The CEO of DMTV, the Arab world’s first channel dedicated to men, on her career, challenges, and role models.
Tell us about the career trajectory that landed you a job as the CEO of DMTV.
DMTV is part of the family business, which of course helps when landing the job. When I joined, I had just received a Masters Degree in Global Communication from the American University in Paris. The main areas of the program that I focused on were branding and audience studies. This kick started my plans to turn the channel around into something different, which finally materialized a year ago.
Did you always want a career in television?
I never thought I would end up working in TV, as our main line of business is in manufacturing. Initially, my late father’s interest in media began as an investment. However, being a business that requires close attention, our family started to interfere in the management and I eventually found myself very involved and very much addicted to it.
Do you feel that there is a good representation of Middle Eastern women on regional television?
Middle Eastern women are so vastly different from one another that you cannot actually have one representation that fits all. It also depends on what kind of television we are talking about, as it differs between news, series, entertainment, and talk shows. It differs even more so from country to country and within the same country. Ultimately the representations vary as much as the reality.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a female CEO in a male-saturated workplace?
I wouldn’t say that our workplace is male-saturated; it happens to be that most people on our team are women. Neither is the industry as a whole; there is a pretty good balance. Minor challenges may come with being a woman, but the real challenges I faced were not gender specific. The television industry is highly competitive, with over 600 free-to-air channels, so choosing a niche that I do not represent was a challenge. I am constantly trying to see things from the male perspective, which is made easier by having grown up with older and younger brothers.
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?
The real difficulty is in proving that the channel will be successful. Many people are surprised by the decision to have a channel targeting men; they are under the impression that, because women watch more television and shop more, they should be targeted in advertisements. However, we can all admit that we consult the men in our lives before most major purchasing decisions we make. For example, before buying a computer, mobile phone, real estate, telecom package, or a new car, we tend to ask men for their advice. The influence men have over major purchases is bigger than people imagine it to be.
"Don't allow gender to be an issue, because it only becomes one if you make it. I really do believe women have great advantages in the business world that they need to capitalize on."
What has been the proudest moment of your career?
There have been a few, but re-launching the channel and seeing the difference on air was truly fulfilling. Our ratings have also been going up on a monthly basis, which is ultimately the best indication of the positive direction the channel is going in. Another moment was, of course, being on the cover of Forbes Middle East this year as one of the most powerful women in family business.
My personal favorite moment, however, was when we decided to bring Movember to the UAE. Running a lifestyle channel for men and having lost my father to cancer, men’s health is an extremely important matter to us. When I first approached the Ministry of Health for support, the reaction was that women’s health and breast cancer are far more important than prostate cancer. However, prostate cancer is considered the equivalent of breast cancer in terms of the importance of early detection and survival rates. We still managed to get tremendous support and raise awareness regionally, so much so that by the end of the month the Ministry of Health decided to open a men-only clinic to diagnose and treat prostate cancer and other men’s health issues. I was happy to have played some part in that decision.
What are your goals for the direction of DMTV?
Other than the main goal of becoming the reference for men seeking answers on all lifestyle topics and the ultimate stop for men’s entertainment, it is to establish DMTV digitally.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is a difficult question to answer… I hope to have started my own family by then and still manage my career with no compromise.
What advice would you offer a young business-minded woman who hopes to go into a similar career? What advice was given to you that helped you through tougher times?
Don’t allow gender to be an issue, because it only becomes one if you make it. I really do believe women have great advantages in the business world that they need to capitalize on. The main things to remember are to believe in yourself, follow your instincts, trust your decisions, and surround yourself with people that want to see you succeed, because, trust me, so many people would rather see you fail.
Who are your personal role models?
The list is too long to mention, and most of my role models are a little cliché, such as Coco Chanel who didn’t follow the norms and still found a way to succeed. Richard Branson is also a role model because he makes success look fun and easy. My number one role model and hero, howerver, is my father, whom I lost last year. He taught me that perseverance is necessary for success and to always communicate my experiences positively. I also look up to his modesty. He always used to remind me that my word should be as important and as binding as a contract.
Photos: Courtesy of SAMAR SAYEGH