Sara Masmoudi: “Women still struggle to assume their power”

General Director of Teriak Laboratories and Chairman of the National Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry (CNIP), Sara Masmoudi remains above all a Tunisian woman. In other words, a woman in action who works for her country and for her continent.

Sara Masmoudi welcomes you surrounded by contemporary works. “This is a gallery of companies that we call ‘The Box’ where art is invited to take its place. Nice, right?” and inspiring. Even if Sara Masmoudi, result of a union between a Tunisian engineer and a Swedish philosophy teacher does not lack a source of inspiration. “I inherited a fairly rich culture, the Mediterranean and the Great North, with an interesting cross between this father engineer, like me, and this mother literature teacher. A duality that can be seen in her career path.

“Returning to Tunisia was not an issue, it was obvious”

Born and raised in Tunisia, first studied engineering – she later received country’s qualified engineer award – before joining Montreal Poly-technique, in Canada and specialized in industrial engineering. “Then I turned to topics that interested me more, change management, continuous improvement. So yes, I had a two-facet path, like my dual culture.” She worked in Canada for a while before returning to Tunisia. «Returning to Tunisia was an issue; it was obvious even although at that time it was easy and convenient to stay in Canada. And even more because with my dual nationality. But I wanted to go back to Tunisia where I had always been very happy. »

Sara Masmoudi then settled in Tunis and joined the Kilani group, that includes the Teriak Laboratories. «I first had an interview. The managers were looking for someone to take care of the finances but I wanted to work in the business development. They told me «maybe next February.» We were in October. Actually, it was a small group at the time, the two founders, two brothers, really impressed me. Another source of inspiration for her.»

In front of her desk, a painting. «During my interview, this work was above the desk of one of the group’s co-founders during the interview. I found interesting this frank choice of modernity and this desire to encourage artists. That is what attracted me to the group: values of which beauty and aesthetics are at the forefront. It is part of the philosophical dimension. For me, beauty is intelligence, intransigence and the refusal of mediocrity. All this makes me feel completely at home here. Some people think that I am even a shareholder. Which is not the case and this strong choice is also my freedom. I grew up with the group. There has always been a very good relationship with the founders. »

Common values as source of growth

These two founders quickly entrusted highest responsibilities, including the direction of the group. It should be remembered that in Tunisia, women have long since, if not always, since the founding of Carthage by a woman, Elyssa, occupied the highest positions. «The question of whether, as a woman, I could assume responsibility never arose, » confirmed Sara Masmoudi. «I started in the business development and after two years, the financial direction of the group was entrusted to me. I pointed out that it was not my training. The answer was: do not argue. Period. From the beginning, we had a common vision. I then took the financial direction and at 32, the general management. They had the merit of entrusting the development of a company to a woman, who had only a few years of experience in the company. The starting point is these values that are common to us: the desire to do, the taste for excellence, challenges, to build together … The profit race or the lure of the profit have never been the primary motivations. Money is good, but it is never the main goal. »

The Tunisian woman, model of emancipation and collaboration

This exemplary career path, supported by the founding duo, confirms more, in Sara’s case, the idea men, women are their own enemy. «The founders, in my opinion, chose me because their mother was a strong woman like many Tunisian women. We do not recall enough but Tunisia is an exception as far as that matter is concerned. I am often challenged by strangers who ask me the question if men are not disturbed by the fact of being led by a woman. This is a question that does not arise in Tunisia. I am a feminist in my own way and I think that the woman inhibits herself. She sometimes stays in the corner where she is confined. The Tunisian overall, and even the little people, are proud of the Tunisian woman. I realize this when, when I watch news in France, once a year on Women’s Day, they raise the inequalities of wages between men and women. This is an issue that does not exist in Tunisia. The question arises more in terms of competence. For example, within the company, we are sometimes told that we have to recruit men. The women are excellent. That said, it must not become a castrator. The fact is that if Tunisia has 11 million people in value, it is the equivalent of twice more because men and women work . After course, there is still progress to be made. Women still struggle to assume their power. No doubt this traditional lid, which invites the woman to stand back…»

“To think south-south”

After leading her group at the head of the local market, Sarah Masmoudi now leads another adventure: African expansion. But, once again, she uses her approach: it is not a question of seeing Africa only in terms of exports but of the transfer of skills and South-South cooperation. she is mulling other experiments on the continent (in Ivory Coast in particular), While pushing her peers, as Chairman of the National Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry (CNIP) to “think south-south”.