Trailblazers PORTRAITS OF FEMALE BUSINESS LEADERSHIP IN EMERGING AND FRONTIER MARKETS
Groundbreakers, Market Makers, Value Creators
As the general manager of Kawar Group’s shipping and logistics division, Nadia Shahin represents multiple firsts. She is the first female and first non-Kawar family member to command a top leadership post at the firm, a position she has held since 2010. She also is the first to implement a series of women-friendly policy changes that have led to the hiring of a more diverse workforce, gender parity in her management team, and significant brand enhancements. It’s a drive that began with her own experiences as a young working mother. It gained traction as a result of her participation in IFC’s corporate governance training. “Corporate governance is one of the fundamentals on which so much of good management and proper company operations is based,” Nadia says. “This includes diverse leadership, sound and rational human resources policies that reduce employee turnover, and independent auditing.” All of these elements contribute to improved business performance, she says. Other takeaways from Nadia’s training include the ways in which a well-structured and elective board contributes to innovation, broader perspectives, and better decisions. At Nadia’s urging, the company is now undertaking a corporate governance benchmarking exercise, to see where it stands compared to other companies and identify opportunities for improvement.
BIG SHIPS, BIG AMBITIONS:
Nadia’s 34-year climb to the top of the traditionally male- dominated commercial shipping industry started with a first job out of college in Kawar’s legal claims department. “It was absolutely thrilling to see these huge ships, piled with cargo,” she says. “That’s when I fell in love with the shipping industry and decided I wanted to make my mark in it.” She has worn many hats in the company since that first job. Promoted to manager at age 25, Nadia was tasked with expanding a small personnel unit into a company-wide human resources department. Later, she led the charge on a quality initiative that resulted in ISO certification—an international system of management standards that helps companies consistently deliver quality products and services. “We were the first Jordanian shipping company to get this certification from Lloyd’s of London,” she notes with pride.
PROMOTION, MOTHERHOOD, AND THE BALANCING ACT:
The certification process led to some quick wins for the firm, as new customers signed on with Kawar. It also led to Nadia’s next promotion into the company’s senior management ranks. Though excited by the prospect and pleased that company leaders showed such confidence in her, Nadia faced a dilemma. She had just come of a 70- day maternity leave—mandated by the government—and was still nursing her infant son.