Noha Hefny | Member Spotlight
Updated: May 13, 2020
Founding Member and Ambassador of WomenH2H, Co-Founder of She is Arab and Co-Founder and Advisor to the Board of LIT.
A devoted mother of 2 boys, an entrepreneur, always juggling work and life and on the go.
In love with meditation, self-reflection, travel, photography and writing.
Deeply interested in philosophy, human psychology, life’s wisdom, everything that revolves around purpose and impact.
A visionary and idea generator whose soul feeds on coming up with ideas that create hope and making a difference, bringing solutions to big and complex global challenges.
Starting my career as a humanitarian worker with the UN
Becoming a mother
Making it up the ranks in the corporate world to the senior executive level
Winning a leadership award
Starting my own business
The day I decided to be me and to stay true to myself and be authentic!
When it comes to the role of women at work today, what inspires you and what keeps you up at night?
What inspires me is the power and determination of women to excel in every field despite inequalities and setbacks, and the potential for us to create a more balanced world for the future generation.
I am inspired by the countless success stories of women role models that aren’t visible and by the possibilities to shine a light on them to help more women make better choices than we did in how they navigate and overcome challenges in their own leadership journeys.
What keeps me up at night is how I can raise my two boys in a way that makes them tolerant, enlightened and respectful to women.
What I think of all the time is the consistent amount of bias both conscious and unconscious in the workplace, the need for new and more evolved models of leadership that enable people to be more authentic at work and to feel more valued, so that they can unleash their full potential.
I am concerned with the challenges and tradeoffs that talented women have to make when trying to find suitable positions at different stages of their careers especially at mid-senior and senior levels or when returning to work after having a child as I do not believe that the current HR models and processes effectively address this.
There is a need to re-engineer human resources and move beyond what it has been in its traditional sense to a more disruptive model that caters to new realities for women’s advancement.
I finally think continuously about the need for more empathy and compassion in the world which extends to the workplace.
What’s your goal around that and why is it important to you? Why is that a priority for you right now?
Professionally it is to grow She is Arab, www.sheisarab.com, a business that I co-founded with a friend to deliver impact for women in MENA and to help highlight the success stories of Arab women role models. At the moment, we are looking for opportunities to match Arab women leaders with speaking opportunities internationally at conferences, to help bring much-needed exposure and visibility for their achievements. We are also looking to explore collaboration to co-create programs for women’s leadership and advancement in the workplace.
On a personal level, as a communications professional…
I would like to continue to inspire other women by showing them different possibilities, that they have a choice, that they are the heroes of their own journeys, that there is no limit to what they can achieve and that all answers lie within.
This is something I have discovered later in my journey after searching for so long outside of myself, and constantly working to meet others’ expectations of my own path. I would also like to continue learning and developing myself to eventually fulfil my purpose.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve personally had as a woman at work? How did you try to overcome them?
At work, like many women, I was labeled, judged, faced conscious and unconscious bias despite my talent and achievements at different stages of my career.
Whether it was my “young look” or “being petite” or my kind, high energy, diplomatic and empathetic nature, all positive characteristics yet ones that did not automatically gain me credibility at par with my credentials and made it twice as hard for me to further grow and to assert myself.
I was boxed as “too optimistic” due to my dynamism and positive energy, but that entailed not profit-driven. Another box was “too nice and too diplomatic” which meant “not assertive or sufficiently thick skin”, eventually I did it and succeeded but it felt more like climbing a ladder of half-broken stairs than the smooth journey the way it looks on my bio or CV.
I also sometimes felt unable to express myself fully in an authentic way. I had to push for my opinions to be heard, despite the success, I always felt that my skills were not utilized in the best way although I was over-worked. I always had to behave in a way that molds me into someone that I am not.
At home, balancing my role as a mother, wife and daughter with advancing in my career, I had to make so many trade-offs that have impacted my journey both positively and otherwise.
I also feel that when you hit 40 or even earlier on motherhood, many women are in a crossroad when it comes to their career and pivotal decisions need to be made, this requires courage, agility and an ability to adapt and be resilient to change.
I overcame this by embracing and accepting myself both successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses and powering ahead in my journey, following my intuition to guide my choices, and I am happy with where I am today.
I tried to stay true to myself. I had to shift my mindset from one driven purely by ambition to one driven by purpose and meaning, this was a turning point in my life and career.
I had a few simple rules that stem out of my struggles and learnings:
Holding on to my values, and having the courage to make some tough choices when there was no alignment on that front
Accepting and loving myself wholeheartedly and consistently prioritizing my self-development over all other priorities in my life. This is to shield me from toxic bosses, cultures, and to continue powering ahead.
Becoming more organized with my time to make room for everything that my larger than life personality wants to embrace.
Building a mindset of resilience and perseverance, knowing how to self-motivate so that I don’t give up on opportunities that matter to me.
Helping others, and always delivering impact to the extent that I can in every interaction. I made this my ethos and purpose.
Being financially independent is key at all times.
Who or what would have made it easier? What do you wish you would have done then?
More opportunities for sponsorship to open doors to new opportunities, steering away from the need for constant perfection, knowing that what I deliver is good enough, that I am good enough.
If the women mentors I had were less critical and more empathetic, less of trying to mold me into someone I am not, gave me more support to unleash my potential and leverage my strengths. If they would share more of their vulnerabilities, emotions and show their real authentic selves, that would have inspired me.
If HR and leadership had systems and processes and people who were more able to match skills with the right opportunities to enable my growth to better and bigger opportunities. If I could make lateral moves early on to explore myself in new areas.
More support and better programs for developing my leadership and soft skills especially at transition points from manager to senior leader and not just technical skills. A safe environment and better workplace cultures, where you can openly voice your thoughts and opinions.
I wish I would have believed in myself more, the same way many people believed in me. What I wish I would have done more is not to shy away from asking for help, to demonstrate my capabilities more openly and not to second doubt myself.
Many women are overwhelmed by the constant changes at work, frustrated with conflicts or disheartened by office politics, drama and draining emotions. What have you done in the past to help you get through such moments?
For me, I was raised to be diplomatic, strong, responsible, independent, results and solution-oriented, which are all great skills to have at work and have helped me navigate complex organizational dynamics.
What has helped me is:
Recognizing and understanding the dynamics of workplaces I worked at and looking at ways to adapt to the culture and in every place, it is different.
Being self-aware about my character and continuously reflecting on my own strengths and weaknesses and how I can use them in the best way possible to navigate difficult situations, continuously transforming and evolving.
Setting goals and developing a personal action plan, rewarding myself for achievements.
Isolating myself from gossip, always keeping my goals and end results that I want to achieve top of mind.
Being a source of energy, inspiration and positivity for others in challenging times, keeping a positive mindset when things are tough. Staying in a state of gratitude.
Constantly connecting with myself on a higher level to persevere in my journey, finding my purpose and staying true to it, making it my compass to guide my journey.
Who do you follow on these subjects? Are there authors, influencers, leaders, sites, blogs you follow?
Brene Brown on vulnerabilityOprah’s podcasts, shows and everything she says and does, she is my inspirationThe two mountains by David Brooks is a book that offered me a better understanding and analysis of realities I faced at workThe shift by Wayne Dyer changed my life and directionDeepak Chopra and Sadghuru for daily inspiration and meditationsRumi to remind me constantly of the importance of love, and my real purpose for being here
Do you participate in other women groups or communities? What have you seen work in such communities and what was missing for you?
Yes, I do, what works is the networking opportunities, connection with like-minded people.
What is missing is these groups being action-oriented and their ability to open and create real advancement, collaboration and sponsorship opportunities, also better ways to identify synergies between members.
The authenticity of members, discussions and commitment of those who are part of these groups is key to success.
There need to be more women willing to share learnings, vulnerabilities vs just success, truly digging deeper in the issues confronting us as women rather than tackling them on the surface.
Tapping into our collective power to come up with new and innovative solutions that can support us all and transform workplaces we are part of or lead.
Why is it important for women to be surrounded by other women and what is the role we play in each other’s lives?
It is important to have more women supporting other women, we all need to feel that we are supported, that we belong, that someone with a similar journey or with experience has our back, believes in us.
Often as women we all navigate life without asking for support, we go through experiences individually while there is so much benefit in learning from others.
There is great value in a collective power to make a difference and communities like Women Heart-to-Heart allow for that.
We all need a tribe, that can keep us motivated and guide our journey, open opportunities, pledge for us, promote us when needed, so that we can persevere.
What activities could we do so that we master together how to get back our zest, thrive on change, lead with grace and confidence and co-create the beautiful workplaces we all long for?
A safe zone to share issues and seek support openly on daily challenges in our professional lives.
A continuous flow of information and material that can help women advance professionally and stem from “Her” lens vs just an organizational lens.
Share success stories including turning points, vulnerabilities, challenges, emotions, struggles.
Integrate stress management methods including meditation, reflection sessions that do not require deep preparation and thinking and can help everyone destress.
Allow coaches and trainers on the group to support others through special offers to develop leadership, emotional intelligence, soft skills, other.
Start a sponsorship or buddy program where we each commit to support another woman in her journey.
Matchmaking members- bringing those with similar ambitions together to co-create future projects of passion.
Exposure and visibility- helping shine a light on success stories and role models through speaking opportunities, media or articles.
Share global awards and recognition opportunities and nominate one another or those we believe in.
Co-create and build programs that can benefit women’s advancement
How do you see your role in building this community? And is there anything else you want to add that you think would be helpful for us to know as we are building this community?
I would like to support as much as I can as I believe in the power of this community both intuitively and objectively.
I would like to contribute to growing this community, partner on passion projects of common interest, keeping this community authentic as it is really special due to the openness and authenticity of the content and people who are currently part of it.
👧 👵 ️👩🏽👩🏿👳♀️ 👩🏾 👩 👩🏼 👱♀👩🦰 👩🦱, apply to join our global women community.