“Women bring higher emotional intelligence to the workplace. Female leadership stood out on the global stage during COVID, like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel, and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen. “(Therefore), it is clear that women can be particularly strong leaders in times of crisis,” Hawraa Al Lawati, head of customer experience, Al Mouj Muscat, tells the Purple. “The workplace, and the world, won’t be the same after the pandemic. Companies can leverage the crisis to transform workplace culture and ensure that women with talent have opportunities to lead. Organisations that do so will not only be helping women, but will also benefit from increased loyalty, innovation and future profitability,” Hawraa adds.
Women across the world in companies often get into what is termed ‘gender double bind’ – when they become aggressive in their work, they are ‘insensitive’, when they exercise empathy, they are ‘indecisive’. Does it bother you?
Historically, women have faced discrimination in the workplace and those inequalities impacted on how female leaders were perceived. Women learned to project authoritativeness, because without doing so, they risked being thought of as less than credible, especially at the beginning of a new business engagement. They learned to “toughen up,” “speak louder,” and “act decisively” and that would have had a mixed outcome. When we talk about equality and opportunity, I realised, many years ago, that the more I champion and support women to build on their talents in my own small way, the more I am able to create a world, around me at least, where women can flourish. Today, I believe we must raise girls to be brave and not to hold them back trying to be perfect, as we all learn from mistakes and develop confidence when we overcome challenges. Ultimately, real equality will only be possible when women in leadership positions become the norm, not the exception.
The global pandemic was a sphere in which women leaders showed their mettle. What is this essence of a woman that helps them dismantle the usual narrative and help them veer their companies from disaster to success and beyond?
Gender diversity in top management can be viewed as something that hamper effective teamwork because of differences in values, perceptions, and cognitive styles. But in truth it has also been shown to spark creativity and the development and use of diverse knowledge and perspectives to foster new ideas during the global pandemic. Women bring higher emotional intelligence (EQ) to the workplace, and If you look at how female leadership has stood out on the global stage during COVID, such as with New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel, and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen, it is clear that women can be particularly strong leaders in times of crisis. The workplace, and the world, won’t be the same after the pandemic. Companies can leverage the crisis to transform workplace culture and ensure that women with talent have opportunities to lead. Organisations that do so will not only be helping women, but will also benefit from increased loyalty, innovation and future profitability.
Many qualities of women come to the fore in a crisis – how do they/you transpose this into the work ecosystem?
As women in leadership positions, we are required to forge ahead of the challenges posed by the pandemic and react with confidence, clarity and conviction. I believe that women leaders’ successes may be rooted in their traditionally “feminine” qualities, such as empathy, compassion, strong communication skills and a willingness to collaborate. Emotional intelligence gives you the ability to recognise emotions in yourself and others and the importance of this is something that has gained momentum as essential in successful leadership behaviour. I believe this is something that comes more naturally to women than men, and it is something that I have personally valued in my career. To truly create a great place to work and to get the best of out of employees, demonstrating emotional intelligence as a leader is critical.
While you may argue that women are at present ruling the world, when will the time come when they will, without a doubt, rule the world?
If you are a woman with a bit of life experience, you already know you are the boss! The world will benefit from our ability to respond to simultaneous and different tasks or problems decisively and in a timely manner, all critical components of successful leadership. Perhaps it is the case that women make great leaders because, traditionally, the odds have been against us to be promoted into those roles. When you’re the underdog, it takes an extra push, a dedication and commitment to get to the top and that’s why the women who emerge as leaders are often those who are extraordinarily strong and capable. We had to fight to get there!
What are the fundamental characteristics that help a woman shine in the corporate world?
In contrast to men, who tend to be career-centric and want to maximise their financial returns from work, women view work more holistically, as a component of their overall life plan. Therefore, women are more likely to approach their careers in a self-reflective way and value factors such as meaning, purpose and connection with co-workers and work-life integration. Women are great leaders because we are able to balance professional and personal leadership skills. It is often easier to approach a women leader with a personal request, or a sensitive question.
I care about my team and their wellbeing, which includes their performance at work and their work-life balance. I also find women more proactive in becoming mentors, and sometimes it’s already such an open and communicative relationship that the transition to mentor is easy and fruitful.
Hawraa Al Lawati is a focussed professional leader with over 13 years of experience leading in the development of ideal customer experiences for different brands. Throughout her career, Hawraa has utilised her energetic approach and problem-solving skills to ensure that customers and organisations always benefit from an exceptional customer experience.
Hawraa’s awards include Best Call Centre Award in Automotive Category Dubai Insights 2016, MENA Region; Customer Service Executive of the Year 2012 award in Oman. In the same year Hawraa was certified by Tawasul Global Connections Center (Tawasul), Riayada 4 in Civil Society Leaders Dialogue and Awards. This year, Hawraa has been selected to participate in Etimad, a national leadership programme to upskill and empower Omanis for middle and senior management positions.