I’ve been asked to write to women who dream of building great careers, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to speak to you about this.
Today I can say, without a doubt, that being a woman is a privilege. For more than 23 years of my career, I have been able to hold leadership positions at different companies and never felt my gender would threaten my aspirations and dreams. However, this speaks more to how great companies can be, as I know many women who are very talented – and who hold very high aspirations and dreams – do not feel the same way.
I have been able to be a mother to three children, a wife to my husband of 30 years, and a hardworking professional all at the same time, while also being "the first" to achieve many things of this kind within my family. Of course, I could not have done any of this without their support.
My husband has helped me tremendously. Success is never easy for anyone, and it required me to leave my country and my family. It also required my husband to quit his job to support me.
The running theme that I would like to point out here is support. As women, we often think we’re not good enough, or we suffer from an ‘Impostor Syndrome’ that encourages us to change our ways in the workplace. However, I’m here to tell you that, as a woman, you are everything you need to be. It is a privilege to be a woman, and it is the environment that must support us in serving our communities as mother, wife, and professional simultaneously. I know firsthand about difficult environments, and I always have managed to succeed in them as a woman.
Early in my career, I led an operation in Middle East markets for MetLife and was the first woman to do so. Think of arriving in a country in the Middle East predominantly led by men. Then, imagine not speaking the native language or any of the many languages spoken there, which makes your environment a sort of modern-day Tower of Babel and very difficult to deal with. In addition, you have no one to turn to outside of the immediate family. This might not sound like a very appealing adventure, but it took me a very short time to realize that no one labelled or discredited me for being a woman. First and foremost, we were colleagues.
No one questioned me for not being a man. On the contrary, they respected and welcomed my decisions with an open mind and trusted that I was making, in every case, the best decision for the company and for the employees. Being a woman was never a label I’ve had to wear, and I know I owe that privilege to having chosen to make this professional journey at MetLife, a company that supports you.
When I talk to my daughters about their future as professional women, I always tell them to choose a company that encourages diversity and always supports women during the different stages of their lives. Only in this way, they will be able to have a balance between their professional and personal lives.
No woman should feel guilty for wanting to grow professionally or for choosing to start a family. The important thing is that every decision you make is a personal decision – and that those around you support you.