“Every woman thinks her company is the only company in trouble and that she is alone in a tough working environment, so when they hear each other, they know the challenges are everywhere.” says, one of the participants in the Corporate Governance Workshop hosted by AUC School of Business.
Within its efforts to improve gender balance of corporate boards in Egypt and develop women in managerial positions, the AUC School of Business hosted the corporate governance workshop in collaboration with European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on October 29.
The workshop was attended by 29 successful women in leading roles in family businesses, 16 of them are board members. The speakers were prominent women in different fields including corporate, academia and international organizations.
What made this workshop special is the interaction of the attendees, every woman was eager to share her story, her struggle with being a woman in a leading role in a male-dominated society. “It was really good to hear them share their stories so they know they are not the only ones, as a lot of times people think they are stuck in a bad situation alone,” Chantel Sabagh, associate for the advice of small business at EBRD.
The diversity of the attendees added to the success of the workshop, as they came from different backgrounds, age groups and different industrial sectors, including medical care, furniture industry, cosmetics, lighting equipment, and electricity solutions.
To get more insight we talked to some of the attendees to get their take on the day and on the challenges they face.
Rania Amin, COO of Luna cosmetics and daughter of the founder, “changing the company from a one-man show into a sustainable corporate management is a challenge… Also to convince my dad to let go of some of his authorities is a major challenge… This event is very interesting because I met a lot of women in a big position with the same challenges and problems, you feel like you are not alone.”
Dina El Sayed, business development director, Mohm for office furniture, had a different opinion, “I don’t think that a woman faces challenges in the workplace just because she is a woman, at least in my company. I am really happy to be here today because we are in a phase in our company now that we really need to start transitioning to corporate governance because the third generation will be joining soon and we need to get things in order. It’s an added value to be here today as I had some misconceptions about corporate governance that are being corrected today.”
Rasha El Kordy, Managing Director, Style Team for lighting, is the second generation in her family business, “to prove yourself and your right in the position you are in, is challenging … after today I think I definitely need to investigate and check our business model to find the missing pieces in our cooperate governance system to take things further.”
The event came to life after a lot of brainstorming sessions between AUC School of Business and EBRD, we talked more to Sabagh “after a lot of filtration we picked 29 women from the EBRD network. They are 29 attendees but not 29 companies, there are a lot of sisters, which is very good, because this is actually answering the challenge of a lot of family businesses, they might all be siblings but don’t know how to take this business further.” She highlighted that “Most of the family businesses that started in the 60s and 70s did well but today in this market the third generation is struggling or have different interests or don’t know how to communicate with the older generation. So they don’t know how to move forward.”
The major challenge a lot of the attendees talked about is “where are we going and where are we going together.”
El Dessouky one of the speakers was very impressed with the workshop, “such a workshop wouldn’t have been possible 4 years ago, because of the mentalities, so I am very happy and proud that things are finally evolving to the better.”
“AUC created the first Women on Boards Observatory in Egypt to highlight the importance of diversity and corporate governance as game changers for businesses in the 21st century. This is aligned with global sustainable development goals, Egypt’s Vision 2030 and the national strategy for women’s empowerment. We are delighted to work with EBRD and the inspiring leaders who participated in the workshop today to advance this agenda forward.”