Soaring Over Stereotypes and Glass Ceilings


Last week, the inaugural Masterclass event took place in Dubai. There was an air of excitement as delegates from all over the Middle East started to fill the room. Successful women executives from the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and even Lebanon and Egypt met old colleagues and made new connections.

I was delighted to have been invited to host the event and, as I now sit behind my desk in London, I reflect on why the day was the success that it was and what were the highlights.

There is certainly a need in the Middle East for women to improve their professional presence and increase their numbers as emerging leaders of the vibrant GCC, which has a population of about 43 million and has some of the fastest growing economies in the world, based on oil and natural gas revenues coupled with an investment and building boom. The UAE, in particular, has become a world leader in aviation and tourism.

Within these diverse business fields, there are huge opportunities for women to excel. In the fields of tourism, finance, IT, marketing, retailing and real estate, in particular, there is a high level of demand for qualified graduates - and yet, women are only rarely appointed to the boards of directors of major companies.

So how can we take advantage of the often unique talents of executive women and the richness that they can bring to businesses in the Middle East? How can we ensure that opportunities are available to them in the same way as they are available to their male counterparts?

 Mindset and Attitude

We have to start with the mindset and attitude of women themselves. To break through any glass ceiling, women need to have a vision of exactly what they want. Do they really want to become a leader or a CEO? Of course, not everyone wants such a position because the responsibility and accountability that comes with an executive post often means that choices may have to be made between work and home.

 Enlisting family support

As much as we think we can compartmentalise our responsibilities between home and office, the reality is that there is an impact of one upon the other. Therefore, it is vital that consideration is given to this factor before setting our sights on an executive position with managerial responsibilities.

 Building on strengths

Successful people recognise that they have an aptitude in certain areas, and they tend to concentrate on becoming professional in those fields. We cannot hope to be an expert in a wide range of subjects.

We need to identify that at which we are good, early in our career, and then to become that individual to whom others come to consult. In other words, to become a recognised professional.

 Raising a professional presence

We need to be known for what makes us special and sets us apart from the competition. Is it being known for our professional ability or having a pleasing personality, an attractive appearance or being a good communicator and/or administrator?

 Of course, all of these are fundamental factors that apply to women in order to raise their profile in senior management. However, if women want to ensure that their presence is felt sufficiently in the boardroom, then they must keep knocking at the door until it opens for them.

 Here are my Top 12 tips:

 1. Believe in yourself implicitly and never give up.

2. Have a positive mindset and attitude.

3. Be passionate about your vision.

4. Prioritise your goals.

5. Focus and follow through.

6. Be yourself and be respected by those around you.

7. Do not be afraid of failure or disappointment – it will surely happen.

8. Be kind and generous with your time. Listen to others.

9. Be accountable to yourself and to those around you.

10. Focus on ‘excellence’ not on ‘just good enough’.

11. Say ‘Thank you!’ to those who support you on your journey.

12. Be an individual but also a team player.

 Key points 

* Being a (female) executive is not a five-hour day job.

* Become a master in your special area of expertise.

* Glass ceilings are there to be broken.


Carole Spiers


Author of "Show Stress Who's Boss" Carole is a leading authority on workplace stress, sought after BBC guest-Broadcaster and motivational speaker. She shows managers and staff how to maintain their competitive advantage by achieving a healthy work life balance.

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