On a recent episode of The Brand is Female podcast, Dr. Amel Karboul, CEO of the Education Outcomes Fund (EOF), joined host Eva Hartling to discuss her leadership journey, which so far has seen her achieve success in the private sector, break new ground in politics, and most recently, blaze a trail helping to scale outcomes funding in education.
Looking back on her childhood, Dr. Karboul expressed that she always had an “atypical mindset,” which pushed her to question the norms of society around her. It was this tendency to challenge the status quo that led Dr. Karboul to develop a lifelong passion for leading change and transformation.
After spending nearly two decades of her career in the private sector, in 2013, Dr. Karboul felt called to public service:
“By 2013, I felt a very strong urge to move into something that had more of a social impact. At the time, I was CEO of my own company, which was thankfully doing very well. But I wanted to…use 2014 to do something more philanthropic.”
Shortly thereafter, she became the first woman in history to occupy Tunisia’s Minister of Tourism position and she helped lead the country’s transformation following the Arab Spring. Remembering the moment she received a telephone call from the recently-elected Prime Minister of Tunisia inviting her to join his cabinet, Dr. Karboul recalled: “I couldn’t say no—I felt it throughout my entire body. It was a resounding yes.”
After serving her term as a minister and transferring power to a newly-elected government, solidifying the country’s shift to democracy, Dr. Karboul turned to the international development sector, with a focus on education:
“I think that an educated mind is the most important infrastructure we have. When women and girls are educated, it means they have more opportunities in life, and can be financially independent…For me, being passionate about social change, women’s rights, and governments being able to deliver better for their citizens, education seemed to be a place where that could come together.”
Dr. Karboul became part of the founding team of EOF, launching its efforts to improve education for children and youth across the world, with a strong focus on vulnerable populations, including girls. By tying education funding to demonstrable results, EOF’s model aims to achieve better learning outcomes for children. As Dr. Karboul explained, the aim is “not just [to] put bodies in classrooms, but [to] build educated minds.”
Dr. Karboul emphasized the urgency of change needed within the education sector, particularly as COVID-19 accelerates a global learning crisis, which is disproportionately impacting girls:
“We know that 20 million girls who have left school [due to the pandemic’s impact] will never go back…we can only change this by working in a systemic way… We must transform the way money is spent to deliver on social and developmental challenges.”
Ending on a personal note, Dr. Karboul shared her advice for aspiring women leaders:
“It’s good to be open to feedback, it’s good to challenge yourself, and it’s good to have mentors that challenge you… But I think there comes a point when you move into becoming someone who wants to influence social change—or change in general—it involves going against the grain of what many people think… Because the mindset shift that is required is so big, there will be many people against you. Once you do start to change things, people will criticize you…and that’s when you have to be happy with who you are, and less dependent on outside validation.”
You can listen to the podcast here.