Women really have toiled hard to attain respect and imperviable and impermeable heights in the past. Perseverance and determination has remained a vital key, a golden key to every success lying along the paved path.
The name that has found its way to the paved path of success and splendor engulfs the prestigious glory of Gulf. Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi is the name, which even Forbes, has listed on its Women to Watch list.
A Science graduate from the California State University, Lubna had to serve her seven quality years at the Dubai Port Authority, on which Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum gave her the distinguished government employee award.
The best was yet to come when Dubai's ruler and UAE's vice president and Prime Minister HE Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum appointed her as the head of the Tejari.
Tejari was the first business to business market place. Brainchild behind Tejari Lubna, made Tejari the best success story which immediately got her international acclaim.
She was yet to make history, every paper boldly headlined when she was appointed the Minister of Economy and Planning. She was the first ever woman minister of the United Arab Emirates.
There stood a woman who had and IT savoir-faire bagging 16 years of IT experience along. She had the talent, the skills and the experience. The only thing that she required then was acknowledgment.
Acknowledgement she needed from individuals who steer her image sturdily and create an aura that recognized women leadership. She achieved that when Sheikh Mohammed conferred that very same recognition on her.
Lubna , today, in her capacity has broken new grounds standing tall because she knows that very few have attained the position she now holds.
Lubna, although a world traveller with considerably long periods of stay in more liberal societies like the UK and the US, has very strong leanings towards her own country. Although recognised worldwide as head of Tejari.com, it was important for her to be accepted among her own.
She calls that recognition from national men "the highlight of my career.
"It gives me so much honour to hear it. I have met a lot of local men at conferences in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and also this conference in New York and the UK … and I get emails saying 'for us it is such a pride to be sitting there listening to you thinking this is a UAE woman talking'.
"For me, that is the biggest credit I have received so far and these are local, national men in the society. And to me that is the best honour ... that they will take the liberty of sending this email saying that or come directly to tell me 'well done… we are so proud… you are a pride to us in the UAE'. That is my highest recognition."
Her role models:
Lubna claims she has a long list of role models but the three people whom she particularly considers most influential in her life are her parents and her uncle (the Ruler of Sharjah).
"What I have become is a by-product of both their personalities, she says of her parents… if I sit there with a psychologist he will tell you, 'This is what she got from her father. This is what she got from her mother'.
"And I see it today - the discipline, the initiatives, the pride of myself as a woman comes from my mum. But then, loving the world and the creativity - that's from my dad.
"My uncle - he really believes in education… Because of him, young girls can actually travel abroad and get an education. To him, the quality of an individual is his education.
"He is an embarking anchor for most of us in Sharjah."
On how she tackles outsiders' questions on the role of women in the Arab society
Several people have at conferences accused the region of having kept its women behind the veil literally and metaphorically. But Lubna's position contradicts the prevailing norm and she is quick to defend her nation by stating that things are changing.
"Why should I be angry with him for his ignorance? I need to correct his knowledge and correcting it by showing him what I am is the way to do it. To go into an argument and say they are wrong. I don't think I win. Let them admire you for what you represent and what you deliver and then it's a different story."
Lubna has broken new ground several times over as a woman in the UAE and she believes very strongly that her "life is all for these women (of the Arab world)-- to tell them a good story.
"I am a role model for women. I am out there as a woman who achieved so much in life. People respect us (women) highly… seeing us… what we represent for our country… For them, it is a phenomenal representation of our country. All they know is that ours is a very tight culture… very conservative society. But when we go out there, we become ambassadors for ourselves in here."
Her note to women
Lubna believes that "things have opened up for other women."
She relates her own experience to reach out to other women and tells them: "Your society has a lot of credit for you," so go forth "with confidence."
"There is always this frail concern that women themselves are sometimes not confident. You give them all these options. But it’s done, fearing being out there, and being there as the first one. I have failed… I have many failure stories as much as success stories. You aim, you shoot, doesn't go through…. You re-aim, you shoot. You have to accept your limitations.
"But I think there is a great opportunity for them. Let them not have fear from themselves. They create that fear for themselves. The society is open. Leaders are open. They have the opportunity."
On how she views herself
Information technology was looked at with a lot of scepticism when it was first introduced. It only gained acceptance over the last half of the decade in this region. Women are another matter all together. Society has a long way to go before we can have more Lubnas on the podium. Given that, Lubna believes that as a woman and as a significant figure in the IT sector, she has been a "change agent."
"We are all in this life for a mission. Everybody's got a mission that we have to tap on. We have to go inward and find out.
"I think I am a change agent for life. I am a facilitator, a messenger and a bridge. And in that bridge, I have played it in technology with technology being accepted now."
Women in senior positions have always had to deal with the egos of male colleagues. Gender conflict has always been perceived as a universal problem. In a society that is still in the throes of coming to terms with women going to work, Lubna's is a rather difficult situation.
"I have to pay extra attention to demonstrate to them where I come from … that I am not there to fight their egos. I am there to create a future for them and let them carry on their path and forget about me.
"It's not their fault. It's the way they have been raised. I would have been extremely narrow-minded if I was out there to correct them. Then it's my ego. You can't blame them for it.
"I know where their distrust comes from. It is lack of knowledge. They don't know. You have to give them the time to trust you. You have to deliver before you demand their acceptance.
"You have to have the patience.
You have to have the discipline."
Lubna says she's been a voracious reader since the age of 13.
"I had read so much as a kid. I saw the world through my books and that in itself opened a world out there that drove me to it."
On Being a Royal
Being a Royal, it can often be tough to prove that you have worked your way up. For Lubna, the people who have worked with her are ready to vouch for her.
"People who have worked with me have become my lawyers," she says.
"But I have to work twice as hard trying to demonstrate to people your knowledge … win them by trust and acceptance.
"I want to earn my desk and earn respect of that desk too."
"Since I was the age of 9 and 10, I always had this in my head that I wanted to have a path of my own. When I decided to go to school and go for computer science, I was just 17 years and lived a sheltered, very over-protected life. But there was always this eagerness that I really wanted to do something.
"I never stop learning. I don't sit in an organisation demanding that they teach me. I learn quite a lot on my own.
"I believe I have differentiated myself from a lot of people because I have that discipline. And my benchmark is putting my quality out there.
"I wanted to work in IT.
"I had two options. My grades could have put me in a Medical School. I graduated the 9th from the Emirates in high school. In my own school, I was always the first or second in class -- Al Zahra (Secondary) school, Sharjah."
The Return Home & Growing Up
"This has been a tough road for me.
"My first year when I came - it was a bit tough. My family was over protective. I was so stubborn.
"I had to reason ... I had to balance what I believed in and where the growth is ... where my pace should slow down. I did it bit by bit in incremental fashion..."
Lubna went to a language school and did mathematics at the UK prior to going to the US. And in 1992, she lived in Japan for two months. Currently, she is doing her executive MBA with AUS on weekends and hopes to graduate by next July.
"To me, if you want to be a person of a global nature, you have to know these cultures first … you have to know people, you have to know where they come from and then you understand technology and everything else.
"At the end of the day, it is people. I am a person who loves culture and I travel extensively … and to me, that is one of the assets as an individual I have."
"At the end of the day, what is it that you acquire and you strive for. What kind of freedom? If it is the mental freedom, I have it. And no one has said that's wrong."
"Respect others if you want them to respect you. If you want to survive, you really have to respect others to gain that respect for yourself."
On Commuting Daily to Sharjah
Everybody has something to say about the nightmare of driving to and fro from Sharjah. Lubna, who lives in Sharjah but works in Dubai fears driving on the highway and gets a chauffeur to drive her around.
"It's two months equivalent of working hours in a year -- 1 hour time taken to commute to Sharjah. I calculated it."
On Other Things
"For myself, I do Reiki. I have friends who do re-birthing for me when I am under high stress … I like aromatherapy and massages... I read a lot on new age philosophies and spiritual beliefs.
"I love movies though I don't have much time for them now... But I go for musicals and operas when I go abroad."