning to EV is the way to go - If we'll do it is another question entirely
Pakistan has been proactive in forming an EV policy and has gotten much acclaim for it. But does the government have plans beyond just saving the environment, and will they be able to pull it off?
Where the women at?
On KLF manels, and why financial inclusion for women matters Think of this as the Profit female reporters’ manifesto on calling out corporate fluff
Turnaround at AkzoNobel Pakistan in the making?
After three years of tepid revenue and profit growth, the global paints giant's Pakistani subsidiary is beginning to see significantly increased profitability
SIALKOT IS PREPARING FOR take-off
As more Pakistanis are able to afford to fly, Air Sial's founders hope to make their home city one of the major hubs of aviation in the country
Despite growing competition, Adamjee Insurance remains the dominant player
How Pakistan’s oldest company has managed to retains its market share even as newer companies continue to lure customers
As Thar power plants come online, Engro's profits soar
The conglomerate’s net income is up 30% in 2019, investments continue in telecom infrastructure sharing and petrochemicals business
GLOBAL TECH GIANTS THREATEN TO LEAVE PAKISTAN OVER NEW RULES
Internet and technology companies have threatened to leave Pakistan after the government granted blanket powers to authorities to censor digital content, a move critics say was aimed at curtailing freedom of expression in the conservative Islamic nation.
MARYAM and NIVAAL REHMAN became activists when they were eight years old, inspiring girls in their village in Pakistan to continue their education. The now 19-year-old twins have since worked for such causes as girls’ education, climate justice, gender equality and inclusivity. They have their own non-profit, The World With MNR, that uses advocacy, storytelling and development to take action and inspire others to do the same. They have used their social media and YouTube channels to cover several events, including the Social Good Summit in New York City, the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington D.C., and interviews with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, and Madame Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank. They have received several awards, including the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award. Recently they released a documentary on the status of girls’ education in Pakistan and held global screenings to spark further conversation and inspire action.
EXILE IN THE AGE OF MODI
How Hindu nationalism has trampled the founding idea of my country
INDIA'S MODI IMPORTS AMERICAN DISCRIMINATION
AMERICA’S SUCCESS IN delivering enviable living standards while protecting human rights has made it the moral gold standard of the world, inspiring global movements for social justice, freedom, and democracy.
Ready. Set. Go
We made it easy for you. We asked our travel experts where they want to go in 2020. Their answers will surprise and inspire you. Presenting 27 adventures to get you out in the world this year.
Sabika was a Muslim exchange student from Pakistan, Jaelyn was a homeschooled Christian. Somehow, they became inseparable- until the unthinkable happened
Kate Pregnant –With Twins!
William’s delighted but consumed by fear he could lose wife
Life In The Landscape
Qasim Bashir feels the spirit of the landscape and creates a story through his paintings
Coal Won't Die In Pakistan And China!
As this vast mine in Pakistan’s Thar Desert attests, the world’s No. 1 cause of carbon emissions will be a major source of electricity for decades, despite the outcry against it
Meet The New Pakistan, A Lot Like The Old Pakistan
Imran Khan brings a charismatic visage to the troubled country. But does he have a fresh vision?