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A voice of confidence

Kelly Clarke / 11 December 2012


Dr Maryam Darwish (left). — Supplied photo

As a young Emirati child living in Al Ain, Dr Maryam Darwish was married off at a young age and bore her first child in her early teens.

The customer relations executive at Al Futtaim Motors was one of the keynote speakers addressing a conference held on Monday titled “Young Arab Women Leaders: The voice of the future” at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

Recalling one of her earliest memories, 40-year-old Darwish spoke to Khaleej Times: “My uncle had just bought a big Toyota. I took it out for a drive around the dirt roads and I crashed it into a palm tree. I was nine at the time.”

With a passion for cars spurning from an early age, Darwish spent 25 years raising her family before taking her leap into the world of work.  “My children were in high school and I was a boring housewife. My dream was to work with cars.” When she first broached the idea of working in mechanics to her family, her father and brothers teased her, telling her it was too dangerous.

“They wanted me to find a desk job, something more appropriate, but I was not shameful of my dream, so I found a job as a mechanic.” Embarking on her career only seven years ago, the determined Emirati found it tough to be accepted in a male-dominated ?environment. But through hard work, she gained the respect of over 200 male colleagues and her efforts were recognised by management, who later promoted her to customer relations executive. But the mother of four says she misses the hands-on work.

“Companies want women to feel comfortable but we can do much more. I can do the same as what any man can do. I know my own capabilities.” Darwish said she has seen a big change in the UAE since she was a child, noting that women are being given many more opportunities in the workplace, but the inspirational business woman said there are still obstacles to overcome.

“In my experience, Emirati women worldwide are discriminated against because we have long been portrayed as family women.”

When preparing her keynote speech for the conference, Darwish said she wanted to reach out to the Arab women and emphasise the importance of not “limiting our thinking”. She said it was important that future generations did not repeat history.  “When I came to the Arab forum, I wanted to make a change. So many women in Al Ain look up to me now, even my mother. They are all proud of me because I proved myself in the workplace.”

With a dream to open her own garage, with only women running the workshop, Darwish admitted that the journey would be tough, but it is something she is going to achieve.  “I hope future generations of women come to realise that automotive work is not strange. It’s different work, but fascinating work.”

Dr Maryam Darwish has given several inspirational speeches to Arab women across the UAE and she added that the country’s growing relations with other cultures is key in elevating Emirati women to the top of the workplace.

Hosted by the ‘Arab International Women’s Forum (AWIF)’, the conference aimed at assisting young women leaders in and across the region to optimise and strengthen their personal business skills. Bringing together an array of dignitaries from the business world, speeches were given to encourage and empower Arab women, with an objective to close the gender gap in human capital investment, economic participation and political activity.

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