Women on the Wing

Bahrain Airport Services (BAS) is going the extra mile to empower its female employees. Liz O’Reilly spoke to two of them to find out the details.

Nadia Bouslama, PR and marketing manager, and Hana Abdulwahed Abdulla Ali, senior manager human capital, are relative newcomers to the company, having joined within the last 18 months. However, they are both extremely proud of what BAS is doing in terms of women’s development.

Hana explains: “Of our total 1,800 staff, we have 174 females and 20 of those are at managerial level. The strategy is to significantly increase that number, and we’re getting there. The female managers are in all areas of the company – engineering, aircraft dispatch and across the divisions.”

Nadia adds: “We have the first Bahraini female head-set operator [the coordinator between the captain and the push back driver] and also the first female supervisor on the customer service check-in counter.”

How this level of conspicuous female success affects other staff is clear, with Nadia continuing: “What we are trying to show is that the opportunity is there – women can take on the responsibilities and BAS is keen to empower them through training.”

Hana adds: “For example, in their HR evaluations, we make sure they know the investment in training is available, empowering them to have the confidence to apply for more senior positions.”

And both cite the example of the recent chef competition in which junior female staff in the company’s extensive catering division had the chance to win professional chef training over a six-month period, while still receiving salary from their regular jobs. “This takes the risk out of the situation for them,” says Nadia. “Often women are concerned about taking risks because they may be supporting their families, so they don’t put themselves forward. So, to offer them this opportunity without the risk of losing their regular salary was a huge incentive.”

The push for women’s empowerment comes from the top, with CEO Salman Saleh Al-Mahmeed both extremely keen and involved, so much so that the company is sending 10 of its female employees, particularly those who are ready for further development, to the inaugural Women Power Summit, taking place this month.

“This is a really good opportunity for them,” says Nadia. “They will be at the event for both days and there are great opportunities for learning and skills development and networking.”

Nadia herself will be at the summit as a volunteer, presenting on personal branding and also moderating a discussion panel. “This is something I’m happy to do; I am passionate about women’s empowerment and development. My dream would be to have an orphanage where I could raise young girls to help them realise their full potential.”

And both she and Hana are great examples to their colleagues. Hana is a mum of five, her youngest with special needs, but she has not let motherhood affect her 25-year career and is hugely keen for other women to know it is possible.

The Bahraini national says: “I have had great support, both from my mum and my husband; we split everything and work together. I was also very lucky in my earlier career to be supported by Her Royal Highness Shaikha Sabeeka, [Wife of His Majesty the King of Bahrain] when I worked with Shaikh Nasser’s company Maalem. So, I really want to do everything I can to help other women have the same opportunities.”

And Nadia, who is mum to two girls, concludes: “Sometimes I feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time with them, particularly when it’s very busy at work and I’m putting in long hours. But, when I say that to my husband, he says ‘You’re empowering them by giving them an example of a strong independent woman – that’s the very best you can do for them.’”

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