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Exclusive Interview with Yasmeen Sehbai, Board Member – Shaheen Air International

Exclusive Interview with Yasmeen Sehbai, Board Member - Shaheen Air International
Location: Hilton JBR Hotel (Dubai)



BM: Tell us about yourself, your educational and professional background.
YS: I was born and raised primarily in Canada, however, I moved a lot all over the country throughout my life, and have also lived in Pakistan and Dubai for a period of time. My father is Pakistani and ex-Air Force officer, and my mother is a European Canadian, so this made for a very disciplined but loving upbringing. I studied applied Psychology in University and achieved a BA in Applied Psychology. I had originally planned to go into clinical psychology, but after having some exposure to it, I really felt uncomfortable with labeling people as ‘this or that’ and taking the power away from the individual to heal themselves. While I feel there is always room for clinical psychology for the appropriate individual, I felt more closely aligned with counselling psychology as I enjoyed the process of helping people to empower themselves and find the resources within to fix their problems and shortcomings. So, I went on to complete a master’s degree in counselling Psychology. In the midst of my master’s program, I took a course on health psychology and started to take a lot of yoga classes. I was so in love with it that I ended up completing a program to become a yoga instructor. When I began to work, I worked both as a counselor and a yoga instructor. I often felt drained at the end of my day as a counselor and would feel my energy to be very low. I also then taught yoga to people and found that I was still helping people better themselves, but in a different way. I think these two professions can go so nicely together, when combined properly. Shortly after this, I became pregnant with my first daughter and I have been a full time mother ever since. However, when my father passed away (God rest his soul), my whole family needed to take on new roles to help manage SAI. So this is where I’m now.

BM: Being a part of the Board of Directors of SAI. What aims and objectives do you have regarding the family business?
YS: I think the number one aim for any company is success. However, each person’s idea of success is subjective. To some it may be money, to others it may be satisfaction. I believe that myself, and my entire family have a communal goal for SAI and that is to provide a quality service to the people of Pakistan, and to create and grow a business that we, as a family and Pakistanis, can be proud of. We want to be a world class organization (which I believe we already are), that gives back to our community and country in a profound way.

Exclusive Interview with Yasmeen Sehbai, Board Member - Shaheen Air International
Location: Hilton JBR Hotel, Lobby (Dubai)

BM: Being a woman, how challenging is it to claim your position in the corporate sector of Pakistan?
YS: Being a family business, I think I have an advantage because I work closely with my brothers, cousins, and husband. This makes dealing with the corporate sector in Pakistan minimal. But, having experience dealing with the people in the corporate sector throughout my time, I can tell you it is never easy for a woman. We are always expected to be tougher so we are not seen as emotional, then when we are tough we are seen as not being feminine enough. This leaves us in between a rock and a hard place as we are never really being true to who we are. If there was simply more professionalism all over the world, I believe this issue would diminish greatly.

BM: What is your opinion about woman empowerment in Pakistan? Do you think that women are being provided with enough liberty and opportunities to work?
YS: Regarding the woman empowerment in Pakistan, I believe this is a long time coming. I am constantly inspired by the strength and resilience of Pakistani women like Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy & Malala Yousafzai. The APWA was founded in 1949 and so this movement has been a long time coming with the idea being there for over 60 years. There is so much potential to learn from such amazing and strong women like begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, I feel that sometimes we need to look to our past mothers to find the strength and inspiration rather than the current trends of looking to the Bollywood’s and Hollywood’s. We do not get empowered by wearing more lipstick or shorter skirts and lower shirt lines, we get empowered by having inspiration from amazing women and doing our best to do the same. I truly pray that the women of Pakistan can find it in themselves to band together for a common sisterhood, a common good.

I also do not believe that the women of Pakistan, and most other places in the world for that matter, are provided with enough liberty and opportunity to work. It would be nice to see more equal opportunity and more professionalism in the workplace in Pakistan.

BM: How do you balance your personal and professional life?
YS: Balancing personal and professional life for any woman is always a challenge. We have so many demands on us at all times and rarely get time to just ‘be’. So, I think the key to balance lays in one’s perspective, we have to know when to put on those different ‘hats’ and be who we need to be for any given moment. We always have to have the insight to know when some things are taking over others and keep a rigorous set of check and balances to keep us entered and focused. This is what works for me, I’m sure many women may feel the same.

Exclusive Interview with Yasmeen Sehbai, Board Member - Shaheen Air International
Location: Hilton JBR Hotel (Dubai)

BM: What more is there to expect from SAI in the upcoming future?
YS: I think there is so much more to expect. We are working hard to take SAI to the next level in the aviation industry. We want to be a symbol for Pakistan, a symbol of pride and integrity, a symbol of fairness and justice and most importantly respect.

BM: How is SAI empowering women? What is the percentage of working women in your airline and how do you empower your cabin crew to make them comfortable?
YS: I think SAI empowers women in many ways. One can be through providing equal opportunities to participate in company events, another is through our constant re-evaluation and changing of policy to try and incorporate maternity leaves for those who are expecting children. The percentage of women working in Shaheen Air International is 25%. We empower cabin crew and make them feel comfortable by giving them equal career opportunities as women.

BM: Being a part of the family business, have you ever thought about going ahead with your own brand or firm?
YS: Of Course! I have thought of this, and it is something that is always on my mind; exploring. My dream is to one day open a wellness center where people can come from all walks of life, and have all the resources they need to understand their health (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual) and find out what they need to optimize their quality of life.