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Pareto People - Kanari Kurayim

Is this where you thought you would end up?

I have always aimed to make a difference, by promoting a change mindset throughout my childhood and early career, and breaking the barriers when it comes to how society views women - both socially and in the workplace. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to do that, through my leadership roles in some of the most reputable Fortune 500 organizations in their respective fields - such as PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, and Schneider Electric. Where I was fortunate enough to lead the Diversity & Inclusion agenda’s that involved creating career opportunities for female talents in domains/industries never previously considered to be suitable for women. In addition to working on initiatives to educate our employees and surrounding environments, on gender parity and gender sensitization within the workplace.

I did not come this far to only come this far. I have been blessed to reach this point, alhamdulillah, yet I still have many more dreams I wish to achieve. My aspirations are limitless.

What do you consider your biggest weakness?

I am shy and somewhat of an introvert, believe it or not. Which remains to be an opportunity area for me.

As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?

The biased perspectives of certain leaders, regarding what are suitable roles/career opportunities for women to pursue and how we are expected to conduct ourselves in the workplace as female leaders, vs. how male leaders are encouraged to behave.

Who inspired you and why?

My mother, may Allah rest her soul. For raising us as a proud single parent, who chose not to rely on her family’s financial support and instead worked 2 jobs in Saudi Arabia in parallel at one point of her life, which was not very common at the time. I am also proud that she was the first Saudi female to join the Saudi Arabian defense attaché in London, in the ’80s, and greatly appreciate that she allowed me to start working part-time at the age of 14 in London. Which helped build a sense of responsibility and ownership within me as a teenager.

How do you balance work and life responsibilities? What have you sacrificed (both personally and professionally) at each stage of your career?

I don’t believe I have sacrificed anything personally; I am quite self-motivated and was luckily able to complete both my full-time BA degree and MBA while I also worked full-time. I am additionally proud to have raised an amazing son, who has also recently graduated from university.

Professionally, I did not allow myself to be mobile until my son went to university. This led me to reject several international work assignments, whilst he was growing up, as I didn’t want to relocate and disrupt his education. Whether or not it can be considered a sacrifice is hard to say. I believe family should come first, always. As Toni Morrison wrote – “You are not the work you do; you are the person you are”.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

  • Have a clear goal, if not, then ensure you at least always plan for success.
  • Define your leadership compass. What are the values by which you will lead?
  • Ensure your principles are clearly set out, have the courage to stand up for them and ‘speak up’!
  • Find and leverage good mentors.
  • Focus on the positive and never give up.
  • Give and accept support.
  • Network with purpose.
  • Believe in yourself, but remember that there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
  • Deliver results.
  • Never compromise on your integrity.
  • Maintain a work-life-balance – it is imperative that you give yourself an opportunity to reflect and recharge both mentally and physically.
  • Take a risk and follow your dreams, even if things don’t work out at least you won’t spend the rest of your life wondering “what if.”

If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

I’d try to come out of my shell earlier, overcome my shyness, and network more. Also, I would have followed one of my great passions, and pursued a career either in the field of mass communication or interior design.

What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?

My son Abdulaziz and starting work at a young age.

What’s one core message you received from your mentors?

To keep marching ahead and believing in myself, come what may.

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