In Conversation with … Amal Makhloufi Benchouk, General Manager & Country Chair for Sanofi in the Philippines
Women@Sanofi celebrates our highly successful women who work with dedication and passion across our teams worldwide to deliver solutions in healthcare for everyone, everywhere. In this series of conversations, discover who they really are, what drives them and the rich mix of cultures and perspectives they bring to the table. As individuals they lead the way and push the boundaries, and as a whole they embody our engagement and actions to instill gender equality into the fabric of everything we say and do.
Before joining Sanofi, Amal worked as an emergency field doctor in her home country Algeria and is passionate about helping and empowering people to live healthier lives. A graduate of the Faculty of Medicine from Algiers University, she joined Sanofi in 1999 as a Medical Sales Representative in Algeria. Since then, she has spent nearly two decades working in sales, marketing, business intelligence and project management roles. She took on the role of Chief Operating Officer for Sanofi’s affiliate in Algeria, before making the move to the Philippines as General Manager for our Prescription Medicines Division and Country Chair.
Ahead of the 44th year of International Women’s Day on March 8, we spoke to Amal about gender balance at work and in her private life.
Tell us more about you as a child
I was a typical middle child among five children, three girls and two boys. I use to fight for everything, even to find my own place. At school my parents pushed us to study and earn diplomas. My father was always saying: “Get your diplomas first and then you can do whatever you want”. He said that especially to the three girls so that we would be ready to face life and become independent in a very male dominated environment.
How did your career path evolve?
My first choice was to become a doctor practicing gynecology, because I was fascinated by the fact that women give life or a pediatrician because I love children. So I went to Medical School in the nineties in Algeria. It was a very tough period for my country and for me personally, as I lost one of my brothers to an explosion. At that time I decided to stop my studies and to become an emergency doctor, to act and to help others.
After a few years working in a very stressful job, I realized that I could help others on a larger scale and in a safer environment by joining Sanofi.
What brought you to the Philippines?
It was always my dream to live abroad, to experiment in a new environment and to discover a new culture. Asia was my top choice because of the many opportunities to create a better future.
I am so excited to give my children the opportunity to become citizens of the world. And I was surprised to see that only after only six months, my daughter can carry on a conversation in English when before she wasn’t even able to say a few words!
Was it an easy move?
Moving from Algeria to the Philippines wasn’t easy especially because I had spent all my career in Algeria.
At the beginning, my husband was hesitant, but because of my determination and confidence to succeed he trusted me and realized that it was the best choice for our family. He left his job to support our move and to take care of our children.
As an Algerian, I am quite direct and proactive. Coming to the Philippines where people are easy-going, kind and sometimes seemingly passive, I have done my best to adjust to this new culture. I avoided being too aggressive but I kept my expectations high!
Who have been your role models?
My two role models have been my parents. From my mom, who stopped working to take care of us, I got my courage, my fighting spirit and ‘zest for life’. She is the most positive person I know. My father was a congressman who worked hard for his country. I’ve always admired his charisma, leadership and the value he places on hard work and ethics.
In my career, my role models in leadership were mostly men. Being a female leader is not yet very common. As General Manager for the Philippines, I am excited to show my teams another style of leadership by empowering, inspiring and taking care of them.
What does Gender Balance mean to you?
For me gender balance is about giving the same chance to everyone. But even that’s still not enough. We need to encourage and to support women to grab opportunities. It’s still difficult for women to reach high positions.
We need to realize that sometimes life can be more difficult for women. We have to think and to manage so many things at the same time. The mental load of women is a concern and a reality.
Like my mother did, I would like to inspire my daughter and the next generation to continue on with this journey.
What advice would you give to women who want to be in leadership positions?
Don’t limit yourself. As a doctor, here is my prescription for success!
First - dream! Be realistic and determined. With courage, hard work and resilience, everything is possible.
Second - Life is short. Don’t lose time, enjoy and focus on what matters to you.
And finally - Don't be afraid to fail. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.