My meeting with the Board is in twenty minutes, and I squint at the spreadsheet.
A hand places a cup of steaming chai and a saucer with three tea biscuits beside my laptop. Three biscuits? Protocol permits two at most, and Hafiz is a stickler for the rules. He has to be. In typical Pakistani fashion, the office is hierarchical, and as the "tea boy," Hafiz is unquestionably at the bottom of the totem pole.
Yet, there he stands, staging a silent act of rebellion.
"Thank you," he whispers.
I swivel my chair, alarmed to find him dewy-eyed.
Making ends meet is a struggle for Hafiz. He adores his youngest, a girl, but never saw the value of sending her to school alongside her brothers. He assumed she was destined to silently clean those mansions across the bridge, like her mother.
But after serving tea day after day in boardrooms where I am the only woman, after watching the "Big Boss" nod his head during my presentations, Hafiz now sees that his daughter, too, can work in a world where she has a voice.
"She will start school in September."
As he dashes to brew yet another cup of tea, I feel tears blurring my vision. My impact at work transcends trend lines and action plans. By rising through the professional ranks, I am inspiring not just young women, but—unexpectedly—a generation of men.
Thank you, Hafiz. I vow to instigate further acts of rebellion in my homeland and beyond.