'Women in my country have come a long way in their march towards equality'

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. City Times takes a look at a few such remarkable...

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Published: Mon 5 Mar 2007, 11:09 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:23 AM

womenwomen in senior management positions in Dubai World in a special series of interviews running up to March 8, International Women’s Day. Our fifth interview is with Farida Mohammed, Manager, Communications and Administration, Dubai Customs World (DC World), the global customs solutions provider, and member of Dubai World. Farida belongs to the pioneer group of UAE national women who are an example of the active role played by the country’s women in nation-building.

Why did you choose Communications and Administration?

It was a coincidence. I had got the job of an airhostess initially, but you know that in the early 1990s it was very difficult for any local family to allow its daughter to work in a job that requires much travelling and staying away from home for long periods. I then got a job with Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza) and I exerted great efforts to convince my family members to allow me take it.

How long have you been with Dubai Customs World / Dubai World?

It has been quite a long time — ever since I joined Jafza in 1991. My entire professional career has been associated with organisations that are today business units of Dubai World.

In what capacity did you join Jafza?

I joined Jafza as a Personal Assistant, as I had only a Secondary School Certificate at that time, and then gradually worked my way up, assuming a number of positions with different business units.

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

I usually dislike speaking about myself and I would rather leave that for other people to do. But I think it is a combination of different personal qualities and social factors, besides the work environment the corporate provides to all its employees, that helped me to continue in this job. When I joined Jafza, the UAE leadership, headed by the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan at that time, was actively engaged in pursuing a policy of empowering women and encouraging them to play an active role in building our nation. Secondly, though I have been brought up in a conservative society, my father and family were very open-minded and did everything possible to help me develop a very independent personality even while adhering to our deeply rooted social and religious values. I realised from the very beginning of my career that under the wise leadership of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Chairman, Dubai World, no efforts would be spared to encourage the employees and indeed they created a conducive environment where hard work paid off and ambition could be limitless.

Five words that define what you are.

I can describe myself as energetic, ambitious, organised, motivated and committed.

How you do balance your personal and professional life?

It is really a very difficult task, particularly for a woman to coordinate between her work and social duties in the kind of job I do. This is because my work involves frequent travelling to all corners of the world and I have so far travelled to more than 10 countries. Even my mother has become accustomed to receiving unexpected telephone calls form me asking her to pack my bag because I was leaving for this or that country at short notice. I think everybody has to sacrifice a part of his or her life for the sake of building a career.

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

I was born in Dubai and since I work in the headquarters of DC World, I have been spared from issues like relocation. However, this job does take up a greater part of my time and I sometimes spend a lot of days without sitting down with members of my family.

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

I think women in my country have come a long way in their march towards equality and freedom since the founding of our Federation. Today there are more national women graduating from our universities than men, and they also have considerable presence in almost all professions, thanks to the visionary leadership of the President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. But still women need to realise that no matter how many legislations or systems are put in place, it is our duty to assume all our rights and work positively.

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

It is the lack of education and self-confidence to aspire for more professional and managerial jobs.

From your work experience do you believe there are areas where women are better suited to excel than men and vice versa?

In a world where education is widespread, women and men have become almost equal in every profession. It’s personal abilities, education and training that make the difference today and not gender. The only exception is that some jobs require physical strength and women are weaker in this regard by nature.

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

Women are more compassionate by nature so they have the ability to understand people better than men. This quality helps women to excel in any managerial jobs they assume.

Which is the best therapy to relax?

Contrary to the popular notion that women are more interested in shopping, for me the best way to relax is reading ... followed by shopping!

What are you reading these days?

These days I am reading Shaikh Mohammed’s book 'My Vision' which gives me a good chance to get inside the mind of this great leader whose imprint could be seen in almost all the great things that make the success story of today’s Dubai. I also read books on international trade.

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

It is again a matter of personal qualities and there is no dividing line that we can draw here. But generally speaking, God has endowed women with the quality of understanding human nature better than men.

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

It is hard to put a definitive answer to that because again it is a matter of personal abilities, besides education and cultural background.

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

My top advice to any new female recruit is to take full advantage of the unprecedented opportunities provided to women by our great leaders. Secondly, she has to understand that the only way to excel in any profession is through knowledge and commitment. Thirdly, remember that education and perseverance can help achieve any post no matter high it is.

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