The issue of gender inequality is one that exists in nearly every country across the globe. Achieving equal rights and status in society has been a long and hard fought war with many battles still to come. Even in countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. there remains a great deal of inequality both publicly and privately. In countries in Asia and the Middle East the inequality and differences are even more pronounced. Fortunately, women in many of these countries are standing up and taking control of their lives and their futures.
In the UAE a group of determined and professional Abu Dhabi women have created the first female Emirati leadership group for helping women who are in or are aspiring to major careers. The name of the group is Qiyadiyat which means “female leaders” in Arabic. It was started by three friends, Laila Al Hassan – director of communications and PR at Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency, Bodour Al Tamimi – co-founder of Bedashing Beauty Lounge and portfolio manager of an investment house and Su-ad Yousif – an economic analyst. The three become friends during university and as their careers have developed their friendship has strengthened.
The catalyst which spurred the trio into action was the discovery of only 1.5% of board positions in the GCC are held by women. They wanted to explore why this is and help women who have the skills and the leadership traits necessary for developing high caliber careers. The group had their first “High Q” gathering in February 2014 and they invited successful Emirati women employed in marine biology, energy, communications and many other diverse fields. During this first conference they invited high profile leaders who have supported women joining the workforce and holding high level positions. Hussain Al Nowais, chairman of the Khalifa Fund, and Ahmad Al Sayegh, managing director of Dolphin Energy, were both there to show their support and speak to women about how they can develop their careers.
The first meetings were small with roughly twelve people to a room in order to foster more intimate conversations which proved very productive. The second High Q meeting has roughly 25 women per discussion, but each one was still small enough and thus it was again extremely productive. What they groups have focused on in the beginning is personal branding. Many women are very accomplished, but they don’t do a good job of speaking highly about themselves and displaying their accomplishments for others to see. The group plans to increase the frequency of the sessions and hopes they can continue to be a positive force for networking with other women in high level careers.