Interview with Suzy Kanoo

“Being successful has nothing to do with gender.” These are the words of Suzy Kanoo, a Bahraini business woman, a member of the Kanoo Group, freelance writer, and poet. The Harvard graduate joined the family business shortly after her studies and with the support and belief of her father, Salman Khalil Kanoo, is today one of the most successful women in the community. She has now been active in the business for over 14 years and is today the President of Khalil bin Ebrahim Kanoo Group, and she combines her business success with the writing of provocative articles and poems.

We asked Suzy how she felt about being a woman in business, she shared the following words of insight and encouragement:

Success has no gender; I keep repeating these words wherever I am asked to speak. A successful individual in business or the arts is successful no matter what gender he or she is. They have a dream, an idea, drive, intelligence, they attack and pursue, some dreams disintegrate and others flourish into amazing successes.

I was walking in the shopping centre last week, and an older woman stopped me and asked, “Are you Suzy Kanoo?” With a smile, I replied that I was and that she must know my mother. ”Not at all”, she said, “I follow your news, articles, interviews and accomplishments in the newspapers and magazines. I just wanted to thank you and have you say some encouraging words to my granddaughters. They are intelligent girls with immense potential. Please let them hear from you that it can be done, encourage them to not lose their potential and drive. Please, inform them that even as women, they have that equal chance and not to give up!”

The conversation with that old woman moved me and gave me more gratification than any interview I have ever given. We all make a difference in our own and in others’ lives. We might not realize it, we might take things for granted, but we must remember that everything we do has an effect. In my case, it started with my father believing in me and giving me a first chance that impacted the rest of my life. The chain of events that followed finally resulted in my meeting this wonderful grandmother who wanted me to mentor her grand-daughters. She wanted me to inspire her grand-daughters to not give up on their dreams, not to allow gender to be an issue, and to have a passion for what they want to pursue. In my experience passion is within you, it manifests itself inside you: once you set it free you will be able to pursue your success.

Abraham Lincoln said “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” The calculated, educated pursuit is what will determine success or failure. I am a strong believer in accomplishments by merit. Especially in Family Business, it’s quite burdening for a father to acquiesce that his offspring might not have the ability to run the next generation of the business. Yet the patriarch’s ability to separate emotional blood ties is what might allow the family business to continue its success from generation to generation.

Again it should be by merit without gender bias or irrational nepotism. I believe that these things are changing; family businesses have realized that for their own survival they will have to establish precedents and rules to ensure their existence over several decades. The number of women running family businesses or who are on the boards of family businesses is still nominal. There must be reasons, but to me, they can all be overcome. Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

So, coming back to the grandmother I met, I would like to thank you for acknowledging my hard work and I thank my egalitarian father for keeping that door ajar for leading me into a world full of opportunities. To I say that I wish that they fulfill their dreams without allowing their gender to be an issue. I thank you and tell you again that success should have no gender.


Originally published on Tharawat Magazine, Issue 2, 2009


Original interview posted on Tharawat Magazine