When we were debating over interviewing Suaad Al Shamsi, the first question I asked myself was ‘why should we do it’. Should we interview her merely because she happens to be the first female Emirati aircraft engineer – a woman in the so-called ‘man’s world’ – or for her achievements and her fearless attitude towards learning and exploring new horizons, traits that are irrespective of her gender?

A friend and a mother of a teenaged girl answered it eloquently, rather made me think further. "It’s a fact that there is gross underrepresentation in several fields and young women continue to battle mindsets and prejudices both at workplace and at home," she said. "But what bothers me is that in our effort to raise a generation of women – and men – who have confidence in their skills, instilling in them a belief in meritocracy and in the process hoping to create a society that moves away from a binary outlook, we have changed the mental and emotional DNA of a woman. Qualities such as compassion and nurturing, which were considered to be instinctive to a woman are gradually losing their relevance. Those are signs of weakness, especially in the corporate world, we tell our girls," she added.

So are we staring at a future of fractured feminism? A culture that sacrifices mentoring at the altar of success?

Women like Suaad show the way. Through her leadership training initiatives and her books, she proves soft is strong too (read her full interview). And for that reason – also – she needs to be celebrated.

Let me know what you think...

Reach me at mshekar@gulfnews.com.

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