Dr May Shana’a, President at The Asherah Foundation, USA
Please tell us a little about yourself and your experience as a female leader in healthcare?
I am a multicultural woman and a human rights advocate. I had more than 30 years experience leading large multinational R&D groups in Europe and the USA with Unilever, J&J, Ashland and Beiersdorf.
I lived in three continents and eight countries and had the privilege to visit a multitude of countries around the world. That background gave me a great appreciation for diverse cultures and their varying perspectives on how to achieve a successful and fulfilling life.
What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you and why is it so important?
I believe everyone has something to offer, and the sum of all these perspectives makes a successful, harmonious and enlightened family, town, country and organizations. To me personally it means a sense of belonging and having the voice and opportunities to live as one desires.
What has influenced your thinking around diversity, equity and inclusion and motivated you to get involved in being an advocate for change?
Being an Arab, muslim woman studying and working in Europe and the USA means that I have always been part of a minority group. I lived with the topic all my life. In many cases I was often the only woman and definitely the only “foreign” woman on leadership teams.
I experienced some uncomfortable moments, some unkind remarks and some discrimination over the years, but I prevailed.
I am involved because I can help other women/ minorities to navigate and succeed wherever they choose to live and work.
What should organisations consider when reviewing their gender equality goals?
Most organizations still have a long way to go to have gender equality in high positions. The best way for organizations is to be authentic and not defensive about the situation. They need to have a deliberate plan and access women for what they offer and not be scared of a different style of leadership.
What are the long-term consequences for organisations that do not focus enough on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace?
There are some obvious consequences for lack of DEI in the workplace, the major one is not attracting the best talent from all the different backgrounds which in turn reduces organization’s competitiveness and ultimately their success.
Any final thoughts?
I believe that now there is much more awareness about this topic around the world. There is a movement to remedy the situation. I am optimistic that we will get there.