Bridging the Gulf in DiversityJune 22, 2011
On Friday, May 27th, the CAWDB (Center for the Advancement of Women and Diversity in Business) held their latest seminar, entitled “Changing Cultures, Creating Opportunities” at the World Trade Center in Amsterdam.
The evening was divided into two parts. The first was an interactive session, “The Multicultural Workplace,” led by Donna Driver-Zwartkruis, Adjunct Professor in Business Administration, Webster Leiden; Lecturer in the Faculty of Economics & Business VU, Amsterdam; and PhD candidate at The Union Institute & University Cincinnati Ohio, USA.
This session was based on a Harvard business case. It concerns a firm, Fuller Fenton, which is located in the American Midwest. Prof. Driver began with a short presentation about the key characters and main incidents in the organization, followed by an interactive session with people in the audience working in teams of three or four; each team was assigned a specific task/question and a group discussion followed the team assignment.
The aims of the exercise were to:
- Develop awareness of the complexities of creating a multicultural organization
- Develop an appreciation for the social, cultural, historical, and situational factors that impinge on individual development and behavior, and thereby affecting organizational performance.
- Acquire an understanding of the need to increase our knowledge about emotional intelligence in an organizational context.
The second part was of the evening was devoted to the guests from the gulf region. They were Dr. Amal van Hees Hamidallah, Dr. Mohammed Al Roken, Jafar Alshayeb, Hala Aldosari, and Adel Al Qallaf.
Dr. van Hees is an Arab woman living in Netherlands who has extensive experience working on human rights and civil society empowerment issues. She is the Director of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) program at Bridging the Gulf, the Netherlands. She is a lawyer and has previously worked at Amnesty International Netherlands as a coordinator for the Middle East & North Africa region. She has been teaching NGOs studies at Webster University. She is a former UNESCO staff member and served as a Program Officer at the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Dr. Al Roken is an Associate Professor of Public Law at the United Arab Emirates University (UAE) in Al Ain where he also served as the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Law (1998-2000). He directs Bridging the Gulf program for human rights education and awareness. Previously, he chaired the UAE Jurists Association (1998-2004) and he is currently the chairman of the Jurists Association (2010-2012). Dr. Al Roken is also the author of several published legal research papers, articles, and books.
Jafar Alshayeb, a well-known analyst of local political issues and reforms, was educated in the US. He is a regular commentator and analyst of local politics and reform issues in many influential Arab press and media channels. He heads local charity foundations and youth programs and sponsors “Tuesday Cultural Forum,” aiming to set the groundwork for dialogue on different social and political issues such as civil society, human and minority rights, and democratization. He participated in the National Dialogue Initiative in Saudi Arabia and serves as an active member in the National Society for Human Rights (Saudi Arabia), among many other positions.
Hala Aldosari, is a Saudi woman who lived in the US for three years while pursuing her graduate degree in health services research, and is now based in Jeddah. Her blog, Hala In US, is an extension of that experience. She writes for a Saudi daily newspaper and she posts in Arabic on her other blog, Hala Al-Dosari.
Hala Aldosari talked about her own experience as a woman employee in the health field. She said that she and her other female colleagues are treated equally by their male co-workers, and assumes that if more women show their strong will to work, they can actually fulfill their desire of self-realization. She said that together with other women they gather and talk about issues, and try to reach out to their communities. She also added that women receive the equal education as men in the region, however they are not able to find the same jobs.
Dr. van Hees also advocated change. She said that they are working to tackle those challenges in innovative way and it shows the need for active citizenship and an active society. Her Bridging the Gulf organization tries to empower people to work more in their communities for change. Change not only in law, but also change in mentalities and face-to-face dialogue can make the difference.
She says that there is a need is to explain, raise awareness, and educate the population on basic norms, that maybe the outside world calls them universal human rights, but they are also enshrined in the local culture and that needs to be more highlighted. Change, whether in laws, mentalities, or behaviors, needs to be locally owned.
Jafar Ashayeb remembered his childhood when Sunni and Shia children studied together in the same schools, shared each other’s religious holidays and had a peaceful relationship with each other. Apparently pressure and the changes that affected the region impacted negatively decades of peaceful coexistence.
All of the guests spoke of the multiple issues and challenges facing the region as a whole, but still remained optimistic for the future. They stressed the need to support locally owned positive social change. The region with its diversity, culture, Islamic and Arabic background has lot of potential not only at the economic level. We should also focus on the human factor that is very important; youth and women are key groups and we will need to support and help them in reaching their full potential.