From Passion to Signature, Hanane Benkhallouk(HB): Humanizing Business
What helped shape the woman you are today?
My diverse journey that took me across three continents that I call home, my successes and my failures, all the experiences that I have gone through, the people I interacted with.
What is the best advice that you received, both personally and professionally?
Listen to your intuition. Stay focused, but learn to let go.
Can you talk about a woman who has greatly influenced your life? In your field, can you name one person whom you highly regard and admire?
That young woman I supported to find a new direction to her life, after being divorced at an early age, and with no career prospects, accompanying her to convert her childhood hobby to a money-making activity.
If you could introduce one piece of legislation to further gender balance, what would it be?
Remove gender and family status from job application forms.
Can you name two essential components a leader must possess?
Empathy, Active listening.
What are your thoughts on Feminism?
It’s a sophisticated word that has been more of a label than an action, in my own opinion; I don’t identify with it, although I am told all the time otherwise. I am rather an advocate of balance between the two genders.
How do you define Balance? Why is its presence crucial and the lack of it devastating and how is it achieved?
Just like in the dictionary: an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. So, the even distribution of efforts, of rights, of riches, etc,,,to keep us, socieities, work environments, and the whole world “upright” and steady.
What has been your role in raising awareness over the importance of achieving balanced communities in general, and workplaces in particular?
The first step to raising awareness, is to create safe spaces for individuals of all walks of life to have a voice, to listen to their perspectives. After 10 years of fragmented initiatives, I just recently launched a platform that would act as a think-do tank – a community and an idea lab – to gather different ideas, and work on seeing them shape into solutions to bridging many gaps, in order to strive to create balanced people, societies, work environments, leaders, environment etc…with the ultimate goal of contributing to a more balanced world.
Is gender balance only dedicated to improve the lives of Women? Why is it important to engage both genders in the discussion and not just one?
The word balance means that there is more than one side to be balanced out, so to me I always define gender balance as an environment where men and women contribute equally with neither gender taking precedence over the other. It is important to engage both, because our society is made of both, and because diversity sparks different views and ideas, which helps with creative solutions to problems, be it in the professional or personal level.
What can the inclusion of more Women on boards bring to the table in any institution?
Simply more diversity and more feminine attributes which are needed today more than ever, such as empathy, collaboration, social capital, and risk aversion. It would also bring quantifiable added value in profit, shareholding and innovation, and there is more than one study by large consulting firms that have proven so.
What are the first steps that any organization or entity should take when working for more inclusion and diversity?
The first step is to work on the unconscious biases and the stereotyped gender roles – that many of us have – that were acquired through our upbringing, the society, and the different messages we hear in media etc.
How were you able to merge both your experiences in leading Sustain Leadership and Lean In Arabia? In what ways did they complement your know-how and expertise, helping you understand the positioning and representation of Women in workplaces around the world?
Sustain Leadership is about sustaining the leadership of individuals, of organizations, of all sizes and industries, and building sustainable organizations, and it starts with including all members of society and by tapping into the diversity, and – as I said earlier – creating safe spaces was important for me to raise awareness, and Lean in Arabia is one of those spaces.
Can you tell us about your recently-launched initiative Tawazoun and its main pillars? What is it that you hope to achieve through this initiative?
Tawazoun, which means balance in Arabic, started initially with the intention to shift the narrative of gender equality to gender balance, with the aim to be a think-do tank, that engages both men and women in the discussion of how we can together advance the gender balance agenda and tackle this issue in a fundamentally different way.
From the many lessons learned from the past year, if there is one thing that was confirmed and exposed by the global current crisis, it’s that the world is imbalanced on many fronts, beyond just the gender issue. Individuals realized the importance of balance in life, in work environments, in societies, and even the environment. Tawazoun expanded from its initial idea, to create a platform that calls everyone from all walks of life, to join hands in order to connect, explore, and share ideas, and to embrace balance for oneself, at home, at work, and to spread it to the wider world.
What is the Vision & Mission of Tawazoun? And to whom are you looking to reach out more through this platform?
Taking on a human-centered design approach, Tawazoun has created this initial space that calls for individuals, organizations, change makers, policy makers, and everyone who feels the need to bring balance to themselves, their surroundings, and the wider world, to share their views on balance, be it individual, gender, societal, social, or environmental. The insights will enable us to develop the platform in a more targeted way that will help us achieve the ultimate goal of creating a more balanced world. It is about developing balanced people today for a balanced world tomorrow.
Our vision: Tawazoun, together for a balanced world.
How can Balance be achieved in the new normal? And how can the current digital transformation support this achievement?
The digital transformation has and will continue to shape the way we live, work, and interact with each other, it is about integrating it as a tool, without letting it impact our life balance. Today, it is about being able to adapt to the continuous changing times, and to be at ease with ambiguity.
What’s next for Hanane Benkhallouk?
As far as the immediate next step, the launch of one co-authored book, “Women Who Inspire”, and my own first publication “Seeds of change” that summarizes my journey and my experience and presents my framework SEEDS (Sense, Engage, Empower, Develop, and Sustain), which is a detailed model for organizations to remain relevant in an ever-changing world.
I am on a continuous quest of growth, with a mission of positive change, which I feel has become who I am somehow to the point that I started feeling that my initials HB stand for: Humanizing Business.