Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, of Tejari.com, an online business to business marketplace, was the first UAE national woman to receive an advanced IT degree. She has a passion for sharing her experiences with young women to encourage them to explore the options the future can offer.
After decades of preparation, the educational policies of the UAE are beginning to show fruit and groundbreaking women such as Sheikha Lubna are part of a new generation of Arab women in senior management. She was appointed to Tejari.com, which was created in a record-breaking 60 days, by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and the UAE Defense Minister.
Tejari.com is the third step towards the creation of an e-Dubai and is no ordinary e-venture. It is part of a family of government enterprises, including Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai Ports Authority and Dubai Internet City. Its job is to build an electronic marketplace for the region, which will be leveraged by Dubai's history as a regional trading hub.
The objective of Tejari.com is to provide an online meeting point for buyers and sellers of goods and services. Procuring products through Tejari.com allows buyers to access a global base of suppliers, while reducing paper-based administrative costs.
Tejari.com allows organisations to search online catalogues, create auctions, perform spot-buys, and participate in reverse auctioning. The venture aims to enable companies to reap the benefits of e-business: improved efficiency, faster time to market, better customer awareness and increased profitability. The Dubai Ports Authority initiated Tejari.com where Sheikha Lubna was the senior manager of the information systems department for more than seven years. She developed expertise in implementing and maximising the business benefits of information technology in the transportation and cargo industries.
Before joining DPA, Sheikha Lubna was the Dubai branch manager for the General Information Authority, the organisation responsible for automating the federal government of the UAE. She has more than ten years of IT management experience in the Middle East and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from California State University. She also heads up the Dubai e-government team responsible for instituting e-government initiatives throughout the public sector. Her role is to determine how the Dubai government can adopt the latest e-business technology to better serve its citizens and the private sector.
How did you get in the e-market business?
I have always had an interest in IT and computers. In my previous position as the IT manager of Dubai Ports Authority, I witnessed the powerful business benefits that the Internet brings, which spurred my interest in business-to-business marketplaces like Tejari.
Do you think the participation of women in these projects is important?
Absolutely! Women have a tremendous contribution to make in the IT and business worlds. I find that women bring a great deal of creativity and business acumen to an organisation.
What about women, is there any scope for them in this new emerging e-world?
I believe that the Internet can be a catalyst for all, whether women or men, young or old. Women in particular can utilise the Internet to explore different employment opportunities and sharpen their job skills. UAE ladies who may not wish to work outside the home have the opportunity to create their own Internet-based business, or telecommute for an office job through e-mail.
How do you see UAE women's role in business?
UAE women have enormous potential as entrepreneurs, managers, business owners, consultants - they have a wealth of options. The current generation of UAE women is well-educated and interested in developing employment skills. When I was appointed publicly as the managing director of Tejari, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum called on UAE women to develop their full potential for the benefit of the national economy, and I believe that they will take up his call to do so.
How does it feel to be a woman at the top?
I have an excellent team of colleagues working with me on Tejari, which gives me more confidence as the managing director. Actually there are women in management roles in a number of prominent organisations in Dubai, including Mona Al Marri at the Dubai Press Club, Maroua Naim at Emirates Internet and Multimedia, and Anita Mehra at the Department of Civil Aviation, so I feel that I'm a member of a very prestigious club.
Do you think UAE women will play a greater role in decision making in the future?
While it may sometimes be 'behind-the-scenes', I feel that UAE women already play a strong decision-making role today. Their influence is subtle in some cases but it's still felt very strongly in the national culture.
How do you see the role of Arab women changing?
Arab women are now making significant contributions in so many fields. What we may see is a more external, public role for Arab women - the Internet and media today turn a powerful spotlight on the achievements of Arab women so that there is greater understanding of the roles that they are playing.
What does your family think of your career? Do they encourage you?
I have a very loving and supportive family to whom I am very close, and my relationship with my family is something I treasure. They have always encouraged me to pursue my interests, continue my education and develop into an informed and well-rounded person.
What advice would you give young national women wanting to enter the new e-world?
I would encourage young national women to continue their education and explore the multitude of options their future offers. Being part of the digital economy doesn't necessarily mean running a 'dotcom' company - it means leveraging the power of the Internet to learn and grow as a person, and to know what's happening in the world around you. Women today can join the digital economy from a simple dial-up Internet connection in their home - and other women can take the initiative to start their own businesses.
How do your male colleagues accept having a female boss?
I have a very positive working environment with my male colleagues - they are more interested in my ideas and strategic vision for Tejari than bothering about my gender or nationality. We all feel like equal partners in the Tejari initiative.
Can you tell me how Tejari is progressing and what you predict for the future?
I feel privileged taking part in Dubai's transformation as the Middle East hub of the Internet world. To put it simply, the entire focus of these e-initiatives is to make Dubai a more attractive place to do business and to reside, and we're on the way to achieving that objective.
Where do you see yourself career wise in the next 5 years?
I think running Tejari will present me with enough challenges and triumphs to keep me interested for at least the next five years. I'm equally dedicated to my personal mandate of sharing my experiences with other UAE women. The next five-year period is a long road with so many things left to do. It takes courage to believe in your life's conviction - check back with me in 2005 and we'll see where I am.
Article by : Jill Sims, courtesy Arabian Woman