This feature is part of a series highlighting some of the most prominent Jordanian businesswomen who managed to climb to the top of the corporate ladder in their respective fields in the Kingdom.
Cofounder and Principal of Al Mashrek International School
Being married at 18 meant that Hana al Nasser Malhas had to learn to balance family life and her career from a very young age in order to reach the success that she has today. In her early years of marriage, the Cofounder and Principal of Mashrek International School had all her four children whilst studying, working, and building her career.
Although she didn’t necessarily plan to enter education from a young age, she discovered her passion for teaching whilst working with children with special needs. Seeing them improve and develop sparked an enthusiasm, which has endured throughout her lifetime.
“If you look at my life you will see that it was a learning journey throughout,” said the principal, who completed degrees in education and psychology in the United States and Lebanon, before going on to do her PhD in Education Psychology in Jordan. “This is something I did along with my responsibilities as a mother and a wife.”
She founded Mashrek International School along with her husband in 1992, which she says is without a doubt her biggest achievement in life. “We established this institution and we worked very hard to make it one of the best in Jordan,” she said, adding that the school is now not only recognized in the Kingdom, but also in the region for its academic excellence.
While having over 35 years of experience in the education field, her enthusiasm for the profession hasn’t waned. “Every day when I come to school in the morning it’s as if it’s the first day of my career,” she said, adding that it’s the students that she sees growing in front of her eyes and the responsibility of shaping their lives that drives her.
The community at Mashrek and the team that she works with is also something that she’s proud of. “Nobody can make a successful institution without a team,” she said, adding that the school has really been built into what it is today by involving everyone in the community, from students to teachers, and employees to parents.
Her leadership and achievements over the years haven’t just been confined to her school. She participated in the establishment of the Jordan River Foundation’s Children’s Human Rights Center, and has long been a member of the INJAZ leadership program, which involves speaking annually to girls in public schools. She’s also on the board of Save the Children Jordan, and in 2013 the International Baccalaureate Organization appointed her as a member of the IB Africa, Europe, and Middle East Regional Council.
Although Al Mashrek’s cofounder has had much success in her career, she admits it hasn’t always been plain sailing. “Some of the challenges that we have as women is that people don’t always take us seriously,” she said, adding that you have to work even harder to achieve recognition and success as a woman.
She also believes that being a woman with a career can be a controversial thing in Jordan. “In our culture this is something that needs a lot of effort and great understanding from your family and your husband,” she said, explaining that without this support it is very difficult for women to succeed. But she’s thankful to have had a family who always supported her. “My parents always believed that women should be empowered by an education and a career. So this shaped my mind and personality to motivate and strengthen me throughout my journey,” she said.
In her role as school principal of Mashrek, she tries to teach young women to be aware of their rights. “Sometimes we tend to raise girls to accept what is not acceptable,” she said, explaining that they should instead be raised to be strong, and to respect others as well as themselves. “To be a powerful woman, just be genuine and passionate about what you do,” she stressed.
Articles in the series of Jordan’s Top Businesswomen: