Dialogue Series, Distingushed Lectures, Race & Society
Buthaina Al Ansari on Female Leaders in Qatar
Buthaina Al Ansari, founder and Chairperson of Qatariat T&D Holding Company and Senior Human Resources Director at Ooredoo, delivered a CIRS Monthly Dialogue on the topic of “Sheroes—How Female Leaders are Changing Qatar” on November 17, 2014. Al Ansari introduced the talk, which focused on the status of female leadership in Qatar, by explaining that it is largely males who are recognized for their endeavors and achievements, while women are rarely celebrated to the same degree. “There are male and female achievers, but there are only ‘heroes,’ and I do believe there should be ‘sheroes,’” she said.
Al Ansari is a member of the MENA Business Women’s Networks, an ambassador for Women Leading Change Qatar, a board member of Qatar Business Women’s Association, and a Mentor at the Qatar Professional Women’s Network Circle. She shared her insights on what makes a successful businesswoman, with a particular focus on how Qatari women can achieve a more competitive position within the local and international market. Al Ansari divulged her recipe for success, including the most important ingredients required in any business venture. The first element of success is to have a supportive family structure. She argued that in the Arab World, it is especially important for women to have a family that understands the imperatives of any business endeavor, and the necessities of splitting time and resources equally between the needs of the home and those of the business operation. Once one has the backing and support of one’s family, the second element of success that Al Ansari advocated was a solid foundation in the form of education. She noted that “in Qatar, we have a strong system of education”—especially for women—which should be capitalized upon.
The third element of success, as suggested by Al Ansari, is to take risks, and to not be afraid of challenging the norm. This, she said, is the defining characteristic of any entrepreneur. Al Ansari explained that she had to take personal risks in order to further her business career. She had begun her studies as a biomedical science student, but was always aware that this vocational path was pre-determined by her family’s definition of success. Al Ansari decided to take the risk of changing her degree to business administration in order to fulfill her personal objectives. “I took risks in my thoughts, I took risks in my decisions, and I took risks in my plans, and that has opened a lot of doors and opportunities for me,” she explained. However, Al Ansari did acknowledge that such freedom of choice and deciding for oneself were not necessarily options that were open to all Qatari females.
Once an educated risk-taker has completed the first crucial steps towards achieving a successful business career, Al Ansari’s final piece of advice was to differentiate oneself from the surrounding competition. She argued that it was of vital importance to “market yourself, position yourself, and brand yourself,” and focus on a particular segment of the market. “I chose the women’s segment in Qatar. I want to empower them, I want to guide them, and I want to enable them,” she said. Qatari males represent 68 percent of the Qatari labor force, while Qatari women represent only 32 percent. Thus, Al Ansari argued that it was important for women to work harder and to take on more active roles in order to balance the labor market.
Gender imbalance aside, Al Ansari concluded by saying that “in Qatar, we are at the development phase. Whether you are a mother, a wife, a student, an employee, or a business owner, we have to contribute together to invent the economic scene in Qatar [by] investment in economic capital, education, environment, and health.”
Buthaina Al Ansari holds a Master’s Degree in Business Management & HR Strategic Planning from Qatar University, and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from the American University of Cairo. As an entrepreneur and Chairperson of Qatariat T&D, she collaborates with innovative and best-in-class organizations to raise the benchmark and quality of expertise in Qatar. Qatariat services include—Training & Leadership, Media & Publishing and Business Consulting. In 2012, she received the L’Officiel Qatar’s Most Inspirational Arab Woman of the Year Award. She has been voted by CommsMEA as one the Top 50 Female Telecoms Executives, and for the past several years she has been named by ArabianBusiness.com as one of the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women.
Article by Suzi Mirgani, Manager and Editor for CIRS Publications