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International Women’s Day 2021 – Choose To Challenge


Today we are joining the world in celebrating International Women’s Day. The theme this year is #ChooseToChallenge. We spoke to five inspirational K&A women about what it means to them.

Thanks to Manal AlSayed, Geospatial Systems Integration (GSI) Senior Director; Gretta Kelzi, Esri Lebanon Manager; Linta Joy, Senior Urban Planner; Amira Mohamed, Water & Environment Senior Project Engineer; Ghida Kaddah, Mechanical Design Manager; and Rouba Zantout, GIS Professional Services Manager.

Question: What are the biggest challenges faced by women today in terms of gender equality?

Ghida: “I believe the biggest challenge that women face today, in terms of gender equality, is confusing gender equality with gender sameness. Women and men are equal, but they are not the same. We, as women, need to reclaim our womanhood in a society that focuses more and more on creating an illusion that women need to be more like men to compete and thrive.”

Linta: “The notion that women are less convincing or competent for roles other than perceived feminine areas of excellence is still a constant everyday challenge for many. Another is not having enough women taking on leadership roles, whether in their professional or personal lives, as young women today don’t have many approachable examples to guide them.”

Manal: “Women are usually torn between being good mothers and having a fulfilling full-time career. We fear to be perceived as not fully present as an employee or a mother. However, I believe that it is possible to have a successful career while taking an active role as a mother, and that’s by balancing work and family, and not being afraid to ask for help.”

Amira: “Although female representation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields is growing, we women feel that we should stand for ourselves, be our own advocates, and double the effort to achieve what we want.

Rouba: “The greatest challenge is in guaranteeing a healthy work-life balance. You can still balance the essential aspects of your life without ignoring yourself.”

Question: What are you doing to beat these challenges?

Linta: “I focus on encouraging women around me to be financially independent, to have the power of choice, and help their daughters get a decent education. That’s what I choose to commit on this International Women’s Day.”

Ghida: “I commit and encourage others to read at least one book or autobiography of successful women throughout history. Women like Queen Elizabeth I, Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Ching Shih, and many more have shaped our history without ascribing to any “modern” notion of equality. They reinvented their worlds through their wills of iron and a belief in themselves that transcended social norms and notions.”

Amira: “I am currently challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone on a personal and professional level by working on my MBA degree.”

Question: How important is it for women to empower each other, and why?

Gretta: “Empowering each other is essential for the development of society. It helps us reach our full potential as leaders in our field, students, and parents. This is the main driver for the social transformation needed to create a more gender-equal world.”

Manal: “I believe that empowerment should be for any person who deserves it being a woman or a man. Women can feel the challenges other women face, and thus, can sympathize with each other and provide the needed encouragement and support.”

Ghida: “It’s very important for women to empower each other. When we do, we empower ourselves, and become a force for positive change. If plants grow more rapidly when feeling the positive energy of human interactions and words of encouragement, imagine the growth we would have from empowering each other.”

Rouba: “Women empowering women is substantial since they are coming from the same emotional and mental ground. Yet, men's empowerment is also vital to enable women to contribute smoothly in raising communities. We are influencers in this world.”

Question: Which women are you most inspired by, and why?

Gretta: “I’m so inspired by the courageous women who stand up to fight for what’s right, calling out inequality and gendered oppression, women like Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern, Margaret Thatcher, and Halimah Yacob.”

Amira: “I’m mostly inspired by my mother. She managed to get three degrees while raising my brother and my sister. I believe that parents play a major role in reducing the gap between genders. We need to educate our kids equally, and teach them that girls and boys are the same.”

Manal: “No one special comes to my mind. I grew up in a home where girls and boys were all treated equally. I never really thought about gender equality challenges and never felt that I am disadvantaged. I think home is the first place where children are introduced to gender norms and stereotypes. Parents should have the same expectations for boys and girls so they can both achieve their full potential.”

Ghida: “On a personal note, I'm mostly inspired by my grandmother and my mother. They have raised their families in a loving and caring way amidst civil wars and unrest- they were real feminists who made sure that girls in our family were educated and given the same chances as boys, if not more.”

Question: What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

Manal: “Positivity, passion, and determination are keys for success. Take any challenge positively. It’s a chance to prove yourself. Be determined, always do all your best, and make sure that you are passionate about what you are doing.”

Gretta: “Believe in yourself! Take the lead to build a sustainable and prosperous future. And always remember that compassion, hard work, and values are the foundation of any success!”

Linta: “Hold on to perseverance, patience, and hard work. As is the case of anybody, it is very important to be trustworthy and responsible in the roles that you are performing, however small they may seem.”

Rouba: “Love yourself and do whatever makes you happy. A way to achieve that is by not getting obsessed with perfection and setting priorities.”

Ghida: “I would ask young women to stop thinking about their careers and to think instead about their lives and how they can lead their lives with purpose and joy. What would give your life meaning? It could be a career, it could be raising a family, it could be traveling around the world and helping others, or it could be all of the above. When you figure out the answer to this question, formulate a realistic plan to get there. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; no one knows all the answers. Don’t let anybody put you in a box or put you down; you will be fine.”