If the people behind the most successful men are women, then who are the people behind the most successful women? We’re sure that’s not a question that enters your mind very often, but given that it is an increasingly pertinent one in the modern world, T Weekly thought it would be a great idea, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, to ask both expatriate and Omani women in the country what it is that keeps them going. T Weekly spoke to women in Oman to discover the inspiration behind their career decisions, the support they’ve had along the way, and most importantly, how they managed to balance work and family life. International Women’s Day falls on Friday, March 8, and we hope that these stories inspire all of you to reach for the stars while keeping your feet on the ground.
Dr Carmen Kohler
Analogue Astronaut, AMADEE-18 Mars Simulation Mission in Oman
I think it is very, very important to follow your dreams and live your passion. Always stay curious about where you live in and what is surrounding you. Travel, look at the world, look at how things work and always follow your dreams. Space has always fascinated me, especially the Moon because it is a celestial body which we can see clearly with our own eyes. I would love to go to space and see the fragility of Earth from a satellite perspective. Working in such an inspiring surrounding, as well as the multidisciplinary education and adventure, makes being an astronaut a perfect job for me. In addition to my job, I am an analogue astronaut at the Austrian Space Forum and conduct science on Earth in a Mars-like environment. It is a huge privilege for me to take part in the AMADEE-18 Mission in Oman. I consider myself privileged to work in one of the cutting- edge fields of scientific exploration paving the way for future human Mars missions. As part of an outstanding international team of women and men I have gained valuable experiences in the fields of science and research as well as public outreach.
Founder, Be You Oman
When it comes to social work and causes, what I have seen in Oman is that everyone seems quite open to coming forward and helping. I have never come across a situation where someone has refused us. Here, I have never had a situation where someone asks me to just sit at home.
But when I go back to India, I do get some people asking me why I have studied so much. They say that if I just want to do a job, why not just take one which is clerical in nature, instead of occupying such a senior position? I have a double degree in both engineering in IT, as well as that of a chartered accountant. When I work here, people really appreciate me, but when I go back to my part of the world, people ask me why I need so many degrees and why I need to work in such a senior position.
I am not competing with anyone. Whether you are male or female, you pay the same fee for education, so when we get the benefits, we must all get the same benefits. In my office everyone is treated equally but when you go out into the world, I am sometimes asked why I need so much money.
If you look at women’s fashion products, they are actually much more expensive than men’s so I feel that sometimes, rather than people saying we should be paid less, we must in fact, I feel, be paid more. If you want to go out and achieve something, then cut the stereotypes, go out there, and do what it is you want to do.
Dr Nuhaila Al Rawahi
Many people don’t understand what an educational psychologist does, or they have a very narrow perspective of what we do. For example, I am normally called in at schools for assessments, but my work can go well beyond that in terms of developing policies. However, last week, one of the students I was assessing felt quite reluctant to have me involved, because her perception was that I dealt with “crazy” people.
I mapped out for her the different professions in the psychology domain, how these were different from a psychiatrist, and who you would go to for different things, because in some people’s minds, the two are unfortunately very closely integrated. By the end of our conversation – and we did take our time with this – the student actually became quite interested with the possibilities of interning with a clinical psychologist. You can capitalise on any opportunity you get, because you know she is going to discuss this with these friends, even if in an informal situation.
I actually come from a very supportive family, because my brother, due to the lack of services in Oman, left Oman and went to boarding school in the UK, where he had an educational psychologist support him. He got the right support and provision in place and was then able to complete his studies ,culminating in a master’s degree.
A lot of people in my community said I was wasting my degree, but my family is really open-minded, because no community or city will stay static. Parents are now far more involved in their child’s education.
Co-founder, Omani Paws
Although I spent most of my younger years in India, Oman is always home because my parents and my friends are here. When I had the opportunity to move back, I couldn’t say no, because this place has always been home to me.
The lessons we’ve learned through Omani Paws is to be patient, and understand the cultural acceptance here. Not everyone has the awareness required when it comes to animal welfare but we must be positive about bringing change.
I never get questions from people asking me why I didn’t stay home. A lot of people in India did ask me what I was going to do when I came to Oman, but I have always been a very determined person and my parents have always been supportive of me. You may need family support, but you can always find something you can do, even if you are at home. A lot of people ask us how they can help, and even if they can’t help outside, they can, for example, make goods at home to raise funds, or talk about animal welfare. There’s always a way to help, you just have to find a suitable way to do it.
Captain, Oman National Women’s Cricket Team
I was born in India, but my entire family is based in Oman. All of us are now Omani nationals. I always was very keen on playing sports when I was a little girl and I was always backed up by my family when it came to pursuing a sports career. Cricket has always been my passion, but a lot of people commented about how strange or how awkward it was to see a girl batting and bowling: this made me actually feel very happy. I was always a go-getter, but people will always have things to say. This never really affected my mind, because there is no way a girl cannot be equal to or even better than the boys, whatever the field may be. Girls and boys must always have an equal status. Education – no matter how it may come – always has great value. Personally, I want to tell girls and women that they are their own person, independent from their families. My family never made me feel I had to follow any dream but my own and was the biggest catalyst towards helping me achieve what I have done. These days women are more than capable of multi-tasking and can surely find their own path. Balancing work and home life is not easy, but this is something that every woman is going to face. This is particularly applicable for Asian women, because we have been raised in a world which is more conservative, as opposed to the Western world, where the children raise themselves after the age of 18. We still live with our parents, and are under their influence, so yes, there will be obligations, but if your family understands your passions, they will allow you to go for it.
Founder, The Retail Agency
My mother got married early and had seven children in the span of 10 years, but when my youngest brother was independent and became a young adult, she finished her high school, her bachelors and her masters; all done after the age of 50. Being a working mum taught me time management. As a women, we want the best of both worlds in that we want to do the whole motherhood thing and the career thing as well. You need to have a good support structure in terms of family, and good time management, particularly when your kids are young. I always tell people that it is possible to balance work and family life. A few of my friends wanted to leave their jobs after their first or second children were born, but I tell them that it is most definitely possible and that the more experience I have, the more I can actually give to my children. The more developed I am, the better I can bring up my kids. It’s not just the quantity of time spent, it’s the quality. Most women, once they have kids, make the children the priority and, while this is important, they tend to forget themselves.