By Manar Al Hinai
Manar Al Hinai, an award-winning Emirati writer and entrepreneur, explains why Emirati women have succeeded in leadership roles and climbed the ladder of success in business
You are probably familiar with this saying: “Behind every great man is a great woman.” Frankly, growing up it always had me wonder about the great women out there and who is behind them. Now I do not wonder anymore. If I was to rewrite that quote, then I would say: “Beside every great woman is another great woman and an equally great man”
Some of my feminist friends would sneer at that paraphrased statement and say that women could do things on their own and they do not need men for that. Well that is true, especially given the modern time. Many women excelled in fields that were once strictly reserved for men, and are doing amazing without men’s help.
But imagine what could be achieved if men also supported women just as much as women support each other? How great would that be?
I know that it would be beyond great, because that is how I feel living in the United Arab Emirates. I am blessed to be living in a country where women are pushed by everyone from our leaders, government, and even their families to achieve their goals. A leading example is Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi, president of the UAE’s Federal National Council, the region’s first female leader of national assembly, and Major Mariam Al Mansouri, UAE’s first female fighter pilot. The UAE’s new government is also a great example, as it includes eight female ministers out of 29 with the youngest at 22.
In my career, I have been highly supported and pushed to excel by my women, but also equally by men, starting from my then CEO to the management member. When I had my doubts about not being able to handle my role as a senior vice president of a government entity in my mid-twenties, they reminded me that I was. They put their complete faith in me, and were confident that I would not let them down.
Things were not any different back home. In fact, that was where I received support from men first. Let me tell you a little something about me. Every time that I am about to make a major decision, I consult my father, not because I am not capable of making up my mind on my own, but because I know that he would be the one who would push me towards that step and remind me of my potential. My father Sheikh Dr. Mohammed, and three brothers Majid, Talib, and Ibrahim, have been the greatest supportive men of my life choices, my career in general, whether it was my day job or managing my branding and marketing consultancy, but more especially when it comes to writing.
If I could choose to do only one thing from this moment, until the day I die, then I would not mind writing. For me, it is a form of art, a liberation of the mind. When my friends ask me how I have been managing to write a consistent weekly business column for the past five years, I jokingly say that writing is my brain cardio. If I did not do that, I would probably lose my mind. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to share my views about business and entrepreneurship with my readers, and discussing different current business affairs, always serves as a form of inspiration. However, I will have to admit that when it comes to reading, then romance fiction tops my list, followed by business and entrepreneurial topics.
Romance novels being my favorite genre, had a spell on me, and I always desired to write my own, which is something a lot of people would not expect out of a girl who generally writes about entrepreneurship. I confess that I was hesitant at first especially that the Arab culture, and precisely that of the GCC, is quite conservative when it comes to women writing about such topics. It was when I was discussing my hesitation with my father that he was taken aback by what was coming out of my mouth. He pushed me towards writing my story, reminded me that my talent is not meant to be bottled up, and that I should pursue what made me happy. I am glad I listened to him, because when I finished writing that novel I was overwhelmed with an indescribable shower of beautiful emotions. Even if I never get to publish it, it just feels great that I did, for myself. Naturally, my father was the first to read it and he hugged my manuscript to his heart.
The father of renowned Emirati fashion designer Fatema Al Fardan, CEO and founder of Fatema Fardan Designs, was not very different than mine. “My father was a big support, and he pushed me to pursue my dreams and he supported me to kick-start my fashion business,” she says. When we discussed men’s support to women, Fatema highlighted that she strongly believe that women nowadays are independent, and men complement them instead of completing them.
Things do not seem far off from Shaden Bolbol as well, a sustainable development architect and life coach residing in Abu Dhabi, who believes that men’s support to women in realizing their dreams is important. “My father is my biggest supporter and role model. He taught me that if you love what you do, you are unstoppable, “she says. When it comes to women in the UAE, Shaden agrees that women more than ever, are empowered and are given equal opportunity to rise to leadership positions. As we celebrate International Women’s Day and the achievement by women in the UAE and the world, I am extremely proud of those women who defied stereotypes and went on to make history. I salute great women who stand by their female sisters and serve as their sounding board. Women such as my mother, my role model, and my friends and colleagues. And finally, the final salutation goes to the great men out there, who support women and encourage them to realise their dreams.
Arab women are not only changing the messages of history, they are making the history sweeter; just at the faces of those that normally stereotype them.
Where else can we see women advancing socioeconomically, attaining leadership positions yet maintaining their cultural values and heritages. I admire the upcoming of women especially the Arabs. They are the greater part of inspirations for today's sustainability and innovations. Kudos! #InternationalWomensDay #AMF