Ruzwana Bashir could be defined by taking leaps. From a conservative British-Pakistani community, the successful CEO jumped to London then Silicon Valley to challenge traditional expectations and pursue her own ambitions. Now, this graduate of both Oxford and Harvard is partnering with Personal Capital, an Empower Company, to champion financial empowerment for women.
As one of Personal Capital’s Financial Heroes, Bashir exemplifies how knowing your own worth can enable bold, well-informed decisions in your professional life. And like any journey, Bashir’s had a starting point.
“For me, what was important was really garnering my independence,” Bashir told us. “That meant my financial independence, my ability to choose the things that I do.”
She did just that by founding Peek.com, an activities company that quickly made its mark on the industry and has raised $50 million in capital to date. Bashir’s work earned her a spot on Fortune’s 10 Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs list.
“To really excel at what you do, you have to have strong commitment and work ethic,” Bashir said, “but startups add an extra dimension of stress and a need for extraordinary levels of persistence.”
The challenge is often compounded for women entrepreneurs, who have historically raised just 2.2 percent of all venture capital dollars. A Personal Capital survey from September 2020 found that 70 percent of employed individuals believe women are often at a disadvantage in their careers.
“It can be harder to find advocates,” Bashir said. “We see systemic situations and societal issues that we are trying to combat now. As times goes on, we will change expectations and ensure women break through glass ceilings in every industry.”
Journey to financial empowerment
Bashir has always been one to make her own way. Starting with her education, she charted a career path that would allow her to save money and invest in her future, even while paying off student loans. From investment banking with Goldman Sachs to private equity with the Blackstone Group, Bashir drew on her personal financial savvy.
The work was engaging. But knowing that she wanted to lead her own company, she went to business school and relocated to the West Coast to launch Peek.com. Branching out on her own came with its own set of challenges.
“As an entrepreneur, you’re not able to take a large salary upfront, and that is something that has risk associated with it,” she said. “However, it is pretty amazing to create something from scratch and control your own destiny, so I think it’s worth it.”
Heralded by Fortune as “Silicon Valley’s Favorite British Import,” Bashir rapidly proved her business acumen. More recently, with the activities industry pinched by 2020 quarantine restrictions, Bashir had to make difficult financial decisions on cutting costs. She credits having financial awareness, and her mentors, for helping her to navigate the scaling and setbacks to make sure her business could thrive during this period.
Reflecting on her wide-ranging career moves, Bashir now believes that money shouldn’t be the primary motivator. “You should be thinking about how it helps you achieve your goals in life,” she said. “There are other ways to help grow your income and that doesn’t have to be necessarily what you are doing day-to-day.”
Investing in a financial future
As a young businesswoman, Bashir was often the only woman in the room. Now she’s leading her own company. Throughout her career, building a financial plan, putting money aside, and tracking her investments has helped her achieve her goals.
In her partnership with Personal Capital, she hopes to help other women know their true net worth and gain financial empowerment. It starts with our free, professional-grade tools, but that’s just the beginning.
“Financial empowerment is having a trajectory, a plan that will get you where you want to be in the future,” she said. “As opposed to something that you feel you can’t control or that’s overwhelming, it becomes one of your goals that you work toward, like your health.”