Women must make their voices heard: Businesswoman

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Women must make their voices heard: Businesswoman

Celebrated businesswoman Raja Easa Al Gurg tells Khaleej Times that every challenge she faced was treated as an opportunity to find innovative solutions.

By Kelly Clarke/staff Reporter

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Published: Wed 22 Oct 2014, 12:17 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:50 PM

About Raja EasaAl Gurg

President of Dubai Business Women Council, Al Gurg is the Managing Director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group (ESAG). A respected businesswoman in the region, Al Gurg received top ranking on the Forbes Middle East list of ‘The Most Influential Arab Women in Family Business’ in 2012. She is ranked fifth in the list of the‘100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2012,’ compiled by CEO Middle East and was ranked among the top 100 (58th place) in the list of the world’s most influential Arabs in the Arabian Business 2012 Power 500 listing.

Women empowerment is gaining momentum in the Mena region with the UAE acting as one of its biggest ambassadors. Throughout the Middle East, Arab women are at the forefront of an economic shift helping lead the way for change in business, government and society as a whole. Carving out a niche for herself due to her support and encouragement of Arab women entrepreneurs, celebrated businesswoman Raja Easa Al Gurg tells Khaleej Times that every challenge she faced was treated as an opportunity to find innovative solutions

The percentage of Arab women in leadership positions has increased in the past decade. What do you think is the reason behind this?

We have seen a positive change over the last decade with an increasing number of women participating in the UAE labour force and further afield in the Mena region. The region has also made significant progress in terms of women’s education with the UAE boasting an adult female literacy rate of more than 90 per cent. His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said: “It is not strange for a UAE woman to be an ambassador; she who proves herself merits praise and encouragement.” This motivation and support from our leaders along with their vision for the future progress of our country inspires both Arab men and women to become active members of society and contribute to its economic growth.

Despite this increase, there is still much to be done to strengthen women involvement. How do you suggest we go about this?

More changes are required as women in business still face several challenges within the work force. In some parts of the region, outdated labour laws also hinder participation with limited opportunities available to women. For example, insufficient maternity leave and childcare amenities also play a role in limiting options.

As an advocate for women empowerment, I believe that women simply need to make their voices heard and accept the responsibility to instil change in their working environment. Memberships within networking groups of like-minded women provide inspiration and motivation. You get to learn from each other’s experiences and members are usually willing to support each other. There are more female-oriented groups meeting on a regular basis in Dubai to discuss topics regarding women in business. Many of them, like the Dubai Business Women Council, focus on empowerment, education, leadership and connecting members with potential partners.

How can high-powered businesswomen create the right work-home balance?

The major constraints faced by businesswomen are common across the world, and are often related to the time needed to fulfil family obligations. The greatest challenge for a woman in business is to effectively balance work and family life.

Change and modernisation can only come gradually from within our society, but the cultural constraints placed on women can be removed through education and public enlightenment. Most women receive helpful family support and community respect as they take on roles as businesspersons or entrepreneurs.

In many Western countries men are stepping down, becoming stay-at-home dads with many wives becoming the bread winners. Can you see that type of role reversal happening in the UAE?

The UAE is home to expatriates from all corners of the world, which may one day influence this role shift. However, I believe that an equal balance of male and female leaders will benefit organisations and the country as a whole. If society can achieve, accept and manage this equilibrium between genders, I foresee a harmonious and efficient system that benefits all.

Do you think women leadership is still a taboo subject for some Arab families?

The culture has certainly evolved and has accepted many of the modern ideologies in order to welcome and host other religions, traditions and norms. And generations grow accustomed to these societal changes. Our leaders and visionaries support the advancement of Arab women and provide equal opportunities for all. More Arab women in business and leadership roles need to share their experiences and inspire their peers to ensure that the future for younger generations is one of equality and opportunity.

As an Arab businesswoman yourself, what has been the biggest challenge you have faced, or still face today?

I owe my career to the support of my family and the continuous motivation provided by my peers and colleagues. Again, I have to stress the growth of the UAE and the opportunities that came with it have immensely contributed to this success. Every challenge that I faced was treated as an opportunity to find innovative solutions for the betterment of our community. My father was and still is my biggest mentor in both my personal and professional life. I thank him for always encouraging me to become the best I could be.

kelly@khaleejtimes.com



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