I am a farm-grown Canadian girl from the prairies of Manitoba, living on the coast of South Carolina. A few years ago, I married a beautiful man I met during a retreat in Costa Rica, and became a step-mother to his three children after the death of his wife, six years ago. I also built my own business from the ground up, starting at 19 years old, never looking back.
I am a Certified Facilitator of Access Consciousness, which means I travel the world giving seminars, as well as facilitating online classes, speaking on the subject of conscious living. I have always been interested in conscious living and this career matched who I am as a person. I am 25 years old and I have a full-plate. But I love it that way!
I have built my business to gross over $300,000 per year, each year earning more than the last. I travel the world with my husband, who is in the same line of work, and we try to bring the kids along on the trips, as often as we can. Only a few short years ago I had almost no clue how I was going to create anything sustainable in this field. I have used the tools and values I have learned in Access Consciousness to strengthen myself in order to increase my business and make it a success. I believe that the stronger you are as a person, the larger your business can become, and no matter your age, it is never too late to begin the adventure of business.
1. Be Willing to Take Risks
I realized that if was going to create a profitable and fun business I was going to have to become comfortable taking huge risks, personally and financially. Over and over again. As a species, our brains are designed to protect us from risk, and keep us in mediocrity. This protects and maintains us as a species. For most of us adversity towards risk is a really difficult thing to overcome. It was almost paralyzing to me at first. But with practice, and the willingness to see that risk usually meant reward, I became more confident in my ability to make decisions.
I wouldn't have been able to survive without the constant willingness to re-invent myself and choose beyond my comfort zone. For example, I had a class in Israel and I had spent $10,000, booking plane tickets for my husband and I, booking a venue for the class, a hotel for us, when my host told me that no one was interested in coming to the class. At that moment, I realized I had to change my host, change the type of workshops I was doing, and reinvent the whole trip. We ended up going, facilitating the classes, and were surprised with the success of the last-minute changes. When you take risks, you begin to develop a trust in you that carries into all areas of life.
2. Learning How to Speak Other People's Language
In business, it is important to realize how other people function and how they preferred to be talked to. I see so many people having business conversations with people using their idea of how they, themselves would like to be spoken to. When you meet someone, you have to ask yourself this question: “What can this person receive from me, and how would they like to be spoken to?" Some people like to get right down to business, while others need small talk or compliments before they are comfortable getting started. If you pay attention and honor the other person's way of functioning, you often get farther than you can imagine, and create strong relationships.
3. Remembering to Use my Gender to my Advantage
In business, there are times where it works to be aggressive. I have built my ability to stick up for myself through some big errors. As women, we are encouraged to be aggressive to keep up with men. I am willing to do this when I know it is what will create the greatest result. But I also am willing to be myself as a woman, and to speak to the world as I see it.
We are taught that we have to be like men to work with them, and I don't see that working very well in my experience. Now, this may be a controversial way of looking at things from a feminist perspective, but I believe that women are every bit as capable as men, but also totally different. Each sex has something different at their disposal. Why should feel we have to become like the other sex when we can use the gifts of our gender, or use whatever approach works best according to the situation?
4. Ask: What will this choice create in five years?
If you turn right on your way to work, instead of turning left, it has the possibility to change your whole day. If your whole day changes, this changes your whole week. Your whole week can change your whole month, and your whole month, your whole year. Each choice we make creates an entirely different future.
So many of us make our choices automatic, or we choose only within a small window for fear of being judged, or for fear of failing. You build for the future by looking at how each choice you make today, creates an entirely different future.
Look at the future you would like to have. When making a choice, ask yourself, “If I make this choice, what will my life be like in five years?" You don't have to work out all the details, but you will know intuitively what your choice will create. If the choices you are making today match the future you would like to have, you are planting seeds for a greater future. Ask yourself, “What can I do today to prepare for the future I know is possible?" You may surprise yourself with how easy it is to shift your focus to the future, so that you are always building what you know you are capable of.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.