Women’s role in society completely changed the recent years. What’s the position of women in society nowadays? Which whishes do they have? What are the cultural differences between the Arabic world and Europe? All those questions are dealed with in our interview with Raja’a Dabbas.
Rajaa Dabbas is a talent expert at TMA Method Middle East with 10 years experience in economic and workforce development.
Read more about Rajaa Dabbas, her experiences and perpectives:
WP: Please tell us a little bit about your professional life and background.
Rajaa: I am originally from Jordan, I have a B.A. in civil engineering and an MBA degree, with 10 years working experience mainly related to economic development and people empowerment. I started my professional life working for an international NGO to support local communities and SMEs in designing, implementing and operating income-generating projects aiming to improve their lives and their communities in Jordan., so I quickly drifted away from engineering and as I moved between Jordan, Austria, Russia and the UAE, I continued my career journey in supervising and designing economic development programs for the Middle East and connecting Middle Eastern and European businesses and creating opportunities for collaboration. And later I found my passion in talent management and career planning…
WP: How would you characterize yourself? Do you have any role models?
Rajaa: I am very flexible and adaptable, if I wasn’t so, I wouldn’t have embraced moving around with my family and starting over many times on both the personal and professional levels. I’m also always determined to find happiness and learning opportunities in any situation.
My role models are actually many different people. From artists, to spiritual figures and leaders, members of my family, my daughters, colleagues, remarkable people around me, A particular Arab female role model of mine, I would say is Queen Rania of Jordan, she is representing Arab women in a remarkable way, as she is modern, open minded, charismatic and a mother, devoting herself to work on many humanitarian causes; one of them is the subject of women’s and children’s rights.
She is also a main activist in the campaign against „honor crimes“; a complicated issue in Jordan that hurts society, which is, the killing of women by male family members, who are suspected of dishonoring their family by having sexual relationship outside marriage.
WP: Tell us: what is really driving you?
Rajaa: I can honestly say that I have a great desire for improvement. I enjoy getting to know who I am. It’s really empowering to witness changes in one’s life, and I don’t mean in materialistic terms, but for me how to use that knowledge to better my life, my family’s and others who have the same interest.
I also have a sincere passion to support others to have a similar experience and discoveries about themselves in their professional and even personal lives. In the end what is more important in this life than to get to know who we are, the reason of our existence, our passions, talents, gifts and values, use them and improve them continuously so we can reach our full potential and purpose in this world.
I use passion also in my work, for example my most valuable and rewarding work assignment was last year going back to Jordan, visiting public universities, talking and coaching youth on how to discover their strengths, build on them and choose the most suitable career path.
WP: Which cultural differences concerning the position of women can you see between the Arabic world and, for instance, Europe?
Rajaa: This was such an interesting topic for me over the years, as a woman originally from Jordan, who had the chance over the last 9 years to live, study, work, interact, have close friends in different countries; I never saw it as – me (or us as Arab women) versus them – women from other cultures.
I always saw commonalities and worked to create connections, I even found that it‘s amazing how similar we are, our hopes, dreams, worries and fears. Though that doesn’t change the reality, that women in both parts of the world, generally have a stereotype image of women in other places, and many times in both situations this picture wrong and negative.
Nevertheless, in general (although I don’t like generalizations) there are some cultural differences that I could experience over the years about Arab women; one is that the Arab world is a male dominated culture, where men are expected to be in control of women, their families and communities
Another is conformity, women are expected more than men are to conform to certain cultural and religious standards and rules, so they live and work worrying more about how they’re perceived by others, which may limit them somehow from expressing themselves fully, voicing their opinions and living a life that reflects their true souls. But it’s changing.
WP: What do you think are women’s wishes in 2016 and how do they want to be seen?
Rajaa: I can speak about my own wish for women and myself included, is to always stand tall, walk strong and hold our own. To discover our talents and passions; so we don’t find ourselves caught up living a mechanical life. To stay humble as there’s no one inferior or superior to us. To be compassionate, supportive, and to put ourselves in other people’s shoes; because this is what makes us special as we do it naturally. To live our life and our dreams and let others live theirs. And to take advantage of life, as I think it’s possible and even necessary to choose our future.
Therefore, women have to make their needs, interests, talents and competencies as clear as possible. So they can be seen and recognized for their strengths and capabilities, and be able to easily and freely think, decide, live and contribute to society accordingly.
WP: Do you have a lot of female friends who fight for their position in society?
Rajaa: Of course many do, including myself, although with different strategies, and each in her own way. Some fight for what they believe in with a lot of grace, kindness, strength and compassion that fascinates me, and others, fully focused on their own opinions and positions, try to enforce that by belittling and bashing others. Even though both approaches need a lot of courage, but I believe in the first one as we need more compassionate and empowering women, not the opposite.
WP: Why do you think men are better in networking and what could women do to catch up?
Rajaa: One networking commentator on LinkedIn put the difference this way: “Men start with a statement of their status… Women create communities”.
From my experience I see that male colleagues tend to be more focused and direct in presenting themselves and asking for what they want. I always like to make deeper conversations aiming to find tangible opportunities to build professional relationships, and can be more reluctant to be direct with what I want from the first conversation. For example, by the end of a business event, my male colleagues would have collected more business cards and contacts to follow up with, while I would have got to know fewer people, but I could pick up the phone and easily say: “Hello, how are you? Let’s meet and discuss more” and would then discuss business opportunities clearer.
I think it would be more efficient for women, if we remain aiming to create lasting relationships but adopt a more direct approach, it will help us push our careers and businesses bottom line forward faster.