x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

How can a woman get onto a board in the UAE?

The Life: How can a women get nominated to a board position in the UAE? The du executive Hala Badri has suggestions.

The du executive Hala Badri, second from right, encourages Emirati women to consider the private sector. Christopher Pike / The National
The du executive Hala Badri, second from right, encourages Emirati women to consider the private sector. Christopher Pike / The National

Hala Badri, the executive vice president for brand and communications at du, was a panel speaker at this week's Dubai forum of 85 Broads, a women's network founded in 1997 by four female Goldman Sachs employees and named after the firm's New York City headquarters at 85 Broad Street. Here, Ms Badri discusses transforming corporate boards.


Your first board position was at Dubai Cares. What would your advice be to anyone taking up a board position?

Do your own homework. Educate yourself and get training in what it takes to be on boards. Dubai Cares was a new initiative to educate 1 million children around the world, so it was a big responsibility. I thought, I need to prepare myself; the government values putting a woman on this board so I have to do something about it'. I looked at governance; I looked at directorships, at being on boards, what it entails and what the responsibilities are.


How can a woman get herself nominated for a board position?

A lot of women work for the government and I would encourage them to start joining the semi-private or private sectors because that's where they will gain true knowledge. If you are in government, yes, you get exposed to certain decrees, policy-setting agendas but it doesn't prepare you for the world where you enter corporations and [work to the] international standards that you require to be on boards.


There are lots of women's networking events in the UAE. Are they useful?

They are very good for discussing, networking and getting support systems, but what I would really like to see is recommendations coming out of these forums, action items that can be taken to the Federal National Council. I would like to see more Arab women participating and creating these support forums because our culture is also a bit different.


How do you bring men into the conversation?

Women always feel they have to compete against the men. You don't really have to. I always give this advice to the women who work for me: you don't need to work the extra few hours to show you are working harder than the men. It's about your expertise, your ability to perform - and outperform - the men. Don't look at men as competitors. We need to work with them, need to understand our differences. All it takes from our culture's perspective is to open up. Unless you are willing to show your weakness and ask what is it they need to help them move forward, they are not willing to support you. Then, they say, this woman is not trying to show she is stronger than me, she wants to make sure we are hitting the nail on our targets. Bringing men into the conversation is about stepping down a little bit as well because they are actually intimidated. They feel that 25 years ago there weren't women who were skilled and brave and who came in and took risks. Today we are kind of a threat but all it takes is a good conversation.