Professional Women in Qatar
Contents: Qatar Professional Women's Network | Being a Professional Women in Qatar | Attitudes: Sexual Discrimination or Equal Opportunities? | Looking for Work | Family Friendly? | The QPWN | Advice for Professional Women | QPWN Contact Details
By Yousra Samir
Qatar is the 21st century's land of opportunity, and with the ruler of Qatar's wife, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Misnad, on every woman's side, there is no shortage of opportunity for professional women in Qatar.
Being a professional woman in any society has its challenges, let alone in a completely foreign culture, and it can be especially daunting if you don't know many people in Qatar or if your social and professional networks are not very wide.
That's where, to many a professional woman's relief, the Qatar Professional Women's Network comes in.
Established in early 2010, the Qatar Professional Women's Network (QPWN) is an informal network for Qatari and expatriate professional women living in working in Qatar which has over 500 members. The QPWN organizes and runs regular events, workshops and activities, mentoring women in their professional skills and work lives, as well as empowering them and providing them with support and networking opportunities. Their events include networking evenings, panel discussions and keynote speakers in a women-only, non-alcoholic environment.
What is great about the QPWN is that it is easy to join and get involved and their event timings fit perfectly around your work schedule. It's a good way to meet other women, expand your network and make friends, as well as a chance for Qatari and expatriate women to mix with one another. Members of the QPWN come from all sorts of different cultures and walks of life so everyone benefits from learning about each other's experiences as well as cross-cultural sharing.
I spoke to QPWN's founder, Christina Zini, as well as two members of the core planning team, events planner Maha Al Sada and founder and director of Arcata Coaching, Carolin Zeitler, to find out more about the QPWN and what it is like to be a professional woman in Qatar.
Maha: I graduated in 2006 and it has been almost 5 years now since I started working. As a Qatari woman I found some obstacles, mainly being a woman and being a Qatari. Sometimes it is hard to compete with mentalities that think that women are not equal to men. Even though you have studied the same subject from the same school and maybe have the same experience, some men still think that women are incapable of doing the same work as men.
...some men still think that women are incapable of doing the same work as men.
For example, I graduated as a graphic designer. It was a huge struggle to work in this field, especially since I am a woman and a Qatari. I was competing with men from different nationalities and I was competing with the fact that a "Qatari female designer" was a very new thing to Qatar, so it was very hard to prove ourselves in a male dominated field.
I am working now as an events planner, which is also new to Qatar. It was also a male dominated field, but it is changing now. I have always wanted to do this as a profession but my father used to tell me no because as I said before, only men used to work in this field, due to traveling a lot and working with hotels all the time. But when he saw how things are changing and how happy and passionate I am doing this, he is now pushing me to open up my own business in party and events planning. So as I am saying it is changing, every year it is changing and I'm hoping for the best.
Carolin: When I first came here I was employed, but I found there was a lot of politics here in businesses and I've since heard it from other people as well that they are really struggling with the politics. So I decided to start my own business. I found it very interesting because everything is so different from what we're used to in the West. And, then again, there are a lot of things that are similar too, so to just work that out-to work out how you can use the differences to your advantage.
...the wonderful hospitality here that means you can always drop in on people and they will usually see you.
For example, the wonderful hospitality here that means you can always drop in on people and they will usually see you. That is one of your biggest problems in Europe; you never get to see people because they block you before you even get to their office. Here you can walk into someone's office and they will usually talk to you for a few minutes at least. So, it's all about seeing the positive aspects and not just concentrating on what's different in the negative sense.
How is being a professional woman in Qatar different to other parts of the world?
Carolin: I think the great thing in Qatar is that you have the opportunity to move out of your field which in the West, for example, is very difficult; you're usually tied to your field.
I've felt that I've always been treated with the utmost respect
Here things are more flexible; if you have relevant experience and relevant training they will let you move across a little bit to something related which I think is a great opportunity for many women who come here. How is it different? I've felt that I've always been treated with the utmost respect; I never had the feeling that I was disadvantaged for being a woman here. The only disadvantage is in the pay; the pay packages are not as good for women as they are for men generally. Some women have better paid packages but they have really fought for them.