Dubai: ‘Start young, be brave and always think a step ahead’. This is the advise from a young Emirati woman who has moved up the highly competitive corporate ladder after defying gender and age bias.
Determined to move ahead and take bold steps, Marwa Taymour, currently the human resources country manager in for UAE and Kuwait with GE Renewable Energy, got her first job when she was only 16 years old, after attending an employment fair for fresh graduates.
“I can’t hire you, because you’re not at legal age yet,” the hiring manager had bluntly told her. Before that, the organisers of the event almost declined to let her in, saying that the law wouldn’t allow them to hire her. But Marwa’s was determined and she remained at the job fair until it ended. Sharing with Gulf News her early experience, Marwa, now 30, said: “As she (the hiring manager) left the building, I asked her to just interview me and then make the choice to reject me. An hour later, she said: ‘I can’t hire you because you’re not of the legal age, but I can give you a part-time experience.’
“I am very passionate about moving forward, taking new steps. I always ask for more and I’m focused on what’s the next step.”
Balancing work and academics
Marwa’s persistence paid off. She worked as a customer service officer at a bank while attending Canadian University Dubai CUD). She earned a BSc degree in Marketing, worked in the banking sector, then transitioned to HR when offered the opportunity to work on her employer’s Emiratisation programme. Her successful development of the bank’s Emiratisation strategy led them to offer her the role of Emiratisation Manager.
Then she moved to a major regional construction company, where she quickly rose up the HR ranks to become group senior human resources strategy and organisational development manager while she was still in her 20s. To prop up her credentials, she also earned an MBA in Human Resources from CUD.
Defy age and gender
Looking back at her career so far, Marwa told Gulf News: “The real challenge that I have faced, which I imagine is related to an unconscious bias, has been my gender and my age. Because I started so young, I’ve already reached a point in my career where I have served in senior and strategic roles despite all the bias. The solution was to break through the stereotypes by proving myself. I led by example. I spoke with maturity and during discussions, I also heard the experiences of others. I’ve learned that even if you’re young, it’s possible to lead with maturity,” she added.
Marwa said her biggest accomplishment was her impact on people. She said: “My direct reports told me how much I had impacted their confidence and self-esteem. I felt so proud. Actually, I was shocked by the number of people who told me: ‘You’ve touched my life, inspired me, helped me’. Be agile and adaptable. Even if you have the skills, if you are not able to adapt to the circumstances and accept change, you’ll fail.”
Live without fear
To young women looking to begin their careers, she had this bit of advise: “Be brave, as much as possible and always voice your opinion, without fear of failure.” She further said: “We talk about being relevant and accepted, but social pressures can often weigh you down. However, if you want to be different and original, you have to break free from the norm. I tell my own children the same thing. It’s important to yearn to be different. Think outside the box. From a young age we are encouraged to play different roles — firefighter or lawyer or doctor. But that’s within the norm. Think about being an entrepreneur. Put your ideas out there. It’s okay to be scared, but what’s more important is to take risks that bring your creativity and originality out in the open. The world will always need that.” she added.
Marwa in her own words
“Full of energy and eagerness to try new experiences, I come across as quite spontaneous and always willing to explore. Whether it’s a new dish, meeting new people or getting on a plane, I’m always ready to explore. I grow my strength and passion by spending time with people. Whether with family or friends, creating conversations, including ‘funny ones’ is one necessity I can’t eliminate.
“On the other hand, I have a particular interest in public speaking, I don’t know if the opportunity will come, but I still do aspire to become a motivational speaker one day. It also interconnects with the roots of finding joy in helping people find their purpose and inspiring them to do better, feel better. I enjoy reading books that revolve around psychology and leadership. Some of my favourites include ‘The Power of Your Subconscious Mind’ by Dr Joseph Murphy, the ‘Mindset’ by Carol S. Dweck and ‘Back to Human’ by Dan Schawbel.
Motherhood has been a whirl that has taken over my life, not only emotionally but mentally as well. It has changed my standpoint towards what we should focus on for our coming generations.
“I have two children, who are one year apart — Yusuf, 5, and Layan, 4. I must admit that they present yet another level of challenge, joy and curiosity. I learn from them and explore their world from a different perspective as they continue to amuse me with their enthusiasm and their questions, to which I don’t always have answers. I am trying to enjoy the ‘learning process’ of every role I hold during my journey. Whether on the job, as a mother or a wife, I am proud to be where I am and still have a lot to accomplish for myself and for everyone else around me.”