Women leaders step into the spotlight

International Women's Day: Women representing a variety of industries and countries were honoured at the 12th Middle East Women Leaders Awards in Dubai yesterday.

From left: Noora Al Mannai, CEO of Enterprise Qatar; Mariam Bint Abdullah Al Attiyah, chief of the Qatar National Human Rights Committee; Leila Suhail, CEO of Dubai Events and Promotions; Aisha Abdulla Miran, of the The Executive Council; Nawal Al Rashid, editor of the women's section at Al Riyadh, were winners at the Middle East Women Leadership Awards in Dubai. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Women representing a variety of industries and countries were honoured at the 12th Middle East Women Leaders Awards in Dubai yesterday.

"This is the first time in 12 years that the winners have all been so young and in such high positions," said Ali Al Kamali, the managing director of the Middle East Excellence Awards Institute. "They were all very young and very energetic."

He has organised the awards since their inception.

A total of 740 women were nominated and winners in 10 categories were chosen by a committee.

"I feel I have a responsibility and a mission," Mr Kamali explained. "Women [have] big challenges. Some - I am not generalising, some, not all - decision-makers do not believe in women leadership."

Mariam bint Abdullah Al Attiyah, who is a member of the National Human Rights Committee in Qatar, received the Women Achiever Excellence Award.

One of the biggest honours went to Massara Alameri, an engineer and the director of industry, government and academic operations at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

She received the Woman Leader in Technical Engineering Excellence Award.

Since the awards started, this was only the second time an engineer has been recognised.

"That they've been looking for four years for somebody to give this award to makes me even more proud of what I did and the decisions I made in my career and personal life in order to get to where I am today," Ms Alameri said.

She added that such awards are important because they encourage women to believe that they can fulfil their potential.

"These kinds of awards get women to understand they are capable of giving more than they think they can," she said. "It makes them aware of their capabilities and possibility of making real changes. It's not a man's world any more. It's a shared world. And I insist on calling it a shared one because I am not competing with men. I am complementary."

Another winner from the UAE was Amal Abdulla Al Suwaidi, the vice president of customer relations at Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.

"Other people nominate you for the award - you don't nominate yourself - this is the real recognition," she said. "I am proud to represent women leaders, especially Emiratis. They really need role models and I am glad to be one of them. They can see and learn from that and that's important."

Moza Said Al Ketbi, the manager of student leadership and organisation at UAE University, received the Woman Leader in Education Service Excellence Award. She brought along eight of her female students to the event who are all presidents of university clubs and social groups.

Ms Al Ketbi said that although she was very proud to accept the award because she knew it only went to those who were considered deserving, it was the success of her students that she considered her real achievement.

Other women recognised included Noora Al Mannai, the chief executive of Enterprise Qatar, and Nawal Al Rashid, the editorial director of the women's section of Al Riyadh newspaper.

The awards ceremony came at the conclusion of a two-day Global Women Leaders conference. It was attended by women from Finland and the United Kingdom as well as the Middle East.

Topics discussed included the future of women in the oil industry, the challenges for women setting up small businesses, women in the law and getting women onto corporate boards.