I have never thought of myself as the only female in the room, I let results and dialogue speak for themselves. I see it as an opportunity to thrive and showcase my abilities to communicate, affect change and utilize my background to make an impact.
When I connect with women in every stage of their career and act as a mentor, which is something that I am VERY passionate about, I am often asked for advice on how to stand out and advance your career. I have put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts that is applicable regardless of what industry or career you are in. These are rules that I personally live by and have been important in getting me where I am today.
These lessons to live by apply to not only work, but also advancing in life. I am sharing these to hopefully inspire and impact individuals to always be their best in all that they do.
1. Don’t think of yourself as a female executive vs a male executive. That is the wrong motto. Be yourself, and let your results speak for themselves.
2. Speak up and show your point of view. Make sure that you are adding value to every conversation and every meeting. Being engaged is a great way to showcase your abilities.
3. Dress at work as if you are meeting with your CEO daily. Always dress for the job that you want. Exuding confidence is very important as well. You may have reached your peak leadership position, or maybe you still have your eye on it. Either way, play the part to achieve your goals. Carefully curate yourself to act in a distinguished and respectable manner.
4. Keep track of your personal goals and your team's goals. Make sure to measure them and track your progress. Remember that you can't manage what you don't measure. This will help to create a baseline, and then you’ll be able to see growth. It will also help you to see areas where you are lacking and maybe need to increase your efforts. Business is not a one-woman or one-man game. It takes a team of people with quality contributions to make a working collaborative product.
5. Always be on time, prepared and educated on the topic being discussed. Don’t scan documents before meetings or skim important memos. You must know your material, backwards and forwards. Preparation is the bottom line, and it's a pivotal quality in successful individuals. While personality is excellent, it won't get the job done. Proper preparatory measures are taken by the most responsible and aware individuals. These are the people you want running an event or project, because they can think on their feet and execute tasks the most effectively.
5 Things To Never Do
1. Do not be late. It is very important to make a good impression and be on time. Everyone is busy and being timely is a must. People often ask me how I fit everything I do into a day (work, training, time with family and friends) and the answer is by having a rigid schedule and sticking to it.
2. Don’t hide behind email - confront situations in person. If you can't meet with someone in person, call them. Or even better, FaceTime. There's no excuse to hide behind email, and transparency is an important quality for business leaders. Open communication allows colleagues and clients alike to build trust with the leadership and the company. Keeping the door open allows for transparent conversations. Openness can be a paramount quality to your personal leadership skill set. Make your values known in a respectful way and others will appreciate your directness. If you are true to your word, sincerity will shine through your interactions. Everyone in your workplace and personal sphere will appreciate sincere and genuine interactions based in transparency.
3. In today’s texting and mobile environment, don’t flip off in a text message in the heat of battle. If you have a gut reaction that is negative, take a moment to gather your thoughts and remember, a message sent in email or text is never a message received. You need to be clear and also collect your thoughts before responding in haste.
4. Never use inappropriate humor or language. Make sure to be professional at all times.
5. Don’t let your health go by the wayside because you think you have to work 24/7. If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t manage a team. So remember to take time for yourself, especially if you're feeling under the weather. I make a huge effort to plan my schedule around my training. This helps me to manage stress and I find that I have more clarity in decision making when I incorporate fitness into my days. For me, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is all-encompassing. I have a cadence at work like I do with my running and training style and I pride myself on being disciplined with time - professionally and personally.
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.