In an industry dominated by men, it’s great to see Maram Moussa, the only female Mall Director in Egypt, taking the helm of the country’s biggest shopping mall, Mall of Arabia (a MARAKEZ property) and leading it to great success.
We interviewed Moussa to learn more about her strategies and management style.
1. What does managing a mall actually mean; what is required of you?
It is like a hotel, people come to the mall for entertainment and shopping. Our role is to make their experience as pleasant as possible. I deal with security, housekeeping, engineering, customer services and tenants.
We have over 400 outlets ranging from candy shops to automotive showrooms. Each one of these partners has a unique set of requirements and issues — the one thing they all have in common is the customer. Our role is to focus on the customers, keeping them at the heart and soul of our actions.
2. How did you manage to reach this position?
I started my career 24 years ago in the hospitality business and moved into the shopping center business around 12 years ago, working as a customer relations manager at Citystars. I studied the profession and got certified by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the Institute for International Reseaearch (IRR) and Global School for Professionals as a Certified Mall Director. As a result, I quickly moved up the ranks to heading the operation at Citystars.
When MARAKEZ (the holding company that owns and manages Mall of Arabia) asked me to be the Mall GM for Mall of Arabia and also help build the new Phase 2, I was ecstatic and accepted the challenge immediately.
3. How does it feel to be the only woman in a male-dominant field?
The nature of the role is challenging for anyone, male or female. Mall of Arabia has been going through a change in management and a revamp of the property itself.
Apart from the day-to-day work of managing housekeeping, engineers etc., the role is mainly about the customer experience and I believe the ability to understand the customer’s needs and wants is more of a woman’s thing. It is the attention to detail that makes the difference — basically, if a woman likes the place (be it a hotel room, mall, restaurant), then a man will as well. For this reason, I believe that soon, you will see this role being dominated by women.
4. What obstacles stand in your way?
Gender stereotypes have been the biggest obstacle; some men find it difficult to take orders or accept ideas from a woman. However, since joining MARAKEZ a couple of months ago, I’ve found a very different culture. The team is very open-minded and since the company’s establishment in February, it is clear that the direction is towards a gender-balanced workplace.
The ambitions are big. We plan to open three new malls in the next two years as well as Phase 2 for Mall of Arabia — at the risk of sounding cliché, the ideas we are planning to implement are all out of the box.
5. What is the most difficult part of your job?
First and foremost, I’m a mother of a young lady who I’m very proud of. Balancing that with work isn’t easy for anyone. The key to successfully operating a mall is to be able to absorb all the stress and not let it affect everyone else.
No one wants a boss to be running around like a headless chicken; panic and unease can spread like wildfire through the organization and no one will be able to do their jobs properly. Given that we are revamping the property, as well as opening Phase 2, it can be very difficult to keep calm and not let the rest of the team feel overwhelmed by it all. This can be a very lonely place to be in.