Gender quotas may be the answer to having more women in the work place, JCCI vice chairwoman

Updated 12 April 2018
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Gender quotas may be the answer to having more women in the work place, JCCI vice chairwoman

  • Dr. Lama Al-Sulaiman said she was pro-quotas when it concerned the employment of women, but only in the short term
  • Women who have made it into leadership roles experienced the same emotions women are experiencing now

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia: Gender quotas can be a driving force to include more women in the workplace, said Dr. Lama Al-Sulaiman, vice chairwoman and board member, Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) at the Arab Women Forum on Tuesday.

“I am completely pro quota. There is no way it is going to start in any company unless there is a legislation to impose the participation of women and then they are going to find the woman that would suit them the most. Some are going to succeed while some are going to fail,” she said.

Al-Sulaiman made history in 2005 when she was elected to the board of directors of the JCCI alongside with Nashwa Taher, while two others were appointed on the board. At that time she said women were not allowed to use the same entrance as their male counterparts. Two years later, there were 50 women working at the Chamber of Commerce out of just over 300 working in different departments. She said that “although it sounds small… it was really a big step.”

Speaking to Arab News at the sidelines of the Arab Women Forum Sulaiman said a quota did not have to be enforced permanently.

“We can impose quota policy until we reach a reasonable percentage; until we reach, let’s say, 30 percent of women in the workforce as per Vision 2030.”

If a leader believes in boosting the presence of women in the workplace, everybody below him would want to show that they are moving at the same pace and towards the same goal, Sulaiman said.

In a culture that mainly gives the responsibility of protecting members of the family to men, moving in uncharted waters can be worrying she said.

And she added that overprotecting women can be a bottleneck that hinders women from growing and taking the risks to reach higher positions. “Sometimes over-protection might hinder women’s growth. Fathers have to believe in their daughter and have the confidence that this woman will be able to face all the struggle that she can face,” Al-Sulaiman told Arab News.

The JCCI’s vice chairwoman said the conversation needed to be ongoing, and holding such conferences kept it alive. “Role models” get to share their stories, she said, and talk about how they made it into business.

She said women who are striving to reach leadership positions are going through similar experiences that those at the top have gone through.

“They went through the same obstacles. They cried. They cracked. They went back home crying like a little kid and maybe cried on the shoulder of a husband or a father and said they cannot go back again. We all thought of resigning. We all thought of giving up.”

When asked about what makes a woman in that position get back up and continue the journey, Al-Sulaiman said: “Your passion. You need to be passionate about what you do. If you are working in a place that is not bringing out your passion, there is no way you can confront the obstacles that you will face.”

Once women look at reaching higher positions and thinking of their career, they need to work harder and twice as much as their male counterparts “because you need to be seen and heard” and to be seen and heard you need to prove that they can do better.

More women are yet to reach leading positions since at the moment, there are still very few female Top CEO in the region. Until that is achieved, Sulaiman said it is important to “keep having conversations about the increased participation of Arab women.”


‘Don’t be too optimistic’: Huawei employees fret at US ban

Updated 26 May 2019
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‘Don’t be too optimistic’: Huawei employees fret at US ban

  • This week Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei
  • Another critical partner, ARM Holdings, said it was complying with the US restrictions

BEIJING: While Huawei’s founder brushes aside a US ban against his company, the telecom giant’s employees have been less sanguine, confessing fears for their future in online chat rooms.
Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei declared this week the company has a hoard of microchips and the ability to make its own in order to withstand a potentially crippling US ban on using American components and software in its products.
“If you really want to know what’s going on with us, you can visit our Xinsheng Community,” Ren told Chinese media, alluding to Huawei’s internal forum partially open to viewers outside the company.
But a peek into Xinsheng shows his words have not reassured everyone within the Shenzhen-based company.
“During difficult times, what should we do as individuals?” posted an employee under the handle Xiao Feng on Thursday.
“At home reduce your debts and maintain enough cash,” Xiao Feng wrote.
“Make a plan for your financial assets and don’t be overly optimistic about your remuneration and income.”
This week Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei as a result of the ban.
Another critical partner, ARM Holdings — a British designer of semiconductors owned by Japanese group Softbank — said it was complying with the US restrictions.
“On its own Huawei can’t resolve this problem, we need to seek support from government policy,” one unnamed employee wrote last week, in a post that received dozens of likes and replies.
The employee outlined a plan for China to block off its smartphone market from all American components much in the same way Beijing fostered its Internet tech giants behind a “Great Firewall” that keeps out Google, Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other foreign companies.
“Our domestic market is big enough, we can use this opportunity to build up domestic suppliers and our ecosystem,” the employee wrote.
For his part, Ren advocated the opposite response in his interview with Chinese media.
“We should not promote populism; populism is detrimental to the country,” he said, noting that his family uses Apple products.
Other employees strategized ways to circumvent the US ban.
One advocated turning to Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao to buy the needed components. Another dangled the prospect of setting up dozens of new companies to make purchases from US suppliers.
Many denounced the US and proposed China ban McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and all-American movies and TV shows.
“First time posting under my real name: we must do our jobs well, advance and retreat with our company,” said an employee named Xu Jin.
The tech ban caps months of US effort to isolate Huawei, whose equipment Washington fears could be used as a Trojan horse by Chinese intelligence services.
Still, last week Trump indicated he was willing to include a fix for Huawei in a trade deal that the two economic giants have struggled to seal and US officials issued a 90-day reprieve on the ban.
In Xinsheng, an employee with the handle Youxin lamented: “I want to advance and retreat alongside the company, but then my boss told me to pack up and go,” followed by two sad-face emoticons.