Introducing Elias Habbar-Baylac

The Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) is thrilled to announce our newest EGAL Student Fellow, Elias Habbar-Baylac! Elias joins us from CDC Group, the UK Government’s impact investing arm in emerging markets. At CDC Group, Elias served as chief of staff to the MD for financial inclusion and gender and diversity finance specialist. Among other things, he advised gender-lens investments in Africa and Asia, developed solutions to drive women’s access to finance and entrepreneurship, launched a global task force for gender-equitable climate finance, and delivered strategies on issues like LGBTQ investing and gender-based violence. Prior to CDC, Elias worked as an impact specialist and gender and economic inclusion economist with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and as a strategic partnerships champion at the United Nations Development Program. In addition, Elias served as co-head of two LGBTQ networks, launched initiatives for men to champion gender equity in the workplace, and mentored women entrepreneurs and under-represented students. Elias is a cum laude graduate of Columbia University and Sciences Po Paris and an alumnus of the Max Planck Society.

Why did you choose Haas?

I devoted the first chapter of my career to investing with a gender and diversity lens and building inclusive product solutions that worked in frontier and emerging markets. This included safe mobility solutions in Africa, financial products that work for women-owned small businesses in India, or digital infrastructures that benefit excluded regions in Central Asia. This work involved partnering with global actors to build the ecosystem for gender-lens investing and engaging with governments in certain parts of the world to change laws that prohibit gender equitable outcomes (like women’s access to STEM professions in ex-Soviet countries). Prior to Haas, I started working with start-ups piloting inclusive business models. I observed the transformative impacts of digital payments, SaaS solutions, and ride-sharing platforms in unlocking opportunities for women in developing countries. I started questioning my own hypotheses about what inclusive solutions should look like and how we as impact leaders could transform decade-long strategies through tech partnerships and an entrepreneurial focus.

I rapidly identified Berkeley Haas as a unique incubator of ideas at the crossroads of tech, entrepreneurship, gender and equity, sustainability, and innovation. Berkeley’s entrepreneurial and mission-driven culture and the Bay Area ecosystem were both crucial as I looked for a truly transformative experience that could equip me with tools to ideate, pilot, create, and innovate at scale. Unlike other MBA programs, Haas actively supports careers that challenge the status quo and embed gender equity, inclusion, sustainability or other social impact domains in traditional business functions (such as product management, strategy consulting, marketing). Haas is unique in that its impact offering is the most comprehensive of all business schools and reflects cutting-edge priorities at places like the UN, World Bank, or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And EGAL, as a center for business-smart research and cross-industry engagement, was a major appeal as it would give me an immediate community and platform to innovate and think through inclusive business models at scale — starting with our work on responsible AI and innovation!

Describe a time when you saw Equity Fluent Leadership in action.

The power of Equity Fluent Leadership lies in the myriad of ways in which it is demonstrated, leveraged, and exemplified. I have been fortunate to learn under the leadership of executives and partners that truly shaped my DEI focus, educated me on equity across cultures, and made indelible impacts on who I am today. There are different types of Equity Fluent Leaders, from those that channel their lived experiences into powerful drivers for change to those that are trailblazers for all experiences and champion equity by listening to others, creating coalitions, and amplifying voices. Some of the greatest Equity Fluent Leaders I have worked with are Suzanne Biegel, the mastermind behind gender-lens investing, and Jen Braswell, one of my former directors at CDC and the architect of the 2X Collaborative, the industry body for gender-lens investing. They both took institutional risks, demonstrated courage and tenacity in shaking decade-old investment priorities, and used their powers to advance equity across the financial industry. And outside of their gender identity alone, they demonstrate humility and authenticity in including the voices of others, providing space for race and sexual orientation as equal priorities in diversity finance. These are two global champions among many others, and Equity Fluent Leadership is demonstrated at every level of the economy. The most inspiring Equity Fluent Leaders I have seen are intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs in places like Morocco, Tanzania or Tajikistan that relentlessly strive to boost access, tackle gender-based violence, and advocate for social change in sensitive societies and resource-constrained environments.

What excites you most about being an EGAL Student Fellow?

I am very excited to be joining the EGAL team and champion EGAL’s agenda for the next two years. Professor Kellie McElhaney is a global champion and thought leader on the business case for gender equity and — even prior to Haas — really helped me and many others negotiate business strategies on issues like investing in women leaders to boost sustainability. The rest of our diverse team is equally inspiring and I look in particular to work with Genevieve Smith on our new pillar focused on ‘equitable and inclusive products and services’, exploring how tech products and features and their venture capital sponsors can be positioned as tools to advance inclusion and equity. I hope to seize opportunities to engage with our stellar faculty, partners, and team as much as I hope to inspire my fellow classmates to choose inclusive innovation as a career path. There are so many opportunities across the worlds of finance, technology, healthcare, energy, education, and consulting to correct imbalances and reimagine equitable workforces, cultures, products, and services. I believe MBA graduates have an immense role to play in building an inclusive global economy, and I am most excited to champion this further as Haas’ EGAL fellow.

At the heart of UC Berkeley's Business School, the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership educates equity-fluent leaders to ignite and accelerate change.