The pandemic took a toll on just about every demographic, but it was particularly challenging for mothers. Yes, we may be living in the 21st century, but caregiving responsibilities still traditionally fall on women. Now, as in-person learning slowly replaces the remote learning that had become the new normal, more mothers are considering a return to work, but it’s harder than it sounds (especially if it follows an extended absence from the workforce).
Enter: Stefania Brunori, a brand strategist and coach who has worked with a number of entrepreneurs and well-known companies – Nokia, Techstars, and Startupbootcamp included. Here, she reveals why mothers should create their own personal brand in order to find a role suited to them and return to the workforce with ease. Listen in.
What is personal branding?
It’s how you can market yourself and your one-of-a-kind combination of skills, experience, and personality. It is critical to emphasise the role of ‘personality’. In an increasingly digital world, it is important to be able to transmit who you are online – what makes you unique and why someone would prefer to hire you over someone else.
Why is personal branding important for mothers who are re-entering the workforce after a while?
In 65% of the cases, a recruiter is going to decide if they take your application to the next stage based on what they see online.
When it comes to resume skills, soft skills are valued by recruiters as much as experience and practical skills in 80% of the cases – essentially, they must get a sense of your personality as soon as they arrive at your profile.
The high level of competition in the market makes it even more difficult to stand out. The sooner you can identify your uniqueness and how you differ from your competitors, the better. It will also be easier for recruiters to understand why they must hire you over other candidates.
Can you share a few tips to implement when embarking on a job search?
Self ‘audit’: You need to reconnect with your key strengths now that you’ve been out of work for a while. It can be beneficial to ask individuals you trust about the characteristics that distinguish you. This can help in the development of your personal brand, and you will know how to express yourself in a unique way.
Consistency: Whatever content you create needs to be regular. Sharing your main message in a consistent way builds trust in your audience and therefore in recruiters, too.
Visibility: We live in an online world, and you need to be visible though your social media channels. Some examples are by creating new content or reusing existing content in a way that shows both your personality and your experience.
Network: Reconnect with people in your field and collaborate with them to increase the reach of your message. You can have a specific audience that you want to target, but by networking with others, your message can reach a larger and faster audience.
If there’s anything on-trend right now, it’s inclusivity, diversity, and gender – the media is practically screaming at us about! Some may say it’s about time, while others may question what the point is. That being said, there is no greater time to be a woman and define who you are on your own terms than now. Be it a businesswoman, a female entrepreneur, a mumpreneur, or a solo sister – anything goes! However, does this freedom create stigma, confusion, or even judgment amongst our fellow female counterparts? If this question got you thinking, then I welcome you to the concept of ‘gender bias’. Let me explain.
Have you or a friend ever judged a woman based on her weight, job, fashion choices, food choices, or comments? Ever commented, “I can’t believe she did that/said that/wore that!” If yes, it could indicate that you may have a bias towards the female gender, which means there is an unspoken expectation of what or how a woman ‘should’ speak or even act. These ‘shoulds’ are societal female expectations that make women base their relationships on persona and conduct – all of which relate to the self. Men, meanwhile, typically base relationships on performance, influence, and goal orientation in the workplace.
But fear not; everyone has a ‘bias’ towards something, and this is indicative of our upbringing, culture, environment, job role, and relationship status. However, by being aware of our biases, we can come to a place of acceptance and therefore become open to building stronger connections that will benefit our personal life and career.
Women offer so many skills and, in fact, the new term ‘soft skills’ (which includes empathy, a strong sense of emotional intelligence, the ability to make others feel heard, and a sense of perspective) are all skills that I believe women inherently possess. And we have all this whilst taking on 70% of household decisions! We sound truly unstoppable, right? But it comes at a cost – USD 160.2 trillion to be exact. That’s how much money was lost due to gender inequality in the workplace. In fact, the same report on the cost of gender equality estimated that full gender equality can increase the world GDP by USD 28 trillion by 2025.
Companies can transform million dollar ideas and concepts into trillions by checking their bias and focusing on the strengths and the incredible skill sets that women can offer. It can do this by allowing flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, part-time working options, and female mentorship programmes that create a space for women to talk about their performance and collaborate with others.
Let’s now start small and check your bias to allow you to look at a new perspective. When you think of a CEO, who do you think of? A male or female? When you think of a parent, do you think of a male or female? When you think of the breadwinner of a household, do you think of a male or female? If you’ve answered male to most of these questions, this shows that you may share the societal bias towards one gender over the other. It’s powerful and impactful to know our mindset as it puts us in a place of awareness, collaboration, and exploration. It can also make our experiences and relationships stronger and more meaningful.
According to a study conducted at Cornell University: “Women tend to underestimate their confidence, whilst men will overestimate their abilities.” Another study found that men will apply for a job role with only 60% of the credentials, compared to women, who will apply for a role with only 100%. Here are ways to check your bias and thrive with confidence if faced with a job opportunity.
What can I offer this role?
If confidence or self-belief wasn’t holding me back, what would I do?
What’s holding me back?
What impact would I make if I had this role?
Why not me?
If You Own a Business, Consider the Following Questions:
Could the company benefit from a different perspective?
How gender equal are we in this company?
Is our team stronger in one gender than the other?
What gaps need filling when it comes to gender equality?
These small insights and perspectives can offer a host of knowledge about what sets us back. Remember ladies, we all are worthy of achieving our goals and dreams – and 2022 is truly our time – so be proud, make a stand, and show the world who you truly are. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “I was once afraid of people saying, ‘Who does she think she is?’ Now I have the courage to say, ‘This is who I am.'”
My life today is barely recognisable. Having worked in the corporate field all my career to being an entrepreneur today, I have to admit that this path is full of unexpected twists and turns, highs and lows – and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted!
During a trip to Thailand to confront my fears, I sat down and started writing on a blank page, At the top, I wrote the following words: Authenticity, Voice, Freedom, Expression, Integrity. These were values that I live by and they became the ones I poured into my business, the WILD network, which is now reflected in my brand. I wrote the business plan in April and picked a date in mid-July for WILD’s first live event. I didn’t worry about the how; I just worked backwards.
It’s amazing how things all come together and the right people pop up at the right time to support you when you simply cast a vision and let it happen. It’s as though the universe is conspiring to assist you. I launched on a shoestring budget and the very first venue only cost me AED 600 as the owner was kind enough to support me. So believe me when I tell you, the universe has your back!
Now, when people ask me how I did it, it makes me recall my process of visioning and not worrying about the how. It’s about placing one brick at a time, not letting it overwhelm you, and having a deep sense of belief that you can do it – this is how you can turn the imagined into reality.
We place so many restrictions limitations, doubts, and fears on ourselves and this often comes as a result of societal conditioning or cues we pick up from others. An example: a few years ago, I asked a friend about doing an evening event in Dubai. Her view was that it wouldn’t catch on, people wouldn’t pay, and it would be a waste of time. That was her view from her limited belief, and I took on her belief and followed her advice.
A few years passed, and I changed my mind and decided to go ahead with the challenge – I even charged double of what I’d originally mentioned to her for the tickets. And guess what? It sold out immediately! Don’t get me wrong, she didn’t say it out of malice. She merely had her own limiting beliefs as she’d never done an event before and wasn’t best suited to advise me on it. I know it might sound easier said than done, and in some respects it is. But to vision and create is about getting out of your own way, aligning your vision with your values, and learning to trust your gut instinct. Here are my three tips for casting a vision.
Tip 1: Think about what you want to create.
Play it out in your mind and get it on paper. Try to draw it or write down some notes. Don’t worry about how it will happen. It’s only when we think of every detail and start getting anxious that procrastination and feeling overwhelmed sets in. Set a date in the future and work backwards.
Tip 2: Self-belief is key!
Know deep down in your core that you can achieve anything and build unwavering faith and grit as you go. You need to push past your comfort zone in order to achieve something new. Having the right support is also essential. This can mean finding a coach, a mentor, or even investing in a course that will give you the skills to be able to reach a new level.
Tip 3: Follow your gut and intuition.
We have all the answers we need within ourselves. Choose to rely on your own ideas instead of asking everyone else all the time. It’s okay to seek counsel, but go to people who you trust and have experience in the area you want to progress in.
Here’s How to Make a Career out of Board Membership
The rewards make it worth it.
Board service takes commitment and comes with legal duties, but gives you a chance to offer your expertise and guide an organisation. But let’s be real: what can you get from it? Why on earth would anyone want to give up their leisure time for more work (especially work that has definite legal ramifications if things go sour)? Every board director started with a specific focus as to why they started, and many who I’ve met have changed their reasons with time – nothing stays the same.
Reasons Why People Embrace the Opportunity
Being Recognised as the Expert
For many who are asked to serve on a board, doing so is like a badge of honour. A board member is usually sought after because of their track record as a successful outsider, with years of relevant and useful experience to bring to the table. As a board director, you are being recognised as an expert in your field and asked to share your wealth of knowledge to better the organisation.
Many find that working as a board director reinvigorates their interests in what brought them into their career and breathes new life into stale careers. This happens when you get the opportunity to interact and work with other people who are motivated and may work outside of your immediate sphere of influence – like at your day job. You might be supporting a start-up to grow and avoid costly mistakes or supporting a non-profit in giving back to your community – either way, you get to be highly engaged and personally motivated through lending your experience and insights. And who isn’t inspired by that type of work?
Increasing Intellectual Challenges
The duties of board directors are incredibly different from those of the operating roles that you would be used to until now in your career journey. Directors look at organisations holistically and eventually develop a more in-depth understanding of a breadth of topics that senior leaders have to contend with. These topics include mergers and acquisitions, executive pay, shareholder concerns, market growth campaigns, and technological adaptations. You develop and contribute in a way that expands your understanding of how organisations work and the process behind true strategic decision-making.
Powerful Networking and Growing Your Personal Brand
Being a board director conveys to other executives and thought leaders in your industry that you are an expert in your field. It highlights the fact that you have ideas, or at least that you can take a leadership role past the operational and are well-equipped to help shape the future of any organisation.
Being on a board highlights your qualities to other board professionals as well. It provides exposure beyond your current company or smaller network and allows you to be recognised by a wider audience of peers. Some of you may well be looking to make board service a long-lasting career and developing a portfolio of boards to serve on. A portfolio career is what we refer to when someone’s job becomes sitting on a number of boards at one time.
Some board positions pay you for your expertise. Yes, while most just pay a token amount, many corporate boards compensate handsomely for the expertise and advice that board directors provide. According to Lodestone Global, in 2020 the average director of a public company made $42,750 in 2020. And according to Veritas, the top range can be from $300,000 to $500,000 annually. If pay is increased on a salary side, this generally means a higher firm status as the compensation is linked to the increased risk and responsibilities.
Meanwhile, according to a Reuters report, S&P 500 companies tend to pay the most, with the average being $304,856. They have the financial backing to be able to recognise the substantial time and responsibility necessary to oversee the affairs of the company. Not all firms can provide this level of compensation, yet governance structures do make it public what compensation boards will offer their directors.
That being said, there is a huge discrepancy among the rest. Start-up boards typically do not pay a salary, and board members and advisors may be compensated in equity. For non-profit firms and school trustees, directorships are often entirely voluntary and the pay is the intrinsic rewards felt at performing the role and helping the organisation.
Taking Board Service to the Next level
For those who find serving on boards truly rewarding, a portfolio career – also known as a board career – can also become an option to pursue. Typically, it is when an individual pursues more than one board role simultaneously – not just as a source of income, but most importantly, because they enjoy the work as well as the flexibility and variety it offers.
Usually, a board portfolio can have a mixture of any activity that allows you to utilise different skills and involves engaging in various types of work, from directorship roles and board consulting roles to advisory board roles and governance board work. Being a board director takes work so, depending on the organisation you join, board service can be time-consuming. The role can be demanding and it requires staying abreast of the industry.
There can also be internal politics to manoeuvre and, at times, it can feel risky to navigate the legal considerations. Therefore, it is important to be clear on why you would want to start a portfolio career, what you want out of such a move, and how it will serve your interests. You can use a portfolio career to develop new skills, expand your industry influence, and expand your centre of influence – as long as you are very clear about what roles you take on.
In the end, board service is not for everyone, but if you think it’s a potential fit for you, begin by asking yourself a few key questions:
Does the work of that board spark a light within you?
Do you understand the role, responsibilities, and legal duties?
What can you bring to a board that is beneficial to the organisation?
What do you need to do to be proactive and prepared for such a role?
Does working on this board support your plans for the future of your career?
What time commitment is required to be effective in the role (both meetings and prep)?
Who else would be serving on the board with you? Who are you working with and learning from?
How effective is the board? And have there been issues within the board previously?
For me, serving on a board is a way for me to stay true to my purpose as well as continue to look out and look beyond. I serve in a mixture of paid and unpaid roles and, in the end, it is a service with rewards that go both ways. I give my expertise, time, and energy. In turn, I receive rewards that are fulfilling to me and align with my values. Be true to yourself and your values, and you will succeed. Being aware of the risks makes performing my duties easier as the ramifications are clearly known. If you have a need to serve, get out there. And if you know someone who you think should be serving? Put the bug into their ear, and help educate them to make the decision that much easier.
Money Matters: What Investing for the Future Has Taught Me
There’s more to it than working full-time.
The numbers are real. Statistics reveal that women, on average, earn better investment returns, save more of their wages, and are more consistent with their investment behaviour. And still, fewer women make personal investments a priority than men. Why do we, as women, not do more of what we’re clearly good at?
The Gaggler spoke to Angela Soudi, co-founder of Be Unique Group, a leading sales and marketing consulting firm in the Middle East. Having come to Dubai with almost no money to her name, Angela has experienced both highs and lows of career and business ownership over the last 12 years. Here, she shares her insights on work, money, and investing for the future.
You manage multiple businesses. What does money represent to you today and how has it changed over time?
My parents were working class – my mother was a nurse who worked nights and my father owned a small business. Both my parents were hard workers and, from them, I learned the importance of a strong work ethic. Watching them left a strong impression on me that I had to work hard for money and save money so that I could buy a roof over my head. I recall being surrounded by statements about money such as ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ and ‘we aren’t made of money’. So, growing up, I believed it was really hard to make money. There was no talk of investing to earn greater returns in my family. I thought investing was for rich people – not me.
As my business began to grow, I saved money – that’s when I started to think about investments. I am an avid reader and began reading books on the subject to see how I might possibly be able to leverage different investment strategies to make more productive use of my savings. Then, I started to look at the wealth management options available in Dubai in a serious way. I was still very sceptical. It took me six months to become comfortable before I could even think about handing over my money to an investment professional to manage it for me. I was never taught to look at the stock market or trading to make money.
After doing a lot of research, I finally took the leap with a high-wealth trading platform and put the minimum amount I needed to. It was when I started to see returns coming back from my original investment that I wished I had learned about investing and personal finance earlier. I wished I had acted sooner. My view of money is very different today than when I was growing up. Now, I believe that money can work for you. Financially, I am in a situation where I really don’t have to work – 80% of my income now comes from passive or investment sources, and 20% from my salary. Despite this, I still have an inner force that pushes me to continue to spend some of my time working and keeping the rest of my time for family and leisure. Somehow, ‘earning’ money makes me feel more deserving. I do love the security of my passive income, but I still go to work.
Clearly, your upbringing had a profound impact on your initial views about money. Is there a particular incident that stands out about your early relationship with money?
I went to school in the UK, and I recall a time in high school that carried quite a bit of pain for me. Every year, there would be school trips to different European destinations. I was never one of those children who went on those trips. And I remember the physical pain I would feel when the teacher would hand out the application for the parents to sign. I knew I’d never get to go and felt like an outcast. I’d make excuses to my classmates so as to avoid ridicule. My family just could not afford those trips. We were fortunate to always have food, clothes, toys, and all the other essentials to live. However, extras like vacations were not something I grew up with.
And then my experience with money flipped after completing high school. As a young adult, I didn’t attend university as I couldn’t afford it. My escape back then was dancing, and I trained and qualified as a ballroom dance teacher. I was the youngest who qualified and started to give dance lessons to earn money. So, from an early age, I was driven to earn my own money. I had a taste of what it was like to make money at a very young age. When my friends graduated from university, they were broke and I had money. The tables had turned.
You decided to start investing your earnings not too long ago. What triggered that move and what has the experience taught you?
I started investing in late 2020 after I saw my husband invest with positive results. My husband is a risk-taker, and he was actually brought in to help train the company’s staff. As he learned about the company’s business operations and approach to investments, he invested his own money. At first, I was suspicious because it sounded too good to be true because of the ‘I have to work hard for my money’ mentality that I was brought up with.
When I saw his financial status change over the course of one year, my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to know more. My husband educated me, explaining how the investment strategy would work if I decided to commit my money. Again, when I did invest, I did so with the minimum amount required because I was still so sceptical.
Tell us more about passive income generation and what type of investment you’ve invested in?
There are many different investments and strategies you can invest in, and I can only describe what I have invested in personally. I am what’s considered a risk-averse investor, so I am comfortable with taking on no to minimal risk. I want my money to be secure. There are many different types of ‘policies’ and I opted for a ‘safe’ policy. I’d rather have less income, but have it secure, than take on additional risk and have anxiety.
Now, I earn above-average rates of return annually from my investments because I work with a wealth manager. If you go to the bank, you may earn a 3-4% interest rate on fixed deposit programmes. However, annual inflation is about 5%, so that will wipe out any return you receive. If you invest in real estate – and I have – you will earn around 6-7%, which doesn’t leave much over after inflation.
The way the ‘safe’ policy works is your investment is held with a regulated bank. I provide a power of attorney to my wealth manager, and they are only permitted to withdraw 30% of my original investment to invest in a variety of commodities, digital assets, and other types of investments. The wealth manager does not own your funds; they are just permitted to trade your funds according to the policy you’ve selected.
What are the advantages and disadvantages everyone needs to consider before investing in passive investments?
As with anything new, it is so important to do your checks and get references. If you are talking to a wealth manager, ask them to put you in touch with people who have invested or request case studies. Another consideration that’s important is ‘time’ – the policy I selected is a three-year policy. This means I cannot access the original investment for three years. You can do a two-year policy. Whatever policy duration you choose, make sure you can do without the investment amount for that period. And as with any business, check that the wealth manager or firm is licensed.
How has passive income generation changed your life?
Aside from the material gain, I have benefitted from not needing to work if I don’t want to – passive income has allowed me the ability to care for my mother. My mother had a brain haemorrhage a while ago and therefore needs round-the-clock care. I am able to pay a family member to care for her full-time in her own home because of the passive income that my investments generate.
This has also allowed me to have more free time to spend with my young children because I am not worrying about spending all my time ‘earning’ money. Growing up, I had this mindset that money causes bad things to happen. However, my experience has shown me firsthand that I’m able to help more people and do positive things with money. Good people will do good things with money.
You’re passionate about women improving their financial literacy and leveraging investments to achieve their personal finance goals. Why is this important to you?
We live in a society whose foundation is based on the most unsaid rule – women start their careers, then get married, start a family, and are put into the role of primary caregiver overnight. Whilst I was happy to step into that role and raise my two boys, my financial identity changed completely because I was pulled in many different directions as a mother.
This new role didn’t allow for me to keep the high-intensity work schedule that I had before children. Having the ability to put my savings towards investments that generate passive income I can comfortably live off is such a relief and allows me to work, raise my children, and live my life. I want more women to know that they, too, can feel this level of ‘freedom’ by taking small steps towards applying their savings to uses that can generate better results in the long term. It is so important for women to focus on financial literacy and explore different financial options.
I feel women are fearful of taking that step towards securing their financial future by exploring investments, and I want to help remove those fears. A Barclays Wealth Management study found that female investors experienced better results than men because women are more astute, do more research, and are more consistent. However, today, there are still less women investing for their financial future than men. This narrative needs to change.
What advice would you give your younger self about money?
Invest in financial literacy. Save sooner, save more. Understand compound growth. This last point is the most important I feel. Albert Einstein said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.” Money makes money. I wish I had known – and understood – the power of compound growth in my younger days.
What’s one thing about money that every woman should know?
Women need to see money as energy. When we have negative blocks in our mindset about money, it will not flow. Studies show that 99% of the beliefs we hold as adults are from childhood, so I feel it’s really important for women to work on their money blocks and create new positive beliefs related to money for their financial security.
Visit www.instagram.com/angelasoudiofficialto learn more about Angela’s personal finance journey. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice. The views expressed are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of The Gaggler.
Let’s Delve into the Inner Workings of Board Membership
The nuts and bolts of it all.
The basic structure of a board of directors varies depending on the needs of the organisation and any specialties within a specific industry, such as its regulatory environment. You can have boards as large as 30 members (non-profit boards) or as small as nine members (typical for a Russell 3000 company).
The number of directors on any organisation’s board depends on the needs of the organisation and is mandated within the bylaws. If a board is too small, members are stretched thin. If it’s too large, it can be challenging for the board to operate as a group. This means that every organisation needs to determine what’s optima in order to ensure that the board serves to help – not hinder – performance.
What Are Bylaws?
At the top line level, the bylaws of an organisation outline:
How many board members are required
The method for electing new members
Frequency of board meetings and meeting rules
Specific voting rights
Officer positions and responsibilities
As boards represent the shareholders and owners of the organisation, it is understood that their role is to act within the best interests of these stakeholders. If you are going to serve on a board, you should consider what size of team you are comfortable working with. Do you prefer a small knit team or a larger board where you have greater exposure?
To strike a balance between the internal requirements and external expectations, it is usual for a board to have both internal organisation members and external members – the latter being brought in for their skills and/or specific industry expertise. To be able to effectively guide the board on decision-making, a well-managed board will have a board skills matrix in place.
What Is a Board Skills Matrix?
This matrix lays out the skill requirements that the board believes it should have, and helps in the recruitment process by managing the required skills, characteristics, and capabilities when a board is replacing a member or expanding the organisation’s board structure. In recent years, many boards have been tasked to develop new parameters aimed at developing more diversity and attracting participation from people who represent the wider customer base served by the organisation.
Diversity is bigger than just gender and race. It includes culture, age, education, socio-economic status, and especially mindset. With rich and relevant board dynamics, boards will be better able to meet the needs of their customers, relate to their pain points, and support improved performance. In general, boards benefit from including individuals with a broad mix of leadership skills, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.
Why Do Boards Require Team Effort?
Serving on a board of directors is a team effort. It takes the right attitude, the right level of commitment, and the right mix of personalities. As a collective effort, everyone has a vital role in getting it right. Good board governance includes having clearly defined roles and responsibilities, usually through a job description.
It also involves regularly scheduled reviews of member recruitment and activity to ensure the board is running smoothly and staying focused on tasks, and that every member is living up to their fiduciary duties (i.e. their commitment to act in the organisation’s best interests). Directors who hold particular roles on the board also carry additional responsibilities. There are a number of common board roles, with specific responsibilities associated with each. Examples include:
The President or Chairperson is responsible for leading the board and usually works most closely with the CEO of the organisation.
The Vice President of the board is responsible for specific assignments from the board chair and will assume the role of President when he/she isn’t available.
The Secretary prepares and maintains important records, such as meeting minutes and committee reports.
The Treasurer has the responsibility of monitoring finances, and may work with other board members to develop financial plans.
Why Is It Important for Directors to Know Their Fiduciary Duties?
Many at times, when appointed to a directorship of an organisation, people are taken up with their director responsibilities and are often unaware of their fiduciary duty obligations. On a high level, fiduciary duties require board members to stay objective, unselfish, responsible, honest, trustworthy, and efficient.
Any breach of fiduciary responsibilities could have devastating implications – including both collective and personal liabilities for the board directors. It is very important, therefore, that directors know what their duties are and what is expected of them at all times throughout the decision-making process during their time as board members, as there are possible legal ramifications.
A board director who is diligent about their fiduciary duties helps to protect the organisation’s reputation. The word ‘fiduciary’ is all about trust and, under corporate governance law, that is what’s required of directors. Specifically, there are three key duties that every board member must adhere to:
Duty of Care
Duty of Loyalty
Duty of Good Faith
They may sound pretty simple, but each carries its own legal requirements.
1. Duty of Care
The duty of care refers to the process and manner in which boards make decisions concerning the future of the organisation. This duty focuses on the need to be thorough, with a need to investigate and research any potential impact of decisions made. It seems straightforward, but given that an organisation has a responsibility of continuity – and a duty to take future strategy, goals, and vision into account – it could prove disastrous if the decision made today is short-sighted.
2. Duty of Loyalty
This is the duty to never let any outside interests, personal affiliations, or allegiances interfere with their responsibility as a director. Board members are expected to not engage with personal or professional dealings that put their self-interest or that of another person/business above the interest of the organisation.
To shed some light on what this could look like, some of the ways this has burned directors in the past include gaining secret profit that belongs to the organisation, competing directly with the organisation, or using their position to deal directly with the organisation as a vendor or partner.
3. Duty of Good Faith
The duty of good faith implies that after members have explored all options related to a decision, they must choose the one that they believe best serves the interests of shareholders. According to Cornell Law School: “A violation of the duty of good faith may include an intentional derelict in the usual duties of a director or officer, intentionally acting for a purpose other than the benefit of the corporation or intentionally violating the law.”
These duties sound clear enough, but they are generally based on law, and if a director chose to follow a path that they truly believed was the best option for the business, the law protects them from liability. There are circumstances that make a director liable to the corporation and, sometimes, to its creditors, shareholders, or other people for any losses caused by their inability or failure to exercise due care. A director typically breaches their duty in one of two ways: they may commit overt acts that constitute mismanagement or simply just not to act on important topics, which can also be construed as a failure to direct.
These legal responsibilities are also why a number of people shy away from board service. Yet, if you are acting with good faith and fulfilling your duties, there’s nothing to shy away from. It is also another key reason to stay on top of reviewing the minutes of every board meeting. If you are absent, you want to be aware of what happened in your absence. And if you were there, you want your input and objections officially noted. Serving on a board is a privilege – and with every privilege, comes responsibilities.
I often get asked why I left my 19-year career behind to do what I do now. The answer is complicated and multifaceted. I had a successful career in finance. I was paid very well and, from the outside, it looked like I had it all. But the truth is that I was constantly exhausted, and eventually realised that I didn’t feel content. I wasn’t happy and I wanted more from life. I wanted a life where I felt like me again, and I wanted to do something meaningful. So, I left the high paying corporate finance career that I’d worked so hard for – and entered the world of entrepreneurship.
I started by looking at what I enjoyed about my current job and what I didn’t. Then I worked on really digging into my value system and what drove me, what made me happy, and when I felt fulfilled. Combining both my values and my skill set, I arrived at the concept of finance coaching and finally found my passion.
What Is Finance Coaching?
Finance coaching is defined as providing expert advice and financial education to clients and enabling them to feel confident in their financial planning and money management.
What Is Money?
Money is energy. It’s a tool we use every day in our lives. Money often controls us when we should be the ones controlling it. Yes, it is transactional, but there is so much more to it than that. How much money we have or earn has the ability to boost or knock our confidence and belief in ourselves. How often is income directly linked to someone’s sense of self-worth? How often do you feel judged, or your value assessed, based on the assumption someone makes of how much money you earn or have?
Money and Women
When I speak to friends, family, and colleagues, I find that the vast majority of people who admit to feeling ashamed, overwhelmed, undereducated, and unskilled when it came to managing their money are women. Studies show that just 27% of women say they learned to manage money or invest in school. 47% of women feel fear, inadequacy, anxiety, and dread when the word ‘money’ is mentioned.
And sadly, 81% experienced negative stereotyping when dealing with financial advisors, banks, or other money institutions. While this equally angers and saddens me, it drove me to finally find a career that I would not only love, but also make me feel like I am contributing something positive to the world. I could help others while doing something I enjoyed and believed in!
Money and Stress
Have you ever felt lost, overwhelmed, or inadequate when it comes to money and wealth? Have you ever felt others were born with a financial playbook that you never got? I hear this regularly. People often feel shame, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy because they are not confident with money, can’t budget, have debt, or don’t know how to make an investment – but no one was born knowing how to earn and best utilise money. This is something that I, like everyone else, had to learn through experience. Very few of us are taught financial life skills in school. And if we are, it often tends to be conceptual, rarely practical, and never touches on the emotional aspects of money management.
Money and Happiness
Too much credence is given to the amount someone is perceived to earn and the level of respect that person then commands or is automatically given. Money does not make us better people. It doesn’t automatically make us happier either.
There is conflicting research that suggests more income can provide more happiness, and others that suggest the opposite. Surprisingly – or maybe not so unsurprisingly – more income also does not always equal more wealth either. I have many clients who earn what others may perceive as a small income, but are more financially secure, content, and happier than other clients who earn much more. What is the difference? There are many factors of course, but a key one is your money mindset.
Your Money Mindset Is Everything
A positive relationship with money will allow money to provide positive experiences, while a negative relationship may cause more money to actually create unhappiness and stress. How do you feel about money? When you think about it, does it provoke a feeling of anxiety or do you feel happy? Indifferent, perhaps? If you’ve never done this before, your response will tell you a lot about your unconscious money mindset.
Approaching Money Management
I believe in putting money behind our values. By doing this, we set ourselves up to live both more fulfilling and wealthier lives. Personal finance is exactly that – personal. How often do you invest, spend, save, or take on a new job based on what others tell you? I believe we live happier and wealthier lives when we let go of the ‘shoulds’ and focus on what is important to us, our values, and what we truly want to achieve in life.
It’s not always easy at the start, but it’s so freeing when we drop other’s expectations, live life, and use our money in ways that are meaningful to us. When we see money purely as an energy source that’s there only to support us to live, then the stress and anxiety often associated with money melts away. I have often witnessed clients’ wealth increasing unexpectedly when they let go of the stress and anxiety they attach to their money. Suddenly, it flows more naturally and abundantly into their lives – often in the most unexpected ways, such as repayment of old written off debts from friends, salary increases, a bonus that wasn’t expected, or unexpected reductions in living expenses.
Do You Put Your Money Behind Your Values?
How do you know if you’re putting your money behind your values? Look at your spending habits in detail. Are you proud of where your money is going each month? If someone reviewed your credit card bill and then made a judgement on the type of person you are and what is important to you based on how you spend your money, would it be accurate? Would you be proud of it? If not, why? Why are you not using your money to live the life you want, in line with your values, and what you believe in? Complete this exercise with your values in mind, and I promise there will be ‘aha’ moments that will change your money habits in a positive and easy way.
Why Is This Important?
My ambition is to help as many women as I can, not only to lead happier and more financially fulfilling lives, but also boost the positive rippling effect that it can have in our global communities. I want to empower women to use their income to boost their lives in a way that’s personal and right for them as individuals. But it’s not just about the individual.
Women live longer than men, and studies in the US show women control between 70% and 80% of consumer spending – this means that women are in control of trillions of dollars every year. Women are also proven to be more likely to use their money to support those around them. Wouldn’t it benefit everyone if the people in charge of that amount of wealth felt more confident and empowered with this money?
Looking to start a new business? You might want to look into serviced offices. This alternative solution to conventional office spaces provide every business the same benefits, but at a fraction of the price. To help you turn your entrepreneurial vision into reality, we’ve put together a list of the best serviced office spaces in Dubai.
With two prime locations in flourishing business communities in Dubai, myOffice aims to provide unparalleled services custom-made for every client’s needs. Its serviced offices promote a dynamic and collaborative environment, guaranteeing increased overall productivity for any business. All serviced offices are equipped with first-class facilities with around-the-clock security, a complete set of office furnishings, and on-call support staff committed to providing unrivalled assistance for all clients. Additionally, payments are made easy as myOffice offers flexible monthly plans as opposed to the typical binding contracts that conventional offices require. Fast and easy moving services are also offered, helping you achieve minimal downtime during your relocation.
myOffice Dubai Marina, Level 27-29 & 32, Marina Plaza, Dubai Marina; myOffice Dubai Downtown, Level 3 & 14, Boulevard Plaza Tower One, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd, 800-myOffice, [email protected]
Established in 2010, WeWork’s vision was to create environments where both individuals and companies come together to create their best work. Now a global workplace provider, the company maintains its commitment to delivering flexible office solutions and is constantly reimagining how the workplace can help anyone. WeWork’s shared office in One Central is a vibrant home for teams of all sizes.
WeWork, 8th and 9th floor, The Offices 4, One Central Dubai World Trade Center, 04 566 5706, [email protected]
With over 150 central locations worldwide, Servcorp provides a wide array of flexible workspace solutions tailored to provide personalised corporate environments for each and every type of business. With offices that boast larger square footage than the industry average, clients are able to work in a stylish space fitted out with complete furnishings and a highly experienced receptionist who can attend to guests and phone inquiries.
SERVCORP, Emirates Towers, Trade Centre 2, World Trade Centre, 04 319 9099, www.servcorp.ae
With a network of almost 3,000 business centres spanning over 900 cities, Regus is one of the largest providers of flexible workspace solutions in the world. Founded in 1989 in Belgium and now based in Switzerland, the company offers a wide range of services ranging from office spaces to business lounges for companies of all sizes. Most notably, Regus offers Workplace Recovery services, an emergency workspace for employees when unexpected events arise.
Conveniently situated in one of Dubai’s business centres, OBK Business Centre offers thoughtfully designed serviced offices that feature modern furnishings, 24/7 office assistance, and IT support. The offices are fully flexible, giving clients the ability to create more space for newer employees. Similarly, scaling down anytime is permitted, too.
OBK Business Centre LLC, Level 20, 48 Burj Gate Tower, Downtown Dubai, 04 518 2555, [email protected]
If you know beauty, you know Mona Kattan. The Iraqi-American beauty entrepreneur is not only the co-founder and president of Huda Beauty, but also the creator of KAYALI fragrances. When she’s not making waves in the beauty industry, she likes to wow her over two million Instagram followers. So how did one of the Middle East’s most famous personalities get to where she is now? Read on!
What is the backstory of KAYALI?
I’ve been obsessed with fragrance for most of my life, and it has become completely intertwined with every aspect of my life. With the help and support of our incredible team, I was able to realise my dream of creating a luxury fragrance brand called KAYALI, inspired by my love for fragrance and my Middle Eastern heritage.
What pushed you to start your own business, and how did you do it?
My obsession with scents started when I was younger. I love how they make me feel and a lot of people don’t talk about it, but I firmly believe that it is a tool to increase one’s confidence. It was when I moved to Dubai in 2002 that my passion for it grew. I started to play with the idea of possibly creating my own label when I was working with a brand called Micallef as I was deeply inspired by how intricate its founders were with every juice they touched.
When I did start building my business, there was no doubt in my mind that I had to work with the incredible perfume house Firmenich. I loved everything it stood for – including how it works on sustainably resourced ingredients, which was really important to me and my team. So, in 2018, after having worked with my sisters on building Huda Beauty, I decided to dive into my passion for fragrance and create my own brand, KAYALI.
What was your vision when you first launched your business?
I really wanted to empower and educate people to use their own imagination to create their own unique scents – something that people have been doing in this region since forever. That’s why each of our fragrances can be layered to create a special bespoke for whoever wears it. I also wanted to make fragrances fun. I think that the world of perfume can be a bit intimidating, but for me, fragrances are incredibly personal and have the power to transform how you feel. This power of perfume is something that I want to demonstrate with my brand.
What makes KAYALI unique?
The community we’ve built around KAYALI is just so special. When we started, we really wanted to share our unique perspective on fragrance and how it’s used within the region, and our community has embraced it wholeheartedly.
What have the past two years been like for you as an entrepreneur?
The last two years have been an absolute rollercoaster – not only as an entrepreneur, but also as a person. I have learned to be agile and flexible, which is hard for me because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and a planner. Since the pandemic started, I was able to deepen my knowledge of fragrance and transition my simple love for it into further understanding and appreciating it. One big challenge that we faced was around the production of a fragrance, which supposed to come out last year. Because our factories had to close for such a long period of time, we had to move one of our key launches to this year.
What’s the best thing about leading your own business? Any proud moments you can share?
The best part has been that I get to learn so much along the way. I’m also really fortunate to have my sisters, who I work closely with, cheering me on. My proudest moment was when we created our KAYALI Elixir 11 in the summer of 2017. We had just confirmed our investors and we were finally seeing a lot of interest in the brand. It was such an emotional moment because people could see the vision that I had been planning since I was a teenager.
What is Dubai like as a place to start a business?
The business opportunities in Dubai are plentiful, and starting our businesses here felt really organic to us. Once we launched, we found that the regional community really embraced us – that has always been so encouraging.
Which books/podcasts/blogs do you follow and why?
I love reading. I pick up a new book every other week, but one of my favourite books is Me and My Higher Self by Bunny Michael. It’s full of love notes from your higher self in the form of relatable and smart mantras. I also really enjoy listening to Jay Shetty’s podcast.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by everything around me. I’m such a romantic, so a lot of my inspiration for our fragrances comes from past experiences. There’s so much beauty in different life experiences and moments, so I try my best to bottle those moments.
How do you balance work/family life?
I work pretty closely with my sisters, so work time often overlaps with family time, but over the years, we’ve learnt to set healthy boundaries to take care of ourselves so we can be the best version that we all need.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give to every budding entrepreneur?
Your decisions should be either a ‘hell yes’ or a ‘hell no’. Trust your own intuition – it usually steers you in the right direction.
What do you want to develop next?
We’re working on so many different things with KAYALI right now! We’re focused on expanding our collection, while looking into some interesting new formats for fragrance, so watch this space.
So you think a board position may be just what you’re looking for, but you don’t know where to begin – right? It is common practice to make your starting point an industry that you have genuine interest in or where you have experience to bring to the table. To be effective on a board, the industry, company, and market space should excite you as you will be required to read and develop significant background knowledge about all the internal and external factors influencing the success of the organisation.
It is also crucial to understand the differences between the various types of boards. Depending on what stage of development a company is at, the board requirements in skill and time commitment will differ greatly. No matter what type of organisation you are looking at, board members are there to represent the interests of the shareholders and support the management team. All types of organisations can have boards – from start-ups looking for expertise to help them get to the next stage and family businesses that are well-established to mid-level companies, large multinational corporations, and non-profits. In all cases, the board of directors is a highly regarded oversight committee.
The Different Types of Boards for Firms at Different Stages of Development
In the case of for-profit companies, there are generally private boards i.e. boards that sit on private firms. These can include start-ups. When a company is new and the team and structure are not quite mature, it is considered a start-up. In a start-up company structure, the board commitment tends to be quite detail-oriented and hands-on. Board members are called on for their expertise and contacts, and often asked to be very involved. It is quite common for start-up boards to ask directors to invest in the firm or commit to fundraising to help finance the operation.
The more the organisation matures, the requirements of the boards differ and mature as well. For public companies, the board structure is much more formalised. These boards will usually look for guidance and support from board directors, and often require that you sit on a working committee. The general guidance for mature corporate boards is for the directors to take a guidance and oversight approach, and be ‘eyes in, and hands off’ with operational matters.
A family business is also considered a private firm with boards. These firms will also have a varying degree of need from independent board directors. The special relationship with the board in these organisations requires managing and often navigating multigenerational family dynamics, where there is a strong emotional and historical investment in the firm.
On the other hand, non-profit organisations generally require much more time and support from their board directors. They need directors that are more involved in the day-to-day business affairs. Instead of being ‘hands off’ like corporate boards, non-profits want active board members who enthusiastically engage and influence the day-to-day activities of the organisation.
What Is ESG and Why Is It Important?
Boards help ensure that an organisation is well managed. In this day and age, that means a board that treats people the right way and engages in good business practises that benefit shareholders, stakeholders, and society as a whole. In recent times, the term ‘ESG’ – which stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance considerations – has become extremely important on corporate boards.
Environmental consideration relates to how the organisation’s practices contribute to environmental issues. The more thoughtful the consideration for the environment, the better. Often, this is referred to as sustainable practices. Social consideration relates to how the organisation treats employees, customers, suppliers, and society at large. Governance, meanwhile, is all about implementing clear, transparent frameworks and analytics supported by robust governance and operations structures. It is paramount for keeping the company true to its objectives and values.
In recent times, the importance of ESG considerations has ballooned. It is used as a key investment marker for investors, and ESG data is often used to identify superior risk-adjusted returns versus a business poorly prepared for the future. Large investors have pulled large sums of financing and firms for ESG reasons. For example, Blackrock is one of the world’s largest investment management firms with over USD 6.84 trillion under management, and has recently made strong statements regarding new stringent requirements of firms to take ESG seriously. Blackrock sees ESG as intrinsically tied to the economic value and long-term growth strategy of every company.
What Is the Time Commitment of Being on a Board?
Outside of committee work, boards generally meet two to four times a year – but this is usually just the beginning. To be effective on a board, you should read the board reports provided by the business leadership. These reports highlight working issues and the progress of the company. As a board director, it is also extremely important to stay current in your industry. You are considered stewards of the strategic direction of the company, and you are expected to know what is happening in your market and with competitors. Additionally, effective board directors need to take an active role in getting to know the senior leadership of the company and developing a good feel for what life is like in the organisation.
What Is the Right Board Structure for You?
If you’d like to roll up your sleeves and be an active part of the oversight and running of things, a not-for-profit board or start-up board may be up your alley. You will be called on regularly to help provide on-the-ground strategic guidance to the management team. For those of you who want to provide oversight but keep a distance from the company’s operational details, then a mid-level company board or corporate board could be your thing.
This would offer you the opportunity to leverage your strengths and skills from a distance. You will be required to attend quarterly meetings and perhaps sit on a committee. Either way, board service comes with a commitment. Every board will outline just how involved they need board directors to be, which provides every director the opportunity to choose a structure that suits their schedules and commitment capabilities.
Your career and confidence shouldn’t have to suffer anymore.
It’s amazing how one small comment at the beginning of your career can have an unprecedented impact on your actions from that point onwards – especially if the comment came from an authority figure or someone you respect. You see, we are limited by the stories we play in our own minds.
If we don’t spot them and resolve them, they become the narrative that plays on repeat and holds us back. Early in my career, I sold software in London. I had a female boss who was nothing short of a bully. She favoured the boys in the team, gave me menial tasks, regularly put me down, and reprimanded me in front of the office. Her overall leadership skills were questionable.
I will never forget the day she called me into the office and said, “Go and grow the Middle East market. Make it work or I will have no choice but to get rid of you.” I still recall the shock and fear that ran through my body at that moment. I felt sick to my stomach. My career and that job was everything to me, but she had tried to set me up to fail. I had never even been to Dubai before, and yet she wanted me to fly over with a laptop, all alone, and ‘make it work’ – or risk losing my job!
What she didn’t realise is that I thrived under pressure and, with the fear of being jobless, I had two choices. Option one: defeat. Let her win and become jobless? I think not! Option two was really my only option. I got a plan together, utilised resources such as LinkedIn, and somehow made it work. In hindsight, the task was unachievable and somewhat spiteful, but what followed was a beautiful ending. Not only did I make a mark in the Middle East, but my appetite for Dubai also grew. After a while, I left my old job and rainy London, and moved to Dubai. My journey wasn’t without its challenges, but now, eight years later, I have my own rapidly growing business that focuses on empowering women.
But how did I get there? Let’s go back to my previous story. For my first trip alone, I had managed to organise over 25 new business meetings. I think my boss was amazed. I was a business development professional and used to sales pitches, but not conducting large, stand-up presentations to groups. Oh, the nerves! My palms used to sweat profusely and my voice would quiver at first. My female boss ‘coached’ me (or in other words, bully me) in preparation for this trip. She repeatedly told me, “You will never be really very good at this. You shouldn’t present to or address an audience.”
The truth was that, yes, I was nervous and not that polished, but I was no way near useless. I needed coaching to be better. No one starts something and is automatically good at it! That one single comment not only smacked me across the face, but also sunk so deep into my DNA that it took me years to break through it. Imagine how damaging it must have been to a young woman carving out her career, how demotivating it must have been to hear that as I was about to leave for a foreign country. I am not sure she ever even realised the bullying she subjected me to.
The point is, I adopted the belief that I was useless at presenting and should never speak in public because of her comments. Whenever an opportunity arose in my career for speaking or presenting, I would shy away and say, “I’m not good at presenting and speaking. It’s something I can’t do.” That narrative stuck, on repeat for years and years, after that ordeal. But by working with inspiring leaders who taught me to believe in myself, I eventually overcame this limiting belief and, ironically, I now not only act as a keynote speaker, but also moderate panels and lead my own events as a motivational speaker. I even coach other women on how to present with impact! I overcame the limiting belief, broke the pattern, and rose to the challenge.
It’s imperative that we leave the past behind. I work closely with women to uncover their limiting beliefs, negative narratives, and the fear instilled in them that hold them back. Often, many women don’t even realise they have a limiting belief or where it first originated. We can drift through life not even knowing what holds us back. When I first sit with a client, I listen with intent. I repeatedly hear statements like “I can’t do that because…” and “The market is saturated, and they are better than me…”. In truth, these are stories made up in our own heads and from our past experience. This single-handidly will hold you back, keeping you playing small and not reading your full potential.
How can we take ownership of our lives and leave the past behind?
Try this transformative exercise. Set aside some time, grab a notebook and pen, and get honest. Ask yourself:
What do I need to leave behind?
Dig deep. Did a teacher make a throwaway comment about you not being good at something? Did a parent criticise you for not being good enough? Did an old boss or authority figure mislead you into thinking you couldn’t achieve something?
What thoughts, self-judgment, and littleness is holding me back? What stories have I got on repeat in my mind?
Once you’ve written down the answers, it’s time to replace your ‘I can’t’ with ‘I can, and I will.’ Replace your limiting beliefs with new empowering beliefs. Always remember, what the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. If you tell yourself that you can, you’re halfway there!
Emma Burdett is holding a WILD Woman Transformational Leadership Day this March for women who are ready to achieve new levels of success. Go to wildwomenlead.com to learn more.