Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women 2017: Dr. Raja Al Gurg
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"We have to believe in ourselves, we have to believe in our skills, we have to find those skills within ourselves, and we need to nurture them. Every one of us has got that leadership skills inside us, but how [can you] bring it to surface? That’s your job.” This was what Dr. Raja Al Gurg said during her keynote address at a forum discussing gender balance and diversity in businesses that was held by Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC), United Nations Development Program and University of Wollongong in Dubai. With her speech, she invigorated the forum’s audience to champion for gender parity in UAE’s business sectors for economic progress, with Dr. Al Gurg insistent on women making the most of their capabilities.
Looking at the many hats Dr. Al Gurg wears, it is quite apparent that this accomplished lady practices what she preaches. While Dr. Al Gurg spearheads the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group as its Managing Director, she also acts as the President of DBWC. In addition, she is also Vice Chairperson and Executive Director of Dubai Healthcare City, Board Member of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Dubai Women’s Association, and also sits on the Board of Trustees for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives. Her prowess in the business arena has seen her industry acumen being sought after by various enterprises.
She is a member of the board at HSBC Bank Middle East, on the advisory board of Coutts Bank, a Board Member and the Head of the Auditing Committee at the Federal Customs Authority, and Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Al Jalila Foundation. She is also a member of the Dubai Economic Council, Arab International Women’s Forum, National Advisory Council, and College of Business Sciences. Given that all that she does, when asked what drives her forward, Dr. Al Gurg replies: “My work, my ambitions, my achievements, and taking care of all the achievements throughout the years- not to deteriorate, but to shoot up. Because once you stop somewhere, then you have the start of your downfall- that is what I believe.”
It is this goal of spurring women ahead in their professional lives that Dr. Al Gurg champions in her role as the President of DBWC. Established in 2002 under the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, DBWC is led by the mission to provide business and professional women with the support to make significant contributions in society, and dissuade perceptions of Arab women, whether globally or influenced through tradition or culture.
Besides its networking platform to exchange insights, members are offered access to a variety of conferences, workshops and forums, which include personal and professional development workshops, as well as opportunities to meet business women and visiting political dignitaries, among others.
In reference to the benefits of joining DBWC, Dr. Al Gurg says that the quality of training and speakers are highly beneficial for women in business- they just need to grab these opportunities that are being offered to them. “We are giving everything on a plate of gold- now who would like to eat from it, that’s up to them, and who wouldn’t, there are so many people who are really [trying to] hang [on] to it.”
As someone who has witnessed (and participated with her role at DBWC) the burgeoning growth of roles of women in leadership, Dr. Al Gurg attests that the gender parity in UAE society is “closing day by day.” She believes all of this to be the outcome of the country’s leadership’s keenness for women to have their role in society, and notes that there’s hardly anything today that limits a woman’s ability to achieve, and it is up to women to make an impact in a leadership capacity.
When asked on what public and private institutions can do to facilitate and engage women in leadership roles, Dr. Al Gurg says training, education and providing flexible hours, and perhaps even having nurseries in the workplace, is essential in encouraging this trend. While she says that though there are different ways in implementing these approaches, she reiterates that tackling these challenges, asking for changes, and pursuing roles depends on women’s determination- there are enough roles spread among UAE’s society for women, she says, “but how to take it, what to benefit from it, that is their job.”
Quick Takes: Dr. Raja Al Gurg
On how senior management can encourage women in business
“Senior leaders need to speak up as sponsors for the skills of women. An organization’s leadership needs to take on a responsibility to better distribute opportunity in between men and women, [thereby] ensuring women can succeed as equal counterparts, making positive contributions to society and the economy.”
On achieving gender parity
“General equality and diversity should be received as a means to engagement, better performance and innovation. This is not [just] a nice [element] to have, but an absolute must-have.”