Advice for Western women from a female Arab director: Convert sh*t into fuel and stop competing

Another great piece of advice: be happy, apparently it tends to drive people crazy.

You have two options, Hoteit said. You can either decide to internalise negative messages that are being thrown at you or you can choose to use others’ negativity as your own personal fuel. “I have learned to always go for option two, and it has taken me from strength to strength,” she said. “It’s true what they say: success is the best revenge.”

She also unveiled that when it came to Arab woman, society still assumed their primary source of happiness should be the prosperity of their children and husband. While things are changing, it still means the professional Arab woman has to somehow maintain the perfect home, look after her children and manage her demanding career.

“To achieve this, I have found the hard way that you need to apply your hard-earned professional skills to your personal life,” Hoteit said. “You need to work your life. If you look at my calendar, you will see every working day one and a half hours from 7pm to 8:30pm UAE time blocked and called ‘family time.’ This is sacred time. I do everything in my power to protect this time so that I can be home by then to spend quality time with my children. The successful Arab women I know have each found their unique approach to working their life as they continue to shoulder the lion’s share of responsibility in the home.

“But this is not just about surviving in your dual role as a career woman and mother. This is also about being in the present. When I am with my children, I try to leave work out of our lives. Instead of worrying about how many minutes I can spend with them every day, I focus on turning these minutes into memorable moments.”

More importantly, she divulged, was the ability to join forces instead of competing.

“Arab women of my generation have not been very visible in the public eye as they grew up. The upside of this, however, is that we have spent a lot of time developing a social skill that is very important to success: networking. I would say the average Arab woman has a large network of friends and acquaintances. The majority of those are also women.

“But in the West, it seems ambitious women often compare themselves to other women hoping to be noticed as the most successful woman in the room. This leads to the much-spoken-about competitive behaviour between professional women. If there’s only room for one woman at the top, then you can’t make room for others, much less lift them up.

“As I look to the future, my hopes for my daughter when she stands on this stage some 20, 30 years from now are that she be as proud to call herself her mother’s daughter as her father’s daughter. And my hopes for my son are that by then, the expression ‘her mother’s son’ or ‘mama’s boy’ would have taken on a completely different meaning.”

Nowadays people often feel they have to downplay their ambition. However, author Rachel Bridge suggests it’s a shame given that studies show it not only spurs you on towards success, it helps you stay motivated and focused on what you are trying to achieve. 

Concerned with issues surrounding gender diversity in business? Don’t miss the Real Business First Women programme:

Drawing on years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit  designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.

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