My Salute to Women Overcoming Challenges – by Soumaya Khalifa

Resilience, Determination, Support and Hard Work

This Women’s History Month I am thankful for the many women who paved the way for me. These amazing women include my mother, sister, daughter, mentors, friends, colleagues, managers and too many others to list.  With these women as guides and companions, my path has been smooth yet challenging, steady yet adventurous.  For all of those women, I am deeply grateful.

I know a beautiful five year-old named Samira.  At birth, she was diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation that doctors thought would keep her from seeing, speaking, walking, running and living her life like any typical child.  Of course, her family was devastated: they wanted only the best for their newborn daughter.  Samira’s mother, however, immediately jumped into action.  She sought doctors who specialized in Samira’s condition and found the physical, occupational, speech and other therapies that she needed to thrive.  Samira’s mom fought the doctors, therapists and insurance companies to make sure her daughter received the best treatments and support.

Like her mother, Samira is a very determined person and believes in her own power.  She is tough and resilient; even as a toddler, she refused to let anything stop her.  Thanks to her therapists and unrelenting mother, Samira’s speech and development have made significant progress.  She is attending a school that meets her needs and helps her grow.  Samira loves to learn, continues to exceed the original expectations and will reach her full potential.  The little girl who was not expected to walk now runs and dances.

Samira’s story has so many parallels to the challenges that women face in the workforce.  Too often, we have to confront the low expectations set by outdated societal norms.  Like Samira’s mother, we have to look beyond our immediate circle to find the resources and support we need to succeed in overcoming challenges.  When things don’t go the way we hoped, we’ve learned not to despair and that “no” might not be the final answer.

None of this is to say that being a woman in the workforce is like living with special abilities like Samira. Each experience is unique, with its own blessings and curses.  We can, however, emulate the spirit and determination that many people like Samira and her mother have.

My own experiences have shown me finding the strength to persevere isn’t always that easy.  Sometimes, due to the necessary expediency of completing tasks and cooperating with colleagues, I made the choice to put aside my ideas.  As an executive coach, I work with women to recognize those deciding moments, to understand the consequences, to make the choice and to own the power of choosing. Through individual coaching and Diversity Equity & Inclusion consulting with corporations, I work with clients to uncover their motivations, and to act and react to each situation with clear intentions. I have learned – sometimes the hard way – that the more intentional we are in our thoughts, words and actions, the more profound our impact will be.

Throughout our careers, we discover our own strength and resiliency, looking inward for motivation.  Women don’t have to wait for someone else to be the expert, to give direction or to develop the plan.  Sometimes we want our hard work to speak for itself, but we know that we are our own best advocates, and that we can effectively manage a confrontation if necessary.

I am confident that Samira will run, dance and play her way through a wonderful childhood.  She is a constant reminder that barriers are there for us to overcome, that often we do know better than the experts, and that believing in ourselves gives us the power for overcoming challenges and determine our own futures.


Soumaya Khalifa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *