Fida Taher, a Jordanian serial entrepreneur who started two businesses: ‘Zaytouneh’ video recipes and ‘Atbaki’ which is currently the largest digital recipe platform in Arabic. She also founded one social enterprise and is actively engaged with several NGOs aiming to support and empower women.
“I have passion for starting projects; I’ve founded several startups and also mentored a lot of new entrepreneurial ventures, not only to help them but also to create a valuable learning experience for me.” Fida said
Prior to that, Fida worked in different areas in the media domain creating hundreds of hours of video content. She holds a BA in Communication Arts with emphasis on TV and film from the Lebanese American University in Beirut, and an executive Business Leadership certificate from Harvard Kennedy School. Fida is also a feminist and a asocial activist. She is married with two kids.
“I think this is important to mention because I hate to see that a lot of women are dismissing their careers once they start a family.” She said
In 2017, Fida has set up a Facebook group called ‘Women in Business’ to support and connect women in the Arab world and provide them with opportunities. Currently, the group has more than 30,000 members from across the Middle East and other regions as well.
Ms. Taher speaks to Women to Watch about challenges, accomplishments, the role of men in supporting women, and more…
Yasmeen: Name something that guides both your personal and professional development and helps you regain focus during challenging times.
Fida: Curiosity; we are in an age where it is easy to find information; I remember growing up, we had to convince our parents to drop us off at Abdul Hamid Shoman Library in Amman to find one piece of information in a book after we skim through 10 books or more. I just love the fact that today you can find any information you need from your phone. So, I think this is what guides my personal and professional development, the availability of information and the ease of access to it.
As for facing challenging times, I believe we get better at it as we move on in life. I think that seven years ago I probably dealt with crisis in a different way than I would deal with it right now. Now I have more experience in life and I always think that this too shall pass and that I should never lose the lesson once I lose the fight or the battle. The most important thing is to be able to get up and start again once you fall.
What do you believe is at the core of women’s hesitation to step out and pursue leadership roles where they are?
Fear of failure is the number one reason. Also, it is proven that women have confidence issues; we don’t raise our hands to say we can do things as often as we should. We think that something is missing, that we need to work harder and learn more before we step up and actually fight for that senior position.
Fear of failure can be seen more in the Middle East than in other regions because it is considered social suicide to fail. Both men and women are afraid of failure and it holds them back, but I think the aftermath for women is worse because if they fail they have the option to quit as they are not considered as main providers for the family.
Tell us one of your greatest professional accomplishments, and why it meant so much to you?
When I think about accomplishments I think of two things: first, the fact that I was able to start something regardless of where it is right now, because many people struggle with turning an idea into something that’s on the ground. So, the moment when this idea is actually on the ground as reality is an achievement for me.
The second accomplishment is standing up again. I think I’ve hit rock bottom four or five times and I actually thought about quitting and leaving everything behind so many times, but the fact that I kept going is an achievement. For me success is not about increasing revenue or the company’s valuation, or any reward I get. Yes, I’m proud of these achievements too, but they have a time limit to them; I feel happy and excited for a day or a week or two but then it’s gone. The real thing is standing up after failure and starting again.
The world is a scary place – how do you manage fear and anxiety in both your work and personal life?
I think it just grows on you. The first time I had an anxiety attack, I had five employees and I didn’t have money to pay their salaries. Then those anxiety attacks would come if it has been 3 months and I haven’t paid the salaries! So it gets better with time and experience. I believe it’s a state of mind; you just have to get out and start finding solutions for a problem. Think of it as a problem, not Your problem, and think if you were to advice someone what would you say and which solution would you give.
Also asking for help; to ask for advice or to brainstorm with a mentor or someone with more experience helps a lot. Lastly, be honest with yourself and your clients. Anxiety is usually caused by a problem so just realize it and face it. If for example, you have an issue where you can’t deliver what you promised to a client, just sit with that client, tell them what’s happening and find a solution together. On the other hand, I enjoy working under pressure so I am okay with it.
What do you believe will be the greatest benefit to having more women as leaders in the world?
Talking about the startups ecosystem, more than 95% of VC money is going towards men run startups while research shows that women led startups actually have higher return on investment. So there’s something wrong at the top of the pyramid, we need more female partners on VC boards. If you are leaving women out of the workplace, you are only capitalizing on 50% of your assets and human assets are the most valuable assets. It is proven that women work well under pressure, they multi-task, they are better leaders and they include their team members, so all these things are important. This doesn’t mean in any way that we want to fight men, it just means that in order for this economy to reach its full potential we have to include women and give them a fair chance, fair pay and fair promotion. It is just a balance that we need.
Tell us what your greatest personal challenge is, and how you’ve achieved success in spite of it.
I don’t think I’ve achieved success, I think success is a very broad and intangible term unless you have a company that went public for instance. What is success? is it starting a company, getting an investor, or achieving your first million in revenue? Those things don’t define success to me.
My current challenge is figuring out what I really want to do, it’s not the job that pays a lot of money or the startup that looks cool. I want to go back home after a 10-hour workday and feel proud of what I did and what tomorrow is going to unfold. I’m currently experimenting, talking and listening to people until I find the thing that I really want to do now. I would love to work on something that would affect masses and solve a problem. I still don’t know what, where or how I will do this, I still need to figure things out.
What role should men play in supporting more gender diversity?
It starts with the education system but fathers should empower their daughters as early as the age of one. Also, husbands need to be real partners in life; they need to share the responsibilities with their wives as the kids are not her kids alone, they are his kids too.
If you could know the answer to only one of the following, which one would you choose, and why?
- What happens after death?
- What is the meaning of life?
Neither. I think the meaning of life changes every day and I definitely don’t want to know what happens after death.
If you could go back 10 years and change events or fix mistakes in the past, or skip 10 years into the future and see how your life looks like, which one would you choose?
I don’t want to skip anything, I want to be able to live each and every day. But if I have the chance to go back, given the knowledge that I have today, it would be amazing to be honest. On the other hand, skipping years and knowing where I will be, this will ruin the experience for me. I wish I didn’t have to make mistakes myself and that I learned in some way.
What advice would you give to women around the world?
Mute the negative noise, believe in yourself and take a chance… Enjoy the ride and never stop learning!