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Q&A with Najat Benchiba-Savenius

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Najat Benchiba-Savenius, Chief of Staff - CEO's Office @Omnam Investment Group

How could you describe your career path in few words?

This is the culmination of two parts: pre and post motherhood. Pre-motherhood, I was focused on my parallel career paths of academia and consulting with the former really cementing a passion for linguistics, publishing and learning from some of the best business academic minds in my experience. Since being a mother, my career path has taken an unconventional trajectory as I have been very much child-centric in my engagement as a key stakeholder in certain companies, But having said that, as I now the proud mother of a teen, I have never, ever missed a single school, sporting, or musical event in my child's history and that was a choice I made as soon as I had my baby. Therefore, whilst hardly missing a beat at work, it meant I have a routine that is set with military precision, and I love that. Yes, I had not made it to the dizzying heights as some of my male counterparts, but how many of said male counterparts have never missed their child's school event, raised a multilingual, well-travelled family or even know their paediatrician's name? I realised 7 years ago, that I needed to launch my own business as an outsourced Chief of Staff / Chief Operating Officer model for Arab and Private family Offices as I had a wealth of experience from my time living and working in Riyadh, Cairo, Casablanca, Abu Dhabi, London and Singapore. This was a galvanising time for me. The Arab Family Office is a unique eco-system of cultural norms, investment appetites, ESG verticals and I am proud to say, with more and more Arab women at the helm with increasing investment appetites and robust decision-making processes.

What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?

Whilst I was at McKinsey in the Singapore office where I have lived since 2010, I learnt a great deal in terms of time management, servicing banking clients and the office dynamics. I was very fortunate to have worked during that time with Dominic Barton whom I greatly admired. My then leader was Joydeep Sengupta, who remains Senior Partner in the Mckinsey Singapore office to this day, and he taught me the most challenging aspects of my career thus far: which set me on a path of being a fervent and avid campaigner for women's rights at work, equal pay and Board diversity. On this, I have been privileged to have spoken on platforms all over the world, working with governments in helping promote and foster policy change. I have developed and nurtured chief diversity plans for many governments and corporates and have seen great progress made on a policy level as an enabler of more women in the labour force, better benefit conditions and of course, being able to mentor and guide other women. 

When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think?

I am very much a doer, driven by my desire to succeed and to be democratic and fair in society. I have sat on Boards and work with local committees for the betterment of society. Therefore, I approach life from a business and societal perspective and hopefully, nothing too surprising! However, a female colleague was not allowed back to work after her maternity leave which shocked me to my core that this had happened at a well-known consulting firm. I helped her through this trauma as she was also a bread-winner for her family and it really set me on a path of betterment for women, working with government to try and outlaw this and to educate women on their legal rights in the workplace. So in this regard, the surprise of this illegal manoeuvre did not win back her job but set me on a path for the greater good: and always only ever pro-bono. 

Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader / manager?

The best aspects of any leader, irrespective of gender, is a sense of authenticity, fairness and agency. Being wholly engaged with staff and colleagues is incredibly important, being driven to better them should be a key focus of any leader. Being an active listener is perhaps the best quality any leader could possess, coupled with accountability for the growth and development at work. As a leader, I want to encourage and support my colleagues to better themselves and have an empathy they can rely on in the workplace. I should also add that after 15 years of campaigning for Board diversity, seeing all male Boards, is becoming less and less attractive to well-accomplished businesswomen and this is great as we are advocating for change, accountability and government intervention at the policy level. 

Workplace reform is definitely essential as catapulted by GCC governments, for example which has seen structural and corporate reform as incentives to gain and retain women in business as the narrative is very much in favour of women as active contributors to greater economic plans.  

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