People are always asking me if I think there’s a “formula” for success [side note: I have a formula for everything: how to get the most out of being stuck in traffic, how to never spend unnecessary time at an airport, etc. so this question isn’t as random as it seems].
While I believe that success is not a neatly definable idea, and think that people can expound it differently, these are three tools that will help you on your way to whatever definition of success you are striving towards.
Tips on finding mentors as awesome as mine? Choose a mentor whose life, and not just their career, you are inspired by.
I've been extremely lucky to have a small group of impactful mentors who both inspire me and give me the honest feedback I really need to grow. You’re never going to find one mentor who can be everything for you. They each have different and equally helpful sets of skills that can help me as different obstacles get thrown my way. It's rare for me to use a sports analogy, but it really fits here so think about baseball; you have your coach, and you have individual trainers for specific things – a batting coach, a pitching coach, etc. That’s exactly what you need in mentorship.
Find people who have values aligned with yours. Some may have done amazing work that they are proud of, but have they managed to balance their health? Do they have a supportive family? Do they attend their children’s football games? Have they also explored their interests outside of those things? Human beings aren’t linear – I won’t ever be making a decision just as a businesswoman. I’ll also be making them as a sister, a mentor, a partner, and a designer. You want someone in your corner who can help you see the big picture.
The relationships you have with your mentors are ones that can (and ideally should) span many years, and likely several careers. The best way to ensure longevity is to make sure that you are giving back. Just because you are younger and earlier in your career, doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything to offer them. What are you better at than everyone else? Can you help them with a certain technology? Can you help their kids with an introduction? Don’t forget to take the time to ask them what they need.
Having a coach is actually vastly different from having a mentor and I'm a big believer in both. Coaches help you with proactive development on a more micro level and are trained and certified to help with things like management and strategy.
I’ve been working with my coach, Tim Porthouse, for over a year. We meet twice a month in person or on FaceTime. He helps me define (and redefine!) my goals and then make sure I’m held accountable for taking steps to achieve them.
Tim will often prescribe specific exercises in order to help me both understand what it is I really want and then assess opportunities that will help me get there as well as beat the obstacles that I need to move past them.
My sister, LisaMarie, who is also my business partner and best friend, is always joking about my powerful manifestation practice. I say I want something to happen and she's like, "You are so crazy, did you write it down? You'll definitely get it then!" She's right. For a long time I plan something that doesn't seem like you can plan for it, I write it down and then I find it in my life. As a way of tying the above together, as well as working in my more personal goals, I create vision boards. Usually once a year (around my birthday) I sit down and map out what I’m trying to accomplish. The result of every goal, whether it be eating less sugar or decreasing my email response window, aligns with a longer term value.
Whether you define success by pennies, moments, growth, or something else altogether, I hope the above formula can help you determine who you need to have in your corner to help you get there.
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.