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Prejudice cannot halt dreams of Etihad staff

ABU DHABI // Women who have overcome prejudice to pursue successful careers in the aviation industry have spoken of the challenges they faced.

The Etihad Airways event, organised ahead of Emirati Women’s Day on Friday, heard from a panel of women who work for the company.

The airline employs 1,269 female Emiratis, who make up 49 per cent of Emiratis in the company and 37 per cent of the airline’s female employees.

Mona Walid, vice president of talent acquisition, said: “Emirati women hold different positions in Etihad such as engineers, pilots, technicians, cabin crews, airport directors.

“These include 46 female pilots and five engineers and technicians.”

Dr Nadia Bastaki, vice president of medical services, was the first Emirati woman to be registered as a specialist in aviation medicine in the country.

“I wanted to be different, and excellent, and after some research I found out about aviation medicine,” said Dr Bastaki.

“Every day here is a challenge.”

The women agreed that they all had to fight against the belief that women do not belong in the world of aviation.

“Aviation is a male-dominated industry but men know that women can multi-task and they add so much flavour in a boardroom,” said Dr Bastaki.

“However, it is a struggle and a fight all over the world.”

Aala Alrahma, cargo ramp manager, said that her job was physically strenuous at times as she had to work outside in the heat.

“My manager encouraged me and gave me a push to continue,” she said.

Muna Hadharem, an aircraft engineer, said that her career in aviation had been made possible because of the support she received from her father.

“When my teacher asked me in school about what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said my dream was to be an astronaut,” she said.

“None of the children applauded me and the teacher said this is impossible.

“I was told to change my dream and that I was not a normal person. The children laughed at me.”

That evening her father found her in the garden looking at the night sky.

“He asked me why I wasn’t sleeping. I told him what had happened and he said to me ‘why can’t you be an astronaut? You have to work towards your dream and support it with all your strength’.”

Ms Noora Al Mulla, a graduate sales manager, said her job involved working overseas, which had caused some concerns in her family.

It was her fiance who supported her decision. “He convinced my father and brother to let me work abroad,” she said.

“He talked to my brother and explained to him that if he needs me or misses me, he can always travel to see me.”

She has so far been posted in Malaysia and Italy.

“I was always keen to know international cultures and my fiance is proud of my achievements,” she said.

Now her family members have changed their opinion of her career, she said.

“There are always barriers and once they see you succeed then you find the support,” she said.

“Just keep pushing.

“Aim to reach your dreams and you will find that the support will be forthcoming.”

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(via The National)