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10 Things Every Arab Professional Woman Needs to Know

We asked 10 businesswomen, entrepreneurs, and influencers making their own way in the Arab world to share the one trick every Arab professional woman should know. From the positive ‘no’ technique to the relentless chase of fear, these are the secrets behind these brilliant women’s success.

1. Value yourself. “Value your time and don’t let people take advantage of your willingness to give. Value your skills and what you have to offer with confidence and humility. Value your wellbeing, not even changing the world is more important than that.” Leena Al Olaimy, Social Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of 3BL Associates.

2. Grit. “Whether you’re a woman, a man or a transvestite, the key to success is Grit. This is fortunate because unlike gender, talent, fortune, or good looks, this is one trait a person can affect or develop. Grit does not mean one should bang their head against a wall. It means when you hit a wall, try to destroy it, climb it, move it, walk around it. If all else fails walk along it to a new destination, you might just find a hole through one day”. Heba Barazi, entrepreneur.

3. Learn the Positive No technique‎. “Women have a hard time saying no and they end up taking on tasks and duties that are not necessary theirs and overwhelm them. Learn what is important for you and say yes to it. Everything else, say ‘No’ and in your mind say that you are saying ‘No’ to this X,Y, or Z because you are saying ‘Yes’ to your priorities. This simple switch from a negative action to make it positive, can make you a much happier and more productive and focused person”. Muna Abu Sulayman, Saudi Philantropist and media personality.

4. Balance work and personal life. “It is not only attainable, it is essential. Success is an element of a healthy happy adult, not an aim. Being balanced is the only way she should perceive to handle her life. Three simple methods are: focus, organizing, and prioritizing”. Rasha Hassan Abo Elsoud, founder of The Workshops.

5. You will have a love-hate relationship with your boss. “Even more if she is a lady too. Arab women professionals unfortunately compete with each other, unlike elsewhere where they support each other. Either learn to let go of the differences and embrace open communication or start your own business.” Salma El Hariry, Egyptian Strategist and Serial Entrepreneur.

6. Believe in yourself and in your talent. “Men are overly self-confident; women overly question their talent. Support other women and be proud of them, especially if they are successful. The best way to help ourselves is to help each other.” Hala Fadel, Chair at the MIT Enterprise Forum panArab.

7. Always run towards your fear. “Any time you find yourself overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety, look at your fear in the eye and do it anyway. Don’t let self-doubt hold you back. Keep pushing yourself beyond what you think you are capable of. Fear is a gift, an opportunity for growth –and magic awaits on the other side”. Najla al Midfa, Emirati businesswoman.

8. Don’t be afraid to show your softer side. “Vulnerability is strength and not weakness. We have been taught that in order to get ahead we need to adopt masculine leadership skills and while that may be true, women can alternate between masculine and feminine leadership skills and that is huge power. Embrace it. The worst thing a woman can do is put down another woman – celebrate and don’t hate.” Dina Sherif, co-founder of Ahead of the Curve.

9. Follow your passion. “Show confidence and resilience, and don’t let anyone or anything stand in the way of achieving your dreams. Don’t be scared of failing as failure allows you to grow. Build a strong network of supportive mentors and join supportive organizations. Make sure to find time for yourself and work hard to maintain a work-life balance. Support other women and give back to your community as this gives you a sense of purpose, gratification, and helps make the world a better place for all of us. Have an impact on your community.” Sana Odeh, Faculty Liaison for Global Programs of Computer Science at NYU New York.

10. You don’t have to do everything at once. “Pace yourself.  Be a mother and enjoy it. When your children grow up you can catch up on your entrepreneurial dreams. There will be time to do everything you want to do. You will be superwoman even if you accomplish your goals in sequence, not in parallel.” Rama Chakaki, co-founder of BarakaBits.

Be regularly inspired by bits about strong women, mental wellness, self-help ideas and ways to generally improve your life at Challenge 2 Change

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Valentina Primo

Journalist, globetrotter, and determined idealist. Since Valentina left her home country of Argentina, she has searched for ways to build bridges between cultures and foster dialogue. Her previous work in international organizations in Italy and Germany fed her passion for the world of development, while her 8-year journalistic experience in Argentina and Egypt increased her curiosity for everything that challenges the stereotype. She holds a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Peace Studies with a specialization in Human Rights.

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