As Head of Corporate Sustainability and Social Impact at MBC, Mariam Farag has changed many lives, and continues to do so with her outstanding work. Inspiring, award-winning Mariam Farag champions inclusion and diversity, and works on projects that serve the community. A real inspiration, we speak to her about her career, social change, and women empowerment.
You are now Head of Corporate Sustainability and Social Impact at MBC, but you embarked on your career some 20 years ago. How have things changed from then until now?
When I first started my journey the term CSR or Social Impact was not known to our region. The private sector and corporate scene practiced conventional CSR; it was sporadic, it was not strategic, not sustainable, without direct impact, and most of the time for PR or marketing purposes. However, the social impact ecosystem for corporates started changing a little over a decade ago. Companies realized that the only way forward is to embed social impact in their business model and goals, invest in their staff and their communities to create sustainable impact.
Why did you take the CSR road? Did you want to create positive social change through your work in corporate?
I was introduced to doing good by my mother at a very young age. It all started at the SOS Children’s Villages in Cairo. After spending a full day with children who were for one reason or the other identified as orphans and yet were happy, warm and content, I left knowing that my calling is to inspire and be inspired by real individuals with real challenges where I can somehow add real impact to their lives.
Over the years, corporations learned that it is both smart and makes business sense to start matching their social cause with consumer sentiment or what we often call, cause-related marketing. This simply means humanizing the brand. This matters to brands’ success because consumers are becoming more attentive and rooted. They are looking for the responsible brands, the ones that care about world issues and contribute back to the community.
What is your favorite cause to work on?
Children and youth, especially the ones at risk. If we do not invest in children at an early age and especially the ones at risk, we will never achieve true sustainable development neither on a local or global level.
What were the biggest obstacles you faced when you first started out? How did you overcome them?
My first stepping stone was working at the “National Council for Women” in Egypt. I remember it was a huge challenge to prove my worth and gain respect as a young woman. The greatest challenge of all for me is the fact that women in the Arab region have not yet acquired the right to join board leadership positions based on their merit. We do not need anyone to give women a voice. Young females and women have a voice but often do not have a platform to channel their voice and aspirations.
How can powerful female figures in the Middle East join forces and support each other in your opinion?
I believe women in leadership who have made it must give back to younger females. Pay it forward and mentor someone today. Most female fresh graduates and young students often need advice on how to enter the job market prepared. They look up to you when they see that you started young and built your way to becoming an influential figure in the region. However, they often see you as a skyscraper, hard to reach. Let them know you are approachable and happy to mentor even if once a month for an hour. Believe me, I have mentored young women and men over the past and continue to do so, nothing beats the feeling of inspiring others and seeing them grow before your eyes.
Gender equality is one of the causes you advocate frequently. What campaign or initiative do you feel made the most change? What are you proudest of?
I believe that gender equality is a term which needs to be changed. It should be replaced with inclusion and diversity for all. I have been part of numerous initiatives, but the one that stuck with me the most is Mashrou’ Amal “Amal’s project”. The initiative trains, develops and supports aspiring female entrepreneurs with the ultimate goal of being empowered not only financially but socially.
Do you see yourself changing your career path ever? If so, what would you do?
Since I was a young girl, I loved performing. I love singing, dancing, acting and the whole theatre experience. In fact, not many people know but besides studying and graduating from Political Science at AUC, I also had a minor in theatre. Maybe one day you will find me on the screen acting or filmmaking.
What are your plans for the future?
I don’t plan for the far future. I like to take it day-by-day or week-by-week. My ultimate goal is to inspire as many people as possible to work hard for their dreams, and never ever giving up. Leaving a legacy is my dream and I am making sure I work hard to do so.