All in a dayâ€™s work
It couldnâ€™t get more diverse than this. Women from eight different countries, of varying ages and career focus, sitting down over coffee to talk about the commonality that binds them. Of the 17 women gathered at the Four Seasons tea room, 12 had contributed personal essays and stories for Vodafone Women in Qatar: The Inside Story. They are all either Vodafone Qatar employees or spouses of employees. In an exclusive Woman Today coffee morning, the ladies gathered to talk about the diversity of their lives, despite which there is more in common, than not, between them. There were singles, mothers, wives, daughters... women who have never pursued a career, some who did and gave up, a couple who are in their very first jobs and quite a few who were still driven by their careers. Yet questions of identity and equality touched a common chord in each of them.
Here are some vignettes from the morning.
coffee debate, & a few laughs
i am I took my
We cannot talk
to work with me.
Men and women must be
The Juggler Mother. Wife. Daughter. Professional. You? Tamsin and Philippa
Would your husband relocate for your career prospects? Yes, depending on the work situation. Doha Snapshots: Beige, hot, glitzy, emerging. Coming here, I’ve had to find new things to do, to find new challenges.
Your first gender realisation moment? When I was 4 years old, my mother asked me to set the table, while my brothers were seated. Because I was being trained to be a good wife. For all that, I am not one even now. Doha Snapshots: A land of opportunities. It is different from what you are used to, and once you understand that, you can innovate. It’s safe and a good place to be in.
“If it were not for my 7-year-old son, I wouldn’t be learning Arabic.”
(Tamsin moved to Doha with her husband and son because of the lure and challenge of a country that they could barely find on the world map, and is sure it will change their lives forever.)
Kimberly and Carolyn
Gender stereotyping. Guilty or innocent? I’d say innocent. But recently my son made a blue and pink distinction with his sister. So where does that come from? But here in Doha, those stereotypes are more defined, I’d say. “If it were not for my children, I would have lots more money!” (Philippa is from New Zealand, and was previously a political adviser and is now studying law.)
Mellany Tiglao Doha Snapshots: Progressive. Multi-cultural. Hot.
Doha Snapshots: Hot. Cool. Beige. Aqua. Fun. Occasionally boring. Overall I love it. I love the people, the diversity, the winter.
(Kimberly is an ex-journalist and fashion stylist. She has lived in Australia, the Netherlands, UK, Hungary and now Qatar, in the last seven years. She is the editor of VWQ.)
Carolyn Munro Doha Snapshots:
“If it were not for an e-mail forward, I wouldn’t be here in Doha.”
(Luisa is the head of corporate responsibility at VQ. She is the project manager of VWQ.)
(Mellany, born and raised in the Philippines, is a customer care champion for VQ.)
Would your husband relocate for your career prospects? My husband and I have a very strong relationship and we discussed every aspect of our life together, including the moves to the five different countries we have lived in. Do I think he would move for me? Yes!
“If it were not for Dan (my husband), I wouldn’t be in love; I wouldn’t love myself.”
“If it were not for my curiosity, I don’t know where I’ll be; I wouldn’t experience new things.”
For an adventure and a challenge. And we are having a great time. Feel lucky to be part of Vodafone. We have all left our family and friends behind to come to a different culture and country. It was a little scary at the beginning... apprehensive, but we are now included
in a circle of intelligent, professional, friendly women. And... My eldest son, who is 7, loves the company of all the children. It’s great at school - he mixes with all types of cultures, skin colour, languages. He is not biased towards anyone. He is part of a great mix in Qatar, and he is relaxed in the company of females. I hope this will never change. Gender stereotyping. Guilty or innocent? I would say innocent. Yet, my 3-year-old boy will not play with a pink Frisbee! Have you ever pretended to be someone you are not? Only in costume parties. “If it were not for wanting an adventure, we wouldn’t be having it.” (Carolyn is from New Zealand, and this is her family’s first experience of living in the Middle East. She loves to travel, and is up for new challenges as long as she has a flush toilet and a hot shower.)
Luisa: We are not the same - men and women - so we should not talk about equality. We should talk about inclusivity. I want to be treated according to my diversity. For women, becoming a mother seems to erase what they were before that. Philippa: In New Zealand, I took my 6-month-old baby to work. Then I asked myself, what I was trying to prove. With my second, I decided to be a stay-athome-mum. There is so much confusion on what our identity is, that we find it difficult to extricate ourselves. Susie: I stayed at home for my three kids, and started my career at 38. It’s up to you entirely. You have to decide what you want and then plan to get there, step by step. No one else can come to you and say what is the right path for you. Ketkee: Working mothers make their children more independent. I can vouch for that. My kids can come back home from school and fend for themselves, make their own snack. Rincy: I am 20, my mother doesn’t work. She does everything for me even now. Kimberly: I am not a mother. But my mother went back to university along with me! For a lot of women, they feel their work defines them. I’ve been a journalist, and then decided to do something totally different and studied fashion styling.
i am Jenny Maher
Would your husband relocate to further your career prospects? Yes, Grahame would. But I have never been career-oriented. Doha Snapshots:
Hot. Dusty. Construction site.
Have you ever pretended to be someone you are not? I am different in different environments or company. I am not sure if that is pretending, but yes, I can’t be the person I am here, as I would be with the Sheikhs in an official gathering.
“If it were not for my husband, I would be somewhere I wouldn’t want to be.”
Doha Snapshots: Crazy traffic, hot, friendly. As a family it has made a difference to us. In Germany, my husband was around only for the weekends. Here in Qatar, we live together with our 15-year-old son. There is more time together.
(Jenny, born in Australia, has lived in New Zealand, Sweden ,the Czech Republic and now Qatar with her husband of 29 years Grahame Maher. She was the project co-ordinator of VWQ.)
Your first gender realisation moment? Every day, when I wear my head scarf. That defines me as a woman. Would your husband relocate for your career prospects? Yes, if it was better for us as a couple to be somewhere else.
Doha Snapshots: Beige, diverse, hot, secure, flat.
“If it were not for my move to Doha, I wouldn’t be in Vodafone.”
(Hania is an Italian who has moved to Doha to be with her Qatari husband. She recently joined VQ.)
(Rincey - the youngest of the participants – was born in India and has lived in Qatar the last 11 years with her parents. She works with Vodafone during the day and is studying for her bachelor’s degree.)
(Maren is from Germany, where she worked as an optician. She is here with her husband and two sons.)
Would your husband relocate for your career prospects? No. I tried persuading him to come back to Mumbai, where I was working. But since he has been here for the last 15 years, I joined him instead with my daughters.
Your first gender realisation moment? Being a mother.
Have you ever pretended to be someone you are not? Doha Snapshots: The only place I can stay at home and have a live-in maid! “If it weren’t for Greg (my husband), I wouldn’t have come here to Doha.” (Catherine is from New Zealand, and says she has an amazing amount of spare time and loves to spend time with her four school-aged children.)
As women, we play so many different roles, we have to pretend at some point or the other.
“If it were not for Vodafone, I wouldn’t be a writer.” (Ketkee works in the customer care department of Vodafone Qatar. She is the mother of two girls.)
When I see strong,
at my workplace,I know I
must bring my daughters that way.
Would your husband relocate for your career prospects? Yes, mine did move to join me in Qatar. Doha Snapshots: Friendly, warm people. But... Hate having to consider choice of clothes before dressing!
I smile about: 18 years ago, a female boss of mine told me I’d never be successful because I smiled too much! “If it were not for Qatar, I wouldn’t have this exciting life.” (Susie is from New Zealand where she worked at Vodafone for 13 years. She moved to Doha with her husband of 40 years, to join VQ.)
Project Manager and Vodafone Head of Corporate Responsibility Luisa Gentile says the book was conceived to give the women of Vodafone a platform to share their experiences of Qatar within the community and beyond. Vodafone Women in Qatar: The Inside Story is available at all Vodafone shops, online (www.vodafone.com.qa) and at the I Spy Bookshop, City Center. All proceeds will go to “A Writer’s World” at Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, which will support future writing initiatives in Qatar.