DUBAI // Young Emirati women reached for the skies yesterday in the pursuit of careers with the Air Force and Air Defence, as well as the Navy.
Bucking traditional gender roles, many female university students made a beeline for the military booths at the Careers UAE job fair to ask questions and submit their CVs.
The first few hours of the job fair were reserved for women, and participants such as Hanan al Sharif, 21, took advantage of the opportunity. She approached the Air Force and Air Defence stand with a group of her friends, but was hesitant to apply.
"I think being part of the Air Force is very interesting, but some of our parents feel like the positions on offer may be better suited to males," said Ms al Sharif, who is completing a higher diploma in electronic engineering at Sharjah Women's College. "I want to work within my field, but I have also taken many information technology courses, so I would not mind taking up a position in this area as well."
Staff Brig Essa Rashid Obaid al Ali, the manpower director for the Air Force and Air Defence, said many young women were interested in becoming pilots.
"They approach the stand to ask our female pilots questions about their career, education and aspects of the job," Brig al Ali said.
Capt Mohammed al Shehi, who works in the Navy, said Emirati women were showing a great deal of interest.
"There are jobs in various areas like IT, administration and data entry," Capt al Shehi said. "We take all the CVs, and even if we do not have a position immediately available, we forward it on to other departments that may require staff."
After asking a few questions, Maryam Jassem, 20, decided to fill in an application at the Air Force stand at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. She hopes to study aeronautical engineering.
"I am currently enrolled in a business programme at the Higher Colleges of Technology in Sharjah, but I would like to study aeronautical engineering when I am done," said Ms Jassem. "It is a strong specialisation and after I graduate, my salary is going to increase."
Amna al Zaudi, 29, who works in employee relations for the Navy, said how much she enjoyed her job.
"I have good people skills and that is why I work in recruitment and am called on for such exhibitions," said Ms al Zaudi, who has been working with the Navy for three years.
One applicant who is looking forward to a callback from the Navy is 25-year-old Nouf Mohammed, who has completed a master's degree in human resources from the University of Wollongong.
"Many women may not be drawn to jobs here, but I would like to get a job in their HR department if they accept me," Ms Mohammed said. "I am willing to have a challenging career, so I hope that even if there are a lot of other applicants, I get a job offer."
The job fair also included a women's forum organised by the Dubai Women Establishment (DWE). Role models at the forum provided insight to young women on the skills needed to succeed.
"Our objective in organising the Women Forum is to offer Emirati women poised at the start of their professional careers, as well as women looking to advance up the corporate ladder, a motivational and inspirational boost through sharing the experience and advice of successful Emirati women leaders," said Shamsa Saleh, the chief executive of DWE.
Three accomplished Emirati women spoke about how they rose to positions of leadership in government and the media.
Fatma al Bastaki, 19, an applied communications student at Dubai Women's College, said the forum was motivational.
"It was very inspiring to hear about their journey and the challenges they faced," Ms al Bastaki said. "It gives me the push to do even more and to reach higher places, which would allow me to represent UAE women in a good way."
Her friend Alia al Shamlan, 20, said she discovered that the experiences of women who reached high positions were not without a challenge. "I learnt that they all had the desire and confidence to reach the posts they are at and that we need to find our strengths in any field that we take on," she said.