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international women’s day

#ChooseToChallenge This International Women’s Day

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, meet 8 of the UAE’s army of entrepreneurial Wonder Women choosing to challenge the world, and making change happen every which way they can

We do it every day, regardless. But March 8 – International Women’s Day – is the official day to celebrate the power, resilience and all-round magnificence of every single woman on the planet all the more.

This year’s International Women’s Day has the campaign theme of #ChooseToChallenge. As the collective states “A challenged world is an alert world, and individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help to create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change.” 

Choosing to challenge is a vital step forward in the continued empowerment of women in every corner of the world. To celebrate International Women’s Day, The Gaggler met 8 spectacular female entrepreneurs of the UAE, whose #ChooseToChallenge mindset is all the inspiration we need to keep championing women everywhere, every single minute of every single day, and ensuring their voices are heard ….

Maxine English

Nationality: British

Business: Co-Founder, Park Lane Live

Established: 2019

Your business in a nutshell:

Entertainment, Events, Communications. We discover what you actually need rather than what you think you want…

How will you be #ChoosingToChallenge to support International Women’s Day this year?

Sometimes the easy way to do things is to let people call you aggressive, emotional, bossy and take the easier route. I choose to challenge all people who think that a woman doesn’t have the right to express herself in the way they choose. I choose to challenge men being seen as assertive and women being seen as aggressive. I choose not making myself smaller to please other people.

Do you think the gender inequality problem is improving? 

Yes, because both men and women are discussing it. No longer do people shy away or grumble about it in dark rooms, people openly question inequality when they see it. Its education – if people aren’t aware that something is happening, they cannot do anything about it.

Who are the women speaking out that you admire the most and why? And how are you supporting the causes they champion?

I follow an incredible woman on Instagram @mother_pukka Anna Whitehouse whose tireless, day-to-day fight for mothers, women and the gender pay gap is endless. She recently brought a petition to Boris Johnson to keep the gender pay gap reports going. This basic transparency is essential for women in the UK and it’s depressing to think we have to fight for it.

“I hire other powerful women, and we celebrate the men I work with who empower women. Every single person in my team is equal – equal pay, equally seen and equally empowered.”

Maxine English

How does your business seek to empower other women?

As a business owner, I feel that I should lead the way in being a leader. Making sure I am in the room where the decisions are made. Ensuring that my voice is heard. Ensuring I point out gender inequality. I hire other powerful women and we celebrate the men I work with who empower women. You will always find amongst my teams that every single person is equal – equal pay, equally seen and equally empowered. My husband is my business partner and he celebrates my leadership at the top of his voice. Leading by example is showing everyone what can be done. It is how we must behave.

Starting your own business is no easy path, and success does not come easy. How do you deal with setbacks and failures?

Get up and keep going, every failure is a lesson. It’s as simple as that. You had to fail at something to learn something, so see it as a bonus as it will stop you making a bigger mistake in the future. Don’t waste the failure by missing the lesson. 

Mimi Nicklin

Nationality: British

Business: Founder, Mimi Nicklin/Empathy Everywhere

Established: 2020

Your business in a nutshell:

I’m an international bestselling Author and Executive Creative Director passionately driving the awareness of empathy in our world.

How will you be #ChoosingToChallenge to support International Women’s Day this year? 

Whilst I entirely support the passion and goal to drive womens roles and equity in society, I also believe the theme this year is un-empathetic to the journeys of women all around the world today.From my POV, to be asking us to challenge anything further than the existing daily challenges we are all already facing is a disconnected ask. As COVID-19 continues, we have seen that its impact, and its economic fallout, have had a far more regressive effect on women than our male counterparts, so my question today is, do we really need to be taking on anything bigger than overcoming the challenge of surviving and resetting the grips of the pandemic? After months of balancing it all – alone, from home, with children flying all around us and pets interrupting our board meetings I believe that this International Women’s Day we should be saying #ChooseToCelebrate. I believe we should be celebrating women for what they are doing, for who they have near them, for the moments they continue to endure when they realise they truly are doing it all, already. This month I want to say to women everywhere: choose to empathise with yourself and with the strong women around you because it is our survival, our tenacity and our grit that should be the ultimate celebration in March 2021.

“I want to say to women everywhere: choose to empathize with yourself and with the strong women around you because it is our survival, our tenacity, and our grit that should be the ultimate celebration in March 2021.”

Mimi Nicklin

Who are the women speaking out that you admire the most and why? And how are you supporting the causes they champion? 

Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. It’s less a specific cause she is championing, but the example she is setting everyday. She reflects deep empathy for humanity regardless of gender and is proving to young women everywhere that there truly are no barriers. She became only the second prime minister in history to give birth whilst leading a country, and she continues to prove she can balance motherhood and political leadership seamlessly. 

“I hope to support women in finding our shared empathy, in honing the skill of using it and in building our confidence for using this to drive a better future for our children and those around us.”

Mimi Nicklin

How does your business seek to empower other women? 

My passion is to inspire empathy and the powerful role empathy has in connecting and healing our world. I hope to support women in finding our shared empathy, in honing the skill of using it and in building our confidence for using this to drive a better future for our children and those around us.

Who is your business icon? And what is it about them that you admire so much? 

Satya Nadella. He’s the CEO of Microsoft and a leading advocate for business strategy, innovation and growth that is led by empathy. He has truly proven that a ‘human first’ approach builds business as well as our shared humanity.

Starting your own business is no easy path, and success does not come easy. How do you deal with setbacks and failures? 

Every day, I try to look at the world through my daughter’s eyes (she’s three years old) and wonder what she sees that matters today. This perspective helps me balance what truly matters and to create the space needed to step away, take a breath and then start again!

Sara Chemmaa

Nationality: Moroccan

Business: Founder, Citron

Established: 2017

Your business in a nutshell: 

Citron is a Dubai-based family business that offers eco-friendly products from bamboo plates and beautiful printed lunchboxes to food jars, snack boxes, lunch bags, water bottles and food cutters. 

How will you be #ChoosingToChallenge to support International Women’s Day this year?

We always try to support local businesses led by women. We’re in the process of manufacturing new stands for stores, and instead of going straight to the factory in China, I’ve contacted women in the UAE who lead startups that are offering a competitive price and a better service. We try to ensure this is what we do on an ongoing basis, not just for International Women’s Day, but every day.

“Success doesn’t necessarily mean fame or money. It means you managed to make your dreams come true.”

Sara Chemmaa

What are the conversations that we need to hear about more so we can continue to empower women all over the world? 

Reminding women that they have the power to do whatever they want. We need to hear more stories about female entrepreneurs who are making changes throughout the region, with more relatable local stories, because I feel there’s a fatigue about hearing of those well known, international brands that made it. I could relate more to a local entrepreneur that started from scratch in the same environment as me who made it. Success doesn’t necessarily mean fame or money. It means you managed to make your dreams come true. Failure is part of the process, so why don’t we also hear about the ups and downs of running a business?

I’ve always chosen to consider and project myself as an equal. I refuse to let anyone label any sort of difference as gender inequality. I try to advocate as much as possible that women should stand up for their rights and believe that they are always on par with their male peers.”

Sara Chemmaa

Do you think the gender inequality problem is improving? 

I’ve been working in male dominated sectors for the last 13 years. I started in investment banking, then strategy/management consulting, followed by corporate strategy and now entrepreneurship. I’ve always chosen to consider and project myself as an equal. I refuse to let anyone label any sort of difference as gender inequality. I have always been paid as much as my male colleagues and been given the same privileges. Where I feel things get tricky for a woman is when she has a family and has to press pause on her career, while men can just carry on. I try to advocate as much as possible that women should stand up for their rights and believe that they are always on par with their male peers.

Who are the women speaking out that you admire the most and why? And how are you supporting the causes they champion?

I am a big fan of many local female champions. Natasha Hatherall from TishTash has been a true help to me during the past few years, and she always speaks up her mind. I also admire the many women that are making their business work on a daily basis whilst juggling kids and their careers, like Katy Rice, the founder of Eco-Souk. 

Do you think the female support network has grown stronger, both regionally and internationally over the last year?

I am a big fan of female support networks. They have been of massive help to me, whether it’s by offering small tips about which bank to choose to, meeting the most incredible women offering the best services. I see so much more activity now on the Female Fusion Facebook Group, and I love seeing how much everyone is willing to help one another.

Amy Hanbury

Nationality: British

Business: Founder, Odist

Established: 2020

Your business in a nutshell: 

We’re a beauty company focused on raising topics that matter and doing good through beauty, positioning ourselves as a brand beyond product and embodying a new form of luxury – positive luxury. We just happen to make exceptional beauty products. 

What are the conversations that we need to hear about more so we can continue to empower women all over the world? 

We need to learn about female experiences, period (no pun intended). In particular, we need to understand the challenges they have faced, both personally and professionally, and start the conversation there. The uncomfortable truth is that women often get in their own way, due to lack of confidence from being the burden of negative cultural and societal practices. If it’s not being a victim of the gender pay gap, it’s being forced into an early marriage; or leaving school early; or being subjected to physical, mental or emotional abuse by a male counterpart. Learning about these experiences and stories are vital to the progress of gender equality and empowering women.

“We empower women simply by connecting with them. We believe that sharing stories and experiences has always been one of the most effective ways to change minds and provoke action.” 

Amy Hanbury

How does your business seek to empower other women?

Being a female-founded company, empowering women doesnt stop and start at International Women’s Day – it’s something that we consider day in, day out. It’s a part of our mechanics. 

One of the ways we empower women is simply by connecting with them. We believe that sharing stories and experiences has always been one of the most effective ways to change minds and provoke action. Our latest series, ‘Odist Interviews’ gives women the platform to share inspiring stories and messages with the world, whether they’re beauty-related or not. So far, our community has touched on topics such as sustainability, marine conservation, breaking gender and cultural stereotypes and mental health amongst others. Pairing up with strong female role models is something we love, and will continue to do. 

What’s the best piece of advice to women considering starting their own business or making a big career change?

I can offer three pieces of advice to women looking to start their own business or who are in the process of changing careers:

Firstly, preparation and industry knowledge is key – don’t rush this process. Before starting Odist, I spent the best part of two years learning about the industry, researching customer habits, talking to manufacturers, sampling endless products and teaching myself the necessary skills to get started. By no means was I fully equipped when it came to launch, but I did have a well-considered, researched plan that I knew how to execute. 

Secondly, get yourself a business partner or mentor that holds a completely different skill set to you. I have yet to meet a founder that is fully capable and confident in all areas of their business.

Lastly, ensure your business is powered by purpose. When challenging times arise – and most new businesses will face uncertainty at some point – purpose is what will set you apart, keep you focused and motivate you when times get tough. 

What three tools would you recommend to anyone trying to start their own business?

I’d recommend finding a business that inspires you and conducting a detailed case study on the company. Get to know as much as possible; learn about the founder and their motives, understand why they started and how they did so, dive into their infrastructure and get to know their daily practices. If it’s feasible, contact the founder and tell them you’re interested in learning more about their business – you’ll be surprised how many founders are happy to offer advice and support. 

One of the most hard-hitting and influential books I have read that’s directly impacted my business is Do Purpose by David Hieatt.It offers insights on how to build a purpose-driven brand that exists for a reason over and above making profit. 

Lastly, I recommend checking out the ‘When Women Win’ podcast, hosted by Rana Nawas. She interviews an array of inspirational female business leaders from across the globe and asks them to share their stories and practical tools to help professional women get ahead. 

Aya Assaf

Nationality: Egyptian

Business: Founder, Koala Picks

Established: 2019

Your business in a nutshell:

Koala Picks provides healthy snacks and products for kids and families. We make clean products – no refined sugar, no preservatives, no artificial ingredients.

What are the conversations that we need to hear about more so we can continue to empower women all over the world? 

The challenges of female owners creating a start-up, and support given by the government. 

“We may not be there quite yet, but the start-up scene has seen an increasing number of female founders take the leap to go out on their own, which is a great sign.”

Aya Assaf

Do you think the gender inequality problem is improving? 

Yes it is improving. We may not be there quite yet, but the start-up scene has seen an increasing number of female founders take the leap to go out on their own, which is a great sign.

Do you think the female support network has grown stronger, both regionally and internationally over the last year? 

Yes, many female-led networking groups have launched and thrived during the past year, with a vision of supporting each other, I’m always amazed by the amount of knowledge and support I get through these groups.

What’s the best piece of advice to women considering starting their own business or making a big career change?  

GO FOR IT! Yes, the idea of leaving the corporate world or your comfort zone is scary to some, but I used to be once in the corporate world, and quitting that to pursue my dreams was the best decision I have made. I learned how to wield all the skills I gained from my corporate job into creating my new venture.

Who is your business icon? And what is it about them that you admire so much? 

There are many women I admire for the change they have created in their industries. But in particular, Tash Hatherall, for the change and innovation she has brought to the PR field through the TishTash agency, and Halima Jumani, Director and one of the founders of Kibsons, for the excellent service and quality of her business. She is truly a game-changer to the online retail scene.

Amanda Perry

Nationality: British

Business: Founder, Vitality

Established: 2010

Your business in a nutshell:  

Built for women by women, Vitality is a female-focused business accelerator with a mission to provide professional support to female led/co-led businesses looking to launch and/or scale their business. We also provide investment services for those start-ups wishing to raise funds.  

How will you be #ChoosingToChallenge to support International Women’s Day this year?  

Every day is Women’s Day for us. We use our time to seek out new opportunities for fellow female entrepreneurs, sharing knowledge, recourses and talent. On March 8, several members of our team are participating in webinars and panel discussions happening in the UAE, India, Pakistan, UK and the USA, discussing topics ranging from launching a business to the obstacles women face when seeking funding, again bringing forward the conversation about what else needs to happen to bring more women to the forefront with the equal opportunity they rightly deserve.

What are the conversations that we need to hear about more so we can continue to empower women all over the world? 

I believe we need more visible role models. We’re in a bit of a chicken and egg situation right now. We want more women stepping up, but as most of us know or believe, stepping up requires courage and conviction, and much of that comes from witnessing our peers achieving similar goals.  Men make easier role models – they’re more open about their achievements and promote it that way, whereas women generally let their results do the talking. Entrepreneurship has been widely more accessible to men over the last century (and longer) and therefore the majority of the success stories and the role models from those successes are men. We need to elevate the success stories of women, encourage women to share their stories and achievements with an audience to encourage more women and girls into business. As we increase the number of women in business, we increase the success stories, and more role models emerge to create the cycle.

“The numbers of women versus men who lost jobs in the pandemic is shocking. But we are women, and we have an amazing ability to rise up and see the opportunities and solutions available to us and don’t need a massive amount of support to succeed. We just need men to stand out of our way.”

Amanda Perry

Do you think the gender inequality problem is improving? 

It’s definitely improving, but COVID did set many women back as, yet again, women held the role of primary caregiver to families over lockdown, and their careers and businesses suffered as a result. The numbers of women vs men who lost jobs in the pandemic is shocking.  But we are women, and we have an amazing ability to rise up and see the opportunities and solutions available to us and don’t need a massive amount of support to succeed. We just need men to stand out of our way.

What’s the best piece of advice to women considering starting their own business or making a big career change?

Believe in Yourself – it really is that simple. If you don’t yet, find yourself a tribe of cheerleaders and undertake some personal development courses for mindset. Once you’re there mentally then the journey can begin and again, surround yourself with people that want to see you succeed and have the experience and expertise that can support you also. You turn will come to be the supporter when you’ve built your business.  There is a quote by Jim Rohn that I see used a lot and I find it a good grounding point – ‘You are the average of the people you spend the most time with.’  So choose mindfully.

Who is your business icon? And what is it about them that you admire so much?

I’ve got two. I think Donna Benton is remarkable – she is relatable and is such an inspiration and wonderful leader. I had the pleasure of sitting down to interview her recently for our Role Model YouTube series, and she just affirmed my girl crush even further. She is so switched on and sharp, witty and funny and when you speak with her it’s very clear that she is the type of person that will always see solutions rather than problems.  

I am also a big fan of Michelle Mone. I read her book several years ago and her story really grabbed me as it was a real ‘triumph over adversity’ journey much like JK Rowling. Their self belief and commitment got them their successes and I applaud them all for not only achieving but also sharing their wisdom.

SAM SALIBA

Nationality: German

Business: Founder, Art Painting Lab

Established: 2015

Your business in a nutshell :

We’re a Dubai-based Art Consultancy/Studio

How will you be #ChoosingToChallenge to support International Women’s Day this year?

By leading with compassion and empathy and imparting to fellow industry peers that quality, integrity, and stamina are feminine qualities and one of many paths to success. 

What are the conversations that we need to hear about more so we can continue to empower women all over the world? 

Conversations about bringing up sons and daughters with an equality mindset. Teaching young boys that they are feminists because they believe in equality. This will have a ripple effect into the future. 

“It’s not the women that I admire the most, it’s the men that call themselves feminist that I think unites the gap and changes many levels of indifference.”

Sam Saliba

Who are the women speaking out that you admire the most and why? And how are you supporting the causes they champion?

It’s not the women that I admire the most, its the men that call themselves feminist that I think unites the gap and changes many levels of indifference. Examples are Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, and ex-president Jimmy Carter.

Do you think the female support network has grown stronger, both regionally and internationally over the last year? 

I think in select social groups there is more of a female support group, mostly in the upper economic classes. If that is the case, it’s because women understand that other women have a great sense of responsibility. Let’s think of the word “mother” – mothers are multitasking, selfless, ever in motion, ever delivering with an inbuilt sense of responsibility, endlessly giving, growing and fabricating. Applying the same principles at work and in networks explains why so many companies in fact hire so many women. Not to say men do not have these qualities, also but equalizing to say, women have these qualities. 

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, as long as the team spirit and output is met and as long you’re happy doing the work and bringing in good energy. We all need good, friendly vibes to get the job done.”

Sam Saliba

How does your business seek to empower other women?

My business thrives on teamwork and equality. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, as long as the team spirit and output is met and as long you’re happy doing the work and bringing in good energy. We all need good, friendly vibes to get the job done. 

Sian Rowlands

Nationality: British

Business: Founder, Retold

Established: 2018

Your business in a nutshell:

Pre-owned fashion boutique, rehoming perfect-condition items from high-street brands to designer and luxury labels.

How will you be #ChoosingToChallenge to support International Women’s Day this year? 

I am dedicated March 8th to learning more about gender inequality and what other actions I can take in my life, whether its words that I need to banish from my vocabulary, or subconscious bias I have that I may not be aware of. I am challenging myself to go above and beyond my view of equality (as I am already an equalitist – like a feminist, but standing for equality rather than straight feminism).

“Women are Equal. Full stop. So we need to have conversations about the basics of equal rights, access to education and women in leadership roles. We need to have conversations about how women the world over are suppressed and what EVERYONE can do to combat that suppression.”

Sian Rowlands

What are the conversations that we need to hear about more so we can continue to empower women all over the world?  

All of them! Women are Equal. Full stop. So we need to have conversations about the basics of equal rights, access to education, women in leadership roles. We need to have conversations about how women the world over are feeling suppressed and what EVERYONE can do to combat that suppression.

Do you think the gender inequality problem is improving? 

I think it’s improving, but not quickly enough. Sadly,as with every systemic surpression, it takes time and a hell of a lot of incredible, brave people leading the way and relentlessly campaigning for equality. 2020 has been a bit of a tipping point for a lot of imperative movements, so hopefully in the coming months and years, these changes will actually start to take place rather than just being talked about.

Who are the women speaking out that you admire the most and why? And how are you supporting the causes they champion? 

Honestly, I support ANY and all women who are taking a stand on the things they believe in. I have always surrounded myself with strong, empowering, inspirational women (I come from a solid family of four daughters, so it’s part of my nature to seek this same environment out). There really are too many amazing women that I admire, so to name just a couple of my current inspirational women-crushes: Jessica Robinson – friend, mentor, sustainable finance expert, and author and Alex Light – ‘influencer’ who talks about women’s body image and how weight should NOT be a measure of beauty, and how society has distorted views on women’s value.

What tools would you recommend to anyone trying to start their own business?  

The book I love is Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. Feel Better, Live More by Dr Ranjan Chatterjee is a podcast I cannot recommend enough – looking after yourself is SO crucial, and this podcast talks about all the ways that we can improve our lives, from holistic experts across the globe.

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The Secret to Taking Yourself to the Next Level

The art of public speaking.

Do you have the goal, the vision, the desire to be highly successful in your career or business in 2023?

If this is on your agenda, then you have probably worked on improving your professional skills and getting the certifications you need, and no doubt you’ll have considered the connections you need to take the next step. But have you also looked at and worked enough on your so-called ‘soft skills’?

There is one area that is incredibly important for anyone who wants to become extremely successful, and that is your communication, public speaking and presentation skills.

You may have heard this quote from Warren Buffet before: “The one skill to improve your value by 50 percent is public speaking.”

Well, it is true.

In my public speaking workshops, I always ask my audiences the following question:

“Imagine you are the best communicator in your team, will it have an impact on your career?”

The audience always answers: “Yes!”

“Imagine you are the best communicator in your company, will it have an impact on your career?”

The audience answers: “Yes, 100%!”

“Imagine you are the best communicator in your industry, will it have an impact on your career?”

The audience answers: “Yes, without a doubt!”

After we have established the impact that outstanding public speaking skills can have on your success, it is time to believe that you can improve and that all starts with a growth mindset. “To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are,” as said Muhammad Ali.

And public speaking is a skill that can be learned — I have seen it countless times how people that work hard and challenge themselves become exceptional speakers. It is possible.

Becoming a great speaker is a honed skill like becoming a martial arts black belt. You need to practice with discipline, be dedicated to learning techniques, to test them in training, and do this over and over again until you are ready to become a ‘black belt.’ So how can you take your communication skills to the next level and ace any presentation in the boardroom and even on the big stage?

There are many ways to achieve excellence in communication, whether you study at home and apply the knowledge you learned in the field, join a public speaking training organisation like Toastmasters, or work with a public speaking coach. Here are a few ways anyone can improve their skills no matter where you are on your journey.

Represent

The first building block to winning communication is to represent. This idea can be applied to your message and your delivery.

As a communicator it is your job to share your message in a way that enables the audience to represent your message in another setting to others. Therefore, you must tell your message in a way that is relatable, logical (for the audience), and memorable.

Very often, professionals are told they only have two or three slides, or a short speaking slot. As a result, the presenter puts as much content as possible on these few slides, making it a cluttered mess with the main message unclear. The audience is not able to memorise what was really important.

Having an overarching key message and a concise take-away is what will ensure your content is represented impactfully to others. And don’t fill your slides with words.

The other aspect of Represent is to help the audience to remember you. Think about a pitch setting where multiple companies are presenting their solutions to one potential client. After four or five presentations, it becomes difficult to remember everyone, but a strong individual that dares to stand out of the crowd will be remembered. Like it or not, it starts with your appearance. My afro, for example, is my key trademark and it makes it easy for people to remember me because very few people have this hairstyle. It might be the clothes you wear that make you memorable. The occasion might demand a suit but maybe you can play with colour or cut.

But above all, audiences will remember an authentic delivery. Focus less on perfection and more on being yourself — not just the corporate version of you. This will ensure your audience goes out and Represents your message.

Presentainment

Walt Disney used this term in the 1950s because he understood that media which educates through entertainment is more effective than boring education materials. You can use this approach in the business world. Almost every presentation aims to educate and share new information, so ask yourself: How can I add a layer of entertainment to this content?

It is very important to clarify here that entertainment is not just humour. While humour is a great tool, entertainment is so much more: storytelling, audience interaction — anything that brings a wow factor to your content.

If you aren’t sure how to do this — ask your team! There is nothing wrong with brainstorming how to incorporate a wow-factor moment. Together you can find the best stories that add value, or ideate how to create a memorable audience interaction. You might be presenting on your own, but presentation preparation need not be a solo job.

Connaction

Connaction is fusion of connection and action.

Many speakers fail to connect with the audience, meaning all they have said is swiftly forgotten and, sometimes, they are not even aware of what it means to create a connection with the audience. We have all observed speakers walking up and down the stage looking at the floor but never at the audience, or with their back towards the audience because they are only looking and talking at the screen. Sometimes, presentations only focus on the professional content but neglect the need for an emotional connection.

An authentic delivery, strong eye contact, open body language, telling personal stories, audience interaction, and talking with (and not just to) the audience are some techniques to make sure that you are turning a monologue into a dialogue. All seasoned presenters understand the importance of connecting with an audience to demand and retain their attention.

One of my favourite philosophies is: “Every speech is an opportunity to inspire.”

We should always strive to inspire action — to encourage the audience to act and look at situations differently. No matter how big or small the stage, how young or old the audience, they all deserve to see the best version of yourself that creates a magical connection and achieves the desired outcome.

There you have it, my three approaches — Represent, Presentainment, and Connaction — that lead to a wealth of ideas to take your public speaking and presentation skills to the next level!

Flo Akinbiyi is a communication specialist: a presenter, public speaker, and communication coach. Check out his free course, 5 Public Speaking Strategies from World Class Leaders, where he explains the art of effective public speaking in more detail.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional business/career advice or diagnosis and should never be relied upon for specific business/career advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of professionals, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of The Gaggler.

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8 Tips to Get Employees to Refocus After the Holidays

Switching back to work mode.

As any working adult knows, the first day back at work after a long vacation is hardly as exciting as the first day of school. On the one hand, it’s great to see all your co-workers again and catch up. On the other, you quickly realise that you’re way behind on all the work that’s piled up in your absence. 

Instead of a clean slate and a new beginning, you’re met with a stack of paperwork and grumpy coworkers who didn’t take a break themselves. Whether you’re starting a new job or just getting back into the swing of things after a long break, those first few days back can be tough. 

hand stacked together

Back to Work Mindset

The beginning of a new quarter is the perfect time to hit the reset button and start fresh. For leaders, this is an opportunity to leverage the renewed vigour of their staff. However, the reality is that it takes a while to shake off the holiday mood and get back to focusing on work. While holidays are invigorating and fun, they are also draining, which means returning employees might be intimidated by the volume of work waiting for them.

Taking a leaf out of your old school book, it’s nice to have activities that ease everyone back into a work mindset, highlighting the good aspects. By formulating a plan of action to get them to look forward to the quarter ahead, you can bring company and personal goals into focus in an exciting manner. This will help your team hit the ground running and make the most of the new year.

woman working on her desk with paper work

So you might be asking yourself, how do I as a leader positively and productively affect my team’s focus after returning back to work from vacation? Here are some suggestions that could help you get employees to regain focus after their vacation:

Make Space for Catch-up Time

Knowing you understand the importance of catch-up time will increase your employees’ engagement levels. They’re going to spend time doing it anyway; they might as well do it as a planned activity and you get some brownie points for it! 

A couple of team lunches and designated catch-up time slots would liven up the first few days back with  something to look forward to. Perhaps having no scheduled meetings for the first couple of days could also help, as it gives employees a more relaxed schedule.

Give Employees a Settling in Period

When your employees come back from vacation, the last thing they want is a deluge of emails from HR and other departments. To avoid this, try consolidating all your company news into one newsletter. This way, your employees can take a couple of days to catch up on their email without worrying about missing important updates. 

Plus, by putting everything in one place, you’re more likely to get everyone’s attention. Just be sure to schedule the newsletter for a time when most people are likely to be at work, so it doesn’t get lost in the clutter.

Kill Two Birds With One Team Meeting

As the new year gets underway, it’s a great time to hold a team meeting to catch up with your employees and set some goals for the quarter. This will help everyone to focus on what’s important and ensure that everyone is on the same page. It’s also a great opportunity to get input from your team and get their buy-in for the upcoming quarter. 

Employees value being valued, and by getting their input, you’ll show them that their ideas are important to the company. This will go a long way towards increasing motivation levels and ensuring that everyone is working towards the same goals. 

Introduce a Wellness Programme

Implementing a wellness programme is a great way to show your employees you care and help them get back on track after the holidays. There are many benefits to having a wellness programme, including bringing employees together, making them feel cared for, addressing work-related stress, and improving their physical and mental health. 

With most people looking to get back on track after holiday bingeing, a wellness programme is the perfect solution. You can create team-level competitions for wellness activities to boost team spirit and help employees reconnect after the break. And don’t forget to lead by example and participate in the programme yourself!

employees having ateam meeting

Time Employee Perks Smartly

It’s always tough getting back into the swing of things after a long break, but there’s no need to wait until later in the year to introduce new training opportunities or certifications. By launching these programmes now, you’ll give your employees something to look forward to and enough time to get results before the year ends, thus boosting work focus and improving productivity. Not only will this help them refocus more quickly, but it will also increase their satisfaction, motivation, and accountability. 

Make It Personal

Depending on the size of your workforce, try to walk around and personally welcome everyone back or do it in groups. Feeling seen will give them added impetus to focus and get to work faster. You and your department heads could just pop into meetings and say welcome back; maybe not all at the same time though. 

Welcoming your employees personally is an unexpected gesture that will generate a lot of positivity and help eliminate the back-to-work blues. It also massively boosts employee morale, engagement and motivation, which is always most welcome and has positively impacted bottom lines.

Implement An Open Door Policy

Good communication is essential for any workplace, and this is especially true when it comes to delicate topics like mental health. No one wants to feel like they’re being brushed off or that their concerns are unimportant.

It’s crucial to make HR business support available to encourage people to come and chat about any issues they may be facing. This way, you can help them get a handle on those issues and ensure they’re better placed to cope with returning to work.

Reverse the Roles

Put yourself in their shoes — what would make you feel happy to be back at work? What would help you focus more easily? That’s usually a good starting point when you’re stuck for ideas. Or, get a representative group of employees and ask them for suggestions. The fact that you care enough to ask will be a win in itself. 

Most importantly, don’t forget what it felt like to be on that side of the table. As long as you stay connected with those expectations, you will find it easy to stay connected with your team.

table with hands working on laptops and papers

Get Started

As we enter the new year, the pressure builds up to set, renew, and achieve goals. The sooner you have a team cohesively working towards this shared vision, the better it is for everyone in the organisation. 

Getting your employees to refocus in a manner that addresses everyone’s needs and shows everyone is valued and appreciated pays rich dividends for the organisation. Employees, in turn, get the satisfaction of knowing their presence, contribution, and effort are worth it. A win-win for individuals and organisations alike.


Bina Mathews is an Executive Master Coach and Communications Consultant at Bina Mathews Consulting FZE. For more information, please visit www.coachbina.com or contact via Instagram.

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6 Wellness Must-Haves for a New Year Reset

Take a look inside our Wellness Editor’s cart.

Reset. Renew. Revive. These are my personal intentions for the new year and, as 2023 gets well underway, I’m sharing some of the things I have my eye on in January to help me on my journey.

Mahnoor Bari
Junior Editor

Mahnoor Bari is Gaggler’s resident junior editor with a background in digital journalism and communications. She loves dessert a little too much and mainly writes about food, culture, and wellness.

Wellness Editor’s Must Haves: January Edit

To start with, there’s the Amber Salt Lamp, which reminds me of my roots and childhood road trips through Himalayan salt mine country, and will help my sinuses in the upcoming allergy season this spring with its room-cleansing properties. Then there’s the Vaastra Diamond Sambu Grass Yoga Mat — complemented by the Palm Lights Sandalwood Artisanal Incense Sticks — to set the stage and mood for my yoga sessions at home.

And then there’s our upcoming Gaggler event, Reclaim Your Career. If you are looking to re-establish yourself after a career break and feeling a little rusty, this is the perfect forum to equip yourself with the essential tools and confidence to stride confidently back into the workplace. And speaking of workplace, I’m also eyeing the Saine Wooden Reflexology Massager to keep under my desk for those much-needed breaks.

MOTION TRADING

Amber Salt Lamp

AED 140.00

Available in two sizes: small and large

SAINE

Wooden Reflexology Massager

AED 185.00

Give yourself a needed break while sitting at your desk working or reading.

EARTHISTIC

Vaastra Diamond Sambu Grass Yoga Mat

AED 180.00

The straws and cotton together offer an improved grip for practicing asanas.

GAGGLER

January 25, 2023: Reclaim Your Career

AED 250.00

The perfect forum to equip yourself with the essential tools to stride confidently back into the workplace.

SAINE

Deep Sleep Buckwheat Pillow

AED 65.00

By flawlessly adapting to your body’s needs and gently massaging your neck, it will stabilise your spine, head, and neck region.

PALM LIGHTS

Sandalwood Artisanal Incense Sticks

AED 50.00

The scent of sandalwood is subduedly earthy and woodsy, made from genuine Mysore Sandalwood powder.

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House of Pops restaurant van

Of Ice Cream and Ingenuity – Meet Marcela

The entrepreneur on her vision, lightbulb moment, and more.

Did you know that tomorrow is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day? Created to celebrate, empower, and support women in business in order to alleviate poverty, the day is marked annually on November 19. Supporting the initiative, we’re continuing our series on female entrepreneurs today. In the past, we’ve spoken with the likes of Leena Al Abbas, Claire Lambert, Mona Kattan, and Emma Burdett about their entrepreneurial journeys, proving that the insights of Dubai’s female self-starters bring with them countless nuggets of wisdom. Case in point?Marcela Sancho, who is all about bringing guilt-free treats to the city.

After popping out for ice cream with her partner one afternoon in 2018, she was shocked by the lack of healthy options on offer for those looking for something that wasn’t packed with sugar, preservatives, or calories. Tapping into her partner’s extensive experience in the region’s frozen treats business, Marcela set about creating a refreshing and healthy alternative to what was available, co-founding House of Pops in the process. Not only is it the only Dubai-based ice cream brand with zero plastic packaging, but itsvegan all-natural fruit pops also contain no preservatives, colourings, E-numbers, nor refined sugar.

Marcela Sancho

WHO?

Marcela Sancho

FOUNDER OF?

House of Pops

Age?

34

What was your ‘lightbulb’ moment?

One day, I was with my partner, out for ice cream and shocked that we couldn’t really see anything that was healthy on offer. Everything was high in sugar, high in fat, and packed with empty calories. Health and wellness had become a global trend, and more UAE consumers were moving into this category at the time, so that was our opportunity to take up the challenge and fill the gap in the market.

What was your vision when you first launched your business?

We wanted to be the number one choice when people thought of healthier ice cream, and create the healthiest form of ice cream that we possibly could. We wanted to be the first to bring the change – a disruption into this category – and believed we could have a strong share in the ice cream business, especially since my partner had extensive experience in the industry. Our mission was to provide consumers with an option to delight themselves guilt-free and, so, House of Pops was born. We launched our products at a farmers’ market and sold 100 pops that day. That was a great day.

best Ice Cream Dubai

Has the pandemic affected your business negatively or positively?

It had a positive effect. When people were locked at home, they were looking for something to indulge in to make themselves happy, and House of Pops was the perfect solution as a healthy treat. We already had a very strong e-commerce structure in place, so we were able to cope with the demand. We experienced a channel growth of 10 times its size before COVID-19.

What drives you every day?

The passion to achieve sustainable growth for the business, tackle new opportunities of development from the product range, and expand the brand internationally. The business has been working for four years – we’ve successfully opened several shops and want to expand our franchise model. It’s been sold to other countries in the GCC, and this is where our focus is at the moment.

Do you have a favourite business mentor?

Jim Rhon and his practical approach. He preaches accountability. This is very powerful, as he made me realise that I can change and drive change in my life and in my business. I stopped pointing out why things went wrong, justifying it with external factors, and started to ask myself what I could’ve done differently or better. This is how I learned. He also explains why it’s important to not only have clear priorities, but also allocate energy and a share of mind to them to get results. When time is limited as an entrepreneur, this becomes very helpful.

Which books/podcasts/blogs do you follow, and why?

I usually like to listen to interviews. You can learn a lot from other people’s experience, irrespective of the field they are in. From sportsmen like MMA fighter Conor McGregor to Michelle Obama, it gives me the motivation and sense of community that I need. I can relate to a lot of the struggles that they speak about, and how they overcame them to reach the place where they are today.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give to a budding entrepreneur?

Set your concept and give it a try. Have your goals straight. Speak to people in the field. Understand challenges that you might face so that you don’t repeat them again. Read a lot about your idea and your concept. Be like a sponge.

What are five things one must consider before launching a business?

  1. Make sure that the insights make sense.
  2. Make sure that the business is scalable – it should be a business, not a hobby.
  3. Understand the financials on bringing the idea to life. Do you have them or do you need external investment?
  4. Have the right skills to develop the idea. If you don’t have them, get the right team (outsourced or in-house).
  5. Find something unique in your proposition. This will make you build a successful company. We are at a time where a lot of services and products are being offered, so ask yourself, ‘Why people would choose my product?
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Self-Care for Women

Why Self-Care Is Crucial for Working Women

Caregiving begins with taking care of yourself.

Invited to speak at a Pinktober event recently, I chose the topic ‘Caring for Caregivers’. October and November are months dedicated to increasing awareness on breast cancer and prostate cancer, and as such, focus on self-care. My topic caused a bit of confusion with people expecting another speech focused on the disease, the patient, or the treatment – certainly not the caregiver.

What I have realised is that the term ‘caregiver’ comes with an entourage of associated emotions and labels. The focus is always only on the person being taken care of, with associated emotions ranging from guilt to selflessness. By association, the word ‘care’ has come to take on the meaning of only being directed towards others – more so when you’re a woman, the ultimate caregiver.

I’d like to share a brief version of the popular children’s fable, The Magic Porridge Pot. A poor couple with barely enough to eat themselves hears a knock on the door. They open it to find a tired, hungry traveller. Inviting him in, they share their frugal meal with him and give him a bed for the night. The next morning, the grateful stranger reveals that he is, in fact, an angel and would like to reward their generosity. He gifts them with a magic pot that will never, ever run out of food.

I hear you sighing longingly and asking where we can order this magic pot, too. Let me know when you find it! In the meantime, coming back to caregivers, we like to think of ourselves as magic porridge pots with an unending source of care to give. The truth, however, is that we need to stop every now and again to recharge our batteries and refill our resources so we can resume sharing them with others. In other words, we turn the care inwards and direct it at ourselves, i.e. self-care.

Having been raised to be caregivers for others, with the concept of selfless love drilled into their heads, most women find self-care a difficult concept to accept. It battles with all that they have been told a so-called good *insert role* does. You put others first, more so when you are a wife/mother, always putting the needs of your family above your own. While this school of thought is gradually tapering out, it is still strong enough to make self-care something we need to write about in a magazine, so women will know it’s perfectly alright for them to indulge in it themselves.

Self-care is Important For Women

Guilt

The primary gut response to sometimes even thinking about taking time out to do something just for yourself is guilt. On a personal level, this can sound like:

“This is time I should be spending on carrying out my role as professional/spouse/parent/daughter.”

“It’s not like I really NEED to do this, it’s actually a bit of a luxury/pampering/treat.” 

“Shouldn’t I be spending this money on something more useful?” 

“Doesn’t X need something like this more?”

“Isn’t this a bit selfish of me?”

The same guilt sounds more like this when it refers to a professional context:

“I am so desperately unhappy in this job, but feel so guilty about quitting.”

“Just because I’m being disrespected here doesn’t mean I have to jeopardise my job by speaking up.”

“I know I deserve a better role, but I’ll be letting down so many people if I move on.”

It’s quite funny how the guilt can spring up over something as silly as taking a break for coffee with a friend or buying fancy bath salts, let alone the high-level guilt that comes from taking a longer break to just chill and relax, or resign from a toxic workplace. This guilt stems from the intrinsic belief that time and money need to be spent on (and earned for) someone else selflessly. 

The Talking-Down

After the guilt comes the talking-down. Talking yourself and your needs down in relation to someone else and what they are going through or what they need. Talking down whatever state you are in – mentally, physically, emotionally – with accompanying justification is something all women go through. And it might sound something like this: our mums’ generation never made a fuss about this; this is natural at this age; everyone in my profession has this level of stress; who isn’t stressed these days?

When we finally do get to move past the talk-down and still continue with our plans, a well-placed sarcastic question or comment from a colleague or relative could have you backtracking in a second, cancelling all plans because you realise they are so right.

Why is it important for women to take self-care

Justifying the Spend

This is the one that women find the hardest. A legacy of the hunter-gatherer days for women is that we were the ones who managed whatever was hunted/gathered, ensuring it lasted as long as possible and was distributed as needed. Resource management has, ever since, been our strongest suit, often leading to wives being teasingly referred to as the Finance Minister or Home Minister.

Having always been responsible for managing the resources for the wider group, the concept of staking a claim for ourselves therefore goes against the grain. There is the niggling feeling that this could have been given to someone else because they might need it more. So how do we negate all this hard-coded conditioning and rewrite it with the empowering belief that we are worthy of care, too?

framed quote

Put Yourself First

Referring to the magic porridge pot story earlier: you cannot be who you are meant to be or do what you are meant to do if you are not in the best shape physically, mentally, and emotionally. By ensuring that your batteries are always fully charged and you are working in peak form, you are ensuring that what you give others – in any capacity – is your best, making it a win-win for everyone.

If Not You, Then Who?

It’s a question that usually stumps my clients. Because the truth is that you are the only one who values your well-being (or should value it!) so much. If you think you deserve better, more, or something else, newsflash: you are the only one who can give that to yourself. Too often, we wait for a manager, spouse, partner, or parent to see what we’re going through and take care of it for us. Not going to happen. Wake up and go after what you want.

Talk Yourself Up 

We know what the opposite does, so go ahead and switch it around. Tell yourself how impressed you are with what you are doing or have just done. List out the attributes you are proud of, the specific details of whatever it is you said or did that made you proud and include even the silly little ones.

Imagine you are talking about someone else and objectively list out the reasons they deserve to make that decision. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to do for someone other than yourself. It is often very easy to appreciate and acknowledge what others do and achieve, and simultaneously find it equally hard to do the same for ourselves. This easy workaround is a great way to get over this and learn to value yourself and your own well-being more.

You Are Someone’s Role Model

Keeping that in mind will help you make decisions that you won’t regret. People, kids in particular, model our behaviours – not our words. So, if you are in a role that impacts how others think and behave, you have a responsibility to show them how to take care of themselves and their well-being by taking care of yours. Lead by example. You never know who you could be inspiring with your proactive self-care.

Bina Mathews is an Executive Master Coach and Communications Consultant at Bina Mathews Consulting FZE. Visit www.coachbina.com or follow @coachbina on Instagram for more information.

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Expert Tips To Run A Business

5 Expert Tips on How to Run a Business Seamlessly 

Are you ready to take the entrepreneurial leap?

As the founder of a relatively new business, My Eco Souk, I’ve firsthand learned the realities of kickstarting a start-up. This past year has been surreal; starting a business from scratch and running it seamlessly is no child’s play. One must run a tight ship and ensure the smooth functioning of all matters. No matter what business you’re in, you will always have competition. At first, it can seem intimidating to face a saturated market.

That’s why it’s more important than ever in today’s business world to stand out from the crowd. With so many businesses vying for attention, making yours stand out from the rest can be difficult. However, if you’re committed and informed, no obstacle is big enough to put you off your path. Some key factors can help you run a business smoothly, and I am here to impart some important lessons to those who want to take the entrepreneurial leap. In my personal experience, here are the ones I treasure the most.

Tips To Run A Business

Tip 1: A Strong Team Is Your Backbone

A dedicated team of like-minded and appropriately skilled individuals is pivotal to the functioning of any organisation. This could be your core team, a council, or even volunteers/interns/regular employees. A team that will back you up no matter what and work to turn your vision into reality is necessary. It is not a battle to be fought alone, but a team effort. 

Having a solid team of trusted individuals also allows various mindsets and ideas to flow and enter the discourse. It also increases chances of accountability as well as a division of workload. Moreover, having people to rely on can be significant while running a business, which may very well take a toll on a person’s emotional and mental well-being. 

There are countless benefits of having an excellent team to fall back on. Your team’s combined skill set and knowledge can help you to overcome obstacles that you might feel insurmountable on your own. They can guide you to see things from a different perspective, which is invaluable. Most importantly, they remind you that the world is not on your shoulders and that all the burden is shared till the aspiration is realised.

Pro Tips for Running a Business

Tip 2: Execution Is Key

Businesses need to be unique and ready to adapt to the ever-changing market. Ideas are constantly circulating among those involved in running a relevant business. However, it takes more than just ideas to be successful. It is essential to have a concrete plan that is executed promptly and effectively. 

A group of people who are good at generating ideas is excellent, but if those ideas are not turned into actionable plans, they will not amount to anything. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to have great ideas and the ability to execute them properly. Execution brings a result – and the result, good or bad, can only add to your learning and experience. 

As a leader, it is essential that you take charge and pick which ideas you want to bring to life. Discussing with your team is a key part of this process; make sure everyone knows your vision and considers their opinions. It’s also crucial that you don’t spend too much time mulling things over without taking action – every execution has value, even if the outcome isn’t what you initially hoped for.

Growing a Successful Business

Tip 3: Be Adaptive to Changes

While working through an idea, you might often realise that it is not exactly going as you envisioned. This is very common when it comes to implementing ideas. Reality is far removed from one’s ideals, and many adjustments must be made. 

In cases like these, it is important to learn early on to take things in your stride. Not every plan is rigid, and not every process is set in stone. There are bound to be changes and last-minute decisions that might throw you off. What matters is to be flexible and grow around those changes instead of shrinking below their weight.

Accepting changes and working flexibly helps in the long run compared to being stubborn and sticking to a redundant way of doing things. Being ready and not letting inevitable bumps hamper your spirit will work out in your favour more than anything else.

Tips to Craft a Strong Business Plan

Tip 4: Networking Is Necessary

Networking is an essential component of any business endeavour. It allows for exchanging information, building relationships, and acquiring new skills and knowledge. Networking is not simply a process of acquiring new customers or clients; it is also an opportunity to learn about new platforms, resources, and strategies that can be used to grow your business. 

By engaging in networking activities, you will gain a better understanding of your industry and the competition, and you will be able to build strong relationships with other professionals who can help you grow your business. In short, networking is an essential part of any successful business venture. The more you expand your network and interact with individuals across the spectrum, the more perspective and the more ideas it brings you.

It is also an excellent way to invite collaborations and build long-lasting partnerships that are enormously important to getting ahead in this field. Networking does not have to be delegated to employees or interns. Actively participating in it as a leader can convey that you are an involved and eager individual, willing to take the reins into your own hands when necessary.

man standing holding a tablet and credit card

Tip 5: Be Ready to Invest and Persist

Investing will be an integral part of your start-up. Ideas and execution require resources, and resources require money. Money and time will be key investments that you will have to gear up for while trying to make a business work – being patient is also necessary. Persistence is vital when it comes to investing. You cannot sow and expect to reap the next day. It will take time and understanding and, most importantly, faith. 

People often invest large amounts of time and money in a particular idea, hoping for instant success and profit. My time in the field has taught me otherwise. The marketplace is often unpredictable, and being consistent is the only thing that will get you far enough to secure any sort of achievement or recognition. 

In the one year I have spent as the founder of My Eco Souk, things have certainly not been a piece of cake. I have a long way to go before I can see myself as an established business owner. I will strive to learn and step out of my comfort zone. These were some of the treasured tips I gathered in the months that have gone by. Sharing it with fellow newbies in the start-up arena brings me immense joy because I also would have wanted someone to share these with me!

Garima Gupta is the owner and CEO of My Eco Souk, an online marketplace for sustainable and environmentally friendly products. Visit www.myecosouk.com or follow @myecosouk on Instagram for more information.

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Gender Bias in the Workplace

Let’s Talk Gender Bias in the Workplace

In honour of International Day of the Girl, today.

If there’s anything on-trend right now, it’s inclusivity, diversity, and gender – the media is practically screaming at us about! Some may say it’s about time, while others may question what the point is. That being said, there is no greater time to be a woman and define who you are on your own terms than now. Incidentally, today marks the 10th anniversary of International Day of the Girl, a day designated to eliminate the gender-based challenges faced by little girls worldwide, including child marriages, poor learning opportunities, violence, and discrimination. 

But the bad news is that it’s not just men who are subjecting females of all ages to discrimination, it’s not just men who are guilty of ‘gender bias’. Let me explain. Have you or a friend ever judged a woman based on her weight, job, fashion choices, food choices, or comments? Ever commented, “I can’t believe she did that/said that/wore that!” If yes, it could indicate that you may have a bias towards the female gender, which means there is an unspoken expectation of what or how a woman ‘should’ speak or even act. These ‘shoulds’ are societal female expectations that make women base their relationships on persona and conduct – all of which relate to the self.

Men, meanwhile, typically base relationships on performance, influence, and goal orientation in the workplace. But fear not; everyone has a ‘bias’ towards something, and this is indicative of our upbringing, culture, environment, job role, and relationship status. However, by being aware of our biases, we can come to a place of acceptance and therefore become open to building stronger connections that will benefit our personal life and career. 

Women offer so many skills and, in fact, the new term ‘soft skills’ (which includes empathy, a strong sense of emotional intelligence, the ability to make others feel heard, and a sense of perspective) are all skills that I believe women inherently possess. And we have all this whilst taking on 70% of household decisions! We sound truly unstoppable, right? But it comes at a cost – USD 160.2 trillion to be exact. That’s how much money was lost due to gender inequality in the workplace. In fact, the same report on the cost of gender equality estimated that full gender equality can increase the world GDP by USD 28 trillion by 2025.

gender discrimination in workplace

Companies can transform million dollar ideas and concepts into trillions by checking their bias and focusing on the strengths and the incredible skill sets that women can offer. It can do this by allowing flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, part-time working options, and female mentorship programmes that create a space for women to talk about their performance and collaborate with others.

Let’s now start small and check your bias to allow you to look at a new perspective. When you think of a CEO, who do you think of? A male or female? When you think of a parent, do you think of a male or female? When you think of the breadwinner of a household, do you think of a male or female? If you’ve answered male to most of these questions, this shows that you may share the societal bias towards one gender over the other. It’s powerful and impactful to know our mindset as it puts us in a place of awareness, collaboration, and exploration. It can also make our experiences and relationships stronger and more meaningful.

According to a study conducted at Cornell University: “Women tend to underestimate their confidence, whilst men will overestimate their abilities.” Another study found that men will apply for a job role with only 60% of the credentials, compared to women, who will apply for a role with only 100%. Here are ways to check your bias and thrive with confidence if faced with a job opportunity.

Ask Yourself:

  • What can I offer this role?
  • If confidence or self-belief wasn’t holding me back, what would I do?
  • What’s holding me back?
  • What impact would I make if I had this role?
  • Why not me?

If You Own a Business, Consider the Following Questions: 

  • Could the company benefit from a different perspective?
  • How gender equal are we in this company?
  • Is our team stronger in one gender than the other?
  • What gaps need filling when it comes to gender equality?

These small insights and perspectives can offer a host of knowledge about what sets us back. Remember ladies, we all are worthy of achieving our goals and dreams – and 2022 is truly our time – so be proud, make a stand, and show the world who you truly are. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “I was once afraid of people saying, ‘Who does she think she is?’ Now I have the courage to say, ‘This is who I am.'” 

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How to Be an Empathetic Leader

The Dos and Don’ts of Being an Empathetic Leader

Empathy isn’t reserved for your personal life.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that it weeded out the weak and ineffective leaders, and spotlighted those who exhibited good leadership skills. Good leaders were able to navigate their companies through uncertain waters while maintaining employee morale and productivity.

While these good leaders possess many qualities, the one that we will focus on here is empathy, as that was the one brought into sharp focus over the past few years – because even leaders with the best strategy and roadmap for the company will not be able to get everyone to share that vision and own it if they don’t have empathy. And everyone knows you get further and faster when everyone is equally motivated by the end goal.

That’s where an empathic leadership style comes in. It can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale, and loyalty. When a colleague has an issue, for instance, they may be frustrated and just want you to listen to them. By something as simple as letting them tell you all the details before responding, you can show them you value what they have to say. And Gallup surveys have consistently revealed that people value being valued more than increased salaries!

Teams with empathetic leaders are more innovative and push the boundaries more, as they feel safe in the knowledge that they won’t be blamed for failures in these experiments. Leaders benefit from empathy as it helps them to understand the root cause behind poor performance and address it constructively.

Ways You Can Improve Your Empathic Leadership Skills

Let’s Dig Deep About Empathy

Empathy is a hard skill to quantify, but leaders who have it are generally able to lead through challenging times more successfully. Good leaders know how to collect input and suggestions from everyone, make a decision that is best suited for the organisation, and fulfill the (reasonable) requirements of the majority. 

In order to recognise the qualities of being empathetic, it is important to understand what empathy means. According to Wikipedia, empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. 

Given the divide between management and the rest of the organisation, it’s a given that executives cannot understand the issues faced by the rest of the employees. By being empathetic, leaders bridge this divide and connect on a human level, strengthening loyalty and pride in being a part of the organisation.

Empathy is a key factor in Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ), which measures an individual’s abilities to recognise and manage their emotions and the emotions of other people, both individually and in groups. An empathetic leader with a high EQ will know which of the three aspects of empathy – cognitive (head/thinking), affective (heart/feeling), and behavioural (action/doing) – to use in a given situation.

A Few Dos and Don’ts of Being an Emphatic Leader

Empathetic leaders can steer a company through turbulent times by providing employees with the understanding and recognition they need to navigate the crisis. It’s not all woo-woo and fluffy stuff, either. In fact, the quantifiable benefits can be seen in the level of innovation, employee engagement, and retention rates – not to mention employees who are brand ambassadors, building up your reputation as an employer of choice.

Empathetic leaders understand the consequences of their decisions on everyone in the company. They are able to look beyond whatever is happening at the moment, inspire, encourage, and strategise in ways that will motivate employees at all levels.

Empathetic leadership style

So if we were to condense all this into a quick checklist for empathetic leaders:

  1. Show genuine interest in others and their situations.
  2. Be willing to support team members with their personal issues.
  3. Schedule one-on-one meetings to stay connected.
  4. Keep an eye out for work burnout.
  5. Implement employee analytics.
  6. Validate how the other person is feeling.
  7. Develop your listening skills.
  8. Challenge your biases.
  9. Build a great culture to generate speed. 
  10. Approach problems from a different perspective.

A few behaviours to avoid:

  1. Don’t ask people to “earn your trust”.
  2. Don’t neglect those who are making the transition to a management role. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in order to understand better.

The skills that make an empathetic leader can be learned through training and coaching, and are a worthwhile investment. You will reap the dividends through increased employee engagement, higher morale levels, and a corresponding increase in productivity and quality of work. These skills will also serve you well in your personal life, but that’s another article for another time!

Bina Mathews is an Executive Master Coach and Communications Consultant at Bina Mathews Consulting FZE. Visit www.coachbina.com or @coachbina for more information.

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Inspiring Emirati Women

10 Trailblazers You May Not Know – But Should

All hail these heroines.

Forget everything you think you know about Emirati women because, in 2022, this is a demographic defying stereotypes and shattering glass ceilings in the fields of film, fashion, sports, aviation, and more. Case in point? Every single woman on this list.

Here, The Gaggler reveals 10 Emirati women who are trailblazers in their fields and how to follow them – in honour of Emirati Women’s Day, of course. For the uninitiated, Emirati Women’s Day is celebrated annually on August 28, with this year’s theme being ‘Inspiring Reality… Sustainable Future’, reflecting the UAE’s commitment to a green future that prioritises gender equality.

1. Amna Al Haddad

Youth mentor? Check. Published author? Check. Mental health advocate? Check again. As for what earns Amna Al Haddad a spot on this list? Not only is she the first female Emirati weightlifter, but she also became the first Arab and GCC national to compete in the Reebok Crossfit Asia Regionals in South Seoul – and did so wearing her hijab. Today, Amna is an inspirational speaker, using her unique journey from depression to dumbbells to imprint hope and determination in the minds of her audiences.

Follow her here.

2. Amna Al Qubaisi

Conquering a traditionally masculine field is Amna Al Qubaisi, the first Emirati female racing driver. Incidentally, Amna trained as a gymnast, but it was her father – Le Mans racing driver Khaled Al Qubaisi – and his passion for all things motorsport that steered her in a new direction. At only 18, she became the first Arab woman to take part in a Formula E test when she drove for the Envision Virgin Racing team back in 2018 and the rest, as they say, is history. She went on to win her first F4 UAE race at Yas Marina Circuit in 2019 and make her F3 debut in the Formula Regional Asian Championship earlier this year, setting her sights on Formula One in the long run.

Follow her here.

Amna Al Qubaisi
Image: Courtesy of Guido De Bortoli

3. Fahima Falaknaz

Another pioneer in a super-masculine world? Fahima Falaknaz, the first Emirati female boxer. Citing Bruce Lee as her idol growing up, she made history when she became the first Emirati female boxer to represent the UAE in the Asian Boxing Confederation Championship in 2019. Today, she’s determined to see more women in the ring, joining Real Boxing Only gym in Al Quoz to coach ladies-only fitness classes and dispel the myth that martial arts are only for men. Not only is she a vocal proponent of the mental and physical benefits that come with boxing, but she also uses her platform to speak up against bullying.

Follow her here.

4. Hanady Alhashmi

There’s mountaineers – and then there are mountaineers with a purpose. Meet Hanady Alhashmi, who is celebrated not only for summiting five of the world’s Seven Summits, but also for being the first Emirati woman to successfully climb Denali in Alaska. Even more impressive are her efforts to raise awareness around Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, as part of the #ClimbforMS initiative. In fact, when lockdown prevented her from conquering the remaining two summits, she ‘scaled’ Everest at home, using a treadmill at varied inclines to simulate its height of 8,848 metres in order to highlight how both mountain climbing and living with MS require resilience.

Follow her here.

5. Latifa Al Shamsi

Long before the word ‘influencer’ entered our everyday vernacular, Latifa Al Shamsi was sharing her favourite fashion pieces, dining outlets, and travel destinations with her followers – a figure that now exceeds 393,000 on Instagram. While her claim to fame is the fact that she’s the first Emirati fashion and lifestyle blogger, the tastemaker has only garnered a whole new fan base between navigating motherhood and running her fashion events company, Events by Latifa Al Shamsi.

Follow her here.

6. Nayla Al Khaja

Filmmaker, motivational speaker, brand ambassador, and cultural consultant – Nayla Al Khaja is the definitive multihyphenate. As the first female director in the UAE, she has made her country proud. She has been recognised for her work at numerous international film festivals such as the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) and the Italian Movie Award, Pompeii, and her films have taken part in more than 42 festivals around the world. She’s even received the accolade of Best Emirati Filmmaker. Her most recent film The Shadow will be turned into an international motion picture titled Three, which is expected to be released in 2023.

Follow her here.

Nayla Al Khaja

7. Areej Al Hammadi

Long before interest in female football picked up in the UAE, Areej Al Hammadi was determined to follow her passion. She earned her first cap for the country back in August 2015. Since then, the international footballer has had over 40 caps with the UAE national team, is a Guinness World Records holder, and is a proud Adidas athlete. She aims to inspire other Emirati women just like her to embrace sports and challenge the cultural barriers around it. 

Follow her here.

8. Rafeea Al-Hajsi

Rafeea Al Hajsi officially became the first Emirati model in 2016, making history as she strut the catwalk at Arab Fashion Week. And she hasn’t looked back since. Today, she’s also an artist, an actress, and a TV host – and continues to reign as a runway model. Delving into the behind-the-scenes struggles that she has faced, the striking beauty has admitted that it hasn’t always been easy in the industry, citing online trolls, social taboos, and staying true to her roots as factors. Nevertheless, Rafeea has persisted and walked the runway for the likes of Laura Mancini and Aiisha Ramadan.

Follow her here.

9. Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum

Sheikha-turned-captain Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum is a trailblazer in the aviation industry, starting her career as a commercial first officer at Emirates airline in 2017, making her the first female pilot in Dubai. Shortly after, the princess – yes, she’s part of the Al Maktoum family – went on to become the first woman to be appointed as First Lieutenant Pilot at Dubai Police. As for her ultimate focus? Gender equality in aviation. Sheikha Mozah founded the Women in Aviation Association (SHEHANA) in 2019 in order to accelerate the development of women in the aviation industry not only as pilots or crew members, but also as lawyers, engineers, and other vital roles.

Follow her here.

Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum

10. Zahra Lari 

Figure skater Zahra Lari has stolen hearts everywhere for so many other reasons: she’s the first woman to have competed internationally while wearing a headscarf, she’s the reason UAE became the first Arab country to join the International Skating Union, she was inspired to take up figure skating after watching Ice Princess. A five-time National Champion, she has been an ambassador of the Nike Pro Hijab line since its launch in 2017, making her a source of inspiration for young Muslim women worldwide. She’s also the founder and CEO of Emirates Skating Club – did we mention she’s only 27?

Follow her here.

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Guide To a Successful Entrepreneurial Journey

Real Talk: What to Expect on the Entrepreneurial Journey

According to someone in the know.

There may never have been a better time in history to be an entrepreneur than now – especially in the burgeoning city that is Dubai. But starting your own business is no easy task, and most people tend to face several doubts and challenges along the process. Today, following the return of World Entrepreneurs’ Day celebrations on August 21, I share some of the most common things that I’ve come across throughout the start-up cycle.

“I feel like I want to start a business.”

The incessant impulse or that initial desire to create change in your life or the market, that lightning strike of creativity and innovation, or simply the passion to move a community forward – are all different versions of the same signal to me. It’s the signal that indicates a call to adventure. Honouring that call requires an act of courage and willingness to take a risk and venture into the unknown.

Tip: Search and create an honest inventory around that impulse. What is the deepest aspiration you have for your venture? Don’t be shy in vocalising and share the big dream, not just the intermediate steps towards it.

“Oh no, I just quit my job and I might fail!”

Overview of the Entrepreneurial Journey

The early stage of entrepreneurship is a vulnerable period. Fear, confusion, self-doubt, dissolution, and disappointment are all part of the starter package. For me, the only path through these feelings has always been to focus on work. Think action and forward motion. I don’t know any entrepreneur who hasn’t felt that way and, while some deal with it better than others, I was not one of them. My business career has had numerous regrettable encounters, but here I am, finally unscathed. 

Tip: The marketplace is a busy and crowded space. However novel or noble your venture, success will almost always involve time, persistence, blind alleys, and wrong turns.

“Should I get a co-founder?”

I may be biased when it comes to this because all my business adventures have always involved co-conspirators. Not only did it help propel my ventures forward, but it also promoted a balanced attitude, thinking, and approach. There are, of course, drawbacks and considerations to founding teams. The wrong fit in a team will sink a venture faster than anything else. If you do not want a co-founder, you can achieve the same result through a variety of ways such as creating an advisory board or a board of directors, finding angel investors, or creating strong option plans for early-stage employees where applicable.

Tip: In the beginning stage, treat every relationship with extra care and attention. Partners, early clients, investors, and employees will have a significant impact on your growth. Make sure your values and visions are aligned and nurture those relationships.

“My business hit its first milestone!”

Make sure to enjoy the moment – but not for too long! As your business starts hitting its stride, your entrepreneurial role shifts towards a leadership role. As a leader, maintaining focus and discipline on what’s around the next corner is a priority.

Tip: As a business matures, the creative and energetic qualities of the entrepreneur can often become counterproductive. It’s important to be in tune with the needs of the business as it shifts towards administration, optimisation, quality, and performance.

“I didn’t sign up for all this paperwork!”

Freelancer Permit

Depending on the country, there can be significant administrative overhead to building a business. It can come in the form of licensing, HR laws, data and privacy, taxes, and industry-specific legal requirements to name just a few. Most countries, however, distinguish between small businesses and large corporations, maintaining different thresholds of regulation depending on the size and maturity of the enterprise. In my experience, Dubai has some of the most start-up friendly culture and governance frameworks compared to other countries I have worked in.

Tip: Check out the Freelancer License. It’s a low-cost, low-risk way to explore the world of freelancing and a first step towards building a business.

“Someone wants to buy my business.”

Congratulations! You are at what investors refer to as “the exit”! It’s very useful to think about the end of your entrepreneurial story before even starting. It’s not necessarily something to plan for or focus on in the beginning, but it’s useful to keep at the back of your mind. It should also influence the types of choices you make early on as it will impact everything from branding to business strategy and corporate structure. Are you building something that will be franchised? Sold to a larger company? Is yours a social enterprise that will be handed over to a community board of trustees?

Tip: Not all businesses need to have an exit – some can be lifestyle and even generational. Whatever the end of the story, it’s worth considering the options before you start.

“Prepare for a journey, not a result.”

Prepare for a journey, not a result

When people ask me about my business, I generally speak about the journey – the people who I’ve met and worked with, and the places that I’ve travelled to. I don’t think my kids know a single one of my business accomplishments, and I like it that way. Having gone through a full start-up cycle from an idea hatched in a coffee shop to a global technology business, I get to now reflect on the experience, and it has inspired me to start a new adventure as a writer.

My first book Man in Motion captures love, wisdom, relationships, and creativity, all while trying to run a business and keep the lights on at home. When I look back and see where I am now, what I cherish most has been the freedom to succeed or fail, to make decisions and be accountable for their consequences, to explore the world, and live my own journey.

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