Monday, October 26, 2009

Degradation of Women's Summits in the Gulf

A Business Women's Summit (in one form or another) is held annually in the UAE. Annually, the Khaleej Times creates degrading stories or headlines related to the event; comparing the summit(s) to a recipe swap. As a professional business woman, this totally pisses me off.

Why is it that any time a group of women gather in the GCC, it is automatically assumed that it is a recipe swap or a children's event?

Please feel free to pass along to other women working (or not) in the Gulf who would not like to be objectified in this manner. We can only change perceptions by voicing our objections to this type of thing. Write to the author and/or Khaleej Times!

I can imagine that the women mentioned in the story might be a little angry also.

Here is the full story:

Women Leaders Share their Recipe for Success
Ahmed Shabaan 26 October 2009

Khaleej Times

DUBAI — More than 300 women leaders from the political and business fields from all over the world are participating in the first Women in Leadership (WIL) forum, which commenced in Dubai on Sunday.

The three-day event is being held under the patronage of Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Wife of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The forum’s participants will share their experiences in leadership and strategies to deal with challenges during the session titled ‘Bridging the Gap’. They will attempt to address the misconception that the world has about women in the Middle East and discuss how cultural differences affected their daily business tasks.

Raja Easa Al Gurg, President, Dubai Business Women Council, said women across the UAE have taken on pivotal roles in the economic progress and sustainable development of the country, as has been witnessed in other sectors across various levels.

“Emirati women have emerged in high positions in the economy, politics and in various specialisations and in the process, have enhanced their own capacities, highlighted their own capabilities, refined their skills and worked hard to achieve their dreams of serving their homeland,” Al Gurg said.

Among the leading female personalities honoured on Sunday night have been trusted guides, influential mentors and strategic executives and have played a pivotal role in their companies’ success, adding to a career of extraordinary performance and 
exceptional results.
Dr Ayesha Mohammed Abdullah, CEO, Dubai Healthcare City, was named as the Leading Woman CEO.

Since her association with Dubai Healthcare City in 2004, Dr Ayesha Abdullah has emerged as a force to be reckoned with. The Leading Woman Chief Financial Officer (CFO) title was awarded to Dubai World CFO 
Maryam Sharaf.

Maryam Sharaf’s main responsibility with the group involves the preparation and maintenance of financial records, managing an effective system of internal financial control, investigation and advisory work in relation to internal and external financial statements, internal accounts, management records and statements, preparation and maintenance of financial records and internal and external financial reporting.

Maryam Sharaf has over 20 years of experience in the finance industry.

Fatima Al Jaber, COO, Al Jaber Group was chosen as the Leading Woman Chief Operating Officer (COO). In the context of the UAE, her accomplishments make her a pioneer. Before she joined the family business she was undersecretary for the Building Projects Sector in Abu Dhabi Municipality, a significant achievement for a woman in the UAE.

For Fatima to join the family business was not an easy decision. She worked hard to gain credibility and respect. As she evolved into the role of a leading member of the family and the business community at large, she is the one people turn to for advice and guidance.
On a daily basis Fatima manages the delicate balancing act between the rapidly paced work environment and the traditions of home and faith. Fatima also facilitates women’s access to financial services through Al Bashayer Investment Company.

Meanwhile, the forum is hosting the Traditional Arts Auction for raising money for charity organisations in the UAE and the United Kingdom. It has commissioned the internationally renowned luxury watch and jewellery firm Chopard to promote it.

Here is what the author, Mr. Ahmed Shaaban responded:

"Good morning

Thank you for your respectable feedback.

First, I would like to take the opportunity and extend my respect to all women, be they professional or not, as I do believe the whole world can not do without them, be they professional or not again.

Second, unless the event were important, I would not be interested in going and covering it.

Third, the whole story is full of appreciation and respect to all the women included and alike.

Fourth, though the title is not at all mine - it is the editorial desk's job - I would say the word 'recipe' used does not have any 'insulting' grounds. It is rather kind of simile. Your word 'disgusting' is even more and more offending.

Fifth, what is really wrong with recipes? I believe this is part of women's magical powers to be able to do many jobs at one time, starting from something they themselves really like. and so do men.

Last, I wish you accept my apology for any unintentional offence.

Thanks & regards

Ahmed Shaaban
Reporter / Translator
Khaleej Times"

So, then I wrote to Khaleej Times to tell them that they were being sexist.

This was my reaction to the November 2006 story on that year's women's summit in the Khaleej Times:
I picked up a copy of the Khaleej Times the other day and skimmed through the articles. I wasn’t really paying attention to headlines, but I hadn’t been able to make reservations at the Beach Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi as it was fully booked, so when their name was mentioned as hosting the 2006 Middle East and North African Businesswomen’s Summit, I stopped to read the article.

The headline read, “Hotels Curry Favour with Businesswomen” – which really has nothing to do with much of anything (I read it several times and have concluded that they are saying that hotels spice things up with businesswomen). The article basically says that the businesswomen enjoy the hotel services of food, hair styling, and make-up. It mentions nothing of what topics were covered in the Summit, nor their relation to the business world. It is a brief article which was written by two men and provides insight by an “overworked” hotel coiffeur.


Desert Girl said...

I wasn't going to publish this as it is twatish, but here goes:

Sorry bu´t I completely agree with the first author. The article was 100% complimentary of women and headlines are written by editors/sub-editors. Even the headline is perfectly fine in my opinion. You come across as a nit picking ultra feminist, which having read lots of your blogs I know you aren't. Grow a thicker skin if needs be!

Also regarding the second article which I haven't read, you can hardly complain, as a Kuwaiti business woman I would say more than 50% of your blogs are subject based in restaurants and salons.
I'm not trying to be insulting, just some home thruths.

PS love your blogs regardless.


Desert Girl said...

Well Timothy -

I believe your comment was rather insulting regardless of your disclaimer.

1) I'm not Kuwaiti. Were you referring to me as a Kuwaiti business woman or yourself? If you are, then I feel quite bad for you as you don't see the use for speaking out against something as gender-stereotypical as this.

2) (if you are not) When you become a woman and are subjected to the types of stereotypes and sexism that we are - as professional women, you can talk. I've been a professional woman here for 13 years and that gives me the right.

3) I wouldn't say that I'm "a nit picking ultra feminist" but I am someone who will stand up for what I believe in: MY blog, my beliefs.

4) I don't believe that 50% of my posts are based on salons or restaurants. In fact, many are based on the military. However, if you would like me to post about macho issues like guns and cars, I'm happy to do that too as I happen to like both of those as well.

5) I've got very thick skin - which allows me to throw back what comes my way.

Timmy said...

I should have said business woman in Kuwait. APOLOGIES.
I'm sure that women are subjected to stereotypes, but I still feel there was nothing wrong with that article regardless of the word recipe in the title. But you decided not to address this point and explain what exactly "disgusted" you. Instead you resorted to calling my post twatish. If you don't like constructive criticism, then don't publish it.

Desert Girl said...

Likewise, Timmy. If you can't take the adjectives, don't comment. I felt your comment was twatish - what can I say? APOLOGIES.

I agree with you - the article was very well written and with dignity and respect. The author's response was sexist, I felt.

I also felt that the title - provided BY the newspaper and not the author- was equally sexist.

But hey, if other women want to get back into the kitchen to stir up some recipes and maybe curry; and not into the world of professionals, that's fine with me. Whatever floats your boat.