Dubai: Businesswomen in the Arab world seem to cross more glass ceilings than one might think.
A traditional view would assume women in the Middle East to be more oppressed rather than going head to head with men in board rooms. One such woman is Salma Hareb.
Currently the chief executive of Economic Zones World and Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority, she has been running the two institutions for the Government of Dubai since her appointment in 2005 after she made her mark as strategic planning manager. Today she is responsible for 31 free zones developed around the world and run by Economic Zones World.
Alongside, she manages Jafza International, TechnoPark and Dubai Auto Zone, while serving as a board member for Ports and Free Zones Corporation and Dubai Exports Development Corporation.
Under her leadership, Jafza has won many awards, including Best Port Special Economic Zones in the Middle East - Foreign Direct Investment 2006; Supply Chain and Transport Award 2007 - Industrial Area of the year and Best Logistics Park - Sea- Middle East Logistics Award 2006.
Hareb graduated from Al Ain University and did her post-graduation from London's Cardiff Institute of Higher Education.
Hareb was recently proclaimed as the most powerful woman within the boundaries of the Arab world. On her ranking, she said, "The feeling is gratifying and empowering."
Adding that with her achievements, she hopes that other women are inspired and encouraged to strive for their respective dreams. "Arab women have come a long way but there are still many more miles to go."
Her journey to success has been a challenging undertaking, she told Gulf News. She commenced by joining Jafza as the chief planning officer in 1997.
"It has been a learning experience, with lessons learned from my colleagues, my clients and my leaders." A lot of hard work and determination has gotten her to the helm, says Hareb.
Contributions to her success in the form of inspirations have been many. In the forefront stands her father. "He was a true intellectual with a passion for learning," said Hareb, while mentioning His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as an inspiration for all, along with her mentor Sultan Bin Sulayem, Chairman of Dubai World.
"What drives me day in and day out is the true excitement of creation. Dubai today has shown the world the ability to execute with speed. We have been empowered by our leaders, which inspires us further."
Sharing her formula for success, Hareb says to believe in one's ability and strive to bring it into existence. "Start by setting your sight on a goal. Once you have a vision, work out a way to achieve it."
In her view, there are many important steps to the ladder of success.
On one rung lies education, on another is hard work, while holding it all together is the motivation for proving oneself as the best in any endeavour embarked upon.
Finally, she declares a deep need for businesswomen who should earn their empowerment rights and believe in themselves.