The Voice campaign was initiated in 2020 as a platform for women in the built environment. This year it expanded to include the commercial cleaning and waste and recycling industries, thereby increasing its reach and striving to create a bigger impact.
The networking event was a breakfast meet held at the RitzCarlton, Dubai International Financial Centre. The event was supported by leading names like Engie Solutions, AG Facilities & Contracting, Ejadah, Facilio, and iREC Holdings, and it saw the participation of about 80 women from the waste and recycling, commercial cleaning, and built environment industries.
The Voice seeks to be a platform where women from all three industries can interact together and find support in both the professional and personal front.
The agenda for the day included two keynote speeches, one by Dr Naseem Mohammed Rafee, Director for Health and Safety, Dubai Municipality, and Lynnette Sacchetto, a Dubai real estate expert, as well as a roundtable discussion with some of the leading women from the waste and recycling, commercial cleaning, and built environment industries.
Dr Naseem is one of the most prominent personalities of the first line of defense during the pandemic in Dubai. She has played a key role in the success of the National Disinfection Programme.
During her keynote speech, she said that her most challenging time was during the pandemic, when she had to “ensure the health and safety of the whole Emirate of Dubai.”
She explained that during the pandemic, Dubai Municipality had to inspect over 50,000 establishments.
The municipality also had to take care of the health of over 15,000 employees by ensuring measures for occupational safety are followed, as well as the health of the whole Dubai population, which numbers over three million.
She credits the success of the National Disinfection Programme to her team. “
I can say that I cannot do anything alone. So, it’s the team that I had, also our lead engineer there would support us at all times.”
Lynnette spoke about her love for the real estate sector and how she got into the field. When she first came to Dubai in 2007, there were very few women within the real estate industry. She also praised the UAE for being a country that encourages working mothers. “I am in a country that embraces being able to have kids and work. So, I was able to have a career and somewhat balance it to the best of my abilities. I took about five years off to have kids and to raise them. And then I slowly gradually got back into the corporate world into the real estate industry.”
The round table discussion included several leading women from the built environment, commercial cleaning and waste management industries. The panel consisted of Aruna Narayanan, Senior Advisor, ESG & Sustainability, The Partnerships Advisory; Saher Bhamla, Environmentalist at Bhamla Foundation; Javeria Aijaz, Director - ICT, Farnek; Alaa Al Boali, Director - Soft Services, MEFMA; Sharon Withe, Regional Managing Director for Global Workplace Solutions, CBRE; Tatjana Ahmad, Director of Housekeeping, Grand Hyatt; and Bhawani Bhargava, Director of Rooms, Park Hyatt Dubai.
Aruna, who started her career in the tech industry, said that her jump into waste management proved to be to her advantage as she could find her passion. “I fell in love with waste, if I can say that. Keeping waste out of the landfill became a passion. So work was no more stressful. I did not have to fight to go up the career ladder, because I was just enjoying my work every day, knowing that I’m doing something meaningful.”
She said that a C-level position is not a destination, but a choice, and success only comes if you love what you do. “I would take a step back and say the C-suite is not a destination. I think it’s a choice. At some point of time in life that was my goal, but not anymore, and it’s okay… It’s all about finding joy in what you do and putting your time and energy to the best use. Consciously, you should ask yourself, ‘Are you happy doing what you do? If you are, at the end of the day, still smiling when you go to bed and wake up energized, then you’re in the right place,” she said.
Aruna said that a lot of companies are focusing on diversity and inclusion because the times now demand it. “Honestly, a lot of companies today are doing it, probably not so much out of choice, but because there’s just so much noise and pressure around diversity and inclusion that it’s more like, not wanting to have missed out. So, some of them think, ‘Okay, let’s do whatever we can’. So, there is action happening either by coercion or force or by choice. This only means good news, because for a lot of women who want to get to the C-suite, your path now is much easier than probably what it used to be maybe a couple of years ago. But at the end of the day, you make the choice on where you want your voice to be heard,” she said.
Saher, a young entrepreneur and environmentalist from India, spoke about her passion for sustainability and circular economy and how that led her to enter the waste management industry.
Back in India, she and her team are working on cleaning beaches and recycling thrash that has been collected. She also said her focus this year would be to set up public toilets for people below the poverty line and create public awareness on hygiene practices.
Saheri said she was happy to meet a lot of inspirational women at the networking event. “I met a lot of women who are doing amazingly well in their respective fields. All of them are so inspirational in some way or the other and I think this experience will mould me into a better person.”
The event ended on a high note, garnering several positive reviews from the attendees. As part of the sustainability theme, attendees were also given plants as souvenirs, along with personal care items from AG Facilities & Contracting.
The author is Editor at CM Today magazine.