'Be smart in balancing your personal and professional life'

WOMEN HAVE always played a prominent role in the development of Dubai, and the UAE as a whole. Their achievements have been, more often than not, remarkable. Over the past one week, City Times ...

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Published: Thu 8 Mar 2007, 10:36 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:24 AM

looked at a few such remarkable women in senior management positions in Dubai World, in a special series of interviews ending today, International Women's Day.

Our eighth and last interview is with Salma Hareb, CEO, Jafza (Jebel Ali Free Zone) and Economic Zones World, a model for free zones around the world, and a key member of Dubai World. Salma is prominent among UAE national women who have set personal examples of the active role played by the country's women in nation-building. In addition to her responsibilities of running one of the world's fastest-growing free zones, she also serves as member on the board of Forsa, a Dubai World fund launched especially for the financial empowerment of women.

Why did you choose this career?

Because it was challenging. With the solid technical background, it was only natural for me to be inclined towards exploring strategic avenues - so ideally, it chose me.

How long have you been with Jafza / Dubai World?

I have been fortunate to be recognised as a key executive member of this entity, under the dynamic able leadership of great minds, for over a decade now. With hard-work, dedication, collaboration and team-effort during my tenure, I am proud to see it evolve from a free zone into what is it today — Economic Zones World — an international network of business hubs across the world.

In what capacity did you join Jafza?

I joined the organisation as a Planning Officer and was responsible for strategic planning and business development including human resource and finance. During my tenure, I published a 'Strategic Planning Handbook' which guides the management through the strategic planning process, connecting every aspect with an action plan.

What are the qualities that you feel have brought you this far in the organisation?

Focus and sheer determination to lead by example in collaboration with my team members, as well as recognising the potential and pushing the limits to achieve my set goals. The wide business exposure and knowledge I gained through various key roles during my career path have helped me reach where I am today. Of course, maintaining the confidence of my peers and team members of my organisation is another success factor - for, where there is unity there is always victory.

Five words that define what you are.

Leader, dedicated, focused, caring and successful.

How do you balance your personal and professional life?

I try to balance by taking each day as it comes which entails caring for the needs of my family and running the world's fastest growing and the most efficient free zone.

Have you made any personal sacrifices for the growth in your career?

My personal interests and hobbies. I would love to be able to exercise some more and have a chance to pursue my hobbies.

What single act would add decades to the progress of women?

To summarise it in two words: equal opportunity.

What are the challenges women face in the professional world today?

For the working moms, I would think giving all their attention to their young children who are still very dependent on them. On the other hand, the challenge that young women face can be overcome by gaining experience, exposure and career counselling.

From your work experience do you believe there are areas where women are better suited to excel than men and vice versa? if so, can you identify a few and provide anecdotes?

Personally and with experience I can confidently say women - especially of this generation will excel in whatever they choose. Professionally, there are those jobs that are physically demanding (require physical strength, stamina etc.) and are better suited for men.

Who is more objective in their dealing with colleagues and subordinates, men or women?

It purely depends on the type of personality and maturity rather than the gender.

What does a woman need to survive in today's world?

Irrespective of the gender - a person needs self-confidence, motivation and belief in his/her ability.

Which is the best therapy to relax?

Work-outs definitely and some more sleep would be great!

What are you reading these days?

These days my bed-time reading has been more of reports, project review documents, financials etc.

Who makes a better boss (man or woman), and why?

Either of them - if they have the ability to command wisely, they will be obeyed cheerfully.

Who makes a better employee (man or woman), and why?

Either of them! If he or she enjoys what they do for a living, you would have a perfect employee. With globalisation of the work place and industrial laws of managing human capital, the gender factor somehow gets diminished as the focus is on competencies and skill sets rather than the ethnicity or gender.

They say it's a man's world. Do you find it so in your work place? And what would be different if it were 'a woman's world'?

Not really. One just has to prove their worth and opportunities for growth are unlimited. I am an example of it just like so many of my peers at Dubai World.

What advice do you have for a woman starting out in the corporate world?

Have children at a very young age and by then set out to build on your professional career. Read, read and read. Be smart in balancing your personal and professional life, and enjoy every moment of it. Last but not least - as Henry Ford put it: 'Life is a series of experiences, each of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realise this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grief which we endure help us in our marching onward.'

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