For this month’s special report on women in the workforce, Executive chose to profile a selection of seven successful, upper managerial level, Lebanese working women. Some of these women work in the private sector, others are in the public sector, but for all the differences in their job titles and roles, they share some commonalities. They are all ambitious, hard working and were able to build up their careers despite the obstacles that most working women face. They were all raised in supportive families who fostered their ambitions, and they all now credit the family they have built, their husbands and children, and the motivation and support they offer, for helping them achieve this success. In these profiles, we ask them how they managed this balancing act, what drives them to succeed and what lessons they would give to the young women who are just entering the workforce.
Read more profiles as they’re published here, or pick up March’s issue at newsstands in Lebanon.
Above the desk of Mona Abdul Latif, the director of buildings at the Ministry of Public Works, is a drawing by her 10 year old daughter depicting her as a superhero. “It means a lot to me that my daughters are proud of my achievements and see me as a role model for their future career choices,” she says.
“When we graduated, we were among the first women engineers in the country”
Abdul Latif, who has seven siblings, says her parents were very open minded compared to others of their generation in the 1960s. They insisted that all their children, regardless of their gender, get a competitive higher education and so she studied civil engineering at the Arab University. “There were very few women majoring in civil engineering at my time and when we graduated, we were among the first women engineers in the country. But today, there are many.”
Upon graduation, Abdul Latif joined the Ministry of Public Works as an engineer and says she proved herself through her hard work and perseverance, focusing on bettering her skills by taking voluntary computer and AutoCAD design courses. She rose up the ranks over the course of eight years until she was made director of buildings at the ministry, one of the few, if not only, “first level” female directors in the public sector.
To Abdul Latif, being a successful woman is all about balance. “It is not enough to only succeed in your personal life, in society and at home and be a failure when it comes to your career, nor is it enough to have an outstanding career but have your personal life in shambles. A balance is great.”
Key to achieving this balance, says Abdul Latif, is dedication and devotion in both the private and public spheres. “I always complete my work with the government to the best standards, complying with all policies and procedures at the risk of upsetting people. And I show this same dedication to my family life.”
She also attributes part of her success to the partnership she has at home with her husband, which she compares to managing a company. “My husband, a general in the Internal Security Forces, and I collaborate in raising our three daughters. He takes on some tasks such as helping them with their schoolwork and driving them to school, whereas I take on other tasks such as cooking,” says Abdul Latif. She adds that, as a couple, they also encourage each other to move forward in their careers.
Abdul Latif was among the 15 shortlisted for the Lebanese Outstanding Women Award 2012, a recognition which she says she was honored to receive. “This nomination meant that I was recognized for my achievements and that my career has a meaning to people, that I did not just pass by unnoticed.”