Since October 2011, Dr. Hala H. El Said has been the Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Political Science (FEPS) at Cairo University, as well as Professor of Economics at FEPS. Dr. El Said boasts a very impressive and long resume; she proudly served as an Advisor to the Governor of Central Bank of Egypt and Executive Director of the Egyptian Banking Institute (EBI). She is currently a member of the board of directors of several financial and banking institutions, including the Egyptian Banking Institute, the Central Bank of Egypt and Egypt’s National Post Authority. She is also a member of the board of trustees of the Anti-Money Laundering Unit at the Central Bank of Egypt, and in the past served as a board member of Arab African International Bank.
Dr. El Said leads a prominent role in the domain of public service as she is an active member of both the Egyptian Association for Protecting Competition and [email protected] Advisory Committee-Nahdet El Mahrousa. She has also been a member of such NGOs as Our Children Our Future Foundation and MENA Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) at the World Bank.
Dr. El Said is the prestigious author of a wide range of internationally acclaimed research papers, studies and reports on diverse topics related to the financial sector, international finance, privatization and economic reform, such as: Bank Mergers, Corporate Governance as well as the Role of the State in Credit Risk.
She has organized and participated in more than 80 conferences, symposiums and workshops in the same fields in cooperation with many scientific and development institutions and organizations locally, regionally and globally. She has led the project of the first national census for SMEs access to finance (2009-2011).
Dr. El Said holds a B.A, MSc and PhD with honors in Economics from the Faculty of Economics & Political Science at Cairo University. Cairo West Magazine had the honor of speaking to Dr. El Said about her career, her role as a well-renowned leading female professional in the region, as well as her work-life balance.
CWM: When did you first realize that you had a natural inclination for economics and finance?
H.S: I realized that right away, as soon as I commenced my studies at the faculty of Economics and Political Science. At first, my initial wish was to join the Political Science department but when I had the opportunity to thoroughly study both subjects, I felt I was more interested in economics than political science.
Tell us about your career ascent in this specialized and fascinating field.
I graduated with high honors from the Economics department, got appointed as a Teaching Assistant, and then according to the system, I finished my Masters and PhD in economics. I was seconded to the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to be the executive director of the Egyptian Banking Institute. I was then elected as the Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Political Science and also appointed as a non-executive board member at the CBE.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced to reach where you are?
One of the biggest challenges on the personal level was always trying to maintain a healthy balance between my home and my studies, and also between my home and my work. On the professional level, I found managing a diverse group of professors and students to be quite challenging, particularly after the 2011 revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.
What are some challenges women face in high-level positions?
There is still very much in place an informal referral system among male directors in the region. We find that the majority of women directors are, in fact, recruited from personal acquaintances of male directors.
There’s a fear among some CEOs that women directors will bring a woman’s agenda, as opposed to a general agenda of increasing shareholder value and the company’s profit margin. This fear is sensed by many women directors, so they, in turn, become reluctant to bring up gender-related issues. The accumulated values and cultural assumptions about women’s roles are still very much stereotyped in the whole of the Middle East. This can have negative effects on top women executives in the work place.
Women face real challenges in balancing work and family life. They try so hard to put on both hats but it can get extremely stressful for them at times. It’s essential to have a very competent and reliable support system as well as loving and understanding family members who believe in your goals and are willing to support you to reach them.
Have you found yourself making sacrifices to meet your career objectives?
The last thing you wish is to find yourself sacrificing quality time with the family and missing out on major events or important gatherings. Instead, you end up compromising on your own leisure time, hours of rest, your general health and wellbeing. >>
How have you been able to directly apply your knowledge to improving conditions in the community?
My main goal is, and always will be, to make a positive impact on the community and better the conditions of the economic sector. During my role as an Executive Director of EBI, I was involved in upgrading the capacity of bankers. I also called for and advocated for policy changes. Mentoring and coaching our students is always a very satisfying and rewarding activity because you feel you are investing in the younger generations, our future Egyptian bankers and policy makers.
As a busy person, how do you prioritize your time?
A busy person always organizes his or her time to make use of every minute. We cannot afford to procrastinate or mismanage our time simply because we cannot make up for it. Time is gold.
What advice would you give any person who feels that they can contribute to the community, but are not sure how to go about it?
You have to totally believe in yourself and your capabilities as a human being. Our community is in dire need of the contribution of each and every one of us through either work or joining different social initiatives or NGOs.
How often do you go on holiday?
I go on holiday twice a year. It’s my chance to reboot and come back feeling refreshed, revitalized and ready to assume all my roles and responsibilities once again.
Which Egyptian companies do you feel have international standards in terms of profitability and as an organization?
A lot of Egyptian companies have international standards but I can very safely claim that banks in Egypt are very well regulated. They have the human capability that is able to regularly supervise and monitor their performances. They have invested in human capital, and abide by international standards that apply good governance.