While evidence and recognition are growing that gender-balanced and diverse management teams at all levels of hierarchies produce positive business outcomes, the MENA region still has a long road to travel in this respect. Only 11 percent of senior management positions in MENA firms and just four percent of board seats in the region’s publicly listed companies are held by women according to a recent IFC report. Here, three pioneering female leaders in the region’s pharma/medtech space give their take on the importance of inclusivity, developing tailored strategies, and bringing forward the next generation of leaders.


From Diversity to Inclusivity

Eman Ali

“More than diversity, I believe we need more inclusive leaders. Inclusivity is the key factor, because we can have the most diverse country and people, but if we are not willing to understand or tolerate each other, we can never get things done and bring value through our differences.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I came back to Egypt and saw that in Medtronic more women were involved in top leadership positions, making up around 30 percent. I am sure this will continue to grow. It is an ongoing journey and there is still more to be done with the women’s network, women leaders, etc. It must be done all over, multinationals and small businesses, and not limited only to gender, but also age, background, and education. This is crucial to the growth and development of both the country and the organisation.”

Eman Ali, regional vice president, Medtronic Africa


Tailored & Context-Specific Strategies

Marianne Abou Elkheir

“Across all the countries under my leadership, I am aware of potential challenges that may stand in our way of achieving our goals. This is why my role is critical, that is, to lead the development of tailored and context-specific strategies that enable us to penetrate each market, develop relevant partnerships, and strengthen relationships.

“All of these are based on an in-depth knowledge of the terrain, experiences in similar markets, and the backing of a pharma leader like Boehringer Ingelheim. I am optimistic about our ability to work with governments, healthcare professionals and major stakeholders in the healthcare sector to bring breakthrough therapies that will change and improve patients’ lives for generations.”

Marianne Abou Elkheir, general manager & head of human pharma, Levant, Iraq, North-East Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa, Boehringer Ingelheim



Developing The Next Generation of Leaders

Nilay Tarr, EMBA, DVM - General Manager Egypt - Astellas Pharma | LinkedIn

“My office team boasts very skilled female employees, and I am proud of the added value they bring to Astellas. However, I think there is still room to increase the female-to-male ratio in the business, especially within the customer facing teams. There is a large, young population in Egypt which is reflected in my team. We have many recent graduates with a lot of great ideas, positive energy, and enthusiasm. As business leaders, we must invest to upskill these young people, focus on their talent development, and build them into the next generation of leaders.

“I have two main priorities as general manager of Astellas. The first is to better serve patients in the country by accelerating the availability of our innovative medicines. The second is to create an inclusive and collaborative culture within Astellas that provides opportunities for talent to further build their capabilities and enhance their career within the industry.”

Nilay Tarr, general manager Egypt, Astellas