“The goal of leadership is to excel, reach full potential, inspire and push other people up. Do not summarize it into a pursuit of positions and titles”
Rabat – On Saturday September 19th, 2015 Lamia Bazir was invited to speak at the Leadership Annual Conference organized by the Leadership Development Institute at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco.
Her academic, social, and professional experience is a source of inspiration for many young Moroccan women and men who gathered to listen to her talk and interchange ideas with her on the theme of “Women in Leadership”. Lamia gave an analysis of both the opportunities and challenges faced by women in their attempt to lead. Then, she talked about her own experience even if she is still at the beginning of her career, and finally shared learnings and advice with the audience.
Lamia started by articulating her own definition of leadership that goes beyond the occupation of positions of power in the economic, social, or political fields, but that really entails a capacity to inspire, mobilize, and lead others for positive action. However, she insisted on the need to still take into account figures -based on the traditional definition- to see how many women actually succeed in making it to top positions.
Together with the audience, she analyzed -through figures and graphs- how only very few women figure on the top of any professions in the world. Despite important progress, women still face challenges and a glass ceiling. Lamia carried on her intervention by scrutinizing the causes to this complex and global phenomenon that she categorized into two types: limitations linked to structure and agency.
Lamia explained that the structure itself can create obstacles to women’s empowerment and advancement. This can manifest itself in terms of a legislation that explicitly does not provide equal rights for women and consequently excludes them from certain services, power circles, and even professions. She also referred to unequal access to education as another key structural impediment that might prevent women from building the capacity and skills that would increase their options in life and enable them to advance.
Lamia Bazir explained that even if in some countries where both legislation and access to education have been improved for women, the job industry itself is not adapted to women’s needs and lifestyles and is often fashioned as if all women were single men. She demonstrated how work requirements, hours, and modalities are not always taking into account women’s life cycles –such as maternity- and have to gain in flexibility in order to enable effectiveness, persistence, and productivity for female workers.
For Lamia Bazir, to reduce women’ guilt and sacrifices between professional and family life, family has to be depicted as an integral component to female’s participation in the labor force rather than in tension or opposition to it.
She referred to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article to explain that unless there are systemic changes “women cannot have it all” Furthermore, she mentioned that women’s representation is key to break this cycle. “There is a need for more women in board of directors and executive committees to make sure that women’s participation and needs are incorporated in decision-making and translated into practice,” she said.
On the other hand, Lamia shed light on the soft limitations for women, embodied in what she calls “social and cultural inhibitors” that disable women to reach their full potential. This includes the gender stereotypes that create pressure and expectations limiting women’s choices and confining their behavior.
“This translates in some attitudes of women towards their education, training and careers that do not encourage leadership and advancement,” she noted.
Lamia gave many examples of social expectations that differ between men and women in terms of the facility to negotiate salaries, fetch opportunities, assert publicly, and take credit. Consequently, Lamia recommended the “integration of leadership modules in school curricula to encourage women to develop both the skills and the will to pursue leadership and executive vocations.”
She also referred to role models as crucial. ”Women in leadership positions have to be showcased and celebrated for their value added in Morocco, the Arab world, and all over the world,” she said.
Finally, Lamia spoke of her personal experience as young Moroccan female who undertook a successful trajectory in Morocco, France, and the USA. She explained that the reason she has been successful is that she developed personal knowledge and strength.
She emphasized how the development of leadership skills is insufficient without a strong personal project. “In fact, both women and men are always subjected to external pressure and inner doubts that would lead them to lower ambition and lose leadership assets; unless they have built the capacity to resist- thanks to a strong faith in their assets and aspirations,” she stressed.
Therefore, she advised students attending the conference to work on themselves, know who they are, their mission and role in life and to identify their flaws and limitations.
“This is the only way to develop the strength that would help them resist both structural and cultural pressures,” she added.
Lamia explained how women and men should do this work while they are students. “Do it now!” she said. “Now that you have a structure, integration, and a support system … because once you get out in the wild, it might be harder as you will be facing so many pressures, and won’t be prepared and equipped to face them.”
Lamia also insisted that leadership development is not a shallow process. According to her “the goal of leadership is to excel, reach full potential, inspire and push other people up. Do not summarize it into a pursuit of positions or titles that might make you unhappy, unsatisfied or defeatist… rather listen to yourself, know and cultivate your potential,” She concluded.
*Lamia Bazir is a 25 years old Moroccan woman and a rising young leader. She was a representative at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in New York. She earned diplomas from Columbia University, Sciences Po Paris, and Al Akhawayn University. Her experience includes political analysis for the Arab League, consultancy with Transparency International, and field research in Niger. Most recently, Lamia won the United Nations’ Award for Volunteering. Lamia is particularly known for her engagement for youth empowerment and her social venture “Empowering Women in the Atlas.”
 Slaughter, A. (2012). “Why Women Still Can’t Have It Al”l. The Atlantic.
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