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What made you choose the construction industry? 

Before joining VSL, I was an External Auditor in one of the largest professional services networks in the world. VSL was one of my clients, and during audit fieldwork, I have witnessed the positive and inspiring vibes of the people. I also felt the management’s culture of being people-oriented and respectful regardless of the position (everyone and every role is essential). Then, I got the opportunity for a Finance Manager position. I took the leap of faith to end my career as an Auditor and joined the world of industry.
For the first six months, I doubted if I had made the right decision to change my job since most of the time, I used to have conflicts with my male boss because of different points of view (it’s like in the book “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”). During that period, I empowered myself and took control of the situation. I studied, learned, and carefully put myself in his shoes, and then slowly started to have a harmonised relationship. Life always leads us to surprises we never thought possible.

Now, for more than eight years in VSL (which is my most prolonged employment in a company by far) managing all the Accounting of VSL entities in the Middle East region, I would say that I am lucky enough to work with the best and brilliant men who are respectful irrespective of the gender. For years, I have been a rose that stands among the thorns.

According to you, what are the main challenges that women must overcome in the construction industry?

It’s gender inequality.
This is a reality not only in the Construction industry but also in some of the Middle East countries where men are given more opportunities, rights, and power than women.  

I have encountered clients/suppliers who do not want to speak to women, have dropped their calls, or sometimes removed them from an email loop.

But I know myself well enough to ignore these people and focus on improving myself and my aptitudes. I do not have to take trash from anyone and ignore the feeling of inferiority. Instead, I think of ways to provide added value support to my colleagues and the company. My mind is a powerful tool and believing that I am powerful is the best tool to conquer this feeling of inequality. Be straightforward, vocal, and transparent. 

As a woman, have a positive mindset. Help others and help yourself. We all have self-confidence, self-love, and self-respect to stand up for ourselves so that inequality becomes a thing of the past in this Industry.
What should be done to help women to be more represented in the construction industry?

Nowadays, the culture, standards, and laws are finally changing, and I am lucky enough to witness that change and be part of it. In particular, here in the Middle East region, where women have begun to be treated equally and to be given the same rights as men (i.e., in Saudi, women can now drive a car). I can also see that women are becoming visible to the industry and are given more opportunities in terms of employment.  

Continue to be an inspiration to younger generations and educate young women on the benefits of working in the industry.
By promoting and supporting the industry's campaign for the empowerment of women and gender equality with the government's support, I believe in the next few years, women will evolve and stand out.

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Contact : Monica CO
Accounts Manager for VSL Middle East entities
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