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Women in Oman exhort ‘need to break gender barriers’

16 Oct 2021 By MUSCAT DAILY CORRESPONDENT

As the sultanate celebrates Omani Women’s Day today, Muscat Daily joins in acknowledging their valued role in nation building. On the occasion, women from different walks of life point out a number of areas where Omani women need to venture into and make their presence felt. Here’s what they said:

Jannat Shafaei, marketing professional

Women have made incredible progress in joining the workforce and rising to the top of their fields. Manufacturing and food & beverage are the industries women are not usually associated with, yet our presence is steadily growing. Where we used to be underestimated in the type and quality of work because of our gender, now we are challenging the notion.

To encourage women to succeed in these fields, we have to invest and support entry-level female employees who want to succeed further. We also need to set positive examples. We need women at all levels, including the top, to shine a spotlight on the incredible work that women are doing in the industry.

My advice for those navigating through gender barriers is, keep persevering and never apologise for being a woman. We often forget just how powerful, capable and resourceful we are.

Reem Noor al Zadjali, attorney

I believe that we have overcome the need to prove ourselves as women because I consider us equal to men in many aspects. In fact, other countries fight for equality and rights that we are granted, so I am very grateful for that. In Oman, women have achieved so much since his Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, may he rest in peace, took over and ever since, women have served in many positions of leadership in different sectors. However, we are yet to see the mere presence of women in the judiciary in Oman.

Barka Shahbal al Bakri, social activist

Omani women have come a long way in most fields. This includes business, finance and politics. However, the challenge lies in specialised areas like medical and scientific research. Over centuries, we were a seafaring nation, anchored in many ports. We married and came back with our children, not to mention the 1970s returnees.

This makes us a unique nation with continuous integrated new blood. Our shores and oceans have a lot that are not yet fully exploited. While benefit of research is slow, it will open new economic areas that will assist in the diversification of the economy. We need to slowly but surely move away from heavy dependence on oil.

Amaal al Lawati, chief people officer

Women in Oman are provided with the education and opportunities to succeed in different roles. I think we are privileged in that respect as we have the support needed to reach our potential. We can see that within our company (Ooredoo), we have many women engineers, directors and department heads, even our CEO, all of whom are actively contributing to positive female leadership in the country. I would hope that women in all sectors are celebrated and acknowledged as they are at Ooredoo.

I think we would benefit from more international exposure if we shared our knowledge and were offered platforms through which we can exchange our experiences with other nationalities. By sharing our success stories, we will inspire others to step up and do the same.

Muna Basheer al Zadjali, customer relations officer

Entrepreneurship gives a lot of Omani women the freedom to work on what they love to do. There are many Omani women who are opening new ventures in sectors like food, fashion designing, craft etc. This is because they are active and manage the business themselves. Further motivation can be offered to women by providing low-interest loans for starting new businesses.

Suad al Haimli, reservations manager

I believe we are all equal and there is no reason for anyone to be held back, simply because of our gender. Women are now present more than ever before across the hospitality industry, and are proving themselves worthy leaders in lots of different departments.

There are certainly a few areas where representation has room for improvement, for example in F&B, housekeeping and revenue. That’s why it’s my dream to become the first Omani woman revenue director. There is a perception that these areas are more demanding and that they’re not conducive to family life. But those of us working in these areas are proving that’s not the case, that work-life balance can be achieved and that it shouldn’t hold you back.

Overall, we do need more opportunities that specifically focus on attracting women into less popular areas, and recognise those who have succeeded. But ultimately, it depends on us as individuals, on our motivation, our passion, and our determination to follow our dreams.

Samar al Lawati, relationship manager

Omani women have already proved themselves and their capabilities in many fields and industries. From the banking and finance perspective, although on a global scale it is traditionally a male-dominated field, in Oman its probably one of the sectors that women have taken to the most. For example, at NBO, we have a female chairperson and director, and approximately 40 per cent of employees are women.

When we look at investment banking particularly, it is a relatively new field in Oman that we’re still developing. Because of this, it’s generally less popular and even though there is awareness, the path for us to enter isn’t clearly defined.

This is being improved with a number of opportunities, like Etimad and other national leadership programmes that secure places for women. These opportunities should help women build the analytical and interpersonal skills they need to thrive in the field, while making them feel more welcome in it.

Dr Intisar Khalifa al Busaidi, researcher – petroleum engineering

October 17 reflects the sultanate’s belief in empowering Omani women to support and enable themselves socially to contribute to the country’s progress as she takes part in Oman’s constant development. Omani women have had equal opportunities in fields such as healthcare, education and politics.

However, the contribution of Omani women in the engineering sector is still limited as most of them prefer to stay at home and do nothing regarding their qualifications. I think the lack of actual women role models in the engineering environment is the reason. Most of them believe that engineering is a challenging field and male-dominated that requires strenuous physical work, making it difficult to achieve a work-life balance.

In my opinion, we need to motivate women in this area using the power of social media, giving more exposure and talks to thousands of women about the nature of work in the engineering sector. Also, private sector companies should play a role in this field by offering flexible work schedules to create a positive workplace culture for women.

More women will be attracted to this field if companies emphasise productivity and performance rather than hours spent at the desk. In addition, companies and organisations should actively encourage, nurture and foster women in leadership roles to promote more women into their workforce.

Dr Moza al Shiyadi, media professional

Omani women have gone through many and varied experiences in various fields. They are also keeping pace with the great acceleration in the development sectors. There are many fields in which the government supports all members of Omani society – women as well – such as working in new technologies for the requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, space sciences and nanosciences, in addition to supporting everyone in the scientific research sector.

The Omani woman is a mother, wife, housewife and more, so she needs a lot of attention based on the multiplicity and diversity of her roles. Omani women need support with scholarships, full-time studies, opportunities for advancement, independent ownership and more.

Wafaa Saleem al Musalhi, training coordinator

Women in Oman have great opportunities to prove themselves in all kind of areas and sectors. A few sectors that need to be explored by women include real state, innovation, tourism and trading.

These sectors are not specified for a certain gender and both men and women have the chance to take the advantage of business facilities and services in the country. This will help the market to be improved and raised to higher levels of creativity and success.

This success will not be limited to women alone; it will benefit the whole society. So, I encourage all women to stand up and grab these opportunities and be part of the country’s progress.

Women need ways to stay motivated and encouraged to progress further. A sense of appreciation is an essential element of motivation and rewarding achievements will surely highlight the women who have taken huge steps towards success. Focusing on success stories will show the way for other women to start and enhance their capabilities and explore their plans and apply it successfully.

Tahira Fida, artist

One of the gifts of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said was to mark a day for Omani women to celebrate the welfare of women in terms of services and programmes, the positive effect of which reflect their plight and participation alongside men in the nation-building process.

I believe that having a centre to guide the talented young generation is what we need now as there are many young girls who are talented in different fields, such as writing, painting, music, even cooking, which needs support and guidance.

Some of them have already started their own small businesses but lack the appropriate knowledge and support to run these small online shops. Most of them do not know how to advertise or control income and maintain the quality of customer service.

I recall, the Minister of Higher Education had mentioned that we will soon have a Capacity Development Programme in this regard. I hope to see the results soon.

Fawzia Abdulaziz, oil & gas professional

I feel Omani women need to focus on taking on operational roles. Currently, I see only a small percentage of ladies have taken core operational roles in the sultanate.

Nothing is impossible, especially when it comes to women power! We have proved that we can do even better in those specific roles which we always thought can be only managed by men. And I am sure that with a little more self-motivation and external support, no one can stop Omani women from growing in this area.

With regard to senior leadership, I see a gender inequality – it is still a challenge for Omani women. However, it’s not that they don’t want such positions, rather it is about how organisations perceive the ability and capability of women.  

Probably in most organisations, we may not find the right kind of support for women to take up senior roles. But, self-motivation is a big weapon, and women must try hard to reach where they deserve to be. Similarly, some women are lucky to have huge support from their peers/senior management and the overall organisation. Organisational support makes a big difference to push women to take senior roles and grow alongside men.

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