BEIRUT: Caroline Fattal-Fakhoury decided to step outside her comfort zone when she chose to kick-start her professional career far from her family business. Willing to embrace risk, Fattal-Fakhoury embarked on a sales and marketing career at companies abroad instead of benefiting from the privilege of working with her family.
She worked for some multinational giants where she held managerial roles and leading positions in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. She was the first woman to assume the duty of the sales director at Unilever Levant.
“I did not want to join our company before gaining enough experience. I believe that making changes in life can lead to real personal growth,” Fattal-Fakhoury told Annahar’s NAYA. “Being away made me independent and allowed me to develop my skills and abilities.”
Following the vast experience she gathered over the years, Fattal-Fakhoury joined Fattal Group, the business that her late grandfather established in 1897. The Group is a leading regional distributor of premium brands operating in the MENA region. It’s where Fattal-Fakhoury occupied several positions before she became the first female board member, and the youngest one.
Having witnessed gender inequality in the corporate field and other sectors in different parts of the world, Fattal-Fakhoury took it upon herself to empower women and contribute to the global struggle for parity.
On her social enterprise, Stand for Women
What Fattal-Fakhoury accomplished on the professional level did not limit her ambitions. Determined to share her knowledge and experience with other women in an aim to motivate them, she founded Stand for Women.
Stand for Women is a social enterprise that promotes inclusive business and leadership for women and aims to accelerate their progress in the workforce across the Middle East. The enterprise’s mission is to create and nurture awareness among women, men, organizations, and companies to help them build diverse, gender-balanced businesses and instill positive changes therein.
Through her enterprise, Fattal-Fakhoury uses her coaching skills as a certified executive coach to explain to women that, “When there’s a will there’s a way.”
“Although several people might think that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, my journey was not easy at all. I had to work hard to become the person I am now,” she said. “I was strong-minded enough I could find a way to achieve what I wanted even when it was very difficult. Today, I try to transmit this mindset to the women I coach."
Fattal-Fakhoury was recognized by the magazine Forbes Middle East as one of the 200 “Most powerful Arab Women in Business” for two consecutive years, 2014 and 2015. Commenting on this, she revealed to NAYA that the said recognition encouraged her to start her social enterprise.
“The first time I was named by Forbes as such, I thought it was by mistake. But then I earned the same title again, so I asked myself ‘what does it mean to be an influential woman? Should it only be in numbers and rankings? How can I translate this into impact?’” Fattal-Fakhoury noted.
“The answer to all my questions was: Stand for Women,” she added.
Today, Stand for Women is known for its presence on online platforms. It is followed by 14.4k users on Instagram where rich and awareness-raising content is shared.
On the secret behind her success
“I put heart into everything I do,” she said. “I do it with maximum effort and sincere passion.”
Fattal-Fakhoury also owes her success to her mind.
“I am an analytical woman who has developed her competencies,” she explained, adding that she’s constantly hungry to learn new things.
In addition, she believes that guts, in terms of bravery and feelings based on an instinctive emotional response, played a role in shaping her professional and social life.
Fattal-Fakhoury is a mother, spouse, and professional in various businesses.
“Every woman should feel fulfilled on all levels. She should be strong, confident, and able to stand her ground no matter how bad or difficult life becomes.”
On women’s economic empowerment
According to Fattal-Fakhoury, serious work should be done to advance women’s economic participation.
“Unfortunately, it’s a global issue and a lot of measures need to be taken in this regard. We should amend laws, advocate for equal pay, impose gender quotas in the workplace and boardrooms, facilitate women’s access to loans, among other things,” she noted.
A recent report by the World Economic Forum estimated that the world will need 257 more years to fully achieve gender parity in economic participation and opportunity.
Fattal-Fakhoury attributed this inequality mainly to the disproportionate burden of household and care responsibilities that women continue to carry compared to men almost everywhere.
On the same note, she stressed the need for companies to aim for fair representation among their employees and offer them equal opportunities.
“Women make great leaders, just like men. Their leaderships are actually complementary. Both should be present around negotiation tables, and in dialogue sessions, peace fora, and boardrooms,” she said.
Moreover, Fattal-Fakhoury sees that women are leaders even if they don’t work.
“Leadership is not limited to the labor market and political environment. Women can lead their communities and families. They are leaders at their houses. The mentioned efforts, however, are not as recognized and appreciated as they are supposed to be. But hey, that doesn't mean that matriarchs do not exist. They do and they rule the whole thing," she told Annahar.
Welcome to “NAYA," the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations-NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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