Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Majid Al Qasimi is the Chairperson of the Sharjah Business Women’s Council (SBWC), an organization that is inspiring entrepreneurs all over the UAE. Her Excellency discusses with us how the Council is championing an equitable world for businesswomen and entrepreneurs.
You’re a leader in business in this region – what’s it like paving the way for so many women in the GCC & Arab world?
Regionally as well as around the world, more and more women are being elevated to positions of power – not just to listen and observe, but to actively participate in decision-making. I feel proud, and at the same time humbled, to be one of these women, part of a new generation that is shifting perspectives on the importance of inclusion.
Having more women leaders is crucial for many reasons other than serving as role models. More importantly, women leaders prioritise putting women’s issues on front of the agenda. When women are meaningfully represented and engaged in leadership roles, then the laws and decisions are more likely to be inclusive and representative and will take diverse views into account.
I am grateful to be growing up in an era with so many role models. This is in large part because the wise leadership in UAE has consciously invested in women and gender balance by increasing the number of programmes aimed at recruiting a new generation of female leaders.
How important is it to have a support system for women in the world of business?
Entrepreneurial training is, without doubt, an effective way of bringing women into the mainstream, and leads to overall economic and social development. However, the many cultural and systemic hurdles women face make it harder for them to advance. To counter this, successful businesswomen have to collectively give a voice to upcoming and struggling female entrepreneurs, and help them make an impact.
At SBWC, we have been identifying and tapping female potential in the business and entrepreneurship sectors. Through our programmes and initiatives, we have created a far-reaching support system for businesswomen and entrepreneurs from all walks of society. By motivating, training and developing the skillsets of our members, we not only enable them in their workplace but also help them evolve and grow, thus contributing to UAE’s march towards a sustainable future.
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What is a philosophy that you live by in your professional life?
I strongly believe in the saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” There are no lost opportunities in life – it is simply nature’s way of showing us a new path, a different vocation or goal that is more suited to our passions and requirements. Approached with the right frame of mind and attitude, whatever happens always turns out for the best. It is important to be grateful for everything, both good and bad. Things happen because they are meant to be – we must learn to accept, embrace and go with the flow.
“Whatever your goal is, keep moving forward”
What are some of the key lessons you would like people to take from your career?
My career reflects the exposure I have had running my own business, as well as my experiences in helming SBWC. Being a businesswoman myself, I use my own experiences to formulate strategic action plans with clear objectives that promise measurable results to help attain sustainable growth and continued success. During my career, I have learned to adapt quickly to situations in order to allow myself a better chance to achieve my goals, and this is one key lesson I’d recommend professionals across sectors to take away.
I also advise businesswomen and female entrepreneurs to concentrate on advancing their agenda dedicatedly – whatever your goal is, keep moving forward. Women need to step forward and shed their inhibitions to realise their dreams and aspirations, whatever they may be. If a business or a venture is what you want to start or take to the next level, SBWC is right here to empower you with the knowledge, skills and tools you need for a successful future.
What are your hopes for women in the future of this country?
I have endless hopes for the future of businesswomen and female entrepreneurs in the UAE. There already is tremendous government support for women’s projects and capacity development programmes here, and I believe, more investments can be made to achieve greater returns, both in terms of output and value. For instance, additional support for the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that make up around 94 per cent of the companies operating in the UAE and contribute 60 per cent to the nation’s non-oil GDP, will be a gamechanger for both the future of entrepreneurship and national development.
Our nation’s economic diversification policies also offer numerous opportunities for women.
This can be seen especially in emerging sectors like IT, agritech, financial engineering and digital transformation, which present immense possibilities for women entrepreneurs to broaden their horizons beyond the traditional business space to areas of unlimited potential.
By entering emerging sectors, businesswomen will play a key role in the economy of the future. We also hope to see more changes in the private sector geared towards creating a more enabling working environment for women, to grow as professionals and help build the future of this great country.
In my capacity as Chairperson of SBWC, my aim is to strive for an equitable world where rights and opportunities are served to all.
Looking back, can you tell us about a major hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
The one major lesson I learned at the beginning of my career was how important it is to balance your personal life with your profession. I had to take a step back and ask myself: What is currently causing me stress and dissatisfaction? How are these circumstances affecting how I perform and engage with my work, how are they impacting my personal life? Only after I took a mental pause and acknowledged these factors could I begin to tackle them.
I learned that with the right kind of planning it was possible to achieve a work-life balance. Planning ahead and having a proper schedule is an important factor, so are simple things like maintaining a daily planner.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, what have been the key milestones to date?
I can never forget the moment my very first porcelain collection titled ‘Tuminah’ was launched in 2011. Its success was the starting point for my label, ‘Designed by Hind’, and I realised I had found my life’s purpose.
My next major turning point was when I took over as Chairperson of SBWC. It was a golden opportunity for me to inspire and encourage women, especially those who were venturing into business without prior experience like I had with ‘Designed by Hind’.
This is ‘The Icon Issue’ – who are the icons in your life?
For me, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), is a true thought leader who places human value above all else. She has been a great influence, my one true icon because from her I have learned that inclusive human development is the most important thing in life.
The inspiring vision of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher has been the main driver of SBWC’s achievements. Thanks to Her Highness’s vision, directives and unfailing support, SBWC has been able to provide support to many aspiring entrepreneurs and businesswomen in the UAE. Not just for me; Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi is the true icon for all Emirati women.
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Feature image: Supplied