Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Maryam Al Thani is chairwoman of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for the UAE. Christopher Pike / The National
Maryam Al Thani is chairwoman of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for the UAE. Christopher Pike / The National

'Before we are men and women, we are humans'

Female leader in man's world says looking at perceptions is crucial

Maryam Al Thani is quite used to blazing trails.

The female leader and engineer was last year elected chairwoman of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for the UAE - the first woman to hold such a role in the Middle East.

Ms Al Thani, 38, had big shoes to fill, as her predecessor held the post for 16 years. But the passionate Emirati insists she was not intimidated.

"I was nominated by men and voted for by men," she says. "I truly believe the key to being successful in a leading position is knowing how to communicate.

"Considering people's perceptions and attitudes is very important. Before we are men and women, we are human beings."

Formerly a project manager at the cable maker Ducab, she admits winning over her mostly male staff was sometimes a challenge.

"There were men in their fifties and sixties and it was difficult to get them on my side," she says.

"Here I was, this young lady that men had to report to. But with time, I applied the management style and everything I learnt in university to earn their respect."

Ms Al Thani recalls being heckled by an older male employee when she was addressing her department.

"I calmly told him to come to my office once we were done. I told him if you want to shout, that's fine, but do it in the privacy of my office.

"I said, 'you're the age of my father and I respect you, but I expect the same in return'.

"He laughed and never showed his anger that way again."

The challenge of being a female leader in the UAE can be intensified by cultural factors.

"Sometimes you have to speak to them like they are your family, for example, as though I'm an older sister," Ms Al Thani says. "But you need to do that while controlling your emotions and staying professional."

Career-driven women have double the responsibility on their shoulders, she says, and this is when family support is crucial.

"Managing a business is still easier than managing life at home. There's nothing like raising children and those responsibilities will not go anywhere. Work and marriage life is all about compromise."

But stereotypes remain.

"We always expect women to be supportive and when they're not, we say it's because she's a woman," Ms Al Thani says.

"The truth is men can be just as jealous and judgmental but society sees it differently. If you're a leader it doesn't matter if you're male or female. What matters are your skills."

mismail@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Marina Square apartments Reem Island: Q1 2% rise. Studio - Dh65-68,000. 1BR - Dh75-95,000. 2BR - Dh110-145,000. 3BR - Dh170-190,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 no change. Sammy Dallal / The National

In pictures: Where Abu Dhabi rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Abu Dhabi have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 A model of the plans for Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District, which was on display at the Global Cityscape exhibition at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre last year. Ali Haider / EPA

Building the future on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island

Nick Leech meets Jassim Al Hammadi, the engineer charged with providing the services that will make the Saadiyat Cultural District tick.

 Business class seats inside the Emirates Airbus A380. Chip East / Reuters

In it for the long haul: flying 16 hours with Emirates to LA

Our executive travel reviewer tries out the business class offering on Emirates' longest A380 route - and finds time passing quickly.

 Ashish Nehra of Chennai Super Kings bowls to Kings XI Punjab at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Hard-hitting Chennai not deterred by opening loss in IPL

But some questions remain about the team's attack ahead of Monday's match against Delhi Daredevils in Abu Dhabi, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 From left: Alex Ritman, his favorite waiter and friend Andy Tillett at Baithal Ravi in 2009. Courtesy Alex Ritman

Lamenting Bur Dubai’s Baithal Ravi Restaurant

When I heard that a fire had ripped through the restaurant known as Ravis in the Bur Dubai district of Dubai, my outburst was met with echoed monosyllabic despair among numerous friends on social media.

 Screen shot from Vin Deisel's facebook page of he and Michelle Rodriguez in Abu Dhabi for the filming of Fast & Furious 7. April 2014

Fast & Furious in Abu Dhabi, a social media frenzy

Fast & Furious 7 wraps up an eventful and much-anticipated week of filming in the capital. Let's take a look at what went on via the key players' social media, while they were enjoying the delights of the desert.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National