Executive Magazine - - Special Report | Profiles -

Break­ing the glass ceil­ing

One woman’s risk tak­ing pro­pelled her to a part­ner po­si­tion at Deloitte

“When I travel for work, peo­ple ask me how I have the heart to leave my child, whereas when my hus­band trav­els, even my mother says he is suf­fer­ing to bring pros­per­ity to his fam­ily,” says Rana Sal­hab, Tal­ent and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions part­ner at Deloitte Mid­dle East.

Sal­hab’s ca­reer path had its own share of dif­fi­cult choices and she be­lieves risk tak­ing, hav­ing a thick skin, tak­ing lead­er­ship roles and dis­play­ing con­fi­dence are char­ac­ter­is­tics that have helped her forge her way for­ward. Her first job in the early 1980s was in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor in the Gulf. “At that time in the Gulf, ed­u­ca­tion was among the only ca­reer op­tions avail­able to women so I took it, though I did not see my­self grow­ing in that field,” she re­calls.

With 12 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion un­der her belt, Sal­hab’s hus­band’s job took them to Cairo where she de­cided to switch ca­reers. “I was of­fered a start­ing po­si­tion in An­der­sen so I went back to them and said that I would work for free for three months af­ter which they can de­cide to ei­ther of­fer me a man­age­ment po­si­tion or I leave with no hard feel­ings. De­spite the ob­sta­cles, they made me a manager and of­fered me more than triple what they had at the be­gin­ning,” says Sal­hab.

Three years later, Sal­hab ac­cepted a global post at An­der­sen, be­fore even­tu­ally mov­ing to Deloitte and be­com­ing the first woman to be made part­ner in the com­pany’s Mid­dle East branch. “Per­cent­age wise [of women in ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions glob­ally] that is noth­ing, but the fact that we got to shoot the glass ceil­ing is an achieve­ment by it­self,” says Sal­hab.

Her ca­reer — and her hus­band’s — in­volved a lot of mov­ing from coun­try to coun­try and trav­el­ing. It was a chal­lenge to bal­ance fam­ily life along­side her ca­reer. “I’ve had to call my mother many times, and she even flew in to stay with me in Geneva when there was no­body to take care of my daugh­ter who was then seven,” re­calls Sal­hab.

Sal­hab be­lieves her real value pro­fes­sion­ally is her prag­ma­tism and an abil­ity to be pri­or­ity ori­ented while also dis­play­ing the skills she be­lieves women excel at over men, like con­sen­sus build­ing and diplo­macy.

Through­out her ca­reer, and es­pe­cially with her role in Deloitte, Sal­hab has been an ad­vo­cate for women’s eco­nomic ad­vance­ment. She says she would like to be de­scribed as a coach and a leader who fa­cil­i­tated the ad­vance­ment of women.


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