I was delighted to be participating in Naseba's 2nd annual ‘Women in Leadership' forum in Abu Dhabi last week.
During the two-day event, we heard from many Emirati career women on how they had achieved success and overcome inherent challenges. For a majority, this had not been easy, but with commitment and self-belief, they had managed to overcome the usual resistance to women in public life. One speaker spoke of her strict dress code in wearing an abaya, and said that others had to get beyond this external, physical appearance in order to get to know her and to understand the focus of her work.
But, do Emirati woman face different challenges than other women? Certainly, it is true that traditionally it had not always been their role to undertake activities outside the home and it was agreed that they needed the support and encouragement from their families along the way.
I sat next to an Emirati lady who had been promoted to a senior position in a bank in the Gulf, but it had not always been easy for her. She told me that she wasn't taken seriously for many years and people would expect her to make mistakes. In many ways, she felt she needed to be "better" than a man but now, 18 years later, she is now in a position of responsibility and trust.
Does that mean that if you are an Emirati woman you need always be one step ahead and more dedicated than any man? In some ways, as is the same for every minority group, this may well be the case and realistically, there may be someone there waiting for you to fail.
And what of the jealousy of others when you are successful and rise to a senior position? We heard from another member of the audience, an Emirati lady who had to move jobs twice because she was subjected to bullying in both organisations in which she worked.
Emirati women are needed in the Gulf region and have much to offer but they need to have the confidence and self-belief to take them on their journey. Of course, when that woman becomes successful, she has a responsibility to empower others; become a role model for those starting out in business or commerce and be a mentor for them.
There are high expectations of Emirati women — both from themselves and from others around them. But they have to move beyond their own self-limiting beliefs; to unlock the passion that is inside of them and be focused on their vision.
The Gulf region in particular, needs to have a strong, female voice in its boardrooms, in its public services, in its charitable services and in government. Being female is to be a member of one half of the human race — some may say, the stronger half!
Achievers: Mental make-up
- Many Emirati women have achieved success in business.
- Women, particularly in the Gulf, need self-confidence.
- Emirati women need to empower others to follow in their footsteps.
- The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee well-being consultancy based in London. Contact them for proven stress strategies - www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk