After graduating from University in the UK, Amanda Xuereb’s journey with TOLY Products began when she was given an opportunity to set up a business which would manage and develop the business in markets where the manufacturing giant did not have a physical presence. These included Turkey, Lebanon, Pakistan, Japan, the Middle East and Sweden, among others.

“I am incredibly passionate about what I do. I consider myself lucky to wake up every day and do something I love. One morning I wake up in Dubai and by the afternoon I’m in the completely different world that is Italy,” Amanda describes, explaining that because she conducts business in such different cultures, she has learnt to understand people, leading her to become much more sensitive to different cultures and religions.

“People are people at the end of the day. They all expect the same things – honesty and trust, and to genuinely believe that you are going to be there for them throughout the whole business process. I’m not after a quick sale but to develop long-term relationships that benefit both parties,” she maintains.

Four years ago, Amanda’s enterprising spirit led her to create a new B2B business for the TOLY Group. Thus, Beauty Trill was born – a go-to partner for brands looking for speed to market, along with expertise to create specialised beauty products.

“The word ‘Trill’ is American slang for ‘true and real’, and our social purpose, which sits firmly as our brand promise, is that of creating products which are Inclusive. I want the products that we create to be inclusive, and through this we can inspire worldwide brand owners to think this way too,” Amanda explains.

Drawing her attention to the question of gender within the business sphere, I ask, did she encounter any setbacks or obstacles, throughout her journey so far?

“As you can imagine, being a woman and doing business with certain cultures was not an easy feat,” she admits, “but at the end of the day if you show you are a professional, go prepared and follow the cultural protocol – like for example wearing a burka, which I had to do on certain occasions – then most of the time, you can find a way.”

Statistically, Malta scores low among EU countries in its representation of women holding board positions in large companies. Asked why she thinks this is, Amanda posits that women outnumber men at university – accounting for 55 per cent of undergraduates – and tend to have higher grades and drop out less frequently than men.

Despite this, she maintains, as of 2021, women still accounted for only 7.4 per cent of leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies. “Women don’t necessarily face huge barriers to enter the workplace, but they do face multiple difficulties when it comes to advancement,” Amanda says, lamenting that ideas of what constitutes leadership, such as ambition and directness, are considered ‘masculine.’

“Those same qualities in women are often perceived differently. If men are ambitious, women are aggressive. If men are direct and honest, women are harsh and insensitive,” she affirms, adding that beyond that, within today’s Zoom-driven world, women are disproportionately taking on their own work plus most of the childcare, cooking and housework.

“The challenge for an ambitious woman is to gain respect and acceptance amongst others,” Amanda continues, emphasising that this is achieved through mentorship. “If we are to find equality in the most senior ranks of organisations, we will need more men willing to spend the time and energy to advise, coach and promote women along their career paths and into the ranks of leadership,” she says.

Amanda’s top tips

As Head of Business Development at Toly, Amanda offers some key advice to women who may be struggling to reach top management positions.

  • Take Initiative – when an opportunity to show leadership and management ability presents itself, take it!
  • Find a mentor – for women to position themselves for success within an organisation, a mentor is helpful. Once you have found your ideal mentor, set a time every month to discuss goals and come up with a strategic plan to achieve those goals.
  • Take pride in advancing in your career – adopt a self-promoting attitude. Learn how to communicate what drives you. If you love your job, show it. By channeling this energy in your work environment you will not only inspire yourself to keep driving toward success but inspire your team to advance the organisation’s goals.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak your mind… because of fear of consequences or a perception that speaking up would be futile.

Finally, she says, “a book I would recommend any woman aspiring to build a sustainable career is Cherly Sandberg’s ‘Lean In: Woman, Work and the Will to Lead’.”

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