Women, many times, have to work harder, for longer, and they may still not reach the same level of success that men do in similar circumstances. However, we are seeing a lot of progress in terms of breaking the glass ceiling and celebrating female leadership. Women around the world are changing the way business is being done. What is the first step? Working on yourself when it comes to your career skills. What is the second step? Believe in yourself, find the right team, and become the leader you’ve always wanted to be.
We spoke to Madiha Raslan, President at Women Leaders Council of Lebanon, Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri, Senior Advisor at Royal Family Office, UAE, Martina Rogato, Sustainability Advisor & Professor at Head of Delegation Women20 Italy (G20), and TEDx Speaker, and Bianca Tudor, Founder & CEO at Elite Business Women.
When it comes to female leadership, we’re not born successful – we have to do a lot of work. How did you identify your strengths and weaknesses and how did you work with them in order to become the leader that you are today?
Madiha Raslan: I think that we have to keep on educating ourselves non-stop and keep on learning. We have to train every time we find an opportunity to do that and to find good inspirational mentors to surround ourselves with; to listen to their stories and learn from them.
I faced lots of failures, I had lots of challenges, especially in Lebanon – it’s very challenging to work in Lebanon – but what kept me working is that I was very patient, I believed in my work and what I was doing and I kept my positive energy all the time. Every time I failed, it was an opportunity for me to re-think my strategy again and never give up. I want to be very transparent – in my business, it took around 6 years for me to start making money. I was injecting money every time because I wanted it to succeed. And finally, I reached a point when my business became sustainable.
But again, building the right skills is very important; learning from our mistakes is very important; sharing experiences is very important. I think that I can give back to society. I can do what other mentors did for me. I have to lead the way for others, for young women, for young men also, why not?
But we have to work hard, it is not easy, we have to really learn how to read balance sheets – something women don’t like but we have to do it; we have to think very well about each word we’re going to say when we are in front of donors when we want to have access to funds. We have to look closely at every step we take, at our projections. We have to get the right advisors to help us go through this journey.
Entrepreneurship is not easy but it’s fun, it’s beautiful, it’s this exercise that we live every day to recreate ourselves, to innovate every day because now business is becoming very challenging, especially during Covid-19, so we really need to be extremely innovative.
Madiha Raslan, President at Women Leaders Council of Lebanon
Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri: Your formative years really create the entirety of your personality, so the fact that we are able to explore different, multiple options for a career from a very, very early stage of life is extremely important. Exploring different sectors and the fact that we are able to constantly invest in intellectual advancement, helps us determine what path we want to choose. Mentoring is extremely important – an experienced person with similar experiences can guide you better, so most definitely having a mentor really helps. Fortunately or unfortunately, I chose my own path when it came to building a business. That really helped me develop soft skills.
How do you develop relationships? People have to like you more than they like the product you are selling. This is what they keep coming back for. So, you have to be able to give them what they want or create a need.
The team is also extremely important; you need to work with individuals who are very like-minded. I like to work with professionals who don’t have a similar skill set. I want to let them have their own individual skill set.
Create a like-minded team, but they need to share your passion. I only like to work with individuals who are equally passionate and who share the same vision, because we need to grow something from scratch.
Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri, Senior Advisor, Royal Family Office
One thing that has defined your journey?
Martina Rogato: I completely failed three years ago from both a personal perspective and a professional one. I lost my job and I did a TEDx talk on it; on failure and how to be resilient, and I’ve learned a lot from my failures. It was a professional disaster for me to lose my job as I am and was very ambitious. Over the years, I’ve discovered that when an unexpected event happens and we have no power to prevent it, we just have to accept it. This is life and I believe if something happens in your life, there is a specific reason for it. This is why we should accept it and try to see the positive impact on our lives. There is a reason, so you should find the positive interpretation of your unexpected event.
For me, what I’ve learned over the years, thanks to my failures, is to be resilient; I went beyond my failures, with the help of my network and mentoring. When I lost my job three years ago, first of all, what I did was, I thought “Ok, I should find a job, so let’s share my CV everywhere”. In the meantime I had the chance, thanks to networking, to meet different women from different countries and backgrounds and thanks to them I’ve learned new things which my original job did not teach me – I am a sustainability advisor. For example, I had the chance to meet people from the digital environment, from sales, and thanks to them I have improved the competencies that I am using in my current job.
I have survived that challenge and my main lesson is on the importance of networking – especially in terms of sharing competencies and experiences. Before my failure, I wasn’t happy. Now I’m happy. So thanks a lot to my failure.
Martina Rogato, Head of Delegation Women20 Italy
The best piece of advice you’ve ever received and how it impacted your career.
Bianca Tudor: One piece of advice that really changed my life was: “never make decisions when you are upset, tired, or happy”. We tend to make decisions when we have an emotional breakdown and that is not a good time to make decisions. I also learned that there’s never a great moment, the perfect moment; instead you take one moment and make it perfect. Never expect everything to be aligned, because life is not like that – it’s unpredictable, so learning by doing is something I’ve been practicing. I’ve been succeeding by doing that. Of course, it takes a lot of work and skills to do, but I do things and I don’t expect everything to come into place.
You are always one step away from success, so just keep going. We have a saying in Romania that “we all know that the Earth is round”, so if you take one step today, another step tomorrow, in the end you will arrive at your destination. So just keep going every day, step by step, and never change the objective, just change your approach to the objective, or the goal.
If you take one step today, another step tomorrow, in the end you will arrive at your destination.
Bianca Tudor, Elite Business Women