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Ta’atheer – addressing the gender parity gap in the UAE

Lubna Qassim posted this on


Last month I was invited by the global law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright to the evening launch of their own ta’atheer with more than 100 women and men from across different industries: oil, energy, legal, IT, healthcare, education, defence.

ta’atheer is Arabic for impact, influence and creating legacy and Norton Rose is among an increasing number of firms and companies to be addressing the gender parity gap in the UAE.

As a member of the legal profession, I am passionate about justice, equality and governance and I believe that gender parity is critical in order to achieve good governance.

At the event, I looked at my own experiences in progressing to my current role of executive vice-president at Emirates NBD bank – and pulled out what I think are some of the ingredients for women to address early in their careers.  Also for bosses, colleagues and mentors to consider when supporting women in their career path.

I came out of Law School with an Honours Degree thinking the definition of success was the function of hard work and intelligence. When I started my career it didn’t work out that way – the combination of these two did not equate to success.

I had to ask myself, “What is Missing?”

I believe gender parity is about

  • Authenticity
  • Taking risks
  • Fear
  • Perception
  1. Women have to be authentic

We are each of us our own competitive advantage- that is what distinguishes us from others. No one can be you the way you can be you. The last thing any of us should do is to submerge what is uniquely YOU. Anytime one of us behaves or speaks inconsistently with who we are creates a competitive disadvantage. Take the lead- lead authentically.

I have always pitched and advised in my own style, never imitated anyone. I didn’t know what was right or what was wrong in terms of style at work, but I knew what was “l”.

  1. Taking risks

Anyone who considers themselves to be a leader in the 21st Century, has to be comfortable taking risks.

In the last eight years we have all witnessed the global economic environment and often seen leaders saying “Keep your Head Down” or ” Don’t rock the boat”.

But even by keeping your head down you are still in the firing line.  When everybody else is ducking, this is the time when you can smartly accelerate your success, by bringing ideas to the table on how to increase profitability. That demonstrates to management that this woman does not care to be made redundant and gives out a strong message that is translated as “She is a keeper”.

  1. Grasping fear

I wonder why most of us don’t take risks?  We are scared! And scared is fear.

Fear has no place in the success equation.

The worst scenario is when you take a risk which doesn’t work out.  So what?  You fail?  But guess what, failure always brings you a gift and that gift is called experiences. Next time you will know how to deal with it better – more creatively, more successfully.

Which takes me to the last earned lesson.

  1. Perception is critical to women’s success

Perception.  This  is crucial and absolutely important for to maximize success – both in the seat where you are now and where you aspire to be.

Perception is the co-pilot of reality.  How people perceive you will have a direct impact on how they deal with you.  If you want to succeed you must understand the perception of you in the market.

What lens are they looking at you through?  It’s imperative that you understand the adjectives which are associated with success. If you would like to manage large groups of people and if you are not perceived as being inspirational and organised then it doesn’t matter if you can or you did manage people, you will not be in the minds of leaders when they are looking to promote.  You will not get that opportunity.

So those are four areas for women to grasp in their career paths.  Bosses need to encourage their female leaders to grasp opportunities beyond their comfort zone so they progress.  And women need honest feedback from colleagues and leaders so they understand how they are perceived and what they need to address to step up.

I would welcome other views as to what women need to do to address the gender parity gap.  And my thanks to Norton Rose Fulbright for leading the discussion of this important subject in the UAE.

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