Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Chaqroun: Moroccan Businesswoman and Taboo Breaker

Morocco- Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun
Photo AFP

Journalist Sanae el-Amrani of La Vérité magazine described Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun as a ‘symbol of female quiet power’. She is recognized as the boss of bosses in the male-dominated business world and universally appreciated for her talent, professionalism and vision.

Bensalah-Chaqroun was born on 14 November 1962 in Casablanca, Morocco to a Berber family from Berkane. The eldest of five chlldren, Bensalah-Chaqroun is the daughter of Abdelkader Bensalah, one of the signatories of the 1944 Independence Manifesto and the founder of the Holmarcom conglomerate. In 1980, Bensalah-Chaqroun joined the Paris Graduate School of Business, from which she graduated four years later. She also holds an MBA in international management and finance from the University of Dallas in 1986.

She is married to Jamal Chaqroun, son of the writer Abdellah Chaqroun and actress Amina Rachid, and has three children.

After finishing her studies in France, Bensalah-Chaqroun joined the Securities and Investments Department of the Moroccan Deposit and Credit Company (SMDC), which she left in 1989. She was then appointed as the head of Eaux Minérales d’Oulmes, a subsidiary of the Holmarcom Group. In 2012, she was elected president of CGEM, the Moroccan employers’ association. She also serves as the chair of CGEM.

In these various high-level posts, Bensalah-Chaqroun has had to address thorny issues in the context of economic crisis. For example, she strengthened CGEM’s role in representing and defending corporate interests, deftly managing divisions between companies while not overlooking the improvement of the business climate or the reform of the Labour Code and the law on strike action. She did all this while maintaining cordial relations with the government.

In a country with an inheritance law that gives women half of what their brothers, Bensalah-Chaqroun could inherit her father’s business instead of her male siblings. In other words, she has succeeded in fighting patriarchy, which is pervasive in Morocco and internalized by both men and women, especially in the business world. There are various reasons for this: patriarchal ideas about women’s domestic roles, the feminization of the ‘conciliation between work and family’, the absence of women from decision making and the masculinization of senior posts.

Outside the world of business, Bensalah-Chaqroun has sat on the board of directors of al-Akhawayn University since January 2004 and of the Bank al-Maghrib since April 2006. Between November 2012 and June 2017, she served as independent director of the Eutelsat Group and has been a board member of the Initiative for Global Development since October 2014, independent director of the Suez Group since April 2016 and a member of the Board of Directors of the Renault Group since June 2017.

In addition to being honoured, Bensalah-Chaqroun has received numerous awards, most notably the Grand Officer of the Order of Ouissam al-Mukafaa al-Wataniya (Order of National Merit) in 2013 and the Order of Grand Officer of Civil Merit from Spain in 2017. Further, she was selected as one of the ‘25 most influential women in business in Africa’ by Jeune Afrique magazine. In the same year, she sat on the jury of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. She has also appeared regularly on Forbes Middle East’s list of ‘Most Powerful Arab Business Women’, where she was ranked 15th in 2014, 63rd in 2015, 52nd in 2016 and 30th in 2017.

Away from the boardroom, Bensalah-Chaqroun is an aeroplane pilot, a Harley-Davidson bike rider, a first-series golf player and winner of Le Trophée des Gazelles care rally in 1993. In combination with her business success, she continues to break taboos in all areas of her life and be a role model for men and women in Morocco and beyond.

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