Monday, July 20, 2009

Women in the Middle East

At work I was part of a round table discussion with a woman who has been with the company for several years. I think once they get that high up, they have various goals to meet with so many people, etc, depending on their position. She is also interested in promoting women within the company, so this was also a focus on women and the culture here. The discussion mande me reflect a lot on what some people may have questions about, but what has become a daily thing here...

How are women treated here in the workplace? I have never had an issue being female and working here. Definitely not within my company, and have not run into anything with any clients. There was one time where I extended my hand to a man I met to shake his hand, forgetting that some more religious types will not shake a woman's hand - and he was one of them. I knew that, but just wasn't thinking and I felt really awful afterwards, b/c I could tell he was uncomfortable. I may not agree with it, but its his interpretation of his religion, so who am I to put him in that situation. One of my colleagues who is female was completed ignored by a man in a meeting in Egypt. This is not the norm, but can happen. She did note that later the guy used all of her while he wouldn't acknowledge her, he did listen.

How does the population see Westerners? - I find the general population here quite open and accepting of other cultures. After all, about 80% of the population is from somewhere else. Its quite interesting. While being accepting, they do try to preserve their culture as much as possible b/c it can get mudded out by the others - my words, not theirs.

As pointed out to us by our local visitors the night that Megan tried to steal some food from the table and I nearly burned the house down...even their language is changing b/c there is noone to really teach children the Gulf/UAE dialect of Arabic. In their childrens' school, the Arabic is taught by an Egyptian, for example, who uses a different style of Arabic. I can't imagine how this much feel to be a proud citizen of such a fast developing country that is being watched by the world for various reasons. Feeling proud, but at the same time afraid of loosing that and your children growing up not knowing that. While places change from generation to generation, I think things here are changing at light speed sometimes.

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