Staff Reporters
Sep 2, 2021

Women to Watch 2021: Nizwani Shahar, Ogilvy

They said she was too young to be a CEO. But Shahar proved the sceptics wrong by way of tenacity, empathy and innovation.

Women to Watch 2021: Nizwani Shahar, Ogilvy
Celebrating the torchbearers in the APAC marcomms industry

Nizwani Shahar

Chief executive

Being the youngest chief executive in the Malaysian advertising scene is no easy feat. But if anyone was going to defy the odds it is Nizwani Shahar. Blessed with natural leadership qualities, heaps of tenacity and a guiding principle of placing service above self, Shahar was never going to allow her age or gender to be barriers, instead she has used these attributes as strengths to her advantage.

Cutting her teeth working for various international agencies on brands such as Mandarin Oriental, L’Oréal Paris and Maybelline New York, Shahar joined Ogilvy in 2011 as business lead on Maxis, Nestlé and CIMB. With her skills in strategic planning and business development, she quickly climbed up the ranks and now, at the age of 38, is chief executive of Ogilvy Malaysia, making her one of the youngest CEOs in the region and one of the few women leaders in the Malaysia creative scene.

While others would assume Shahar was too young for the role, and might not be suitable for the job; she has flipped any negativity and turned it into positive attributes. Rather than try to be ‘one of the boys’, she has shown how her sense of empathy and intuition can motivate a better outcome. What was seen as ‘too young to be a CEO’ has made her most in-tune to what new consumers are into and has enabled her to be at the cutting-edge of technology and innovations.

This was particularly evident during the pandemic where Shahar led with a clear strategy to take care of her staff first, believing that engaged people will deliver better work; and better work will equate to business growth. This has proven true as business has boomed and employee retention and engagement is at an all-time high. Taking charge of diversity, equity and inclusion within the agency as well, Shahar has overseen huge improvements in gender ratio and women representation. Staying true to her core belief of putting service above self, outside of work Shahar is a key partner and mentor with UN Women and LeadWomen where she helps women in Malaysia raise the bar for themselves and succeed by their own right.

Leading with a trailblazing balance of steel and silk, Shahar personifies an empathy-driven style of leadership, combined with razor-sharp strategic planning and business development skills, that has so far proven to be an unstoppable fusion. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible, Shahar sets a high bar for women leadership in Malaysia.

Celebrating the torchbearers in the APAC marcomms industry


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