What are the challenges of being a female leader in a male dominated environment?
It is very challenging. I feel as if women have to work twice as hard as men. For an example, if a male colleague comes to work late it is because he has other important responsibilities but if a female comes in late occasionally, it’s seen as irresponsible. The other main challenge for me is finding a work-life balance. Sometimes I feel guilty leaving my children, which can be distracting. I think that’s an issue for women across the globe, not just in this region.
What career advice would you give someone aspiring to your role?
Don’t listen to those who tell you you need to act like a man and dress like a man to be taken seriously. Be proud of your femininity and of who you are. About 60% of career success depends on how people view us. Office etiquette is a vital part of image. There are damaging behaviours that give the wrong impression, such as decorating your office with family pictures. By paying attention to these things you can come a long way in giving the right impression.
Another area that is neglected by women is networking which is an important trait in men success. Men tend to support each other though these networks within the workplace while women don’t have time for this maybe because of the family responsibilities or cultural reason but this has to change.
What are the major challenges faced by women in the regions workforce?
Work/life balance, which can be stressful for working mothers. Lack of leadership training is another challenge and sometimes it is the organisation is reluctant to invest in female employees.
Women can start by setting their priorities right when it comes to work/life balance and try to be 100% present in their jobs. They need to take any training opportunity offered by the employer and invest personally in developing their work skills and competencies.
What is your personal leadership journey?
I started my career with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) which I feel helped me move fast the career ladder. Within five years of work with the USAID, I got promoted to assistant finance manager, so when I moved to my new organisation which happened to be a government body I started from that position.
I have to admit that I was fortunate because I joined The Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI) at the right time with the right qualification and experience.. PASI had just started and needed experienced people to set the organisation up. I was young, enthusiastic, with a US qualification and had solid experience which I gain from working with the US Government. I was lucky to have a supportive senior management that believed in me and I also had good mentors to guide me through my career.
What are your expectations for female empowerment?
Women are growing in number here in the GCC and worldwide. For example, in my country, Oman they represent 50% of the country's population, and they are often more educated than men. The trend now in the world is to hire women for their soft skills which they outperform men in, especially after the last financial crisis and I believe that is the case even here in our region. Supported by the policies of the GCC governments, women have a brighter future I believe.
What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders?
Women need to work smart, not hard.