Halla Sakr, Board Member and Managing Director, Attijariwafa Bank Egypt
What are your views on women empowerment in the region?
I believe that in our region, women empowerment is gaining more attention and countries are setting strategies as well as policies that help in enhancing and reinforcing women empowerment. However, achieving change requires policy and programme actions, which will improve women’s access to secure livelihoods and economic resources, alleviate their extreme responsibilities and remove legal impediments to their participation in public life, and raise social awareness. Historically, Egypt in particular has always seen women in leadership roles with contribution to the society at many levels; political, economic, and scientific.
Accordingly, the state paid attention to the necessity of implementing strategies that work towards maximizing women empowerment and launched the National Women’s Empowerment Strategy (2017-2030) that firmed the political commitment towards realizing women’s political, economic and social rights as granted by the Constitution. The ambitious goals and targets are considered as the accelerators for achieving the 2030 National Agenda – Sustainable Development Strategy (2030).
Today we are seeing women in senior public roles and CEOs of major corporations and financial institutions. We also have female ministers leading critical cabinet positions; Investment and International Cooperation, Health and Population, and the Environment.
What are the major challenges faced by women in corporate world?
Not just in this region, but globally it is well known that leadership roles have been dominated by the male population. The entry barrier for women to top level roles is higher than that for men and this is one of the main challenges that women face in the corporate world.
Another challenge for women is striking the balance between their work responsibilities and family commitments. It is a delicate balancing act that requires women to have a very clear understanding of their priorities and be able to excel and fulfill their life roles.
What steps have your organization taken towards curbing those challenges?
In Attijariwafa bank Egypt, we seek to empower all employees regardless of their gender or any other potentially discriminatory criteria. This practice has yielded a healthy demographic mix which includes 35% women in the workforce, and it is the same percentage at the leadership levels, with 35% being women in leadership roles.
We also offer privileges that support working women to help them balance between their personal and professional obligations such as flexible working hours and maternity leaves. Our hiring, development, promotion, and overall work practices positively contribute to their success inside and outside of the organization. Last year we had an active role in supporting the “Women Mentorship Programme” organized by the Top50 Women Forum in cooperation with the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and the National Council for Women. The program aims to increase the number of women in policy and decision-making roles across sectors. It mainly utilizes a structured mentorship activity to help females on both the mentor and mentee sides develop leadership skills.
Attijariwafa bank Egypt also adopts a 5 year CSR strategy by which it aims at accomplishing 5 main goals; Women Empowerment, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Youth Empowerment, Financial Literacy, and Growing Real Economy.
What impact do you think are women entrepreneurs having on the society?
Women entrepreneurs fuel social change and economic growth; they are the cornerstones of societies, they raise families who can uplift communities. The amount of dedication, commitment and passion females transcend to their families is tremendous. They help in shaping the future; they are actually raising future leaders.
Egypt women entrepreneurs from various demographic profiles are now dominating many fields from handcrafts to scientific research and innovation including Fintech, which we actively support. However, there is a lot more for women to contribute if they are given the right tools and guidance.
Whether through financial independence, providing for their families, educating their children, or enriching the Fintech world, the more you provide support to women, the more they can be part of the change and contribute to the country’s economic growth and prosperity.
What advice would you like to give to young women executives who are in the initial phase of their career?
My advice to young women is to find their passion and pursue it with dedication and hard work and never stop learning throughout their career. I would also advise them to develop a clear understanding of their priorities; and these are different from person to person, and to strike the balance keeping in mind to give great care to their well-being and personal maintenance. Also ensure that their gender does not hinder them from achieving any goal that they have their hearts and minds set on achieving.
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