Dubai: The first step to women empowerment is the personal belief that each woman has the right to make her own choices, highlighted speakers on Thursday at the ‘Tamouha’ (Ambitious Lady) initiative, which took place at the Address Montgomerie Golf Club in Dubai.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, women from different walks of life shared their stories and views on beating the stereotypical idea that women have to choose between having a career or a family.
In a panel discussion titled ‘Lifting the next generation of women’, speakers discussed ways to move away from gestures and discussions related to women’s empowerment, and take actions.
Hadeel Al Masri, managing partner at Merit Consulting, a financial firm, said she focused on her confidence and building her abilities to create her professional career of 22 years, during which she had lived and worked in over 36 countries across the globe.
“You’re not a successful woman until you are really successful in your personal and social life, and in your career. My life was not always easy and sometimes I used to take two steps back to take one step forward,” said Al Masri.
She referred back to women joining the consultancy sector 22 years ago as a career that came with many challenges. “Women were given limited positions, and when I first stood in front of a room of men presenting the challenges faced in the organisation, there were many questions. The way I approached my career is that first I put a vision in front of me, and second I found the confidence in my capabilities. I wasn’t looking for a position, but a career, so I focused on my abilities to deliver on the job,” said Al Masri.
She also referred to her six year-old son, who suffers from medical challenges, as the reason behind all her success. Currently based in the UAE, Al Masri described the country as a “land of opportunities,” one where women have a voice and are able to progress in all areas of life.
Just the same, Niousha Ehsan, co-founder of event management firm LINKVIVA, shared her story of building her career in Dubai starting at the age of 16.
Ehsan explained after leaving school early and receiving her diploma from the British Council, she started working and soon cofounded the event management company with her husband.
“For the first two years, I was working for him, but since 2007, I have been leading the company and my husband works for me,” said Ehsan.
She pointed out she had never felt discrimination during her 22 years in the UAE when it came to gender equality.
“I never saw any limitations in what I wanted to do. I believe if you know what you want and you’re ambitious enough and willing to do what it takes, then you can make it,” she added.
Another speaker on the panel, Zainab Fakhruddin, board member at Fakhruddin Group of Companies, shared her life story, which highlights the importance of women being supported by family, the society and those around them.
Fakhruddin referred to her grandfather who came to Dubai 54 years ago to fulfil his vision of starting a business. “In India, he was a caretaker in a shrine and served tea and coffee. He came to Dubai and was selling safety pins, hair clips and nail cutters on the roadside where our showroom currently is,” she said.
From a young age, Fakhruddin was encouraged by her dad, who was one of four brothers on the company’s board managing the business, to understand the nature of the family business.
“During my breaks and holidays, my dad took me to the shop where I stood at the till counting money. I was inspired to get into the business because of my dad and grandad, and always wanted to see myself do the same and add value to the company they have made today,” she said.
Fakhruddin is currently the only woman on the board, and is aiming to increase the number of women working at her family company.
The event, which was organised by Crowe Horwath consultancy, gathered inspirational speakers from a diversity of backgrounds and nationalities, who addressed various topics such as women in Islam, the courage to lead, and the importance of meditation — all in celebration of International Women’s Day.