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Women in Business Q&A: Shari Arison, Owner the Arison Group

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Shari Arison is an American-Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist. She leads the Arison Group, a global business and philanthropic group. The group's philanthropic arm includes The Ted Arison Family Foundation, is committed to addressing the needs of the community in Israel through social investments and strategic philanthropy.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My life has always been about growing and improving, whether it is within myself or everything that I am involved with. As life dishes out trials and tribulations, I believe in putting the focus on positive solutions. Therefore, I have grown one step at a time, evolving personally and leading in what is important to me - making the world a better place. I have always wanted to be a catalyst for bringing about positive change, inspiring others to choose goodness. As I see it, we are all connected, and share a stake in our collective future. We are all part of a greater picture. Today, my leadership is based on my motto Think Good, Speak Good, and Do Good, which stems from my vision of Doing Good.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the owner of the Arison Group?
I grew up in a business-inspired environment, and over the years have started and run several businesses and philanthropic organizations. Understanding how large corporations work, by having hands-on and board experience, I apply that knowledge to the benefit of all that I do. This experience has led me to bring in the right people to create the right teams. Being that my goal is long-term and sustainable, I found that the more you engage people with awareness, knowledge, and inspiration, a collective creative force of professionals come on board. People who, along with their professional skills are people, like myself, care about people and the planet, alongside profits. Spending years between America and Israel, I have gained a global view, and the planet is my home. With this experience in mind, I am doing my part by working to create positive change in the world.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I believe that in order to make a difference in the world you have to be centered and balanced as a person. So, I have always balanced myself between my work life, my home life, and my own wellbeing.

What have the challenges and highlights been during your tenure at Arison?
Challenges:
As the owner of the Arison Group, a philanthropic and business enterprise that spans across 40 countries in 5 continents, my ongoing challenge is to bridge the gap between what I envision and its understanding and practical implementation. The Arison Group operates to realize the overall vision of Doing Good. Being that values are at the core of each of our business entities and philanthropic organizations, the challenge is bringing practical implementation that creates added value for people, society, and the environment. For example, the value of Abundance is implemented in practical terms by our water efficiency company Miya. I initiated Miya through Arison Investments, with the vision of Abundance in mind. By implementing efficiency in urban water systems, we are bringing an abundant amount of water to millions of people who did not have access to fresh water before. Shikun & Binui, our infrastructure and real estate company implements sustainability by building their projects 100% sustainable while educating their employees worldwide. The Arison Group has created the Doing Good Values Model in collaboration with leading American universities, in order to give the education and practical tools for implementing values across all companies and organizations worldwide. The ongoing challenge is educating, engaging, inspiring, and giving tools for implementation so that more and more employees, clients, and communities in general, join-in on our path of creating positive impact in the world.

Highlights:
It has been my privilege to be able to achieve many accomplishments. Examples include raising awareness to the importance of inner peace, and that we are all one. Inspiring the implementation of the value Financial Freedom in Israel's leading bank, Bank Hapoalim, and Sustainability in Shikun & Binui, Israel's leading infrastructure and real-estate company. Forbes ranking as No. 2 on World's Greenest Billionaires. My book Activate Your Goodness: Transforming the World through Doing Good, an instant NY Times bestseller, and translated into more than 20 languages to be published worldwide. Good Deeds Day, engaging people to go out and do a good deed for the benefit of others in 50 counties. Goodnet.org, gateway for Doing Good that connects people and initiatives for good. The Doing Good Values Model, solidified together with leading American universities Harvard, Thunderbird, George Mason, and Babson College. The Endowed Professor of Doing Good Values at George Mason University, researching and formulating an accredited curriculum around this model to promote values-based leadership for individuals, communities, business and organizations. I was recently awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from George Mason University, a true honor for me because it gives validation on implementing values in our businesses and all circles of life.

How has Good Deeds Day had a positive impact for the volunteers and those that they help?
Good Deeds Day is based on a simple idea that every person can do a good deed for the benefit of others and the planet. Even a smile that brightens someone else's day is a good deed. Everyone can give of themselves, according to their heart's desire. On this day, hundreds of thousands worldwide connect to this simple idea, and join in, from all walks of life, regardless of background and culture. The impact is huge, both for the participants who engaged themselves and experience the gift of giving, and also for those that benefit from the good deeds bestowed upon them. We have found that most people who volunteer on Good Deeds Day continue volunteering all year round. I believe that given the opportunity people want to do good. Good Deeds Day offers just that - opportunities to do good. It was important for us to establish our digital platform Goodnet.org to enable people to share their good deeds with others, and expand the circles. Goodness holds the power to bring about real transformation, first within yourself, and then rippling out to the world at large.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I believe the biggest issue is comparing our selves to men. In my opinion, it is important for women to connect and bring out their femininity. What's needed in this world is love and compassion, and this is something that women can express powerfully. The world is in need of healing, and I think that women have an important role in this. I greatly encourage women to take personal responsibility, stay connected to their own intuition and potential, work hard, deal with the reality, but don't give up. The key is to believe in yourself, and act. Channeling your energy into positive action is very empowering, so bring yourself into a creative mindset. I believe in balance, and that there is a place for both men and women at the workplace. Women should focus on their own uniqueness, understanding that men bring certain qualities, while women bring others, and complementing one another will benefit the workplace at large.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I believe that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I find that very true to my life. Whenever I needed guidance in business or inner growth, guidance arrived. I always know how to receive this guidance and then let go once it is not needed anymore, moving on to the next stage. It's all about knowing how to remain centered and focused on your own goals, while being open and receptive to the mentor's gift. Once you've learned, move on and continue being open and receptive for more.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
As I see it, every person can be a leader. For me, the people who choose to make a difference in the world are leaders to be admired.

What are your hopes for the future of Arison and the Good Deeds Day concept?
My biggest hope is that we continue to be a personal example of Doing Good, within our business and organizations, as individuals and as a collective, and that other people will be inspired and want to do the same. As for Good Deeds Day, my dream is that there be a critical mass of people worldwide, going out to do good deeds on Good Deeds Day, and that this energy will continue spreading to others circles for all the years to come.