Women in the UAE: Maryam Al Mehairi

Maryam Al Mehairi wants more Emiratis to take advantage of the strong support for women in the UAE workplace.

DUBAI // Maryam Al Mehairi has a message for women wanting to climb the career ladder — don’t let your gender hold you back.

As the director of government liaison at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), her job requires her to coordinate some of the region’s biggest trade exhibitions.

It can be a highly pressurised job in an often male-dominated industry, but one Ms Al Mehairi would liken to see other Emirati women take a prominent role in.

“The exhibitions industry in particular needs more female role models in the workplace,” she said.

“The UAE government is providing strong support for women’s careers. My advice to young women is not to be afraid of any challenge and not to let their gender hold them back.”

Ms Al Mehairi credits DWTC for helping further the careers of its female employees.

The Dubai company has a good mix of female and male staff — both Emiratis and expatriates, she said. It is an environment where everyone is treated equally and it is hard work and drive, not nationality or gender, that helps an employee progress.

“Being a woman has not held me back at DWTC,” she said. “It is a very open-minded environment.

“If you are good at your job, then you can move up the career ladder.

“DWTC staff always encourage women as leaders, and give them the opportunities to reach new heights.”

Her journey at DWTC began eight years ago after graduating from Zayed University with a bachelor’s degree in business applied to information technology.

Starting out first as an assistant sales manager in the consumer events department, Ms Al Mehairi worked her way up to become the director of government liaison.

It is now the Emirati’s role to manage the government participation at two major exhibitions: Gitex Technology Week, the leading ICT exhibition in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region; and Cabsat, the largest trade show in the Mena region for broadcasting, satellite and connected digital media.

Climbing the career ladder was made easier by her supportive co-workers, she said.

“I have received full support from DWTC. My colleagues taught me how to become a salesperson and develop marketing skills.

“We help one another to overcome challenges and learn from one another. We can take experiences from our own shows and apply that expertise to other shows.”

As she earns more responsibility, Ms Al Mehairi said she has had to be careful not to let work take over her personal life.

“At first it was an adjustment working in the events sector, especially coordinating with international schedules,” she said. “But after several years it is become much easier to balance my family and personal life.

“My biggest challenge was three years ago when my late father was sick and I had to manage both my family and workload. But I received full support from DWTC.”

Ms Al Mehairi is one of a growing number of women being recognised in the workplace.

“Across the UAE, women have taken on leading roles across the public and private sectors compared to when I was growing up,” she said.

“Over the next decade, we’ll see more women in the private sector, starting their own businesses, and representing the UAE overseas.”

Ms Al Mehairi now makes time to mentor other young female employees starting on their career path.

She hopes, with the right guidance, more and more Emirati women will take a leading role in business.

“There is a saying in the UAE: “I may cover my head, but I do not cover my mind”. That means that while women respect UAE traditions, they also want to advance their careers.

“Women in the UAE need to take the risk and know that they can achieve a lot.”