This International Women’s Day, the spotlight is on the strong, inspiring and successful women, part of the BDD community. Their careers have not been without challenges, yet they have overcome them with grace. Their journeys have many ups and quite a few unspoken downs. Here is the first of three inspirational stories. Mariam Daher, Executive Director of Forward MENA, shares what has been pivotal to her success and the advice she has for the next generation of female leaders.
These are her words…
On challenges and overcoming them
“There are many challenges that I faced during my career, but two in specific, come to mind.
The first one relates to being a working mum. It has always been pretty challenging to balance between family, raising kids and work. This was especially hard as I spent most of my life outside of Lebanon with no support from the extended family. And whether we like it or not, women in the Arab world bear a bigger responsibility towards managing the family and raising kids and that is not always very easy to handle. I was able to overcome this challenge by first trying as much as possible to get a good support system at home to help me manage things when I am away. I have always made good use of all the policies which were made to support working women, and for this I have been lucky to be working in an organization which was very supportive of women empowerment.
Another challenge I had to face as I was growing in my career is related to not always believing in myself. It took me a long time to build confidence in my capabilities and to believe that I really deserved everything I achieved. To this end, it was when I became more self-aware of my weakness in terms of believing in myself, and I have worked very hard on developing in this area. I still have doubts, but I am definitely a better version of who I am today than 20 years ago.”
On what has been pivotal to her success
“I crossed paths with a lot of female role models during my career. These encounters have been eye openers at all levels. I have also had the chance to work with several empowering male managers who believed in the role of women and who supported women in breaking the glass ceilings and making it to leadership positions.
There is one practice which sticks with me that I learnt from a female role model, as she spoke about her journey. It is related to accepting not to give it all, in all aspects of our lives, every day. There are days when you are going to be a perfect mum and an OK leader. And there are days where you will be an excellent woman leader but not an ok mum. And accepting this will help you be authentic, real and move forward.
On learning from mistakes
“The list is very long however the top mistake is feeling guilty for the fear that I might not be giving it all at home and at work.”
On the importance of mentorship
“I always had mentors and I always seek to have new ones, at every step of the way. To me, it is very important to think things through with a mentor to be able to see all perspectives and make better informed decisions. My mentors have played a very crucial role in my success at both the professional and the personal levels.”
Her advice for the next generation of female leaders
“I think my main advice is for every woman to pave her path based on her values, goals and what she deems is suitable for her, and not based on what others want for her. Every woman is responsible for writing her own story and that is based on the conditions, values, circumstances, goals and stage, she is at a particular time in her life. There are no perfect answers, there are no perfect images to adopt and there is no one to satisfy but yourself.”
On how women support other women in the world of business
“Not being judgmental, respecting the journeys of others, opening doors, creating opportunities, as well as sharing experiences and best practices.”
On achieving work / life balance
“I would be lying if I said that I have specific regimens that I follow, to maintain a healthy work / life balance. Instead, I try different practices and regard it as a constant journey of ups and downs, succeeding and failing, exactly like our life journeys.”
On what is missing in today’s world, to support female entrepreneurs and professionals rise to success
“Though today’s world is much more supportive of female entrepreneurs and professionals, I believe there is a different set of challenges which everyone on the rise might be facing and not only women. The world is becoming extremely competitive and the development pace is extremely fast. Everyone needs to stay on top of things and constantly developing in order to make use of all the newly evolving tools to be able to move forward. One thing which I think we may want to lessen is judging others, which is a trend that has developed a lot with the evolvement of social media. And this may be very intimidating to women on the rise in their journeys.”
On behalf of BDD’s community, we wish all women a Happy International Women’s Day!