Dubai: The inaugural day of the Global Women’s Forum 2020 in Dubai on Sunday heard from a Dubai princess how she started working from the lowest pay scale and worked on the ground before reaching the top position.
Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, and daughter of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, also shared the history of women playing key roles in the UAE’s community and gave an example of how even sky is not the limit for the country’s women today.
In a freewheeling conversation at the forum, the Sheikha Latifa sought to dispel misconceptions about the women in the country by shedding light on the history of the Emirati community and sharing her own professional journey.
She enlightened the audience about how the women ran families and businesses when the men used to go for months for pearl diving when Dubai was just a small fishing village.
“We need to tell these kind of stories for people to understand where we came from and what we are,” she said while explaining the importance the women in the society held and how they were respected for the roles they played for centuries.
“Culturally, the Emirati society values women and respect them a lot.”
“It was the women who used to take care of the families and businesses. It is a natural progression in our culture.”
Talking about her own journey, she said she grew up seeing powerful and influential women at home who set the bar high for her to work in the public sector.
Sheikha Latifa took the example of her grandmother, who she is named after. She said her grandmother, whose story has been detailed in Shaikh Mohammad’s book ‘My Story,’ used to address the women’s concerns through her majlis and was well-known for her expertise in traditional medicine.
“Growing up in that environment I believe it was natural transition for me to do something and work in the public sector.”
It was then she shared the story of how Shaikh Mohammad encouraged her to fulfill her wish to work.
After she graduated, she signed a contract with Zayed University to work with their media department. That is when, she said, Shaikh Mohammad asked her: “Don’t you think it will be more beneficial if you work with us, in Dubai government, he asked and he said think about it,” she said, recollecting how her father never forced his opinion on his children, but guided them.
Talking about how she developed a sense of obligation to serve the community, the princess said: “I grew up watching my father. He was the youngest defence minister in [the] history.”
She said her grandfather used to get up early morning to visit other emirates to work on different projects.
The princess then revealed another secret: “When I started to work, I started at the very lowest level of the government scale. I don’t think anybody knows this.”
Sharing her journey with the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, she said the entity was rather like a start-up those days.
“So we had to work on everything,” she said and explained how she learned different roles and went to top.
“You can’t learn [everything] starting from a managerial role…You have to be there on the ground with the people that you are working for in the industry… I remember doing everything…That was the beauty of it. This is something that people need to understand… [The whole] process is beautiful.”
Stressing that it is crucial for giving women opportunities to prove themselves, she said: “One of the things that my father instilled in me is that you succeed from merit.”
Highlighting how the government has been supporting women empowerment and creating laws to ensure gender balance in various sectors, she said: “I believe that we have a lot of brave women with a lot of courage to go out and realize their dreams and achieve their ambitions…I believe there are a lot of opportunities for our women.”
She took the example of the UAE’s Minister of State for Advance Sciences being a female.
“She [Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri] is also the deputy project manager for the UAE’s Mars Mission. [That shows] for women in the UAE, even space is not the limit.”