Dubai: Engineers, CEOs, mothers, educators, frontliners. These are among the varied and crucial roles Emirati women play in national development of the UAE. As the country prepares to celebrate Emirati Women’s Day on Sunday in their honour, the “daughters of the UAE” share their inspirational journeys.
Batool Zaidi, Senior Vice President of Group Strategy at First Abu Dhabi Bank is driving the execution of long-term strategic initiatives at her workplace. She also plays an important role in the formulation of the overall bank-wide strategic plans that are critical in the highly competitive banking sector.
With an educational background in science, it was not a typical career path for Batool. However, she accepted the new challenges with dedication when she opted to work in the private sector 10 years ago.
“The journey has been a rewarding one, where I learned how to overcome challenges, and gained invaluable knowledge and experience along the way,” said Batool.
While she is grateful to her family for being the biggest support she has for achieving her goals, the mother of three boys - aged 15, eight and two – said: “The bank’s leadership has also been very supportive, enabling me to grow into my current role, while also maintaining a healthy work-life balance.”
Even amidst her busy schedule, Batool finds time to follow her passion for food, travelling and experiencing different cuisines. Batool and her family have a keen interest in astronomy and space exploration.
“We are proud of the UAE’s achievements in the space sector. We take space events as an opportunity to share love and connect,” she said.
As an Emirati woman, Batool said she is “proud to be working in a sector that is key to the nation’s growth and prosperity, and to be following in the footsteps of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the Mother of the Nation, who has been spearheading Emirati women’s active participation in all fields and championing gender balance initiatives.”
“The UAE has always been a place where we as Emirati women feel empowered and are provided with unlimited opportunities to grow and pursue our dreams,” she added.
“I am very pleased to see the work and progress that Emirati women have shown towards the development of the UAE. My message to all my fellow Emirati women is that we should continue to ascend to new heights, and keep inspiring the world,” Batool said.
Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s tech ecosystem provider, has also highlighted the achievements of Emirati women for Emirati Women’s Day. Amna Aljarwan is one such achiever, and today is the co-founder and CEO at Knack Coaching Platform. She comes from an academic background, and has previously worked as a research engineer at Khalifa University. Her curiosity about technology inspired her mission for building meaningful products, and she spent time supporting startups establish in the UAE, which drove her to build her own startup to make an impact on the local startup ecosystem.
Knack Coaching Platform is a digital platform that connects employees to coaches and mentors in order to solve their career challenges and accelerate their professional development.
“As an Emirati woman, I am blessed with great leadership that sets women up for success. The opportunities that came my way are countless and I highly encourage all Emirati women and men to be ready for these opportunities and grab them,” Amna said.
Hasna Al Mutawa, the founder and CEO of IZI Health, is an enthusiastic health management professional with around 10 years of experience in corporate wellbeing. She spent most of her career looking after employees’ health through tailored wellbeing programs. This inspired her to explore the digital healthcare market in the region. In early 2020, she launched the tech start-up IZI Health, a digital health platform connecting healthcare professionals with patients virtually.
“I am blessed to be an Emirati living in a country where women are the equal half of the society, and are respected, supported, and appreciated. I am thankful for my role model the late Shaikh Zayed, my government, and my family because they are the reason I started my entrepreneurship journey,” Hasna said.
Khawla Hammad, founder and CEO at Takalam, is also helping advance the health of the UAE community. She developed Takalam, an award-winning online counselling platform for mental wellbeing, which connects individuals and organisations directly with professional counsellors.
Before devoting her work fulltime to Takalam, Khawla held several positions in various Abu Dhabi based government entities, including Emirates Foundation and twofour54, where she utilised her skills and expertise in business development, strategic partnerships, media, and communications.
“As Emirati women, we are truly blessed to belong to a thriving nation that is guided by the pioneering vision of our wise leadership. Through supportive initiatives, favourable programmes and tech ecosystems such as Hub71 that are leading the digital transformation of the UAE, we are able to turn our dreams into realities, and create a positive impact in our society,” she said.
‘Badge of honour’
Muna Al Dhaheri is a Patient Experience Officer Mubadala Health. When she is not at work, Muna plays defence for the UAE National Hockey team. “As a patient experience officer my job is to support in overseeing the management of patient experience at all facilities under Mubadala Health. But sports is my passion, my hobby. And playing hockey at a higher level was always a childhood dream for me,” said Muna.
She added: As Emirati women, we bind together our nation. Nothing will ever limit us. Thanks to our leadership, being an Emirati woman is like wearing a badge of honour.”
Alia Al Banna is a mother-of-four and she is passionate about sports. From a young age, she and her sister have loved to roller skate. And growing up they decided to put it to good use. Alia is co-founder and general manager today of RollDxb, an indoor roller-skating venue in the Middle East.
“My message to fellow Emirati women is to follow your passion. It can be sports or anything else. Emirati women today have proved themselves with their hard work. The UAE is fortunate to have a great leadership that supports our growth. We are truly lucky in this respect,” Alia said.
Trainee to manager
Nadia Ahli, Manager of Technology Excellence at Emirates Global Aluminum (EGA) joined the firm as a graduate trainee in 2008 and worked her way up to taking up a leadership role in the technology development department. Nadia has worked on key projects including the installation of EGA’s DX+ Ultra technology at Aluminium Bahrain’s Potline 6.
“As an Emirati woman, and mother-of-four, I know that we can achieve anything we set our minds to do. In some ways I am a pioneer as a woman in my field, but many more young women are determined to contribute to the success of our nation through engineering. Women make up a greater proportion of students in science, technology, engineering and maths in the UAE than in almost any other country. We are the future,” Nadia said.
Fatima Al Suwadi is Executive Vice President at Pembangkitan Jawa Bali Masdar Solar Energi (PMSE), a Masdar joint venture. Fatima is leading the Cirata 145-megawatt floating solar photovoltaic (PV) project, the first of its kind in Indonesia. The project is expected to provide enough electricity to power 50,000 homes and offset 214,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
She said.“As a young female engineer in a leading position in the Cirata project, it is challenging and a huge responsibility to be directing and managing such a complex project in a new country for Masdar and for me personally. It is exciting to be part of the operational and commercial activities, at the frontline of the project dynamics. I am forever grateful for the support from our esteemed leaders in the UAE and Masdar for their trust and support. It’s what keeps me going.”
Noura Al Mansoori, Research Assistant at NYU Abu Dhabi is an Emirati research assistant who joined NYUAD to take part in the marine research of the lab. She has been an avid diver and conservationist before joining the lab in 2016 and since then she has assisted in underwater surveys, become the secondary skipper as well as work on projects with other lab members, focusing on bioerosion on coral reefs.
“I live in a country where I have the freedom to explore my curiosity and I am grateful for these opportunities. But I also take care not to just exploit it in a way that I leave nothing for the next generation. I want to make sure that I open new paths for the next generation because it’s not just about me; it’s also about the next generation of women and men who want to go into this field,” said Noura.
Asal Abdulla Salem Alameri, 28, a Manufacturing Engineer at Ducab, is responsible for overseeing the cable manufacturing process and ensuring smooth production of the cable. Among other jobs, Asal also ensures the newly developed cable designs are manufactured with the highest precision and finest quality, adhering to the utmost safety procedures. Asal is the only female Emirati engineer rubber specialist in the region.
Asal said: “Working in a factory environment and male dominated industry really challenged me initially. But later it helped me to be adaptable, flexible, agile and responsive to the day-to-day operational needs. Today, it is not a challenging job anymore. In fact, I see this as an asset which helps me excel everywhere with confidence. I proudly call myself an ‘Emirati engineer’ and am so glad to be able to contribute to my country’s economy with the slogan ‘Made in UAE’.”
Aiming for the stars
Amna Busoud AlMarri, Mechanical Engineer, MBRSC, said: “I am honored and happy to be a female Emirati engineer working on the Emirates Lunar Mission. Since we are now just a few months away from sending the UAE-made Rashid rover to the moon, I’m motivated to work hard on a regular basis to contribute to the phenomenal growth of our space sector, which harnesses Emirati skills and knowledge in the service of our nation and humanity. There are no adequate words to express my gratitude for the assistance given to women in all fields by the leaders of my country.”
Maitha Mohammad, Maintenance Engineer, Alstom, said: “Our Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan emphasised the pivotal role of women and the need to increase their participation across politics, commerce and industry. The UAE has worked hard to become a global leader in gender equality and the empowerment of women, and women across the country today play an active role in support of the country’s diversification and economic development.”
She added: “At Alstom, I am keen to play a key role with my team in supporting the UAE’s future goals by advancing and accelerating sustainable transport for the future. Alstom has provided me with the opportunity to play a defining role in the development of game-changing transportation projects in the region, and I am proud that I have been empowered to become an advocate for women seeking the skills and opportunities to advance innovation and sustainability in the country, and across the wider region.”
Advancing in aviation
Reem Al Saffar, Senior Manager, Aerodromes, said: “Emirati Women’s Day is an opportunity to showcase our success stories in our industries to the world… However, as an Emirati in the aviation sector, I feel celebrated every day.”
She added: “Education has played a fundamental role in my advancement in the aviation sector on an international level. The University of Wollongong in Dubai influenced my ability to thrive in my career through developing people and project management skills, deepening theoretical knowledge, and building strong networks.
“Emirati women have played a key role in the growth of this country, and I foresee that role to be more prominent in the next 50 years, through countless achievements in priority and growth sectors as well as technological advancements across education, healthcare, and more.”