Mariam Balfaqeh, department manager at the Abu Dhabi Executive Office, is on the board of Takaful Emarat after securing her seat back in 2021. Ms Balfaqeh shares her experience on Pathway20, an accelerator for aspiring women board directors.
Ms Balfaqeh says three elements of the Pathway20 programme helped her position herself as a board member:
- Technical training
- Coaching and networking.
“The technical training made me gain technical skills, to be in that boardroom, to be able to talk, to be able to negotiate and build alliances,” she says.
Mentoring and coaching is key to Pathway20, she says. “It is because of my mentor, Jassim Alseddiqi, chief executive officer at SHUAA Capital, that I am able today to serve as a board member at Takaful.”
Networking, she adds, is vital as it “builds the community that is going to support you long term”.
“Having that diverse group of people who you can reach out to and [who can] guide you through some of the questions, difficulties or uncertainties that you will face [in] being a board member is very important. Everyone is willing to help.”
“One thing I would tell women who are aspiring to be board members is to find their voice.”
Mariam Balfaqeh, board member of Takaful Emarat and Pathway20 graduate
In the next 20 years, says Ms Balfaqeh, boardrooms are going to be “very diverse” in terms of age, experience and background.
“What’s important is the unique point of view that they bring. There is room for everyone at the table.”
And she shares advice for aspiring women: find their voice.
“For me, the first board meeting was a bit challenging, but I quickly learned that I need to allow myself the space to learn that it is okay to ask for help – and it is okay to leverage your network for that help.”