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As always, Bahraini women rise to the challenge

Today, Bahrain celebrates Bahraini Women’s Day on 1 December 2015.
This important annual occasion recognises women’s contribution to Bahrain’s workforce, economy and society. The Kingdom has made great strides in gender equality, and continues to do so through ongoing initiatives dedicated to the empowerment of women.
The Bahrain List caught up with two women who work in senior, respected roles in their chosen fields – telecommunications and aviation. These are their personal views.

Muna Al Hashemi, Batelco
The Bahrain List (BL):
Can you briefly describe Batelco?
Muna Al Hashemi (MAH):
Batelco stands for Bahrain Telecommunications Company. We are the Kingdom’s leading integrated telecommunications service provider, but also operate in 14 geographies worldwide.
Tell us about your career progression.
I am currently the Chief Executive for Batelco’s Bahrain operations.
I graduated from the University of Bahrain with a Master’s in Engineering and joined Batelco as a technician.
From there, I worked in many different departments – sales, customer services, customer care, product development, product management and brand marketing.
It’s been a very interesting journey – challenging and with a long learning curve!
What is it about Bahrain that has enabled you to be so successful?
I think it is everything that reflects what you might call Bahrain’s ‘international mindset’ and our open, welcoming culture, but two factors really stand out.
The first is education. Bahrain is a very developed country with a high standard of education – people here are well educated, motivated and professional.
That brings opportunity – it certainly did for me – and has led, I believe, to Bahrain being considered one of the most liberal countries in the region.
We have a healthy mix of people who have studied in Bahrain and who occupy very high positions, together with those who have studied abroad and bring an international perspective. For a company like Batelco, the result is that we are unusually open to change and expansion.
The second is the unique Bahraini character. Bahrainis work hard, challenge convention and prove themselves to gain skills and qualifications. People dig deep to seize any future opportunity, yet they do everything to support each other.
As we are marking Bahraini Women’s Day, what is your view on the state of women in the workforce?
Speaking about telecoms, Bahrain’s regulatory authority says that 3,000 people work in the sector and that 30% are female. That seems to me a reasonable proportion and suggests that opportunities for women in employment are good. I would go further and say that in Bahrain opportunities are equal – there is no discrimination between men and women. Success depends on the individual’s skills, qualifications and ability to handle different positions.
Many women occupy senior roles in Bahrain and I see this trend growing year on year.
How about women’s general role in Bahraini society?
Women are very active in driving change in Bahrain – whether in politics, industry or almost any other sphere. They always fight for the best possible outcome.
It’s the same for expatriate women: because they feel at home and enjoy the full support of Bahraini citizens, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.
Yasmeen Fraidoon, Gulf Air
Bahrain List (BL):
Tell us why you became a pilot.
Yasmeen Fraidoon (YF):
I’ve always been fascinated with aviation – since I was a kid. So when I was offered the chance to become a pilot, I took it right away.
I was educated in Bahrain’s public schools and at the University of Bahrain, where I got a Bachelor’s degree in Business Information Systems.
I worked for a year in a bank in Bahrain, before finally deciding to become a pilot.
How did your flying career develop?
After the bank I attended Qatar Aeronautical College and joined Gulf Air in 2008. For five years, I was a Co-pilot, or First Officer, on the Airbus 320. My job basically was to support the captain.
I was promoted to an Airbus 320 Captain in March 2014 – the first female to hold that position in Gulf Air.
How would you sum up the captain’s role?
I am commander of the aircraft. My responsibility is to manage the flight from the minute we check-in with Gulf Air until the minute we and all the passengers leave the aircraft.
Has being a woman affected your career?
Not at all. As a woman I’ve never faced any challenges in my career progression. Opportunities are wide open for both genders and I find people are always very supportive and encouraging.
In Bahrain we have women in all kinds of senior positions – ministers, members of parliament, CEOs, business owners. The list just goes on.
What’s the best thing about flying?
The view! Especially sunset and sunrise in the aircraft. It’s really beautiful up there and something only a few people get to see.