What Is Sustainable Investing And Why Should I Be Doing It?
How women can use the power of financial feminism to invest in a more sustainable future.
There’s no doubt that 2020 was one of the toughest on record and, for many of us, the toughest of our lives. But we can also learn from the experiences of 2020 to build a better and brighter future for us all.
One of the big learnings from last has to be how interconnected we all are. But at the same time, it reminds us of the glaring inequalities we face. In the same vein, 2020 highlighted that there are global challenges that we face and must solve together, as a united world. Challenges like climate change.
To do that we need to utilize all levers of change – this is where the money comes in. Money – or rather, how we use money – is a hugely powerful way to bring about change. Enter sustainable investing.
What is Sustainable Investing?
Investing is allocating money to something in the expectation of some benefit in the future. In finance, the benefit from an investment is called a return, historically financial returns. You invest money in the hope that you will reap higher financial returns in the future.
However, this has all started to change. Over the last decade or so, more and more people have begun to look beyond financial returns – more and more people are looking to non-financial returns such as positive impacts on society and the environment.
You may have heard of various terms, such as sustainable and responsible investment, impact investing or ESG (environmental, social and governance). These all have a commonality – the goal of achieving positive change in an area in which the investor is passionate about. And invariably, this will have a social and/or environmental dimension.
Sustainable Investing – The Specifics
To be clear, sustainable investing is not philanthropy or charity. Sustainable investors are still looking for a financial return but they seek other impacts. For the environment, an investor may look at what impact a company has on the resources that sustain it. They may look at the company’s contribution to climate change – say, Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG.) Or the investor may seek out companies looking to solve climate change – such as clean energy or climate tech companies.
On the social aspect, investors are increasingly thinking about how companies translate their role in society – for example, how a company treats its suppliers or the local communities it operates in. A sustainable investor would be concerned about labour standards and illegal child labour. A sustainable investor would also care about issues like diversity and gender equality within the companies that they invest in.
Why Does This Matter Now?
The harsh reality is that the world faces some pretty big challenges. Our air is polluted, so is our water, our natural resources are rapidly depleting, biodiversity is under threat. At the same time, about one in five people in the developing world live below the extreme poverty line. And yet our throwaway consumer culture means that every year if we put all that waste on trucks, they could go around the world 24 times.
We need to do something about it, and we need to take action soon. And this is where money comes in. Simply put, money is a construct. Humans came up with it. Money is used as a way to organise our economies and our societies. Money is not an end in itself – rather, it’s actually a means to create the world that we want to live in.
So How Do You Get Started?
Sustainable investing is growing – which means that it is becoming easier for us. First of all, prioritize what you care about. Ask yourself – what kind of issues are important to me? Then translate your priorities into sustainable investment beliefs. These are the guiding principles that spell out who you are and what you want to achieve with your investments.
Next, do some goal setting. What do you want your investments to accomplish? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to identify how and where you want to invest. Then it is time to get more educated and more empowered. There is a wealth of information and analysis out there so use it to your advantage. Even if you commit just one hour a week. Once you are ready, start action planning – what are the actions that need to take you for A to B.
Time To Take Action
Being a sustainable investor is about making well-informed, well-considered decisions. Perhaps speak with your pension plan provider about alternative fund options or new funds that may become available in the future that are more closely aligned with your values. Follow up with a financial advisor or your bank on investment products that might be of interest.
It can be daunting to become an active sustainable investor, but don’t be put off. Even small amounts put aside each month can be directed towards something that drives positive impact. It is also worth speaking and sharing with your friends and family – you may be surprised how much others want to get involved in the sustainable investing trend too.
Much of the research around how and why women feel the way they do about money management isn’t surprising to us women. According to statistics, 81% of women said they’ve personally been a victim of negative stereotypes – including about their investing abilities. And while this is extremely sad, it’s not surprising to most. I, too, have experienced this firsthand on more occasions than I care to remember, even though I am a finance professional with the experience and qualifications to back it up.
I remember how every conversation was directed at my husband when I was talking to banks and brokers about obtaining a mortgage. I’d ask a question, and the broker or advisor would proceed to answer it looking at my husband as if he’d asked. As a regional head of finance who was responsible for billions of dollars in company revenues, you’d think I’d be taken seriously – and that’s notwithstanding the fact that the mortgage application was 100% based on my salary and would be my liability! It felt like my gender was overshadowing my financial credentials and my experience. Of course, as a woman, I can’t possibly be the decision-maker or capable of understanding a complex mortgage agreement, right? Wrong.
So much of that bias is unconscious, and it’s present in both men and women. We, as women, often display this bias against ourselves. We believe the stereotype that women are simply not good at managing money – that we cannot control our spending and we’re not good at investing. This idea is widespread and spread across cultures, geographies, and generations. When it comes to money, there is often a canyon of space between our mindsets and money-belief systems. But why is it this way? Thankfully, there is much research on this topic and I’m going to discuss some key facts here.
How Are Men and Women Different?
Women are socialised to save money, keep it safe, and not be greedy. Our male counterparts, on the other hand, are socialised to invest, seek out ways to earn as much as possible, and be proud of their financial achievements. For men, earning vast amounts of money is seen as powerful and impressive. Because of this, women tend to hold 71% of their assets in cash and shy away from sharing what they earn or have. Men, on the other hand, hold 60% of their assets in cash and are more likely to boast about promotions and what they earn.
What I hadn’t considered before was our tendency to use our money to benefit everyone except ourselves. Studies have shown women use money to create a lifestyle in the present. We do that by buying the groceries, making 70% of travel decisions, and organising the day-to-day lives of our families. This is a different spending perspective from the stereotypical one portrayed by the media, where women spend all their money shopping and even need to be given tips to stop or reduce.
On the other hand, we are less likely to plan for retirement, buy life insurance, or be involved in arranging mortgages. In contrast, men use money to create a secure future. They take on the role of decision-maker in significant and long-term financial decisions. Ironically, we women tend to live longer than men and, yet, we are leaving our retirement security in the hands of people we are likely to outlive.
Why Do Women Feel Less Financially Confident?
Money is genderless, and it’s as much of a tool for women as it is for men. So why do we feel so differently about it? This is where it gets particularly frustrating. The divide in money isn’t just about gender pay gaps, there is also a worrying gap in how men and women are spoken to about money. Men are taught the benefits of investing, blockchain, and NFTs, while women are told to stop drinking artisanal coffee so they can save for a pair of designer shoes.
A study carried out by Starling Bank in 2018 found that 90% of articles targeted at females focus on small ways to save money. 71% encourage seeking out vouchers, discounts, and coupons to save money. 65% define women as excessive spenders, urging us to limit, restrict, and better control our ‘splurges’. Our male counterparts, on the other hand, are targeted with articles about the importance of making big investments, how to mitigate investment risks, and how money can enhance one’s status as a man. Furthermore, 50% focused on how to protect themselves from future harm, including financial harm from divorce. Is it any wonder that arguments over money are consistently reported as the number one cause of divorce?
Why Is It Good to Get More Money into Our Hands?
As women, we use our money to help others. Women invest 90% of their income back into their families, while men only reinvest 44%. When I first came across this, it surprised me, but when I sat back and thought about it, it all made sense. When my mother spoke to me about money, it’s clear now that she assumed my income would be used to pay for my family’s needs. She also urged me to always keep enough aside just in case – which I did, but I too had unconsciously internalised her assumption. My income went back to my family and, for years, I didn’t invest or think long-term either. It was a real wake-up call.
Despite how the media portrays us, we are more financially responsible than men. When we do invest, we are more likely to invest long-term, we are more patient, and we achieve better returns. Studies show women are more likely to invest in ESG and sustainability, so we use our money to invest responsibly and do good for the planet. We use our money to help our families and our communities, so communities thrive when women make more financial decisions. We currently control over $31.8 trillion in worldwide spending – imagine the positive change we can create with that level of wealth if we felt empowered to use it in line with our values and help others?
What Can You Do to Feel More Financially Confident?
Put yourself on the path to financial wellness by taking small actions that you can do now. What’s most important when you begin is clarity. It means knowing how much money you have, and then creating a plan for where you want your money to go. Ensure the cash flow plan is in line with your values, not what others or the media tell you it should be. Set financial goals that are true to you and then build your budget to achieve those goals. Make peace with your money situation and forgive any past mistakes – every human makes money mistakes.
If you’d like to know more about financial wellness, get your free copy of my Conscious Finance Coaching Financial Wellness Checklist here.
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.
Mother, artist, photographer, designer, self-taught coder, and one of the first female Emirati web designers – Fatma Hilal is something of a trailblazer. A student of business administration back in the 90s, she longed to be a designer despite being dedicated to her college course – a career that, at the time, was one only the rare few got a chance to pursue.
But after a stint in the corporate world, the opportunity of studying for a brand-new graphic design degree at university prompted Fatma to take a leap of faith – one that proved not only brave, but also visionary. Graduating with honours, she opened her own photography studio, proving to herself and others that was she great at what she did and could make money off her talent, too.
Following the birth of her first child, Fatma decided she needed to make another mark in the photography world and capitalise on her love for a recently discovered new app that everyone was talking about: Instagram. Focusing on flatlays – something that was only seen on the pages of glossy magazines at the time – she kicked off her journey to being crowned Flatlay Queen. Today, she shares her trips and tricks through her popular masterclasses, which are available in both Arabic and English. The Gaggler caught up with Fatma to find out everything there is to know about the art of the flatlay, followed by some top tips that no Instagram addict should miss!
How do you juggle both your creativity and masterclass teaching with being a busy mum?
Being a mum, especially in these times, I have to really find the time to be creative. Between virtual schooling and looking after the kids, every spare moment – be it 10 minutes or an hour – I really utilise this time to organise and plan shoots before executing them.
Why did you start your flatlay masterclass?
Since starting my Instagram, I would constantly get questions from my followers on how I created certain images, where I got my ideas from, and my use of flowers. I started by doing little interactive classes with friends and some followers in cafés that I loved shooting in (and had the right amount of natural light). From here, I was contacted by some big international and local brands and began to do workshops with them, too. I started to do masterclass videos, and also offer one-on-one video chats after participants have completed the course.
Do you find waking up early during Ramadan helps or hinders your creative process?
Ramadan is very special – it’s a time I fast and can see family. During fasting, my mind feels very clear. I design more, I find myself more creative, which you can see in my content during Ramadan.
What are some tricks you can share with readers to help improve their flatlay photography?
I prefer to use an iPhone – I think they are best to capture the light and softness that I prefer for all my images.
The theme you see throughout my entire Instagram feed is a white backdrop. I recommend white, grey, or neutral colours to create a high-end/luxe visual.
You should always take advantage of natural light – my favourite time of the day to shoot is 7am or between 4pm and 5pm. Put your flatlay next to a large window to utilise as much natural light as you can.
If you are shooting flowers and need to re-shoot or include them in another shoot, keep them in the fridge so they hold their shape – they will last much longer.
Watch the Video: How to Take Amazing Photos with Apps and an iPhone
You don’t have to go out and buy a backdrop when you start – use what you have at home first. A clean white sheet or white board is perfect to use as a backdrop.
Avoid bright colours – you need a studio light and professional camera to really make them pop.
Once you have completed your flatlay, walk away for five minutes and come back – you may see something out of place or decide to move a prop to create the perfect picture.
Take photos from different angles, not just above – sometimes you will capture the perfect click from an angle you haven’t tried before.
ALWAYS flip your phone upside down, so the camera is at the bottom – this can capture some stunning images.
Always place the main object you are capturing (a cup of coffee or pair of shoes, for example) in the middle of the flatlay. Use the grid option in images to place the main object in the middle of the picture.
What are your personal favourite flatlays?
I have a few – all for different reasons! On this shoot, I got to work with one of my favorite shoe brands, Manolo Blahnik. I also utilised different photography elements, included a model, and played around with different props and colours.
We had a shoot with Bvlgari at Bvlgari Resort Dubai, and this was where I got a chance to meet the ladies I had been getting to know via Instagram for the first time. It was like a dream to meet everyone in real life!
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]
In a world where women are still fighting for equality – both in the world and in the workplace – female entrepreneurs deserve recognition. As for the female entrepreneurs leading companies that are driven by a purpose bigger than the bottom line? Well, the word ‘heroine’ comes to mind. Whether they’re using comedy to defy stereotypes, helping those coping with grief, empowering underprivileged women through employment, or inspiring the next generation to help the planet, these women across the UAE are giving back in their own unique way. And that’s why we’re celebrating them on International Women’s Day, today.
Designer Sahar Wahbeh is the entrepreneur behind Dumyé, a company creating ethically crafted dolls that are made by underprivileged women and can be personalised to suit the recipient. ‘Karmic Goodness’ drives this beloved brand as, for every Dumyé doll sold, vulnerable children are supported through play, food, and education. In fact, each doll comes with a ‘Giving Card’ that invites the owner to discover exactly how their doll has given back to a child in need.
The LightHouse Arabia
Founded by Dr. Saliha Afridi, The LightHouse Arabia has offered hope, help, and solace to countless people struggling with loss, trauma, infertility, eating disorders, depression, chronic stress, addiction, and more. Most admirable are its efforts to make mental wellness more accessible through the likes of affordable check-ups that evaluate one’s emotional well-being and free grief counselling offered to individuals and families. Turn to its calendar of events, and you’ll also see support groups that cater to varying ages and concerns – all of them free of charge.
Mariam Khafagy co-founded Upfill, the region’s first waterless personal care, and cosmetics brand, in August 2021 in order to steer us towards natural beauty products that are both water-mindful and devoid of plastic. Soon after, the brand partnered up with Azraq and RECAPP to further its efforts towards a healthier planet. Not only is Upfill reintroducing coral reefs in Dibba to support local marine life, but it has also arranged for its recyclable tin packaging to be collected free of charge directly from consumers.
Al Ghadeer UAE Crafts
Created by Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan to empower underprivileged women through culturally inspired products, Al Ghadeer UAE Crafts trains and employs over 200 craftswomen of different nationalities and ages. Besides producing items that feature Al Sadu, a traditional weaving technique inscribed on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding because of its significance, the art of Telli (metal-thread embroidery) and Khoos (palm-leaf weaving) is also preserved.
With laughter being the best medicine, comedian and Dubomedy co-founder Mina Liccione’s spot on this list is a given – but she does so much more than use comedy to unify Dubai’s over 200 nationalities. Dubomedy’s Clowns Who Care initiative sees Mina and fellow comedians bring love and laughter to hospitals, charity organisations, and centres for those with special needs. Elsewhere, the New York native’s television specials like Araby by Nature and short films like The Shocking Truth About Muslimshave helped defuse negative stereotypes about Muslims amidst audiences abroad.
One Good Thing
Proving that gifts can simultaneously be stylish, high-quality, and socially conscious, One Good Thing is anchored in giving back. The company was co-founded by Bridgett Lau and Micheal Cooke, a married couple that set out to make a difference after Bridgett’s cancer diagnosis back in 2015 had her questioning her legacy. Today, One Good Thing stocks products sourced from far and wide, but the common denominator is a positive impact – be it planting a tree, removing harmful plastic from the oceans, or offering employment to a survivor of human trafficking.
Save Our World
Author Colette Barr and illustrator Leona Collins are at the helm of Save Our World, which raises awareness of environmental issues through funny and engaging children’s stories created to inspire change and action for a more sustainable planet. The Eco-heroes series of books features five fictional friends who want to help save the planet through recycling, energy and water conservation, reducing food waste, and minimising plastic, thereby encouraging readers to make positive choices from a young age.