'We women would work in the oil fields until 11 pm'


We women would work in the oil fields until 11 pm
Dr Shaikha Al Maskari

Dubai - In 1989, Shaikha Al Maskari was the first woman to be granted 100 per cent ownership when she took over her family's Tricon Energy Operations

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Published: Wed 23 Aug 2017, 9:31 PM

Last updated: Wed 23 Aug 2017, 11:38 PM

For the first female petroleum engineer in the GCC region, witnessing Emirati women having their mark in every sector across the country makes her heart happy.
Dr Shaikha Al Maskari was the first woman to work in the oil fields of Abu Dhabi among thousands of men upon starting her career at Adnoc Group in the 1970s. Now at 77, she recalls the time when the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was her main support.
"I thank God I'm alive to witness this progress; to see women forming one third of our cabinet and taking their spots in aviation and military force. I wish my mother was alive to see how Emirati women are shining in each sector, because we have all grown up with the dream of having top female performers in society," said Al Maskari, who is also an active philanthropist, on the third Emirati Women's Day.
At the age of six, Sheikh Zayed patted her head and predicted that she will be the country's ambassador to the world. Today, the Emirati grandmother is the founder of Al Maskari Holding, a conglomerate of 20 multinational firms with strong international partnerships. She was the first woman to run such a large company. And just last month, she was named among the most powerful Arab women 2017 according to Forbes Middle East's July edition.
For Al Maskari, such success goes back to the fact that women empowerment has been in the country's agenda even before its formation in 1971.
"Sheikh Zayed used to discuss women's development and education with Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak (the mother of the nation)."
She added: "I'll never forget the day I received a telegram from the minister of education when I graduated from school. The UAE founders have always opened doors for women and believed in their essential role in the country's development. Women were part of every stage of this country's history," said Al Maskari.
Throughout her career, she said she never felt discriminated or unattended to during her duty in Adnoc and other government departments. "Back then, we didn't have the Internet or emails so we would stay in the oil fields until 11pm. I was never belittled and officials always treated us equally as professionals in the oil community," she said.
In 1989, she was the first woman to be granted 100 per cent ownership when she took over her family's Tricon Energy Operations. The hurdle was gaining sole ownership of the business, which was something granted only to men at the time. She said while the oil field was male-dominated, it was during the late 1980s that regulations were started emerging to support women.
"Look at us today, it really makes me feel grateful for being a citizen in a country that supports women from the cradle to the grave and that applauds her every achievement," she said.
It's time to give back
For Al Maskari, every privilege has accountability, and while the country keeps supporting women, it is important for every Emirati citizen to give back to help with the country's advancement and social ambiance.
"Every aspect of society we have is literally like a beautiful garden that we need to take care of."
Outside the corporate world, Al Maskari has financially adopted over 2,000 children around the world and set up many charitable organisations, from a soup kitchen in St. Petersburg to an orphanage in India. She had founded the Global Institute of Justice and Technology and the Global Paramedic and Rescue Academy, both of which have trained hundreds of UAE Ministry of Interior personnel in advanced police sciences and security.
She said the fundamental role of Emirati women at this point is bringing up the future generation, besides their professional success.
"The Emirati woman is known to be hard working and patient, but this success must be taken to her post-work life." Al Maskari stated that the main challenge facing women now is the complete reliance on foreign helpers, which is making the Emirati customs and traditions slowly disappear among the younger generation.
"More important is our responsibility of raising the future generation that will carry our legacy. We have to give back to the country, our children and grandchildren. We need to be mothers, not only women who bring up children," said Al Maskari.
And for Emirati women, the path only leads forward for the leadership not only encourages, but also applauds and rewards women when they achieve, said Al Maskari.
Key achievements of Shaikha Al Maskari
Dr Shaikha Al Maskari earned her BA from the University of London, MA and PhD (Geology) at Indiana University, and trained in geophysics with the US Geological Survey. She was named among the 100 most powerful Arab women at Forbes Middle East issues in 2015 and 2017. She has founded the Global Institute of Justice and Technology and the Global Paramedic and Rescue Academy that trained hundreds of UAE Ministry of Interior personnel in advanced police sciences, security, search and rescue and emergency medical services. Al Maskari has won numerous national, regional and international awards. In 1993, she set up her family charity, United Mercy Foundation, which sponsors orphans and provides food, medical and emergency relief in crisis zones in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. In 2003, she co-founded the Diyarbakir (Grameen) Microcredit Project in Turkey.
In 2016, she was awarded "the Emirati Honorary Shield" for her pioneering Humanitarian contributions and was listed among the inspiring women in a book published by the UAE Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority on Emirati Women's Day, titled "Emaratiyah.. UAE's Inspiring Women."

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