Dr. Mona Al Abdoli, Senior Vice-President - Enterprise Assurance, Dubai Airports
Dr. Mona Al Abdoli, Senior Vice-President - Enterprise Assurance, Dubai Airports, set up its Legal Department, which is 75 per cent represented by women. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Few know that Dubai Airport’s Legal Department is 75 per cent represented by women. And the credit for the establishment of the department itself also goes to a woman.

Making this revelation in an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Dr. Mona Al Abdoli, Senior Vice-President - Enterprise Assurance, Dubai Airports, said she considers this one of her most important achievements.

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“This move aimed to guarantee and preserve the rights of the corporation and its employees, and to issue a ‘first-of-its-kind’ policy at the airport level with a focus on the protection of public funds in addition to circulating an effective system of governance to preserve the interests of the corporation and reduce risks,” she said.

She said in her current role, she draws upon over 19 years of experience in the aviation industry, to lay down a number of strategic legal initiatives for Dubai Airports. “This include supervising all legal, governance, risk, insurance and corporate assurance matters. I liaise with federal and legislative authorities on all of these matters to ensure the business receives comprehensive and robust advice across all of these areas,” she let on.

An essential part of her task is managing and developing all strategic partnerships and ensuring that the organisation’s objectives aligns with the Government’s key agendas.

“Ultimately, our aim is to facilitate smooth air traffic and deliver an unparalleled experience for our guests,” she added.

A woman-dominated background

An Emirati, Dr Abdoli hails from Sharjah. “I was raised in a family of three sisters, myself included, and a brother. I am also blessed with an adorable eight-year-old daughter named Hessa, who brings immense joy to my life and is truly the apple of my eye,” she said.

Having done her schooling in Sharjah, she pursued a bachelor’s degree from the College of Law at the University of Sharjah, followed which she acquired a licence to practise law from the General Institute of the Judiciary in Abu Dhabi.

A first for an Emirati

“I then obtained a master’s degree in international travellers’ rights and obtained an “Aviation Expert” certificate from the Singapore International Aviation Academy. In parallel, to this I participated in specialised training programmes, including those at the British University in Egypt, and was honoured to be nominated as a member of esteemed professional associations, such as the “Air Law Group” of the Royal Aviation Society. Most recently, in 2023, I achieved my PhD in private international law, successfully defended my thesis on ‘the challenges facing airport operators and the obligations of the air carrier’,” she summarised her educational background.

But what inspired Dr Abdoli to venture into the male-dominated fields of law and aviation?

Love for challenges

“It was primarily my passion for the principle of justice through legal practice and my deep commitment to serving the UAE,” she said, adding, “Aviation, being a crucial sector of our economy, naturally drew my interest. Additionally, my love for challenges, penchant for finding solutions amidst adversity, and choosing unconventional paths in our society have been my driving forces. I am fortunate to have realised this dream, becoming the first Emirati lawyer specialised in aviation.

One of the questions Dr Abdoli is frequently asked if she faced any challenges as a woman during this journey?

“I perceive the challenges I encountered in my career as invaluable lessons that honed my skills and enriched my experience, ultimately shaping my professional trajectory. While pursuing law, one significant challenge I encountered was the immense time commitment required, leaving little room for other pursuits. However, completing my education and entering the legal profession brought immediate rewards and fortified my leadership approach centred around promoting equality and justice within my team.

She said as a lawyer working for Dubai Airports, one of the most formidable hurdles she faced was leading a team through the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigating its adverse effects.

Focus on innovation

“This experience underscored the importance of continuously nurturing and enhancing the team’s skills, uplifting morale and employing a creative legal approach to safeguard the interests of the organisation amidst unprecedented challenges. Ultimately, these challenges have not only strengthened my resolve but also deepened my commitment to fostering resilience and innovation within the legal sphere,” she shared.

In her leadership role at Dubai Airports, Dr Abdoli has actively promote female empowerment through her involvement with DAWN (Dubai Airports Women’s Network) from 2021 to 2023.

“We wanted DAWN to be a programme where women across the Dubai Airports community can support and inspire each other, unlocking our full potential as professionals while also enhancing our holistic health and happiness. This balance is key in achieving the inclusive, sustainable and prosperous future envisioned by Dubai’s leadership,” she said.

The network also advances Dubai Airports’ corporate commitment of furthering more inclusive workplace practices while improving employee engagement and wellbeing in line with the UAE’s National Strategy. She has also participated in forming the governance framework for the first youth committee at Dubai Airports. This initiative aims to support Emirati youth, inspiring them to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations and actively contribute to the promotion and development of the emirate.

Role model

She considers her mother as her biggest role model. “She was just like Mother Teresa – gentle, compassionate, loved and respected by so many. Even after her passing she is remembered with reverence and warmth. She was always willing to support and help others without expecting anything in return. She was a giver and a caretaker,” she noted.

She said family was very important to her. “My primary focus outside work revolves around my family and my only daughter, Hessa, because I believe that spending time with our loved ones fosters happiness and positivity throughout the entire day. This time spent together allows me to maintain clarity and focus on my life priorities, ensuring a healthy work-life balance,” she reasoned.

Although work and family take up motst of her time, she said she does make time for reading and travelling. “I love exploration, adventure and immersing myself in new cultures that I have not been able to see before,” she added.