Dr. Mai Al Jaber interview about gender diversity in the workplace and details of her progression into a leadership role
As an Official Partner of Manchester City, Hays interviewed Dr Mai Al Jaber, Acting Medical Director and Public Health Specialist, Healthpoint - a Mubadala Company. She shared her experience of gender diversity in the workplace and details of her progression into a leadership role.
1. Tell us about your progression into your leadership role
My parents always said to me, “Whenever you can help others, by any means, do it”. This has been a driving force throughout my life, guiding my choices from a young age and eventually steering my career trajectory. I decided to pursue medicine as I believe that was the ideal means for me to help people. I began my career by enrolling with the UAE Armed Forces as a First Lieutenant Medical Doctor, which took me to Afghanistan in 2010 for two weeks to provide medical care for people based within the UAE military camp. This phase of my career greatly impacted me. I continued to work with the Zayed Military Hospital where I practiced public health, working on various health programmes across UAE military camps.
During my time at the military, I was actively involved in advanced individual training courses, which provided top-notch skills training and field exercises. While this chapter of my career proved intense and challenging, it was pivotal in shaping my sense of discipline and strong work ethic. These experiences have positively influenced my journey as a medical professional, sharpening my leadership skills and enhancing my ability to provide strategic council and ensure increasing service excellence within the healthcare industry.
In 2013, I resigned from the military and began a new chapter of my life at Healthpoint, a multi-specialty hospital in Abu Dhabi and part of Mubadala’s Healthcare network. I now serve as Acting Medical Director and Public Health Specialist, providing the right balance of bringing about positive change at an administrative, executive, and personal level through treating patients. I am also on the board of the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy, as well as a member of the UAE Special Olympics Committee’s executive office.
2. Did you always aspire to reach a leadership role in your career?
I have always aspired to reach a position where I could affect positive change in people’s lives. A leadership role helps bring this dream to life, as it allows me to drive initiatives that are dedicated to the greater good of our communities. To me leadership is not just a position, it is a responsibility towards your followers. This holds us accountable for motivating and inspiring people to create an environment where people feel valued and fulfilled.
3. In your opinion is there a difference between how men and women plan to progress in their careers? Do you think that there are any differences within the medical industry?
I believe this depends on the individual and their idea of what progress or success looks like. To some it may be a particular position, to others it may be securing work-life balance or giving back to the community. It also depends on the culture one is exposed to. Earlier, the responsibility of taking care of one’s family fell on the woman, often putting a spoke in their career plans. Times are changing however, and men and women are starting to share the responsibility. Many employers are now providing a lot of flexibility for working parents, which allows for an equal playing field when career planning.
We are so thankful for the UAE government for its dedication to the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment across all sectors. This was supported by the announcement of establishing the Gender Balance Council.
4. Have you encountered any gender linked challenges during your career?
Once again, this depends on the culture and norms one is exposed to. I am grateful for the support of my family when I took the decision to enrol in the military as a medical officer. Once they saw the merit in my choice of career, and that it put me in a position to serve my country and help people, they came to appreciate the decision. While they may have been apprehensive at the beginning, they always gave me the support I required. Within the healthcare industry, I have not faced any gender-related obstacles. We save lives and any differences in gender are insignificant to us and the people I work with. Even at administrative level, at Healthpoint for example, I am glad to work under a leadership that believes in the capabilities of their female staff and giving opportunities to who they trust to carry out the company mission, regardless of gender.
5. In your experience, do you think women have the same career opportunities as men?
In the field of medicine, they absolutely do. It only comes down to skill, tenacity and a drive to do good. That’s all that matters.
6. Have you noticed any differences in career opportunities for men and women based on geography?
Honestly speaking, I have never noticed any difference in career opportunities between men and women, at least across the healthcare sector. In 2015, the UAE was ranked 19th in the Global Gender Gap Report issued by the World Economic Forum, first in the GCC and second in the Arab world in gender equality according to the Gender Inequality Index of the Human Development Report. That was an honour for us as a country however, the government efforts to enhance women’s participation across all sectors are still ongoing.
7. Do you think flexible working has any bearing on career progression opportunities for women or men?
Yes, it does. Especially for men and women who have families and young children to take care of. It allows them to maintain a good work-life balance and spend time with their children and loved ones. In addition to maintaining the equilibrium, it goes a long way in keeping them happy, which in-turn positively affects their work.
8. Does your organisation have any diversity and inclusion programmes in place?
I am fortunate to work for a healthcare provider that welcomes diversity and inclusion at all levels of healthcare. The aim of our organisation is to provide the highest standards of healthcare to our community and by diversifying, we can ensure that we are bringing in the best individuals in their respective fields.
9. Going forward, what more do you think can be done to create a culture that enables women to thrive in their careers?
There are lots of things that can be done but if I were to bring it down to one defining factor, it would be respect. Respect for a woman’s ability, her time, her intelligence and her contribution. This, I believe, leads to support, encouragement and opportunities that help women thrive in their careers.
10. Do you have any advice for female professionals who are in, or are looking to progress to a leadership role?
Education and knowledge are key to women’s empowerment. If a young woman is well educated, she will acquire employable skills which will lead her to making measurable contributions to the country. Entrepreneurship will give her the courage to take on new challenges and set the bar very high for herself.
Lastly, be strong and be fair. Know your worth and be confident in your ability and decisions. Focus on the bigger picture, and on accomplishing the best possible outcome of your work.