Women's Day in UAE: How three transformational, digitally savvy women are reshaping the future of their fields

With Women’s Day around the corner, Khaleej Times is introducing some women who are breaking barriers, starting difficult conversations and making a difference for thousands of other women.


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Alisha Moopen is deputy managing director of Aster DM Healthcare.
Alisha Moopen is deputy managing director of Aster DM Healthcare.
by

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Tue 7 Mar 2023, 6:33 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Mar 2023, 6:41 PM

Medical Leader

Never one to feel content with the way things are, Alisha Moopen has been at the forefront of constantly challenging the status quo in the medical field. As the deputy managing director of Aster DM Healthcare, Moopen has fast-tracked digital adoption at the organisation.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the healthcare conglomerate became one of the first hospitals in the GCC to start teleconsultation services.

“We were the first private company in UAE to venture into telehealth during the pandemic,” she said. “Over the next eight months we scaled up to serve 100,000 patients. Similarly, we diversified into homecare services, labs and diagnostics, and also digital health.”

Moopen's major focus in the last two years has been on building the digital muscle for Aster, which has led to the roll-out of the myAster app. The app has touched over one million lives and crossed 352k downloads since its introduction in July last year and ranks number one as a free medical app in the UAE region.

According to Moopen, the role of women in the workplace has become more important than ever. “Today’s women are tomorrow’s economic and social powerhouse,” she said.

“If their potential is not recognised and enabled today, any organisation or country in the world will be at risk of being left behind in the race for progress. We are proud to say that at Aster, almost 60 per cent of our workforce is women.”

Digital Transformist

Salwa Samoui is CCO, Injazat.
Salwa Samoui is CCO, Injazat.

Several years ago, a terrified 17-year-old girl boarded a public bus in the wee hours from her tiny village in Tunisia to the airport in capital city of Tunis. She had landed a prestigious scholarship in the US for further studies. It was the first time Salwa Samoui ever got on a plane. Today, she is the CCO of home-grown UAE-based digital transformation leader Injazat and is advising high-level stakeholders on the best way to build smart cities.

According to her, leaving the country was one of the hardest decisions she ever had to take.

“I didn’t want to go,” she said. “I was scared. It didn’t help that every elder person in the village was visiting my house to tell my parents to not send me. In the Arab world it was unheard of to let women go to a foreign country on their own to study. But my father told me, ‘If you don’t go, every day when you go to sleep you will wonder what it would have been if you had gone. If you go, even if you don’t like it, you can always come back’. That is when I decided that I had to go.”

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and a master’s in business administration, Samoui returned to Tunisia to kickstart a career in IT. Starting off with one of the country’s biggest media houses, she moved around a bit and founded her own start-up before joining Microsoft. There she spent almost two decades, spearheading digital transformation across several fields before coming to the UAE.

Throughout her career, Samoui said, she has largely been the only woman in the room. “You miss the sense of being represented,” she said. “I know that being in the IT field and in leadership positions is hard and challenging, but I want to call on all women to be confident about having that seat at the table. Shake the status quo and lead the change. We need to do it for our daughters, for other women and for technology. We don’t want technology that doesn’t speak the voice of half the population. Many women still feel grateful about having a seat at the table. We need to change that. They need to feel confident about being at that table.”

Futurist

Dr Heba Chehade is foresight lead at Dubai Future Foundation.
Dr Heba Chehade is foresight lead at Dubai Future Foundation.

Coming from an engineering background, Dr Heba Chehade was always a curious person. After completing her chemical engineering degree from her hometown in Canada, she moved to the Middle East where she focused on building her knowledge and skill sets.

“I love problem solving,” she said. “I am always looking at challenges in the future and thinking of innovative solutions for them."

It is this quality that enabled her to land her current job as the foresight lead at Dubai Future Foundation (DFF). It is Chehade’s day job to explore problems of the future and find solutions for them.

“This job is always surprising me,” she said. “The unique thing is that there is always a new problem or a new future or a new aspect that I have to research. You always have to think creatively on how to approach it. The excitement and diversity of thinking involved in imagining the future is amazing. Every single conversation is exciting.”

According to Chehade, women are an absolute necessity in the workplace. “Women bring diverse perspectives and thoughts,” she said.

“They will advocate for other females as well. And while having a woman at the table is always a positive thing, they should not just be a number at the table. They must be engaging and have the attitude to make a difference.”

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