“Respect others if you want them to respect you. If you want to survive, you really have to respect others to gain that respect for yourself. “
Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi
Burqa? Hijab? And what about an abaya? None of them are mandatory.
Are we allowed to drive? Are we allowed to work? Yes.
Thousands of questions, perceptions, myths and beliefs inevitably swarm into our minds when we focus on the status of women in the Middle East – all the more so when we are about to start the biggest change of our life.
Almost six years ago I embarked on a unique experience and moved to the Middle East! I did wonder at the time about the big differences that there were and still are in terms of how women are seen in the West as compared to the Middle East. But the truth is that if we follow this path with respect, resilience, acceptance, discipline and civility, each and every one of us will find their place.
During this trip the word resilience has been my greatest companion, not only on a personal level, but even more so on a professional level. This is a place where the people around a meeting table can come from any of the world’s countries and although even a few years ago women were not a regular presence in business meetings, nowadays they are a central part of the engine that helps this country move forward.
I work in a company where 90% of the talent is women; we work with Saudi defence clients, we deal with generals, CEOs, builders and carpenters, most of whom are men, and I have never felt disrespected during all these years.
It is true that before me thousands of women, nationals and expatriates, have come a long way, through their work, focus and commitment, and have secured the current role of women in this society. The result is here for anyone to see!
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 ranks the UAE as a leader in promoting gender equality in the Middle East, and as one of the five most improved countries in the overall index, with gender gaps narrowing by at least 4.4 percentage points. The UAE ranked 72nd out of 152 countries surveyed, while in the 2020 report it ranked 120th.
According to the UAE’s Ministry of State for Advanced Sciences, women make up 80% of the science team behind the country’s Mars mission.
I conclude, therefore, that in the Middle East there is a very interesting and unique place for women, because not only there is a family structure that allows them to work, but also if we work hard, if we give our structured opinion, if we explain our point of view and if we continue to deliver results, there will undoubtedly be a place for all women.